Thinking Back on Being A Parent

When I started writing this blog I was dealing with Middle School and summer camp. Now I’m helping my kids navigate lease agreements and finding the best coffee grinders.

Over the years I’ve talked about navigating school and social situations. We’ve gone to concerts. I’ve seen first love come and go, but I’ve also best friends, and bonds that will last the ages.

In the great big world my children and I have discussed school shootings, the environment, and politics. We’ve been to political events so the kids and their friends could have that experience and see what it was all about. We’ve known what it is like to be different. We’ve known what it is like to be part of a group.

Every family is different, but I feel, I know there are some things that all parents must do.

So many people think schools should raise their children and teach them everything. Or many think going to church (God forbid) will teach their kids all they need to know about being a decent person. But they miss the point.

As a parent it is YOUR responsibility to raise your child. Not just feed them or clothes them but to share your world with them.

The number one most important thing I can say to parents is to TALK WITH YOUR KIDS. I don’t mean lecture them or talk at them. I mean talk with them and LISTEN to them. Discuss things with them.

Encourage your children to be “big picture” people and go beyond their family, friends, and school. One day they’ll go out into the big wide world. You don’t want our little birds to take wings and get eaten by the first raptor who comes along. Teach them to see, to watch, to question, to be aware.

Teach your children to have their own opinions. Not everyone is a leader, but you don’t want you child to be a follower. They need to know that it is alright it they take their own path. If they choose to be with others that is OK but it must be their choice.

And yes, they should be allowed to make their own choices but you, as a parent, need to guide those choices. If they hang out with a bully then STOP that friendship cold. Let your child know why. If they have a friend you don’t like and the alarms go off then STOP that friendship. You’re the parent. Teach your kids to have real friends, not just kids to hang out with. Teach them NOT to give into negative peer pressure or bullies. Talk to them about it. Always encourage them to take the higher road. Even tiny children understand that to some extent.

Early on explain to your child how important reputation is. It is easy to lose one’s reputation but it is extremely difficult to get it back. Kids lose their reputations by hanging out with kids who offer nothing but trouble. Don’t think you can save someone by being good. They will only drag your kid down with them – and they won’t care. I know this is harsh but I’ve seen it happen too many times.

At the same time teach your children that good friends are a treasure. Teach them that they can have friends that are a different sex, a different color, a different sexual orientation, a different faith, and just different. Diversity is good. I speak from experience. Acceptance is awesome. Love is awesome. Friendship is awesome.

I love my children’s friends. I have grown to love their parents too. As much as I wail on about things I don’t like – I have been honored to have met so many great kids and awesome parents. Woo Hoo.

Laugh with your children every single day.

Encourage your kids to always be curious.

Raise a child who will be a life long learner.

Raise your children to be better than you are.

Raise your children to be better than you are. Even today my daughter showed me that she is a much better person than I am. I won’t go into details, but I can be an asshole. My child gives no second chances (like her dad) but she is smart, kind, and thoughtful. She has tact. Don’t get me wrong, most people think I’m the sweetest thing in the world (even other Vampires) but I can be… well, not always the person I should be. I’ve raised my child not to be like that.

I’m not the perfect parent. I think I’m a better parent for not reading copious amounts of parenting books. Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages is a must read. Real parenting stories are the best – not theory from experts and cold clinical studies. Besides, every child is different. Every parent is different. Every family is different. What works for me might not work for others. But I have to admit I am so proud of the kind of mom I’ve been.

Hey, how many kids can say “my mom blogs about vampires.” Not many.

No matter what you do, make your kid proud of you, and be proud of your kid.

Love them.

Encourage them.

Talk with them.

TALK.

Keep the communications open. Be positive. Be understanding. LISTEN. Let them know that YOU are their safe place.

Parenting doesn’t stop at middle school, or even high school. It is a life long job, even when they move out, gets jobs, and start their own families. Let them live their lives but let them know that you’re always there for them with your love and your understanding.

~Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

The Eagle Cried

I’m honored to share a poem from my friend, Northern California writer Richard Turton.

 

The Eagle Cried

 

The acrid smell of cordite

Still hovered in the air.

No breeze to wash away

The scent of Satan’s hair.

 

The Medivac’s are fading now,

Their cabins filled with dead.

So many grisly pictures

Are surging through my head

 

Another hill’s been taken

The earth all charred and black

We all know what’s coming;

Tomorrow…”Give it back!”

 

The Eagle cries from barren trees

His tears, he cannot hide.

Where once a proud, young soldier stood

My Warrior Brother, died

 

The scorched ground that surrounds me;

Am I in Dante’s Hell?

This skirmish now is over

We saw them as they fell.

 

My Warrior Brother, Donny,

Died that gruesome day.

He took the bullets meant for me

With his final words did say,

 

“Tell Mom and Sis I loved them!

Please! Don’t let me down!”

I promised I would tell them

A promise I’d soon drown.

 

The Eagle cried that tragic day,

Back in Sixty-Eight.

A promise made…un-kept,

To my Warrior mate.

 

One thing that I’m sure of,

A thing that gives no rest.

The hounds of Hell still battle

Deep within my chest.

 

A bottle’d been my address

For forty years or more.

I’d take ‘most any drug,

I couldn’t find the door.

 

Somewhere there’s a record,

Of drugs and booze and tears.

When I crawled out of the bottle

I’d been buried in for years.

 

Half a decade sober.

Not a real long time.

That’s how long I’m clean tho’,

My life’s becoming mine.

 

The winds of war are blowing by;

In history books they last.

I’m in the winter of my years,

My best days…they have passed.

 

The one thing that I’ve never done

One thing I cannot face:

To visit the Memorial,

The headstone for that place.

 

My daughter said, “You have to go,

To honor those who died!”

I said I know I should…

But that I’d go…I lied

 

Then one day the phone rang;

A call I knew I’d dread.

It was Donny’s sister,

“Please help me!” Karen pled.

 

“I’ve spent these years just searching

I even hired a sleuth.

I finally found out where you live…

I need to know the truth.”

 

“The Army’s always been real vague,

And their answers never matched.

I need to know what happened;

They always seemed detached”

 

“Our Mother has passed on now,

But I still need to know;

I’d really love to meet with you,

Please…just show me how!”

 

The hounds of Hell are roused again;

Their howling has re-started.

I force their shrieks out of my mind,

My path, it has been charted

 

Quiet now, you dogs of war!

It’s time for a new quest!
It’s time for me to wrestle you,

And lay your souls to rest!

 

Then I thought the one thing,

A thought I’d never say,
Should I meet her at The Wall,

And put my hounds at bay?

 

I finally said I’d meet with her,

With a voice that was not mine.

“The Wall is where I’ll meet you.

I’ll see you there at nine.”

 

I saw flowers in her hand,

As she walked my way.

“Yellow roses were his favorite.”

Later she would say.

“Hello, my name is Karen.”

She said when we did meet

“Donny wrote me many things,

I knew that you’d be sweet!”

 

“I know this must be hard for you,

But I really need to know.

Please tell me how my brother died,

That day, so long ago.”

 

The moment had arrived.

I could hide this fact no more.

I said things I’d kept hidden,

Behind my mind’s locked door

 

She took my hand in hers,

And waited patiently.

My head bowed down as I thought

Of words I had to say.

 

I knew my words would stab her heart

But she would not look away.

She watched me as I told her

Of that ghastly day.

 

“Your Brother died in my arms,

In that nameless place.

He took the bullets meant for me

And died as we embraced!”

 

Her head dropped down, when I was done

Her chin upon her chest.

A single tear rolled down her cheek,

“Now Donny’s laid to rest.”

 

I walked with her as she made her way

To the Wall of Stone.

She laid the flowers at the base

Her silent prayer was sown.

 

At last I’ve honored those who fell,

Whose names are etched in rows.

We touched the name of Donny,

Who died so long ago.

 

And we cried…

 

The Eagle’s cry is heard again;

It lives within the Wall!

Each time a name is touched

The Eagle gives his call.

 

 

© Richard Turton

 

warmemorial wall

 

Note from Juliette:

I met Rick Turton through his son who was my daughter’s 4th grade teacher. Rick joined a writing group I’m an administrator for.  We all soon discovered Rick is a talented writer and a man with a sharp sense of humor.  When I first read this poem I had no idea … I ended up choked up. A few years ago I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. It was such a moving experience – a difficult experience – even though the war is long over. For many it will never be over. Thank you to Rick for your words of love and honor and for allowing me to share this poem.

 

Short Story Sunday: Shelter

Constantine never cared what anyone thought, until now. Now he wanted everyone to think good things. That was odd considering he was a Vampire.

Life was easy when in almost any setting one was always the best dressed, the best looking, the most charming, and the most knowledgable on almost any subject. It also didn’t hurt to be a four hundred year old Vampire, but that was besides the point. Constantine had always been the most at almost everything.

On Thursday night he’d walked home after having drinks with friends, and of course drinking from friends. A few blocks from his home he’d stopped. Normally he wouldn’t have but the burst of cold air, the flashing lights, and police tape made him curious. It was really the blast of cold air that had made him stop. Someone had died. A few ghosts from a hundred years back had stopped to look as well. They met Constantine’s gaze and just shook their heads.

He took a step towards the ghosts. “What happened?”

“Murder,” they whispered, then they vanished into the dark night. Then he heard a woman’s voice whisper, my babies, my babies.

The following day he found out that a woman was murdered by her boyfriend. Restraining orders obviously were of no use. She had no children, no family, and not many friends. She’d worked as a paralegal and walked to work. Everyone liked her. She was a always cheerful but was sort of a loner. Her name was Keera. She was thirty-six. The man who killed her had gone back to his own home and killed himself.

My babies, my babies.

Saturday afternoon brought hail. It also brought a flat tire. It was more than just a flat. The entire tire rod had busted.  Constantine stayed in his car (of course he was waring an expensive suit and forgot his umbrella) and waited for a tow truck. His friend Robert said he could be there in an ninety minutes. Then he looked up and saw he’d broken down right in front of the city animal shelter. He could wait there. After the car had been towed he ran to the the shelter entrance.

The last time he’d had a pet of his own was in the 19th century. Apollo was a white and brown speckled English Spaniel. He’d missed the dog, a goofy faithful friend. Sometimes even Vampires needed some one goofy in their life even if that friend was a dog. Since then he hadn’t had time for a dog. There was too much fur, too much time, too much everything with a dog.

As he waited for Robert, Constantine looked at all of the dogs, happy to see him, all saying take me home through their barks and yips.

At the back of one the enclosures curled up together in a dark ball of fur were two dogs. At first he’d thought there was only one massive brown and tan dog they were so close together. They didn’t jump up. They didn’t bark. The larger dog, a German Shepard lifted it’s dark head and looked at Constantine with dark almost human eyes. Next the other dog, a Black Lab, with a spot of white on it’s chest, looked up, then hid it’s head again in it’s companion’s fur.

My babies, my babies.

“These dogs came in a few days ago. Their owner died. No family. Nobody wanted them. We’re asking that they stay together but it’s hard to place two adult dogs together,” said a shelter volunteer, a small middle aged woman with a kind face. “The Shepard is six. Her name is Jewel. The Lab, Cole, is only two. They’re inseparable.”

“I’d like to meet them,” said Constantine. He noticed the woman eye his suit. “I’m not worried about the fur.”

As the volunteer opened the door of the cage the dogs stood. They both came up and wagged their tails. The German Shepard peed on his shoe, not as an aggression, but in joy and excitement. Cole the Lab rolled over so his belly could be rubbed.

He looked up and saw a ghost. A woman with brown hair, and large brown eyes set in a round face. “My babies,” she said as she faded out of his sight.

“They belonged to the murdered woman,” said Constantine.

“Yes. It was so tragic.”

“How long will they be here before, they’re… put down.”

“Two weeks.”

“I’ll take them.”

“Both of them?”

“Both of them.”

An hour later Robert was laughing and telling Constantine how crazy he was. “Two grown dogs. Whatever you do don’t give them human blood.”

“They’ll have dog food. Won’t you?” Constantine said looking into the back seat where the two dogs sat close together. Jewel turned her head from right to left as she listened.

Robert stopped at the large pet supply story where they picked up dog beds, leashes, toys, and lots of dog food.

Later, on Saturday night, Constantine sat on the couch and read. Jewel put her head on his feet. Cole jumped up on the couch and curled next to Constantine.

“Do you miss your mom? I promised her I’d take good care of you,” he said to the dogs.

Jewel looked up at him and turned her head, then she jumped up on the couch on the other side of Constantine and put her head in his lap. Cole wagged his tail and licked Constantine’s hand.

His friend would say he was crazy. The last thing he needed was two large grown dogs. But maybe that was exactly what he needed.

The wind blew outside and the rain pounded the windows.

Thank you.

The wind whispered to him. Thank you.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Stories We Shall Never Tell

In the dark

We ran through the streets

Slick with rain

Back alleys

Darkened windows

Broken glass

Rats

The smell of decay

And death.

Then into grand mansions

We’d fly

Cloaks off

The rustle of silk

A white tie

A flash of fang

The smell of wine

Cigars

And blood.

We were young

Carefree

With stories

We shall never

Tell

Our own

Children.

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

History

“I was tired of Rome. When the first opportunity came up to go to Britain I took it. It was sometime around 78 or 79 AD. My timeline is a little fuzzy on that. I had no idea where I was going or that I’d meet the love of my life and some of the best friends I’ve ever had there. There was nobody like me in Rome. I was alone. I’d always been alone as long as I could remember, since I was a small child. I’d met other Vampires, but they weren’t like me. They were distant and fearful, living in the shadows. I was almost a demigod. Imagine that, and here I am, an old man, living on a farm by a river in California.”

Tellias didn’t look like an old man. He looked about nineteen or maybe twenty. Today Tellias was wearing yellow flip flops, black tuxedo pants, an orange and brown work shirt with the name Lloyd embroidered above the pocket, and his 1966 Rolex Submariner. His white blonde hair was tucked behind his ear.

We were in my brother Aaron’s office,  a restored Italianate mansion built in the 1870’s. Aaron has a law practice. Today his cohort and friend (if you could call it that) Austin Durant was there. Austin Durant is a history professor but he also restores old building. He is also a Vampire Hunter. This is where it can get complicated.

Durant works with Aaron to rid the world of Shadow Creepers, the Vampires who have no souls, and/or no redeeming value to society. They’re the ones who can’t control themselves, cause problems, or just fill out walls and craw spaces with their dried out crusty nasty barely animated corpses. Sometimes I begrudgingly help them out.

I know, I’ve been distracted… I’d stopped by with Eleora and Tellias, the ancient Vampires that I keep an eye on. My great great great great Grandmaman Lola was also along.

Austin was enchanted by the stories. When I first met Austin he tended to be a little tense being the only non-Vampire in the house, but by now he knew we wouldn’t harm him. Why would we?

I went to the kitchen to make tea, and check my email. Eventually Austin met me in their. I poured him a cup and we chatted a bit while we watched the storm outside.

“When I think of all of the history you and your family has experienced, it is just mind boggling,” said Austin.

“We have seen a lot. Sometimes too much.”

Lola came in and got a glass of water. She flirted a bit with Austin then moved on. Nobody would pick her out as a Vampire with her wavy brown hair, jeans and a sweater. Sometimes she walked with a slight limp, but otherwise she looked your average twenty five year old woman.

After she’d left Austin asked (in almost a whisper), “How old is she?”

“Lola is six hundred and seventy five years old. She was born the same year as Geoffrey Chaucer. Same day too. When is your birthday Austin?”

“July 5.”

“You have the same birthday as P.T. Barnum. It seems fitting doesn’t it. You’re a historian and a Vampire Hunter. That makes you sort of a purveyor of freaks and important facts nobody wants to understand.”

“How…”

“You have the same birthday as my daughter. She was born July 5th, 1999.”

“Is she, your daughter a Vampire? Your kids are Vampires like Aaron’s kids aren’t they?”

“Of course they are.  By the way, I have the same birthday as Weird Al but I’m exactly a hundred years older than he is.”

“You were around during the California Gold Rush.”

“Right after the Gold Rush. My husband Teddy was born on the Panama Peninsula when his parents were on their way to California in 1849. They were among the first. My brother Max was born in Sacramento a few weeks after Teddy’s parents and my parents arrived. Aaron was born in 1854. I came along in 1859. Our other brothers Andy and Val were also born in the 1850’s. 1851 and 1858. We were a big family of little Vampires. I suppose we were around during the tail end of the Gold Rush, kind of sort of. I vaguely remember adults talking about the war, you know the Civil War. My big memories are more about the city growing up around us, floods, fires, the art museum, and the railroad. The rail road was big. Oh, and I remember then the State Capitol building went up. That was glorious fun. We had roller skates too, for indoors. The streets weren’t good enough for street skates.”

“You skated?”

“Yes, we skated.”

“I know all of this, or most of what you’re telling me, but when I hear it from you…when I hear it from you, it’s like…I don’t know. It’s extraordinary. The things you’ve seen…”

“Austin, don’t have too much adoration for us. You have your own extraordinary talents and experiences.”

Dear Eleora blasted into the room, twirling her red circle skirt, and singing something that sounded like a long lost Motown song. She kissed my cheek, then kissed Austin on the cheek.

“Would you like some tea sweetie?” I asked her.

“Not right now, but when you’re done with yours come back and join us, and bring Mr. Austin with you.” Then she fluttered out of the room.

“She is the wife of Tellias, right?”

“Yes she is. I’m not sure if they ever were formally married but they’ve been together since he arrived in Britain from Rome.”

“How old are they?”

“Over two thousand years, but nobody knows for sure. We believe she is older, but we don’t ask.”

“They look like teenagers.”

“They act like old people. They are old people.”

We finished our tea and got back to the others. I took all of my elders home. Aaron and Austin got to work on some restoration and nasty ghoul extraction they’d been working on.

One day I might sit down with Austin and tell him all of my tales of bygone days. Then again, I think he just might get depressed when he finds out that nobody ever learns from their mistakes. Nobody listens to reason, or cautionary tales, or cares about anything in the past or in the future. Then again, I might be wrong.

It doesn’t matter how old someone is, or how young, but how they see the world. It is how they choose to see the world.

I tell my kids that. My now legally adult children. They seem so young, because they are. And of course, they keep me young as well – all 159 years of me.

Stay young. Share stories. Live well. Learn from your mistakes, and from your success, and from each other.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Circles

Circles

“The damn circles are back. My crops are gonna be ruined by it all. We’re already having a cold planting season, and now this, right before the harvest of our winter crops.”

Druce listened as Farmer Wyne told him about the return of the crop circles. As the local Warlock Druce had done all he could to help. Damn this was frustrating.

“I’m as distressed as you are Wyne. This is not good. Not good at all. Right now I’m brewing up some berry tea. We can get ourselves a cup and go take a look.”

The men walked out to the field about 100 feet from Druce’s cottage. He was surprised he didn’t hear anyone out in the field the night before. He took a sip of tea and surveyed the damage.

“Didn’t you hear anything?” Asked Wyne.

“I was in a deep sleep last night, lulled by the storm,” said Druce.

A large pattern of circles made by knocking over the tall grain had been made in the middle of Wyne’s field. It wasn’t the first time. A faint unpleasant smell came from the circles. Druce couldn’t place it.

He stood in the middle of the largest circle and closed his eyes, as he attempted to get a sense of it all. There were no spirits or demons present. There was no magic. There was nothing but a lingering unknown smell.

Later that afternoon Druce walked down to the beach and called out to his friend Morcant the Selkie. A large seal poked it’s head out of the water, then went under again. A few minutes later a man walked out of the surf carrying a seal skin.

Selkies are seals when they want to be and men when they need to be. They carry their seal skins with them so that nobody will steal them and trap them forever on dry land.

They talked of the crop circles but could come up with no answers. They did decide to roast some fish Morcant had caught and headed back to Druce’s cottage.

The two old friends spoke of a myriad of unexplained events that had happened since that idiot Wizard Merlin had moved into the old castle on the hill. It took a day or two to walk there but it Merlin was still too close as far as Druce was concerned.

Druce had once asked Merlin about crop circles, lights from the sky, and strangely dressed folks wandering around in the shadows. Merlin said the strange events must be because of fairies and their displeasure with the king, who was even more of an idiot than Merlin. Or, Merlin said, it could be that the old gods were angry at King Arthur for worshiping the new Christian god. Druce thought Merlin was full of shit and never asked him about it again.

After they finished their dinner of fish and nut cakes, and were cleaning up there was a soft knock on Druce’s door.

Standing in the drizzling rain was a man and a woman wrapped in heavy cloaks.

“Are you Merlin the Wizard?” asked the man in a strange accent.

Morcant laughed out loud.

“No, I am Druce, the Warlock. May I help you?”

“I told you Merlin was just a myth,” said the woman.

“Merlin lives down a way,” said Druce. “Do you know him?”

“No, not yet,” said the man.

“Well,” said Druce, “Merlin is a bit socially awkward and insecure. He might visit with your or he might hide and pretend he isn’t home. Have you come a long way? I sense that you have.”

“You’re a Warlock?” asked the woman. “What does that mean?”

“It means that I can tell that you’re not from around here. It also means that you should tell me your names and come in out of the rain. I sense you aren’t here to kill or rob us. I know you have weapons in your pockets but you aren’t comfortable using them. We won’t threaten you. I am Druce the Warlock, and this is my friend Morcant.”

The woman eyed Morcant involuntary. Of course she did. Silkies are unusually attractive and humans find it difficult to resist their charms.

“I’m Trinity, and this is my friend Ryan,” said the woman as they entered the house.

Druce and Morcant eyes the sturdy shoes and the fine weave of their clothing. They noticed the smell of flowers on the woman’s hair.

“So you’re here to see Merlin. I suppose you want to take a look at the Round Table and all of that as well?” said Morcant.

“You’ll be disappointed. They’re a rather unorganized lot. The King has a good public relations staff but it is really a disaster over at Camelot,” said Druce.

“The Camelot always stinks too. They never do maintainace on the moat like they’re supposed to,” said Morcant.

Trinity and Ryan looked disappointed. “This is unexpected,” said Trinity.

“And speaking of unexpected, do the two of you know what is causing the crop circles around here? You’re not behind it are you?” Said Druce.

“Why would you ask that?” said Ryan, as he shifted in his chair.

“I don’t know, you being time travelers and all. Seriously, we get your type all the time.  You come her wanting to see the glory of days gone by, the holy grail, magic, and maybe a bit of romance… wait, wait, hold on a minute. I have it figured out. Your time wagon, or machine, or whatever you call it is making those crop circles,” said Druce, now standing up.

“Whenever strangers like you show up with your odd accents and sturdy shoes show up our farmers complain of crop circles. Dude, you have to stop it. You’re ruining the harvest,” said Druce.

Of course Trinity and Ryan had no idea that their machine had caused the crop circles.  They did however stay the night and talk until the sun came up about their lives in the future. Trinity was a history professor at one of the great universities in her land. Ryan was something called a cultural anthropologist and a former Navy Seal. Being a seal himself, Morcant was fascinated with this fact and asked many questions. Ryan was even more fascinated with Mocant and the whole idea of Selkies.

The following week Druce leaned that Trinity and Ryan had indeed found their way to Camelot. King Arthur was down due to food poisoning. The place indeed was extremely stinky. There was no round table, just a big long table in a room full of shabby tapestries. One of the more interesting things were the displays of Roman relics left over from the past century.

They’d also met Merlin who was brooding and writing love poems to female spirits who just thought he was sad and weird.

Years, rather centuries later Druce would come across Ryan again. They’d run into each other at a museum. Druce, because he was a Warlock, was still alive. Ryan was in his own time – the time in which he and Trinity been born.

They caught up on their lives and exchanged their cell phone numbers.

Druce looked at a painting by the artist Wayne Thiebaud. It was of fields and orchards.  A river intersection. The painting was a favorite of Druce’s. He thought about the crop circles. It was fitting, as everything eventually circled around, be it truth or just a myth.

Suddenly he got an ear worm. Dead or Alive. Round round round. Odd after all these years how unexpected and utterly weird life was. It was also a comfort to know that a lot of things just never change.

~ end

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For more about Druce and Morcant click here.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman