Listening is NEVER Useless. Thoughts on parenting, and other 2020 challenges.

I decided to take a day off and garden, and do fall cleaning and organizing.

Sure I’m a Vampire but what do you want me to do? I don’t spend all of my time stalking unsuspecting people and drain them of their blood. I don’t sleep upside down all day with bats. I don’t sit around doing ancient rituals. Who the hell does that? Get off of my back.

Yesterday my husband, daughter, and I took the day off from all news, politics, and pandemic crap and went wine tasting. We are fortunate to live 45 minutes away from one of the most spectacular wine regions in the entire universe. It was a perfect day.

Tomorrow my daughter is going back down to Southern California.

Yesterday was a perfect day. Today I am so stressed out that I feel like my head is going to explode.

Having a so-called empty nest doesn’t get you off the hook for parenting. My kids are so stressed out by the state of the world, school, work, and everything else that it is stressing me out. As a mom I am their sounding board. I am not complaining. I’m just feeling useless because there is nothing I can do but listen. Listening isn’t useless I tell myself because it is true. Listening is NEVER useless. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.

I’m just so damn worried about them. They’re smart. They make good choices. I’m good with that. That said, they are angry. They are discouraged. They are questioning everything.

With the election so close and no good choices for young people (just two old guys most of them don’t really support) they are frankly disgusted. They are loud and clear about their opinions.

Then there are our family dynamics to deal with. Mine are easy.

In my family we talk a lot about everything. We keep in touch. My kids talk to me or text me every single day. They don’t have to. They want to.

Don’t even get me started on those who think “self care” will solve anyone’s problems. Really? Right now autopilot is what is going to save me.

My fucking bank just merged with another bank (it was taken over by another bank) and now that is a huge cluster F. The lines at the bank are horrible. It took me five hours online to get everything half way working.

If anyone out there thinks being a Vampire or something other than what you are will help you please THINK AGAIN. Nobody is exempt from the modern world unless you want to be come crazy living up in the hills or out in the desert “off the grid.” Or you could live in a crypt, but in that case I doubt if you have a bank account. Shadow creeping Vampires who live in crypts and other unsavory places usually have dusty old attorneys who take care of their money, or they have a stash buried somewhere, or they just steal everything they need. Don’t even ask about how Zombies are living right now. Holy shit, this is 2020 and there is still a few months left for the Zombies to poke their rotting heads out of their hidey holes.

But I digress, we need to get back to parenting.

Right now is an extremely difficult time for parents with children of all ages.

My nephew and his wife just had a baby. I haven’t seen him yet. Any other year I would have been right over to San Francisco to meet my new little nephew. No such luck.

Our kids from pre-school to graduate school can’t go to school. Everything is online. Yes, there are a few online classes but that is more of the exception. Many trade schools are closed. Job opportunities are few and far between for our young adult kids who aren’t going to school.

At the same time our adult children are applying for college, jobs, trade schools and other programs. They feel totally screwed by the generations before them. To their credit they are doing better than they know. They’re strong. They’re getting organized. They’re loud. They’re fierce. I hope they will be force to be reckoned with.

My message to parents and to young people is DON’T GIVE UP. That is my message to everyone. Old, young, normal, unusual, weird, creative, uncreative, or whatever you are – DON’T GIVE UP.

I know I must sound like I’m rambling. My work at the museum is all online these days. I’ve been there in person once since March. I’ll go again on Friday and meet with a young person I’m mentoring. How cool is that? Extremely cool. I’ll be giving online tours with a docent friend. We’re over the moon happy about that.

So I’m fine. Teddy frustrated is fine. Our kids are frustrated but fine. My brother Aaron’s kids are frustrated by fine.

I guess the whole purpose here, aside from my gratuitous TMI venting, is to say that we’re all feeling a lot of pressure as parents. Just be there for your kids. Talk to them, but most of all just listen to them. Support your kids. Support their dreams.

SUPPORT THEIR DREAMS. Now is not the time to shoot down dreams or tell they can’t do something. Now is the time to just listen, be it by phone, text, Zoom, in person, or however you’re communicating these days.

I might get to gardening. I’ve spent the entire day in Zoom meetings, checking election results, taking care of banking BS, and being there for my kids. I’ll get out in the garden in an hour or two. My poor dog is feeling totally ignored.

Thanks for dropping by. Wishing you all peace of mind. Stay safe. Stay calm. Stay positive. Wear a mask. Talk to your kids. Listen to them. Check in on those who might need extra help, and those who are alone. Don’t allow anger to get the best of you – leave that for the brainless Zombies and nasty Ghouls.

Take care,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Transitions

When I started this blog I was working full time for an organization outside of my home. My brain and the rest of my time was filled with Middle School and High School activities. I spent more time with my brothers. The canine love of my life was in her prime.

I couldn’t imagine having grown children.

Now everyone is in college. We discuss school but I’m not that involved, except to be a cheerleader, a therapist when needed, an entertaining distraction, and the one who pays for everything. Jasmine the white sled dog has gone over the rainbow bridge – her ashes sit in a box among old photographs. My cats are still here. A new dog Alice, a large goofy GSD is now in my life. I work alone at home. I rarely see anyone, except ghosts, and my ancient family members who welcome my visits, which need to be more frequent.

The sports and the activities have trickled off to almost nothing. I don’t have to drive anyone anywhere. I am alone here with a house full of books and animals.

Then again new activities call me. There is the art museum. There is my art. There are books in the works. There are walls to be painted. There are funny stories to tell.

And if I muse into melancholy madness Nigel the ghost will show up and kick my ass so I’d better move on.

We all change and evolve. That is part of being on this strange, horrible, and wonderful planet. We are trapped here so we need to be fluid. We need to keep evolving no matter how old or young we are. Growth never ends.

I find myself telling my kids not to judge others for what they do or the choices they make. Not all young people have it as good as they do. They don’t have someone helping them pay for school and everything else. They don’t have someone who is there 24/7 to listen. They don’t have someone who doesn’t judge them or question their every move. They have a safety net. Not everyone has that so their choices can’t be judged. I urge everyone to understand the choices of others.

There is no clear path. Five year plans are wonderful until a tornado hits your house, or someone you love dies, or you get sick, or the economy crashes, or your heart gets broken. So you take another road, or climb out of another window, or up another tree, or make where you are a better place. You add more books to your shelves and make an effort to call your friends, and your mom.

Parenting adults is tricky because they don’t want to listen, they need you to listen more than anything in the world, and they start to parent their own parents.

Yes, they do all of that.

It is scary. More scary that a pack of zombies banging at your back door. You can deal with zombies. You don’t love them. They just make a mess. But dealing with your kids, no matter how easy and wonderful they are, is always a challenge.

Dealing with Zombies: Shot gun. Flame thrower. Pissed off Vampires.

Dealing with Adult Children: Listening. Worrying. Loving. Worrying. Listening. Loving. Laughing. Learning to let them be adults. Learning not to be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.

Everything will be alright.

With your kids, and with you.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Vampire Maman

 

 

Listen, and never discount a Vampire who wants to share art with you.

Some people do things oh so frustratingly slow, or weird, or just make me feel like nobody is listening (and I know they aren’t.)

On Thanksgiving I showed my great great great great Grandmama Lola a book to look at. It was an art book. I wanted her to see the artwork. So what does she do? She opens the cover and looks at the first page. Then she slowly turns the next three pages of publisher information. The she gets to the preface – you know those long introductions to art books that NOBODY reads, especially when someone wants you to look at some PICTURES. After she was into the first 15 pages, slowly turning them and not really reading them, wondering why I’d given her this book with so much text, I took the book. Then I opened it up to the start of the 175 pages that were in FULL COLOR of magnificent artwork.

She then slowly turned the pages, looking at all of the art, then proclaimed there were too many religious paintings. Did I mention this book was about Italian Renaissance art? It was.

I said nothing and put the book back on the shelf. My moment sharing Raphael and Michelangelo fell flat.

The whole week seemed to go like that. I was all but invisible wherever I went. Even among friends I was just there. My husband was there, but I was just a shadow most of the time. A few times I managed to make myself known before I was unseen again. Until a few nights ago when I finally found myself around kindred spirits.

When I was a child I was the quiet one. I would sit in corners, or curled in a large chair, and watch, and listen, and remember, and think about what the adults said. I always knew what everyone had done. I knew things children were not supposed to understand.  I also spent a lot of time with books, looking at pictures. I never get tired of art, be it a painting in a museum, or an illustration in a book. It could be an angel, or a landscape, or a diagram the ocean currents. Every image has a story, or a feeling, or something that came out of the head, the hands, the eyes, and the heart of someone else.

Lola is ancient, born in the Middle Ages, but she isn’t feeble minded, or out of touch. She just does things in a different way than I do. It is still damned annoying.

I was out with her recently and she insisted on lingering over her prey, excuse me, a donor. I clenched my fists, then quietly told her that we needed to get in and then get out fast. Unless you’re in a safe situation where you can linger comfortably for hours, you need to get what you need and get out. But noooooo, not Lola. She never listens to me, or any of my concerns. I swear I’m surprised she has lasted as long as she has. And yes, this is a Vampire blog. Why else would I be talking about what Lola does.

Anyway, don’t get between me and my art. Don’t make me feel unsafe or unwanted. And if you don’t listen to me, that is fine. I hear everything, and remember everything. And I still love you, for the most part.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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Quietly Listen

He showed me a new project on his large computer screen, in the back room of a restored Victorian house. A cat sat on a window seat grooming herself. She’d lick a paw then carefully wipe her face. Then she curled up in a tight ball and started to purr.

“Tell me what you think Juliette,” he said with a cautious smile.

“I like it a lot,” I told him. I did like it. Nobody was surprised that he and his partner had made millions over the past five years. “You’re sad today.”

He looked up, kind of surprised. “I was just thinking. I saw a school bus earlier today. It brought back memories of when I was a kid. Everyday on the bus was a nightmare for me.”

I looked at this successful, good looking, witty man, and listened. I’d heard these stories before. Not his, but from others. What is it about humans that they’re children are so cruel. Some grow out of it. Some grow up to lead nations and continue to be cruel. Some who continue to be bullies are failures because of their crude actions. I just listened.

I was stupid and foolish as a young person, and done a lot of things I have retreated later, but never endured being beaten up on a bus, or called names and taunted for eight hours a day. I’ve never lived in that kind of fear day in and day out.

“I’d forgotten about it until today. I didn’t think it would hit me so hard.”

“You’re better than they are.”

He smiled sadly. “Success is the best revenge.” He rolled up his sleeve and held out his arm. “Make me feel better Juliette. Please.”

I took his wrist and sank my fangs into it. I closed my eyes and sucked out the pain, and gave him a high that made him put his head back in the chair and relax into a deep trance like state. A smile came on his face.

When I was done I gave him a kiss. “You have your own Vampire. That is something those who were cruel will never have. Consider yourself lucky.”

He laughed and rolled down my sleeves. “Until next time,” he said.

“Until then,” I said and left him to sleep and dream of better things.

And remember, you don’t have to be a Vampire to help make the pain go away. Listen to those young and old. Stop bullying when you see it. The fight of those who are bullied is the side we should all be on. Stop, listen, support. How simple is that?  Extremely simple.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: The Rally

Andy stood in the dark on his back patio looking at the night sky.  He sang softly to himself, barely audible.

L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser,
Et c’est bien in vain qu’on l’appelle
S’il lui convient de refuser.
Rien n’y fait, menace ou prière.
L’un parle bien, l’autre se tait.
Et c’est l’autre que je préfère.
Il n’a rien dit mais il me plait.

Turning around he found his brother Max standing by the French doors that lead to the patio. Andy in his jeans and white dress shirt was in stark contrast to Max’s all black, mostly leather ensemble.

Max smiled. “I’m still in awe of the beauty of your voice baby brother.”

Andy gave Max a bro hug. “Thanks. You worked tonight?”

“I’m keeping the world safe for Vampires everywhere.”

“And you’re greatly appreciated by all of us.”

Max was a hunter of Vampire Hunters. Andy was an opera singer. Both were Vampires. And they were brothers, with the same chestnut brown hair and hazel eyes that could go pitch black on demand.

“Tonight,” Max began, “I was off from work and looking for a bite to eat, and I ended up in an alleyway with an incredibly angry woman.”

“Were you going to…”

“No. I’d passed some sort of event, people were mingling outside. One of them called me a faggot when I walked by.”

“What an asshole.”

“It doesn’t matter. At least it didn’t then. You know I’ve never cared what they think. I’m not one of them.”

“You’re the most standoffish Vampire I know.”

“Like I said I’m not one of them. But tonight was different. She got to me.”

Andy smiled. “Love?”

“No. Of course not. I turned the corner into an alley, and there stood a woman, alone. Someone yelled, “You’re a cunt Diana. You know that? Would you rather hang with a bunch of fucking rug munchers and queers?” She didn’t respond to him.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Have you ever known what it is like to be different? To be hated? Do you know what it is like to feel hated for not hating?”

Not a single warm blooded human has ever asked me that. “Why were you there?” I asked her. I wanted to know what would have convinced her to be at such an event.

“A couple of coworkers asked me along. One of them has a friend I kind of liked. I thought it would be interesting. I had no idea how interesting. It was like going back to 1930’s Germany. The guy I liked was that asshole who yelled at me.” She looked at me in an odd way. “Why were you there?”

“I wasn’t there.” I told her. “I just got off from work. I was just passing by, on my way to get a bite to eat. There’s a wine bar a few blocks from here. Please join me. We can talk.” As we left the alley there were more jeers. I turned to the men and gave them the most awful visions. One fell on the ground clutching his stomach. Andy, you would have been proud of me.”

“So tell me about her,” said Andy. “What did you talk about? Did you talk?”

“We talked for about three hours. She asked me if I was gay.”

“Did you tell her your preferences?”

“That I am attracted to both, but mainly women? Yes. She didn’t blink and eye.”

“Then what?”

“We talked. Then we walked for a while. I drove her home. Then I kissed her cheek. She didn’t even mention that my lips were cold or my eyes had gone almost black in color. It wasn’t romantic, but I’m going to watch after her. She might not know it, but she’ll never be alone, or unsafe.”

“What about dinner? Was it her?”

“No, some guy in the bathroom of the bar. It was fast and easy.”

Andy didn’t ask the reason for the rally and Max didn’t mention it.

About an hour later, on the drive home, Max watched the sunrise through the rain. He tried not to think too much about the night. He could have killed the men who called him names and yelled at Diana, but he didn’t. There was a lot he could have done, but instead he decided to perform the rare act of listening. Just listening.

After dropping his clothes on a chair he texted a Vampire he was trying not to fall in love with and asked her to come over. Then he climbed into bed and closed his eyes to the new day.

 

~ End

 

Note: I wrote this after listening to my teenager talk about what is going on in the news and the bigotry and hate and sheer ignorance we hear coming out of so many public mouths. This is a quickly written sort story, and not great literature (or even a great story) but I hope you understand the meaning behind it. Haters are going to hate but wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t hate and didn’t spread that hate to others. It is something we all must think about if we value our freedoms and the future of our children (who are usually smarter than we are.) ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meadow Lark

This time of year I look forward to the song of the Meadow Lark. This bird does not simply chirp. It sings a song that evokes feelings of fall and comfort.

To be perfectly honest, before today I didn’t know it was a Meadow Lark. I knew it wasn’t a finch, or a jay, or a gull, or a hawk, or a robin, or magpie, or crow. It sure wasn’t a turkey.

I looked up a list of birds that are in the Sacramento Valley during the fall. Then I looked up each type of bird call on YouTube. On the third try I found my beloved song was that of the Meadow Lark.

Upon meeting my brother Val for coffee this morning I told him about my discovery. He smiled at me as if I’d just escaped from an insane asylum.

“So how’s that Vampire thing working out for you?”

He laughed. “Good. You?”

“Great.”

We’ve always been Vampires so that is a long running joke for us.

“Don’t ignore me when I tell you about something you don’t think is important.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“The Meadow Lark.”

“You have too much free time.”

“Fine, I won’t tell you anything anymore.”

“Oh Jewels, cut it out.”

“You’re such an asshole.”

We walked with our coffee through the old town, then up the hill towards the old church. From the hill I could see the hill my house stood on. I didn’t say anything. Normally I would have made one of those, “Oh look, the trees in my neighborhood,” but I didn’t. I was still pissed off at Val.

We walked past houses that were built when we were young, in the 1880’s.  When we arrived at the old church we saw a couple of ghosts sitting on the front steps. They vanished as soon as they saw us.

Val gave me a friendly nudge. “Do you think they’re planning anything for Halloween?”

“I doubt it, but you never know.” I knew we wouldn’t get any information out of them today. Ghosts tend to despise Vampires (for obvious reasons – we have bodies and they don’t.)

These were serious ghosts who’d made the long journey to California in the 1850’s to find gold. Most had been born in Ireland, come half way around the Earth only to die an early death, before the age of forty in a strange land of broken and misplaced dreams. Maybe it wasn’t gold they were looking for, but either way I hope they found something that made the trip worth while. Some found wonder and joy. Most didn’t.

I couldn’t see them but I could feel them looking at us like dark eyed children. I thought they might just want coffee. I wasn’t going to share with them. Neither was Val.

From the church we turned down a side street and headed back towards where we’d parked.

Val told me that his friend Lilly had dumped him. “I was her Vampire,” he said with a sigh.

“Did she know you’re a Vampire?”

“Absolutely not. So just like that she said I was cold and that she got bad vibes off of me. Bad Vibes were her exact words.”

“Sorry Val. I liked her.”

“I thought she’d make a great Vampire. Boy was I ever wrong. What are you doing for Halloween?”

I smiled and told my story to one more person. “We’ve been invited to a Harry Potter party and a Zombie party. So we’re going as the Weasleys on the 30th and Weasley Zombies on the 31st. I was going to stop at the thrift store to find some ugly sweaters. Wanna come with me?”

“You should go as Hagird. You know, like a little Hagrid.

“I thought of that but Teddy said I had to, you know, be somewhat respectable.”

“He is such a Victorian. But that is what happens when you marry a guy who was born in 1849.”

We walked on down the hill until we could see where the outdoor ice rink would soon go in. It is usually tee shirt, or at the coldest sweatshirt weather here, even in the winter but we pretend we’re in a Winter Wonderland.

“I think Lilly is seeing someone. I mean seriously seeing someone. I could deal with that. It was just the way she brushed me off that hurt. We’ve been friends for years.”

“I’m sorry Val.”

“She said I was a pain in the neck.”

“Well? What did you expect?”

“No, seriously. She started to put two and two together and realized that her neck or wrists hurt when she saw me. She just assumed I was doing something sick and kinky like drugging her drink then doing weird bondage stuff. What is up with women these days? I would never…”

“You were too comfortable with her. You slipped up. It isn’t like you.”

“Mind if I come to the Zombie party with you?”

I smiled and put my arm around my brother’s shoulder. “You know you’re welcome. It will be a good crowd.”

As we got to my car I stopped and listened.

“Your Meadow Lark,” said Val.

“The song of Halloween,” I told him.

 

So sing your song like the Meadow Lark, because you might not think anyone is listening but they are. And if they aren’t listening feel free to call them out on it. We all deserve to be heard.

And have more coffee.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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