When Talking to Your Child About Death

The first time I had to discuss a death with my son, it was my aunt who had passed away. He was still young enough where he didn’t exactly comprehend it and it didn’t ultimately have an impact on him. (I want to say he was 3ish at the time?) The second time I had to discuss a death with him, it was my paternal grandfather. This time he was in Kindergarten. Still, he was too young to really understand. I asked him if he wanted to go to school, if he wanted his birth father’s family to take care of him (it was just before his Christmas break started) while I attended the funeral. I missed the wake to take care of my son. I couldn’t miss the funeral.

My son, who even still is a lot older mentally than he should be, decided he wanted to come with because it was the right thing to do. I reluctantly agreed that he could go, thinking that he was too young to be at a place like this. But I figured if he was mature enough to ask and understand what was happening, that he was able to attend. He wanted to come up to the body with me. I held his hand and we prayed together while kneeling in front of my grandfather. We attended the Catholic mass afterwards, where people were crying and remembering my grandfather. I stayed stoic, as I tend to do. Probably why I have the reputation for being “cold”. I stayed stoic until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my son was trying to be like everyone else. He asked for a tissue, and started dabbing his dry eyes because everyone else was crying. He started forcing sniffling noises while doing it. I didn’t want to laugh during a somber mass, but I chuckled. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he knew the motions that he needed to go through and he just wanted to make sure he was doing it right.

It was a long time later when I had to tell my now older son about a death in the family. This time, it was his biological paternal grandfather, a man he maybe met twice? I remember failing at this opportunity, making a joke because that’s who I am. “Dylan, you know what sucks more than your computer dying?” Yeah, you can finish the joke. I said it. I should be ashamed of myself, I know. But you have to be me and my son to understand. He didn’t react. He didn’t even really know the guy. He was confused as to whether he should go to pay his respects, be alone among a room of people who he didn’t even really know. Ultimately, he decided that it was better for him not to go. He was 15; that was entirely his choice.

My youngest son’s school was doing a project about Veteran’s Day. We decided that it would be cute to write about my maternal grandfather, who served in the Navy and passed away when my oldest son was about 2 or 3 months old. We named our youngest after my grandfather, so we thought it would be cute for our son to learn about him. It was cute until he asked why he didn’t meet my “Grampa”. I calmly explained to him that my grandfather passed away a long time ago. “He’s dead?” I nodded. “Did he die in the war?” I explained that he died of cancer and that cancer sucks. “What happens when you die?”

I stopped. What was my approach here? What do I say to him? Do I say what I believe? That he’s just dead and there’s a body in the ground and that’s really it? I couldn’t do that. I found myself saying the words I’ve learned through all my years of Catechism. “Well, he’s in Heaven watching over us to make sure that we’re okay. He’s protecting us.” My son went on. “What’s Heaven?” I found myself getting wrapped up in a lie that I didn’t believe, as parents often do in so many situations. “Well, it’s where good people go. And your great grandfather was a very good man.” He nodded, asked a few more questions, and that was the end of the conversation. Until he kept bringing it up. “How can he protect us if he’s up in Heaven?”

I wanted to say to  him “Mommy doesn’t believe in God or Heaven or angels, I just lied to you because the truth sucks”. There was no right answer here. I had to keep going with this lie to protect him. Just because I didn’t believe, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to believe if he wants to. It’s a loaded topic dealing with death, especially when discussing it with your kids. I worry about the day when I have to tell them that someone they were close to died because I’m the last person I’d want to tell me if someone passed away. The last. I’ve done it before. I’m not very good at it. I blurt it out without softening the blow. I answer questions honestly. I’m brutal and cold. I admit my faults. I have no idea how I would tell my child that someone they loved died. I could barely make it through a conversation about telling them how someone they didn’t even know died. Did my child need to know that my grandfather died of cancer? Was that too much to put on him? Did I screw up my oldest by telling  him the news through a joke?

I’m a mom trying to figure out this hard stuff just like everyone else. My way probably sucks and I don’t know how to fix it but it surprisingly has worked up until this point. I’m numb to the death thing and admittedly that has hardened me. My first thought it never “oh that sucks”, it’s always “okay, what needs to be done next.” I hope that I figure this out because as you can see, my gut instincts are not great here.

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On This Veteran’s Day

Normally, today would be my “Gaming” blog day. However, this is a special holiday that requires special attention. Tomorrow will be the “BluishOblivion Goes Gaming” day.

Today is Veteran’s Day, meaning that it’s time to recognize how we needed to celebrate our veteran’s by expressing gratitude to our veteran’s for their service. Some are lucky to return, but some aren’t as lucky. The families of these soldiers also do a service, supporting their loved ones as they answer a calling to defend their beloved country. However they end up in service, they serve and protect our rights. They risk the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we can act like idiots when it comes to politics or dishonor them by showing disrespect by spitting on them or mocking their service. We have those rights because of our veterans.

Our veterans deserve better. The lack of healthcare, the high incidence of homelessness in our country, and the lack of mental health care for these people who sacrificed so much for us is appalling. I feel as though the biggest disrespect we give to our soldiers when they return home is how we seem to turn our backs on them. “Thank you for your service. If you need medical care, you need to wait 6 months. If you need housing help, good luck kiddo. But thanks for your willingness to die so we can do absolutely nothing for you when you come back home.” Isn’t that what ends up happening in a lot more cases than should happen?

I take this very personally. I’m lucky enough that I had family serve and come home without too much of an issue. I know people who weren’t as lucky. I’m even more fortunate that they didn’t have as many struggles as others have. They have jobs, homes, families, living normal lives. But what about the ones who don’t have that? What are we doing for them?

I remember when I found out my brother was going to boot camp after enlisting in the Army. I was only in elementary school, but I remembered being upset by that. He used to take me out to McDonald’s and to roller skating lessons. He was over 10 years older than me, but as a kid I just knew that I had a cool brother that bought me roller skates (blue and white, because I loved blue) and hooked me up with lessons. I nailed them, by the way, which is shocking considering how uncoordinated and accident prone I am. I remember being pretty inconsolable when he left.

It was a long time ago, so memories aren’t too fresh. I remember when he came home from boot camp, I couldn’t stay up late enough to welcome him. But I do remember making a sign. Then I remember waking up to him making us French toast. I stood next to him as he taught me the secret recipe to make the perfect French toast. We ate together. It’s moments like that you remember. He wasn’t home for long. He went out to see the world, even visiting Korea for a while. Eventually he ended up going to Texas where he was going to be stationed. We didn’t see him a lot back then. I also remembered when my sister-in-law would come up to visit and he bought all these toys for us, including an Army Barbie for me. (Though, I’m very certain now that it was my sister-in-law who bought that for me. She’s great with gifts.)

I was much older when he came back. But I remember how happy I was about it. That meant he was going to be safe. That I didn’t have to worry about something happening to him. It’s that worry that every person who has a loved one overseas has to be concerned with. You want them to come home safe and be the exact person you remembered. That doesn’t always happen. It’s a fear that’s constantly in the back of your mind. Today on Veteran’s Day, remember that. Remember to salute a soldier in uniform and thank them for your service. Thank their families for their service as well. Think about what you can do to help. Donate to the USO or write thank you cards to those who served. Write Christmas cards to soldiers overseas or in hospitals this holiday season. Donate to soup kitchens or volunteer time there because a lot more vets visit these places than should have to. Donate to help veteran’s get service dogs. Fight for their rights by talking to your representatives to see what legislation they are working on to improve the lives of these men and women who fought to protect our lives. These are seemingly small acts that will take only a little of our time, but will have such a significant impact on the veterans and their family. I’d like to also personally thank our veteran’s for their service. We can never repay the part of you that you gave up serving, but we can show you that we are grateful.

The Writing Process

When you work as a writer, everyone expects you to be on all the time. You’re not. At least I’m not, but the thing about writing is that you have to keep doing it anyways. Eventually something is going to stick and work, then you can run with it.  Not everything you write is going to be great. Even George RR Martin had “A Feast for Crows”. In fact, a lot of it will suck. As a writer, you may think more of your work sucks than your fans do but that’s just the nature of the job and who we are as people. Every artist struggles with that and the creative process. It’s not an easy business to be in, especially when you aren’t making any real money doing it. It’s a disheartening job. It’s a job that isn’t for the weak.

NaNoWriMo is a challenge that I attempt every year since I first discovered it. I like challenges. I love writing. It made sense. I’ve even completed it a few times, usually within the last few hours right up to the deadline. That’s how it goes. I never went in with an outline because my tendency is to just let the stories tell themselves. I think of each of my works as a living thing. I’m here to provide the guidelines, give it some bones, advise it as it goes along. Otherwise, I just let the words take off for themselves in the hopes that it comes up with something at least readable.

Then there are the walls. I hit an impressive 10,000 words over the first weekend, giving me the false impression that I was going to crush NaNoWriMo this year. That this was the year I wasn’t having an anxiety attack and working while one eye fell asleep to get those last few words in before the deadline. Then, the wall happened. My body is already craving sleep despite me being very sure that I have slept an acceptable amount. My body is shutting down in fear of failure. Because if I fail at writing, what do I have that I don’t fail at?

I’m a confident and capable person, until I’m not. I have days where I have a meltdown and want to just give up because I don’t think I’m resonating with people. I don’t care if I become rich as a writer. I’d be more than happy just making enough to help out a lot more with the bills. I want to reach people. I want to have people read something I write and think “I’ve definitely been there and I’m glad someone else has too”. I view writing as not just a way to inspire the masses but also one that will help at least someone else realize that they’re not alone. “My kid has anxiety and social development issues too. I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling.” Just hearing something like that pushes me to go forward. I love what I do.

It’s a process. My process involves eating a ton of junk food and hoping that it will kick something into gear. I’m a burst writer. I have days where I can crush 6,0000 words without batting an eye. Then I go a few days where I can barely write 1,000. Some exceedingly awesome days, I can get to 11,000 in a day without even feeling tired. Someone else’s process is to go in with a plan and an outline. I realize, maybe from all of my years “momming” one thing: Nothing goes as planned. When my friends first mention a birthing plan when having a kid, I told them they may as well throw that out the window because it’s not happening unless you’re an incredibly lucky person. Most of us aren’t. I went in with an outline and I strayed from it the first day because the theory didn’t fit the reality.

Until then, I hope that I can get through this wall and get back to creating. I’m already on shaky confidence ground writing in a genre that is way out of my comfort zone because my partner in life and my business really thought I should go for it. Here’s to hoping me and every other writer participating in this challenge makes it through.

Things to Remember on Election Day

Today is Election Day, a day where we celebrate our freedoms and go out and vote. We vote for change if we are unhappy. We vote to keep things the same if we are. With a simple stroke, everything can potentially change because of your vote. It’s a heavy burden to carry, when you think about it. But it is one you shouldn’t take lightly. People fought your right to vote and other countries may not offer you those same freedoms. But you know what? You also have the right not to. But don’t complain if things don’t go your way if you decided against voting.

That being said, I’d like you to remember a few things today.

Not Everyone Votes the Same Way… And That’s Okay

Probably easily the most important point I am going to make. I promise, your world won’t end if your friends and family don’t vote the same way as you. You can still be friends, it’s okay. It’s very hypocritical to tout American freedoms and patriotism while bashing someone else for how they vote.

It’s actually quite amazing how this works. There’s this thing called “political discourse”, where people calmly discuss their political views without the other spouting hateful insults that the other party wants you to say. Believe it or not, once upon the time people could talk politics without calling the other person a “libtard” or “racist”. In fact, in those amazing times people often would come to a logical point where the other side would hear you and see things from another perspective that makes them change their minds. Even more amazing, if they didn’t they would still be friends. It’s crazy, right?

Don’t Be a Jerk

But Brianne, didn’t you just cover this point? This is one of those points that needs to be emphasized. It still shocks disgusts me at how bad things have gotten. Any logical person can see that we are worse to each other than ever. We are more divisive than ever. The hate-fueled vitriol is spewed from both sides. “But Obama started it”. “But Trump started it”. As something that every mother has screamed repeatedly at their kids: I don’t care who started it, you need to end it. Did things get bad under Obama? Sure. Did things get a hell of a lot worse now? Abso-freaking-lutely. Why? Because rather than stopping it, both sides are going bat-poop crazy trying to out insane the other side. And they wonder why so many independents avoid politics? And they wonder why so many people have started to consider 3rd party options, thus hurting elections because we live off of an out-dated 2-party system that only seems in control to further brainwash the masses? I needed to take a deep breath after that one.

I will make a complete rundown on how you can not be a jerk today.

“Vote on Tuesday if you’re a Republican; Vote Wednesday if you’re a Democrat.”

This isn’t being clever; this is being a jerk. You must feel pretty proud of  yourself for coming up with that, despite the fact I have seen this exactly phrasing probably 100x since yesterday. I’m sure the Democrats have said this too, but every time I have seen it over the past couple of days it has been a Republican to do this. It’s dumb. It’s not funny. What if a person is new to voting? That’s called “voter suppression”. You’re being divisive and unoriginal. And being a jerk. This genuinely makes me angry to hear it, because this is exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to how divisive we are.

“Vote Democrat if you’re not a discriminatory racist.”

I can assure you there are plenty of non-Democrats who aren’t racist or discriminate. However, I can assure you that saying that exact phrasing actually makes you a discriminatory jerk. I didn’t just vote Democrat, and I’m certainly not a racist. I voted for a couple Republicans, I fully support Governor Baker, and I voted for a Libertarian for State Auditor. I voted for some Democrats. I voted for people who I liked for the job (or really the best option I was given). How you vote doesn’t automatically make you a racist any more than it makes you an idiot snowflake. Crazy, right? (Yes, I’ll probably say this a few more times. No promises that I won’t.)

“If you vote Republican, you hate women.”

Here me out. Republicans don’t “hate” women. There are people who make crude and discriminatory remarks who are also Republican, but I refuse to make a sweeping generalization about the party as a whole or any group for that matter. If those people are saying cruel and hateful things about women or anyone else, they should be voted out individually based on that. But it’s always a bad idea to lump the entire tree with a few bad apples. You may be surprised at what other apples may be on that tree.

“Snowflake libtards should just stay home on Election Day.”

It has been my observation that the people who are most likely to use the phrases “snowflake” or “libtard” are generally an overly-sensitive unreasonable person themselves. They are the equivalent of the people they are making fun of. Think about that next time you say this phrase or one similar.

Don’t Be a Jerk

I cannot stress this enough. It’s pretty easy to not be a jerk, I promise. Instead of berating someone for how they voted, understand why they voted that way. More often than not, you may be surprised at what you find out. And if their answer is just because someone had the right letter next to their name? The problem isn’t them; it’s the divisive world we live in where people are happy to follow like lemmings rather than form their own opinion. The world created those voters and unfortunately they won’t change. So you can change how you view them or you can bite your tongue because that is much better and easier than just being a jerk. Crazy… right?

 

 

 

Finally, Question 2 on Mass. Ballot 2018

Are corporations people? That seems to be the question behind the thoughts on Question 2. As you probably have learned by now, I have a distaste for the current political process. I always discuss about how our politicians lack any concern for the every day person but rather sell themselves off to the highest bidder. The highest bidder is generally corporations that know that the best way to get ahead in the world is by fixing the game to your advantage. That’s how it’s been done for a long time. Maybe I’m a skeptic or maybe I’m just a conspiracy theorist that thinks this way. I’ll leave that opinion to you.

What is Question 2? Per usual, I have this up here for you to see for yourself. I will summarize, of course, but using my understanding of the law. The point of this question is to create a commission about voting in the Commonwealth and whether contributions can impact the political process. A report would be made, using people from various demographics, which would be presented to the political powers of Massachusetts so that they can determine their next move. One of these remedies would be to limit how much a corporation can spend in elections.

What this ultimately means is whether or not you agree that corporations should have more of a say on laws and regulations than you do. If you think that corporations should be able to pour millions into political campaigns and the government, than you will likely want to vote “No” on this. If you don’t, than you will likely want to vote “Yes” on question 2.

My thoughts? Much like Question 1, I’m a bit torn on this. (Though I did decide to vote “Yes” on Question 1 after getting the opinion of people who I trust and are more knowledgeable on this topic than I am.) On one hand, I agree that by allowing corporations to dump so much money into the elections that they are really just buying advantages for their business not trying to help us lowly peasants. I feel as though allowing this to happen does give unequal representation and that their should be limits imposed on spending. On the other hand, this is all about Citizens United which is a federal matter not a state one. Even if you vote “Yes”, it may not even matter because the federal government needs to change the law. It’s really just a symbolic vote of what you believe rather than one that will actually have a meaningful impact on the grand scheme of things. This is another call that I will probably make last minute, but I should decide soon because I am participating in early voting. (By the time this posts, I may even have already voted.)

Why I Let My Teen Trick or Treat

But Brianne, Wednesday isn’t a blog day according to your schedule. Except, on my favorite and arguably only holiday I don’t complain about celebrating, I have decided to honor it with a lesson in parenting teens. Tomorrow, you’ll get your blog on Question 2. Today, I’ve decided to talk about another hotly debated topic: teenagers who go out trick or treating

I always leave the decision of whether he is “too old to trick or treat” to him. There are a few reasons why I do this and I will defend it forever. The biggest reason why, just shy of his big 16, I let him trick or treat is because there are worse things that he could be doing. He could be vandalizing someone’s house or at a party getting drunk or high. (I’d like to think that he would never do those things, but I’m realistic. I can’t be around him all of the time and you really never know what can happen.) Instead, I know the only thing he is getting high on is sugar. I feel as though that is a much safer option, especially considering he’s an athlete without an ounce of fat on him.

Then, there is the control factor. A major reason why teens lash out is because they feel as though they have no control over anything in their lives. Even though he is a teen, the general rules of child psychology and child development still apply. By giving choices, you are encouraging your child to grow up confident with the ability to make decisions. Even something as small as letting them decide that they want to trick or treat helps encourage healthy mental and emotional development. They feel as though they are in control over areas of their life and you don’t have to worry about everything being a power struggle. It shows them that it’s all a give or take.

Then, there is the point of letting him be a kid. I’m not sure why parents are always in a rush to make their kids grow up. I’m not sure why we put those pressures on them then wonder why kids are always in a hurry to grow up. I have the sobering realization that my child will be going off to college in just 2 years. If he still sticks to his choice of schools, one of them will take him out of state to New Hampshire. I’m not going to already have his bags packed. I’m excited that for at least another year, he’s still my kid. He’s going to grow up fast enough as it is. I’m not going to deny him his childhood while he still has it. I was a mom at 18. I didn’t have that luxury, but I’ll be damned if my kids don’t get that chance.

You may think that last statement means that I have an emotionally immature child that I baby even though he is almost 18. If so, you obviously don’t know him or read this blog closely when I talk about him. My son is the type of kid who goes to the dentist and asks for stickers so that he can bring them home to his little brother, because my youngest loves stickers. He’s the type that is always willing to help his friends or do something to help the world be a better place. He’s excited to help me cook or even prepare supper himself. My child isn’t stunted by my decision to let him still go out on Halloween. I’d like to think that maybe he’s just a little bit better because of it.

Remember these things when you see a teen roll up to your home. Think about how they could be egging your house instead of asking for candy. Think about how they could get alcohol poisoning at a party, or even worse drive home. Think about how quickly our babies become apathetic adults. And smile that for at least 1 day, they can enjoy what’s left of their youth.

Happy Halloween, readers. Be safe and have fun eating your candy tax.

I’m Brianne and I’m Undeclared

And there it was. I became an Undeclared (Unenrolled) voter on the National Voter Registration day. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t be a part of any party in this corrupt 2 party system. I’m not a follower. I don’t like being told what to think. I’ve never been very good at being told what to do. I don’t follow blindly. I march to my own little beat. I believe what I believe and I don’t change that unless I have an eye-opening experience that has informed me that I was wrong. I accept that I can be wrong. I’m open-minded enough to consider that I’m wrong. I’m apparently a rarity in this country right now.

Ultimately, that designation on the voter registration form doesn’t matter. I still have to choose a side when I vote in a primary. Maybe I’ll decide to vote in a Republican primary to put in a decent candidate for once. Maybe I’ll opt for the Democrat party in hopes that they don’t pick Elizabeth Warren ever for their pick. I mean, ever. It’s bad enough that I have resigned to the fact I have to vote for her in the Senate race on the grounds that I’m morally opposed to the stances of Geoff Diehl on social issues. I cannot in good conscience vote for someone like that, as much as I despise everything Elizabeth Warren stands for.

Unfortunately, that’s the big problem these days. Quality people that care aren’t successfully running  for office. You have people that are either mad with power or want the financial incentives of kickbacks by the lobbyists. They get to live their cushy lives while screwing the American people. They’re okay with that. Elizabeth Warren is content on her soap box fighting for the cause of the day. Grandstanding, even. But honestly, I’d rather her grandstanding over LGBT rights rather than voicing how much they want to silence that community. Aside from being against bathroom laws, it’s hard to say what his real opinions are on the topic as I was unable to find his beliefs on the topic. But being against Transgender discrimination is enough for me to not cast my vote for him. I’m a proud ally and I stand by the LGBT community.

The two “major” political parties need to stop this pattern of becoming more radical every election cycle. I remember once that someone said the Republican party was better because they had their own opinions and didn’t follow blindly as the Democrats did with Obama. Only now that Trump is in office, you see that they are there following blindly being led by a man who is both blind and deaf. Those who scream the loudest though…

I wish I had the ability to start a revolution in this country, one of thought not violence. Where I could let people know that their “major” political party is lying to them, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat. Both of these parties use extremism and fear-mongering to get your attention. They lead by fear because fear is a powerful motivator to keep people in line and following the pack. It’s a great way to mind control the masses and spoiler alert: it’s working.

This year when you go into the voting booth, think about what you know about every candidate and issue you will be voting on. Educate yourself because you can’t trust the mass media to educate you. They have their own agendas, ones that have been bought by the highest bidder. Think about what you stand for and refuse to compromise that for anyone. If you believe it, vote it and to hell with everyone else. I just want people to educate themselves on a topic or person before just voting for whatever letter happens to be next to a name.