Challenges. We all have them. It’s not so much the challenge itself, it’s how we react to the challenge and overcome it that’s the key.
I’ve struggled to find a job after college; I worked in a bookstore, I worked at a contract employee in my chosen field to get experience, I filed and mailed stuff for money. Even when I found the job, it still wasn’t what I wanted to do. I made the jobs work for me. I learned, I grew, I started writing policies and procedures. At least I was writing.
I created a career as a writer, I also worked on databases, I worked in compliance, I continued to learn. I finally wrote my first book.
Challenges continued as life moved along. There were infertility struggles; my children have extra ordinarily difficult situations in their lives. One is transgender, the other suffers from OCD and severe anxiety. The only answer for these issues is to take one step and then another. I grow and change, I learn to accept. I write more books.
Writing is my respite from the challenges life continues to throw my way. It’s been my dream since I was seven to be a writer, create worlds and entertain others with these stories. While I continue to write, my greatest challenge is to market the books, find readers who enjoy them and hopefully be able to support myself as a writer.
I continue to grow and change. I’m on draft four of book five and I’m winding down my first series. I used my main character, Annie Pearce to mirror the challenges in my life. She struggles, she fails, she takes one step and then another, toward a successful conclusion. I test her, she wins.
If only it were that easy in the real world.
While I still struggle, I keep taking the next steady step. For me there is no stopping, because once I stop writing, or stop parenting, the battle is surely lost. As long as there’s one foot in there, still hanging on then there’s always a chance to succeed.
No one is immune to the downs in life. We all ride the roller coaster. Sometimes, it slows and stops and we get off and move on. Sometimes as we pull in to the end of the ride, the coaster slips and sends you through the twists and turns. When that happens, we simply hold on tightly to absorb the twists and turns.Continue reading
Fallacy of Normal
Nothing about my life as a parent has been especially easy or completely normal. Even getting pregnant came with fertility issues, morning sickness, cramping, pre term labor, multiple hospital stays and a carbon monoxide detector going off at 1am.
Once the babies came after my first pregnancy, I really believed I was done with the bad stuff, that I could go on my merry way into the normal sunset. But even that, wasn't meant to be. I gave birth to twins and even that couldn't end on the right side of happiness. Kids aren't born that way. While I had one healthy twin my other was born with a neuromuscular disorder. Her life was hard, with hospitals, multiple medical procedures and a feeding tube. I lived with nurses in the house for 8 months. If there was no nurse on duty, I was it.
My daughter Stephanie Paige died at 11 months old. It was a painful life for a small body, it was a stressful time for the family. We knew the outcome, regardless of what we did, and when she died, we thought, foolishly I might add, that we would soon be ushering in something more normal.
While children don't come with instruction manuals, they also done come without issues. My oldest, twin to Stephanie was diagnosed with ADHD, severe anxiety and OCD. Over the course of her young life, she had Theron's Disease in her left eye, Gilbert's disease with her liver, scoliosis, torn ligaments in her right wrist. I took her to therapists, psychiatrists, the pediatrician, an orthopedic.
My youngest was happy, athletic, social, busy. While I dealt with my oldest and her issues, I relished in what appeared to be normal, easy. But at 12 she came out as gay and with it came depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem. This round came with drugs and therapists. And in the end the announcement that my youngest daughter was a trans male.
It brings on sleepless nights, as I worry about an unkind world and how it will affect my children. No parenting book guides me through these issues.
We all buy into normal; we live for it on Facebook where we put our best foot forward, our pride in our families and children, in our bragging, look what I have. But that's not life, it's certainly not normal. It's a fallacy.
Life is messy and hard and sometimes it sucks beyond the telling of it. My life oftentimes feels like I'm a roller coasters as I'm up and down, upside right, and just when I see the end of the tunnel, when the ride will stop, it drags me along and pulls me upwards to the next, newest, problem, more complicated than the last.
I move forward in a fog, still hopeful that I will see the light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Right now, all I see is more dark. To keep sane, I write, and today I start draft 6 of my fourth book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles called Prophecy. It's where I can feel normal because I can write about something “normal.”
When we move past the fact that nothing in life is normal and will never be, we can strive for acceptance, act with compassion, and live as humans without labels. It's far better to live for happiness than normal. Only one is achievable.Continue reading
So I have a confession to make — I sort of skew ADHD. No, I haven’t been officially diagnosed anything. But, distraction, when other things need to be done, oftentimes gets in the way. Does this ever happen with you? I have set myself a deadline to write, but the kitchen is slightly messy; I need to clean it before I can string together even a few words. I have calls to make for doctor appointments or for workmen to come fix things in the house, but the beds aren’t made so the calls go unmade. I find group projects can be a bit frustrating because I can see the order of the work flow and my colleagues may want to approach the topic from a different direction. Sometimes, I need to be all caught up on my “to-do” list to move forward in life.
This “affliction” drives my family crazy. My children do not understand why I need their rooms straightened so that I can focus on the writing. Perfection is a heavy burden to put on anyone’s shoulders.
But sometimes, this tendency of mine helps me to be a better writer. The “messiness” of a storyline may send me through a loop back to the very beginning of the writing process. For example, something didn’t click the when I finished the original book for the Wizard Hall Chronicles. While a great deal of time and effort went into the first publication of the series, I began to realize it “wasn’t in its right place.” Part of me knew I couldn’t move forward without going back to start again to put things on the right track. I was correct. Rewriting the story propelled everything forward.
So, as frustrating as it may be to others and myself, I know that my compulsion to have a certain amount of “order” in my personal and professional life is a secret weapon of some sort. Do you have any secret weapons? Are they personality quirks that may seem difficult on the one hand but bring you to a better place in the long run? Do these traits help you move forward or hold you back? Are you even aware that you have these traits? I think that being self-aware is the ticket to using your superpowers for good and not for evil.
We picked all these items before school started in hopes they would ease my daughter's anxiety about going away to school. And now her dorm room full of crap sits in my dining room, scattered across the floor and table where it was carelessly placed after unloading the SUV. The piles of junk spilled into the living room, the final car load needed a place to be stored. A final piece never left the kitchen where it takes up valuable walking space between the island and the refrigerator. If I don't break soon, it may stay there the entire summer. Probably not…but you never know.
I've raised a highly anxious child for 19 years. I've dealt with a child who was barely able to talk to her teachers, who suffered from ADD, who was severely fearful of the wind and felt anxiety that was blinding and debilitating. She's endured therapists, bad teachers, social workers, psychiatrists, all in the attempt to help her achieve some sort of normalcy, so that she could at some point in her life, live as a functioning adult.
Three weeks before school started, she endured wrist surgery, an injury sustained during Tae Kwon Do testing when she broke several boards at the same time. After x-rays and physical therapy, there was no relief and surgery was the next option. My daughter's first test as a functioning adult would be physical therapy on her own while away at school.
I worried when the first night away ended with an upsetting text and a phone call with my child on the end of the phone line crying, already not liking college, and it was still only Freshman orientation. I could feel the anxiety through the phone.
She wasn't talking to her group, she wasn't speaking to her roommate.
I sighed. It would be soon. She'll get the hang of it.
I helped her through her first physical therapy appointment and held my breath when she went on her own. And each time, it got easier, not just for her but for me as I slowly let go. It could only get better.
I could only hope with a little time, with a little patience and experience my daughter would realize how far she had come. She was for the most part, living on her own, she handled physical therapy like a pro, she even drove herself home on several occasions, making her way through unfamiliar territory. I was proud of the challenges she overcame all the while, the anxiety still present and real. She couldn't see past it.
But it didn't last.
Her roommate was mean. Complained of a weird smell, blamed my child as if she wasn't showering. My kid who took 30 minute showers on a regular basis, began to doubt herself. People would comment about her behind her back while she could hear. The roommate moved out.
It shattered my kid. She never ever had anything quite like this happen to her. My heart broke for her as she called me crying, others in the hallway were making nasty comments.
But she persisted, she didn't give up and continued on with the second semester, reveled in good grades and was invited to the smart kids fraternity.
There was so much to be proud of.
She has severe anxiety and possibly OCD, issues that can hinder if you're not willing to do something about them. She saw a therapist at school to help with the roommate issue, I reminded her several times how far she had come. And in the end, she was willing to make things better, try to overcome the OCD and ADD and make an effort. She joined several clubs and even forced herself to go to meetings.
She started to think about a major, a minor, a possible career. But she still has anxiety. And as much as I want to toss the little chick out of the nest, I can only do it in small increments. She's just not quite ready.
And that's my job. Continual support of my child as she continues to grow and change and adapt. She will always have a home to feel safe in. A place to hide from the world, to soak in as much love as she can in order to face the harsh realities outside the front door.
I have high hopes for next year. She has clubs to join and will be rooming with a good friend who will be attending the college with her in the fall.
It's never easy, but each step is confirmation that we're in the right direction and someday, the little chick will be tossed out without realizing she had been.
On March 29, 1999, I watched my daughter Stephanie Paige Steines take her last breath. She was born with a neuromuscular disease of unknown origin. It is something that stays with you the rest of your life, only time makes it hurt less; I no longer cry starting a month before her death, and that day, sometimes it passes without recognition. I always remember though.
While her health deteriorated, her muscles became weak, her breathing difficult, her eating nearly impossible, I had a weird dichotomy of experiencing the other side, the wonder of her twin, my daughter Kayla, as she grew stronger, hit her milestones, thrive.
But with each milestone achieved, there was something not completely right, there should have been two reaching these ‘normal' goals.
There was always a whisper of sadness through everything that Kayla did and though I promised myself that Kayla would never have to live her life because her sister died, she'd only have to live her life because Kayla was, the whisper, the hint, a piece of the whole was always there.
I hadn't realized Kayla experienced that emptiness until almost 17 years later. Seeing other twins at school hurt, she wanted to scream out, “I'm a twin too!” I will never forget the time I was in a room with four other adults, and three of us gave birth to twins. As the two moms spoke of their twin issues, I wanted more than anything to chime in. But to talk of the loss carries a dark cloud over the conversation and it's not always the right time or place.
The loss is not just my loss, it's also Kayla's. Even though she were 11 months old when Stephanie died, we both feel it especially during great achievements, a great moving forward, always knowing, someone else should be there too.
I feel it now as Kayla is ready to graduate high school, as she's ready to enter college. I'm not just sad because my baby is all grown up. I'm sad because we are missing someone.
There is so much pride for all Kayla has been able to accomplish. Overcoming crippling anxiety, scoliosis, ADHD. She's graduating with amazing grades, a high ACT score and was accepted into three colleges. She'll be attending this fall on her way to full adulthood.
Time makes it less difficult and there are less tears, but it can never wipe away the sadness. I only hope I can make through graduation without the ugly cry.
Written on the ink pad app on my phone, while waiting for the doctor. All that's been changed are spelling errors. It's time to say what I need to say.
It's not a fight I wanted to get into. I didn't want to gear up for more trouble, problems, and issues. Yet somehow I am.
We can say we want healthy children, normalcy, and a happy life. Smart, productive children, good in school and we'll raise them to be self-sufficient, and confident.
Looking back on the carefully formulated plan, I offer a snort of derision. It's complete and total bullshit. Because sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate.
After 2 1/2 years of infertility, and a miserable pregnancy, I gave birth to twins. It should have been joyous, it should have been my reward for the struggle of trying to get pregnant. It was bittersweet. It was a nightmare. ‘Now what', I asked myself when baby A was born with a terminal illness. With one healthy baby and one not, I entered into motherhood under the worst conditions you could imagine.
There’s no worrying about raising confident girls, there’s only the daily struggle of keeping a child alive, of rotating nurses, doctor’s orders, do not resuscitate orders and hospice care.
When a child dies, you have 2 choices, step on the new path with your new life and the knowledge of what it is to bury an 11 month old baby, or you can lay down and die. I still had a baby to care for.
As I raised my twin less twin, I did it wracked with guilt. Did I do enough can I be enough?
I still couldn’t follow the plan because that second child had her own battle. Another fight, more advocating for my child. Debilitating anxiety, ADHD. Having to hold the hand of a child old enough to do for herself, fearful that adulthood, which one day will come, will render her incapable. A constant battle to raise her to support herself, handle a job interview, live on her own.
It’s not the usual and its exhausting, stressful and makes me numb. Joy is lost because the little things are big things and there are always issues.
My youngest daughter was my easy, happy-go-lucky kid. The one who found joy in everything. The cool kid who listened to 80s music on a record player, loved comic con, and simply allowed normalcy. Until it wasn’t normal anymore.
She came out as lesbian at 13. I told her I love her, it will be fine. If only that was the end.
There was pain behind those eyes, masked by a laugh. When you fly out of work one day because the nurse calls to tell you your daughter wants to commit suicide. The pain was there and she hides it well. The cutting up and down both arms is hidden by long sleeve sweatshirts in the middle of November. Depression drugs and outpatient programs are arranged and decided.
The storm at some point had to end.
It’s not over. It hasn’t really started. This newest battle I’m just embarking on. The one that my daughter feels, she was a boy all along.
I will never understand. All my weary brain sees is another problem. Another battle, this one, I dread. I know what’s coming and it isn’t easy.
Transgender. My kid. My world, as it implodes in on itself, I struggle to stand, to understand, to keep walking forward to the end of another tunnel.
It’s not about me, it’s never been about me and yet it is always me. What I wouldn’t give to simply raise my kids to be strong individuals, confident and happy.
Funny how somewhere in the midst of all of it, they finally are.
We tried a new therapy for our daughter. Exposing her to the everyday experiencing that most of us take for granted, the ones that make her anxious and worried. But she's not so worried anymore. The therapist has explained to her how her preconceived notions about growing up and her life were lies.
She already holds down two jobs, gets good grades, cares for herself, does her laundry, you know takes care of herself. She's worried about growing up. It's been a painful process putting her in the position to do things that make her uncomfortable but with each exposure I can see her relaxing, her confidence grows and she no longer fights us when we say she has to drive. She even said she could when it rained rather than using that as an excuse.
I feel for the first time since the anxiety reared its head that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Through the fear of wind, the holding up in the basement for an entire summer, the crying, the ADHD, the scoliosis, eye issues, wrist soreness, meds and physical therapy, there might be an end for her. A chance to simply enjoy life.
She's been through so much and yet we push her through her “homework” her exposures, opportunities to learn how to simply be. Whether its how to fill out her deposit slip for her paycheck, or how to go grocery shopping and navigate on her own, with each experience she's learning that she's okay.
She may always be nervous and scared because we are who we are, but if we're willing to take the chance and make the change, it will get better.