NaNoWriMo 2017

I went into this year’s NaNoWriMo with a story that I felt passionate about and a lot of good intentions. I had my Post Its, a plan, my peanut butter M&Ms, my coffee, and my eventual last minute savior, the flaming hot Cheetos. Despite my best efforts, illnesses, work, and life (such as Thanksgiving prep and writer’s block), I ended up at the 27,000 mark on November 29. Even my husband, the ever supportive and annoyingly optimistic man who made many a Dunks run in the name of art, doubted me. Me? I thrive under pressure and seemingly eat doubt for breakfast. Or in this case, an entire bag of flaming hot Cheetos while working.

On November 30th, I woke up early, destroyed my work deadlines, and filled a carafe of coffee. I took breaks to take my son to school and other normal breaks during the day. Thanks to my new Pixel 2 XL, I was able to continue on my work whenever I had to leave my trusty Surface’s side. This was especially useful when my body cramped up from being at the computer so long, so I began walking around while typing away. Saved it to Google Drive, then went back to my computer to continue hacking away. By lunch time, I had managed to get up to about 35,0000 words. That was still a long way away from 50,000. My husband brought home lunch, giving me time to focus on work since I would be too focused on this to be of any use to anyone.

Finally, the moment I needed to happen came. Words were floating from my fingers, which at this point became cramped and numb from typing so much. At 10pm, I had hit 45,000 words. With under an hour left, I was getting close but still seemed too far off of my goal. My husband, who worked late that day called and asked if I wanted anything on his way home. “Cheetos and a Coke.” He understood. He came home with exactly what I needed. With 20 minutes left to spare, 50,000 happened. I was relieved. I submitted the 50,000 words and got my winner loot.

That is only half the battle. The next month will be full of the editing process that can take forever, which needs to be done in order to get into a contest to get a professional publisher to publish it. There is still a long journey, but at least I have come this far with the novel.

The novel is called “A Special Place for Noah”. The story is about a boy named Noah who struggles with the inability to communicate in the outside world. There is a strong focus on the parents as they navigate this journey with him. As readers of the blog and people who know my family, you can probably guess that this is very heavily influenced by my youngest son. The point of the book is to share this story so that other people who may find themselves in this position can feel a little less isolated while struggling with any sort of developmental delay in the family.

I am really excited to see this as a finished product. It was really freeing to write and I really hope that someone else feels a connection to the book.

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Everyone Has Those Days

As a parent, it can be extremely hard to stay positive. You see parents boasting about how their angels ate their organic meatless Monday meal perfectly and ate an apple that wasn’t covered in sugar or candy for dessert. I’m lucky if I can get my 5 year old to eat anything that isn’t a hot dog, Burger King, or covered in so much ketchup that the ketchup is the main dish. I’d like to think I’m in the majority on this one.

I will never be that all organic mom that can leave the house in yoga pants with confidence and a kale only smoothie for my detoxing. I can guarantee that I’ll either have a tea with sugar or a coffee with an obscene amount of creamer in it. I can guarantee that 9 out of 10 times my children will be on time. I can guarantee that I will grab whatever jeans and t-shirt smell and look like they could be clean. I can guarantee my hair will be disheveled as if I’m purposely trying for that bedhead look. I’m not. That is probably actually either bedhead or I was trying to pull my hair out because parenting can be infuriating.

There are a lot of things that you cannot guarantee as a parent and you have to cling to those things you can be sure of. I can guarantee that if I even say “Please” and “Clean” in the same sentence, my teenager will roll his eyes at me and groan about how unfair life is. I can predict that and hold my breath to avoid getting annoyed. Not everyday is going to be perfect as a parent. In fact, you may have more bad days than good ones. That’s okay. I admit that I lose my shit more often than I should. Just yesterday I spent 40% of my day raising my voice and yelling at my kids. Was it effective? Not really. Did it make me feel better? Nope. Did I eat a bunch of lemon Oreos to soothe me? Oh yes, that absolutely happened. If I had bought my peanut butter M&Ms for NaNoWriMo early, those probably would have been devoured too.

Remember this anytime you see a mom on Facebook that seemingly has their life together: They are likely losing it just as much as you do. The problem is they sweep it under the rug to give this illusion of perfection to make them seem better. I have no shame. I don’t mind admitting that I bribe my kids with cookies to eat their supper. I’ll admit that my youngest said “mom, you need to have more patience with me” for me to respond “I’ll learn patience when you learn to listen”. I’m okay with not being perfect because I refuse to achieve an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be a parent. My children have clothing, a roof over their head, and are still alive. That’s really the important thing. My sanity is apparently optional.

A parent is someone that wakes up with pee on them because their child had an accident while sleeping in your bed. A parent is someone who complains about running up 4 flights of stairs in a nightmarish situation for you because Open House is important to engaging in your child’s education. A parent goes to an elementary school Open House where it is so packed with children and parents that you just want to keep a hold of your anti-bacterial pocket buddy because you know you are going to get sick from it. (Spoiler alert: I did get sick from it. I should have had the anti-bac out.) A parent promises that they will not cook more than one meal but sometimes will actually just cook another meal because you have been beaten down and want to keep whatever shred of dignity and sanity that you have left. A parent is beaten down more easily than they care to admit. A parent will always, always, always second guess their every decision. They will think about what they could have done differently in every scenario, big or small. Most importantly, a parent loves their child unconditionally even when they consider the possibility of eBaying them or finding another parent that will want to take them off your hands for a while. Totally unrelated note: anyone want to set up a play date with their children outside of my home where I don’t need to be present?

Joking aside, I always come back to this same point: You are enough and you are doing okay. Too many times other moms feel the need to rub perfection in other people’s faces and those “imperfect” moms are left feeling dejected. I’m here to tell you that we all feel like we did a crappy job at this parenting thing some days. Some days your child has an anxiety attack and you have to breathe through it with them and it’s not your fault that they are that way. They were made exactly the way they were supposed to be. And they were given to you because they were the child that you we meant to have. You can handle it. You can do it. Just breathe and accept that you are going to lose your shit and cry in the laundry room where no one can hear you and you know for a fact know one will ever go. That’s okay because more moms than you think are right there with you.

My Not-So Little Boy Started High School

Sure, this is a few days late, but the beginning of the school year is always a busy time of year especially when you are simultaneously prepping for a birthday party. Milestones are aplenty in the LaRochelle household these days, with the “baby” going to kindergarten later this week. (On Thursday, so I can cover the inevitable tears over the moment.) But Freshman year is a milestone all its own. This is the beginning of essentially the end of childhood. This is where you decide on colleges, possible career choices, first dates, long(ish) relationships. High school is a big milestone.

… And my oldest baby just got there.

I expected tears. I expected being a nervous wreck. It didn’t happen. I made him cinnamon rolls, listened to his concerns, congratulated him on his achievements, and let him know that I knew he was going to do great things in high school and beyond. He nodded and smiled that smile that only people who know him could truly appreciate. That smile let me know that he was going to be okay. Or at least as okay as any teenager who had trouble falling asleep and woke up at 4 AM could be. When he came home, he expressed how much he liked his teachers, how he had friends in every class and had lunch with one of his “baseball bros”, and then passed out for 5 hours. I did say that he was up at 4 AM, right?

The fact is I have done everything that I could to prepare him for this. I have tried to give him the confidence he needed to take on the world. I tried to give him the compassion to be an amazing person. I tried to instill charity, love, and kindness. At this point, we will find out if I gave him enough. Essentially my time of teaching him is over. Now, I just have to hope that the foundation he was given was strong enough to see him through.

That’s the hardest part of high school as a parent. Hoping that you gave him the strength he needs to face the cruel world and the kindness to come out on the other side. It is his time to make decisions, hopefully inspired by everything he has been taught. I am here to give him advice, hugs, and cookies. Ultimately, that is all I am here for now. He will make his own decisions, forging his own path. Unfortunately, this also means being okay when he inevitably falls. Because at the end of the day, we can only pick them up afterwards and hope that they learned from the fall.

High school is an emotionally tiring journey for both the kids and parents. We have to be okay with that and trust that we did everything that we possibly could to give them what they needed to succeed.

Changing Course Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

I look around at all of the things that I can do. My skills (writing, crafting, anything in the realm of “artistic” except photography. I’m terrible at photography.) are seemingly unmarketable in an industry that has so many other people who are just as skilled or better in these areas. In fact, I would argue that the difference is their ability to market and network themselves. As much as I try to learn, I just have not mastered that skill yet. It’s easy to just give up, but I’m not really one for quitting.

Instead, now there is a struggle of finding an actual better paying job that gives me the freedom to continue to create rather than just spend all of my time working and not get the time to spend with my family or my art. I think that I have found the path I need to be on, I just need an extra push to get me there. Changing course with a potential job that is actually pretty exciting for me, that doesn’t mean I am giving up. Sometimes you just need to change your course for a while so that you can achieve your dreams. That’s okay.

There are goals that I have. I intend to expand this site for other endeavors, such as branching out into individual blogs/articles (such as a gaming/geek culture link for my local area) and adding an e-commerce site to sell those little crafty things that I make without bothering with other sites taking a cut. I will continue to work on my books, including the 2 I am currently working on. Eventually, I will go back to school to get my MA in Creative Writing. From there, what will I do? There is no real end game. I just want options. I want to stay at a job because I like it, not because I have to. These are my goals and those who know me know one thing: I am annoyingly stubborn. What I lack in entrepreneurial spirit, I make up for in grit.

The lesson here is quite simple: you can change the course that you are currently on a bit to achieve whatever goals that you may have. If something isn’t working out for you, try a new way of doing it. As long as you end up where you wanted to be from the start, you have succeeded. Some people are lucky enough to have this right away. Others may wait a lifetime. However, giving up is never the option.

To Everyone, Thank You

There was an outpouring of support from my last post, which meant a lot to me. The fact that I even touched 1 person with my story fills me with tremendous joy. I cannot even adequately express what that means to me. Thank you all for your support and your input.

One of the biggest struggles of a writer is sharing. Are you sharing too much of yourself? Are you not sharing enough? There is a careful balance that needs to happen between being cold and being too open. There is a certain level of mystery that is necessary in pretty much every aspect of your life, especially as a writer.

To a lesser extent, there is some care to not upset readers. Getting so personal, especially on a topic like suicide, could attract a lot of attention that is both negative and positive. Fortunately in this case, there was an overwhelming amount of support. I am strong enough to know that this won’t always be the case. But on Tuesday it was and it gave me a bit more confidence that my words can mean something. And that is a powerful feeling.

With all these projects and potential changes coming up, this is confidence I admittedly could absolutely use right now. Thank you for reading.

Depression, Suicide, and You

Another celebrity had killed themselves, causing everyone to debate about suicide. Some went off about the selfishness of his act while others point out that this is evidence that the mental health system in America needs to be better. Some discuss this in anger, “He’s rich and famous, what did he have to be depressed about.” Others fight back: “Money doesn’t solve everything and make you happy.” Then there is the “What about the kids?” I won’t engage in these arguments because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Another person lost their battle with depression and made a deliberate choice to end their life. Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich and famous or poor or a parent.

Mental illness is such a difficult battle that people struggle with. Even the most put together person you know may struggle with this in silence. Your best friend could be struggling with it in silence. The problem is that they struggle in silence. Even today with all of the PSAs and media dedicated to helping people, there is still such a stigma about struggling with any mental illness, whether it’s an anxiety disorder or depression. People who struggle with these things are led to believe that this somehow makes them weak. You’re not weak. In fact, I would argue that every day that you survive with these struggles actually makes you stronger than most. This does not mean that I view suicide as a weakness. I think it’s an end result of a battle that just could not be won.

I have witnessed the effects of suicide twice in my life. I have grappled with my feelings on it, personally feeling the ripples these types of events cause. When I was in high school, my cousin committed suicide. I remember how that event shook me. He had stopped by before it happened under circumstances that later should have occurred didn’t make sense. He used to pick up the soda cans and turn them in for some extra cash. He asked if we had any when I answered the door. I yelled down to my brother, asking if there were any. No. There were none. I wanted to get back to my art project I was working on and I was a dumb teenage girl. He stayed for a moment talking to me, hugged me, and left. Sometimes I remember this moment and he said he loved me. Other times I just remember that unique smile and wave as he left. I stood there waving goodbye. Sometime I think this death broke me. I never cried at a funeral since that one. There, I sobbed uncontrollably. My older brother put his arm around me when I did, trying to console me. There was no consolation. Years later, this is all so fresh in my head. He was an innocent. He was a kind soul and the world is worse off without him in it. He was arguably one of the nicest and coolest people I had ever known. Years later, I stood by as my husband’s family had to handle this same struggle.

You would think that I would believe there’s a heaven where they would be watching down on us. I was raised in CCD classes, in a religion that used to insist that this was a sin. If there were a heaven, sinners would not be in it. Though if there were a God, these two incredible people would still be with us. They should be with us. Our lives are significantly richer life knowing these two men.

I struggled with writing this, I admit. Are these things that I should talk about? What will people think? Do they think I am glorifying suicide? The reality is that my concern about writing this is really the problem. We should talk about it. Raising awareness for an illness like depression is just as important as it is for any other disease. It would be disingenuous to not talk about it, especially when it is something that admittedly haunts me. Simply telling a person who is depressed to get over it or it will get better is a meaningless attempt to fix someone. Spoiler alert: you can’t fix a person with anxiety or depression or any other mental illness. All of the medication and psych visits in the world can’t fix them. You can merely support them, accept them, and do whatever you can to make them feel loved and needed. Be there when they are sad as much as when they are happy. Make sure that they know you are here for them. Do everything in your power, even try to get help for them. However, just remember: Even then, it may not be enough. It is not your fault. Sometimes they just suffer in silence and it just happens. It is not your fault.

The Importance and Trials of Being Patient

When you are a parent, you want to make sure that you are constantly doing the right thing for your child. You really do agonize if every decision you make is the right one. Parenting is not a part-time job and it certainly isn’t for the weak. You are going to make bad decisions and that’s okay because you are also going to make some pretty amazing ones. You can read all of the parenting books and child development/psych books all you want and it still won’t prepare you for what you could potentially face. Even the most trained professionals in the field can screw up their children and the sooner you realize this, you can move on and just do what you need to.

I have made it no secret that my youngest son has certainly come with his own set of challenges. From a minor birth defect that needed surgery to dealing with Early Intervention/IEPs in preschool, it has been seemingly one challenge after another. He has spent a lot of time in evaluations and ended up with a blanket diagnosis of having a sensory integration disorder. While there has been some debate whether or not that is something he actually has, it is something that he will grow out of. We just need to be patient.

He has always had his own quirks. Things need to be a specific way. There needs to be a routine. He needs to know exactly what is going to happen every day and any variation in that could potentially lead to a meltdown. This is something we have grown accustomed to. We love him and if he needs a routine, he gets a routine.

Recently, my husband and I have slowly started to upgrade our home to a “smart home” to try helping with the bills and making our life a little easier. (Especially for me, who has to climb on the couch to turn the light in the living room on.) The problem is, this is a change. My husband was replacing a light fixture in the hallway, and our son lost it. “Our house is falling” is all he would scream as he sobbed and did his run/pace/freakout mode. 2 days later, we are still in “disaster control” mode to remedy this problem. We just need to be patient with him.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that this happened. When we were picking out flooring samples, he also freaked out. He freaked out when I made a joke about winning the lottery and buying a massive house so I can have a dog sanctuary. “Our floor is falling!” “You can’t sell our house!” He does not like change. He does not like surprises. We just need to be patient.

Yelling at a kid when they are like this will only make matters worse. It can seem like the reasonable thing to do, especially if you are in public and everyone is staring while they do it. In these most difficult times, you need to be patient. You won’t always be patient and you know what? That’s OK. You are human. After you lose it, you pick yourself up and can be patient. Patience: it won’t fix everything but it certainly won’t make anything worse.