Musings on Dusk and Art

William Keith - Dusk near Monterey

William Keith – Dusk Near Monterey

I was in my dining room, one cat sitting on the table and one in a chair ready to take a swipe at the other’s tail. My eyes went to the painting on the wall and I allowed myself to be transported to the coast. It was dusk. The wind was in my hair, the cats were playing around my feet. The waves made what would turn into the music of the night.

My brother Max and Grandmama Lola still keep a cottage there, from their days hanging out with artists and other Bohemian types. I still love to spend time there in the cottage that now acts as a safe house of sorts.

Then I’m back in my house, transported back to another place in another century.

As I’ve often said – I can’t explain the wonder and awe and feeling of being so complete and one with the universe when I’m in the presence of art. It is time travel for the soul. It is the essence of being. It was something that transports. It is like a high that no drug can match. It is magic.

It has been too long since I’ve picked up a brush, pastels or put pen and ink on paper. I need to close my eyes and feel the passion again, then in a quiet space create without doubt or care of what anyone else will say or think. It is like the verse from Matthew 6.6:

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 

When you create art it is like prayer. It is an extension of your soul. It is the ability to create a vision with your eyes and hands and heart. I don’t have the ego to show off, rather it is a gift for me to share.

So I go to my inner room, close the door, and create my fine art in secret.

I do a lot of things in secret, but then again, I’m a Vampire. That is what we do when we’re not waxing poetically about life, love, art and parenting.

Grandmama Lola dropped by and we shared a pot of tea and talked about art and life and what makes us really alive. It isn’t the blood in our veins but the wonder and visions in our souls that makes us real.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Memories, Parenting, Shared Stories, and Growing Up

My daughter turned nineteen yesterday. That now means I’m officially a parent of those who are exclusively adults.

With the kids in my life getting older it beings back a flood of memories from the time I was a little bit older than two years, to my childhood, and somewhat embarrassing and adventure filled young adulthood.

I hope that all adults, especially those with children, and I mean children of any age, can remember way back when. I don’t mean like those memes you see on Facebook that say “When I was a kid we jumped off of cliffs, played with guns and live hand grenades, went swimming in snake infested rivers, stayed out until dark, exclusively dined on fried food and sugar, and put our hands into garbage disposals, used chain saws unattended, and we’re still alive. Kids these days are spoiled assholes.”

Having children brings up random memories. Sometimes these are fearful. Sometimes they bring a sigh of relief because your child is not doing the same thing as you did. Sometimes they are happy, or bittersweet because of a time you loved that will never be again.

Yesterday I thought about how I waited on the front porch of our house with my mother and my brother Valentine as we watched my three older brothers walking off to school. They were fourteen, thirteen, and nine. Val was almost five. I was almost four. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to go to school. Val was silent on the issue. He’d already started to read on his own and had no plans on going to school. Not ever. He never told my parents so he missed his opportunity to be an exclusive self learner. I didn’t learn to read until I was six and didn’t master it until I was about eight.

I thought about how much I like my daughter’s boyfriend, and my son’s girlfriend.

And the most random memory came into my head. I dated a guy named Orin once who was nice. He had a dog who was nice and a nice sense of humor. His home was nice. What wasn’t so nice was the fact that his sister lived with him. Gertrude seemed nice at first despite the fact that she was loud and exceptionally out spoken. But then it got weird.

Wherever I went with Orin Gertrude would be there. When Gertrude would talk Orin would stop whatever he was doing and give her a dreamy look. Gertrude was the expert in everything and he would defer to her on everything. She monopolized every conversation. Eventually everything we did was what Orin and Gertrude wanted to do. In fact that only reason I think I was around was because Orin didn’t want to have sex with his sister. She already had dibs on all of the other girlfriend functions. It was like dating married man who brought his wife along, only weirder. So the last time I saw him I invited him for cocktails. I said we could do something afterwords. A few nights before I told him that I was bothered that Gertrude, or Gertrude and her boyfriend were always along. I wanted some time with just him. He brought Gertrude along. As we sipped our drinks Gertrude talked and Owen gave her dreamy looks and said nothing out of his goofy love stuck smile. I left after I was finished with my drink and never saw him again.

I’ve told that story to my kids. They think it is exceptionally creepy. Siblings are great. Just not like Owen and Gertrude.

This morning my daughter Clara and her boyfriend left for a camping trip on the north coast. I thought of a camping trip long ago with my friend Amelia.

I was living in Sacramento. Amelia was living in Las Vegas. So we met half way in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, where the highest mountains in the lower 48 are. We were at Devil’s Post Pile, an amazing geological formation. As we set up our tents I heard seals. This was great. Last time I went camping on the beach we heard seals too.

I said to Amelia, “Do you hear the seals?”

She said, “Those are mules.”

Then I remembered we were three hundred miles from the ocean, and in the mountains.

I’ll attribute my memory fade to a four-hour drive in my sports car with the top down. Brain bake. Or maybe it was just me, because sometimes I’m like that.

Amelia is still in Las Vegas being fabulous. I’m still living near Sacramento.

Amelia and I are still having adventures. I heard the seals, aka mules, years before I ever had children. Now Amelia and I have grown daughters. I think our hearing is a lot better now. Parenthood will do that to you.

By the way, I haven’t heard seals in the mountains since then.

I was also with Amelia on my 19th birthday one hundred and forty years ago, but I won’t tell that story today.

In both storytelling and parenting use what you know. Use the truths from you experiences to teach your children. Entertain them with your stupid stories so maybe their stupid stories won’t be so stupid.

We all connect through our stories. Our stories make us who we are. They are something we can share at no cost, except maybe a little embarrassment.

I love to listen to stories and memories others have to share. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting around a campfire, strolling through a museum, or hanging out at home. What matters is that we listen with open minds, open hearts, and a sense of humor. And add in some love.

Yes, even Vampires, despite the misinformation out there about us, know about love. We know a lot about love – and stories. So be like a Vampire and tell your story and collect stories from others. You’ll thank me for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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Additional Reminders

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I was sitting here and a pop up message popped up on my screen.

You haven’t written anything yet.

Thanks, but I don’t need any additional reminders.

Seriously, I don’t need any reminders right now, or ever.

I hate compute pop-ups. It just makes me feel hate. It is worse than the hate I feel when I see commercials with inappropriate music. You know like when Microsoft used “Start Me Up” and some clueless marketing asshole decided to show a small smiling girl using a computer right before the lyrics “You make a dead man cum.”

Aside from stories about raccoons scaling tall buildings (yes that is a real story) I’m trying to stay away from news stories concerning politics. I don’t need any reminders about any of that. I have yellow jackets to deal with.

You’d think it would be easy being a Vampire. You know, you just lurk around, sneak into rooms and drink blood, occasionally scare someone, and watch out for Vampire Hunters, but it isn’t like that. Jeez, not at all. Wouldn’t that be a horrible existence? Sort of like being a Zombie or more like a politician. You know, all dead and rotten on the inside with no feelings except the desire to feed and create a brood of sniveling bootlickers. And I’m talking both sides of the barbed wire fences they put up to keep their camps in line.

The yellow jacket sting burns and has put me in a temporary bad mood. Can you tell?

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Several other things have also put me on edge but … but it will be a good day. My wonderful 84 pound shadow of a dog is with me. Despite the asshole yellow jackets my yard is beautiful (I’ll post photos later.) I feel creative. OK not this second because I’m venting, but I’m feeling creative. My kids are driving to the coast for the day and I’m happy for them. My husband was in a good mood. Nobody was eaten by coyotes last night (at least not anyone I know.)

Alice

My dog Alice

So what is bugging you today? Feel free to vent. Or better yet, feel free to share something good that is going on. We could all use some of that.

Sometimes it is good to have a reminder, but nobody wants to be bugged by yellow jackets or by their own computer.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Don’t ask me…Vampire Fun and Games

My phone made a meowing sound. That’s my brother Aaron’s ringtone.

“Hello,” I said. I wondered what he wanted.

“Juliette, how’s it going?”

“I’m not crawling under any houses or going into any basements for you.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because whenever you have to get rid of, or otherwise deal with dried up musty old Shadow Creeping Vampires you call me to do it for you.”

“Juliette…”

“Isn’t that what you have your Vampire Hunter for?”

“I’m not going to ask you to kill anything. Well, not technically. You know what I’m asking. You and Val are the best. He’s on his way over right now.”

“Does Val know what you want Aaron?”

“No, I neglected to tell him.”

This reminded me of an event a few months ago. One of my daughter’s good friends from High School started sending her fervent religious materials and calling her about church events and sin and it was strong and negative. My child was offended and told her friend that she was offended and then told him to never call her again. He was such a nice kid. I’d hoped they’d stay friends.

So when my brother Aaron calls me to do something I’d never ask my kids to do I sort of cringe. There are some things I did in my past, with and without my brothers, that I would never want my children to do.

One of those things is converting regular people into Vampires. And the worst thing about it is that my brother Val and I are the best. Yeah, I don’t talk about that a lot on this blog, you know the whole Vampire thing.

We’re the youngest two of five siblings. Val and I are little more than a year apart. Aaron is five years older than me. Then there are the two older brothers who are eight and ten years older than me. I don’t want to get them involved with this at all because one knows everything and can be a real asshole and control freak. The other is just, well weird and always defers to the eldest when things turn stressful. Either that or he’ll tune out and find some back door to sneak out of.

Our brother Aaron is smack in the middle. I’d like to smack him right now.

Then he said, “Do you mind stopping for coffee on the way?” Then he proceeded to give me an order for six different cups. It made me wonder who would be there.

“Do you want any pastries?” I had to ask in my most snarky voice.

“Very funny. Just get here soon baby sister,” he said. Vampires don’t eat pastries. I wish we did but we don’t.

So to make a long story short I showed up at the Victorian house we all still own in the middle of downtown.

A thirty something couple greeted us. Aaron claimed he’d known them for a while. They’d been thoroughly vetted. He thought they’d be good Vampires. Whatever. I knew I’d be the one who’d end up helping them through the transition.

My great great great great grandmama Lola was there as well. She was uncharacteristically quiet. On the other hand she looked quiet lovely in a flowered sundress covered by a denim jacket. At six hundred and seventy five years she still looks like a twenty six year old young woman. Val and I kissed her cool cheeks and thanked her for being there. You know, just in case. God only knows (or maybe not) how many Vampires she has brought into the world.

Val and I asked the obligatory questions. Do you understand that you’ll be dead for short time before we bring you back. Do you know there is a risk of losing your soul? Do you understand what it means if you lost your soul? Do you know there is a huge risk death, as in final death? Do you understand that you will need to consume human blood to survive? Do you understand that you will have to actually bite into a live human body every once in a while? Do you understand that you will outlive everyone you know? Do you understand that once you become a Vampire you will not be immortal? You can die. Someone can kill you. You can suddenly die for no reason as well. Do you understand that this can’t be undone? Do you understand that once you become a Vampire you will ALWAYS be a Vampire?

I didn’t ask, “Have you lost your fucking mind?”

There was more but I won’t go into that right now. Actually there is one more item that Aaron, Val, and I stressed more than the other points. “Do you understand that if you tell anyone, or show anyone what you have become that you will die in an extremely unpleasant way.” That is one of the ugly points of being a Vampire that I don’t cover on my nice humorous feel good parenting blog. We don’t take blabber mouths lightly.

“Want to go to Target with me when we’re done here?” I asked Val.

“Sure,” he said. “I need shampoo.”

“I hear you’ve never lost anyone,” the woman said to me. “How many have you converted?”

“How many Vampires have I made?” I glanced at Val. “A lot.”

Val just smiled. Asking a Vampire how many people they’ve turned into Vampires is like asking someone how many sexual partners they’ve had. It is something you just don’t ask anyone.

Then we did what needed to be done. Lola had agreed to stay for a week to help with the transition. It isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. Aaron was going to stay at least for a few days, but he lives walking distance away so it isn’t a big deal.

I watched him as he took off his Hermes tie and rolled up the sleeves of his custom made shirt. Always the best dressed Vampire in the room. I love Aaron but I wish he’d occasionally relax (and I don’t mean just rolling up sleeves.)

Val and I ended up finding a dark neighborhood bar and sat for a while doing shots of tequila. We talked about our three elder siblings. It wasn’t all bad. A lot of it was. At least they respected us for our talents.

Then we wandered around Target for about two hours laughing and filling our basket full of all kinds of fun stuff. My kids would have been proud of us, just because of how much fun we were having.

And now I’m home with nobody but my cats and a dog. The husband and still at home child are away. The other child is living far far away. OK, only about six hours away but that is really far if you’re a mom.

I’m not even sure that I’ll tell them what I did today. They won’t approve, or they’ll have questions I don’t want to answer. Everyone has strong opinions on the matter. Vampire families are like all others – we all have strong opinions.

So that was my day. I’m tired and… sometimes when you’re a mom you just don’t need to be bugged. And sometimes when you’re a mom you just want to smile and listen as your family gathers around in the evening and forget your day. Even if you’re a Vampire.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Juliette by the window

 

 

 

 

 

Transition

Parenting is a job you never retire from but those little people grow up.

They grow up and, well, they’re grown. You’re still a parent but your children are adults. In theory they’re adults. They’re eighteen or older, but they’re not quite adults yet.

They’re not like the teens still in high school either.

And you’re still a parent.

I’m spending a lot more time with this girl now.

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Alice the GSD is two years old now. She is the new family dog. We lost our sweet Jasmine three years ago after twelve years. She was the dog the kids grew up with. She was the dog who grabbed our hearts and souls like no other.

But Alice is the personification of sweetness and love. Now she is my shadow. She is the one who now goes everywhere with me. She is my constant companion.

But back to non-dog creatures…

It is difficult to write about parenting now because everything changes. Some parents tell their kids to move out as soon as they turn eighteen (I think those kind of parents are assholes.) Some kids never leave and are content to live in their childhood bedroom with the single bed and posters on the walls and have mom make grilled cheese for them forever (in that case the kids are assholes.)

Most kids I know are somewhere in the middle. They’re going to college or trade schools, or working, or volunteering. Many are stressing out over how they’re going to pay for school or cars or rent.

A few are stupid and now are finding themselves with minimum wage jobs and babies on the way, but those aren’t the ones I’m writing about today. That is a subject I’m not even going to touch because I’d be mean, judgmental, and make people cry.

But for the most part most kids are growing up, and it is like learning to swim or ride a bicycle. They all do it on their own terms, in their own time, but they know they have to do it. Sink or swim. Fall off and get back on.

They’re having their first serious relationships. They’re falling in love. They’re angry because they are evaluating their childhoods and judging their parents. They’re discovering people who aren’t like them. They’re doing wonderful things and exploring their worlds. They plan trips without us. They working. They’re voting. They’re pulling away. They’re turning around and letting us (parents) know they still need us.

Since the beginning I’ve written about letting your little birds fly. Soon the only ones left in my nest will be a couple of cats, a dog, a husband, and empty bedrooms for when my babies come home for visits.

I miss my children so much. But I rejoice and treasure the adults I’ve raised. I’d never go back if given the choice to have them small again. I have one more year and another one will be miles away on the other end of a very large state.

So where does that leave us as parents?

You have to let go. At the same time you still need to be there 24/7 in case they still need you.

There will also be changes. They’ll pull away. Hopefully they’ll pull away some because that is part of growing up. But hopefully they’ll stay close.

Like I’ve been saying forever – just keep talking with them. Let them know their thoughts are important. Let them know you understand their fears, and if you don’t understand, then listen but don’t judge. Remember when you were young. I swear I don’t want mine to be like I was, but rather than jumping all over their young butts I encourage them, and again talk to them. And it isn’t like they’re never going to do something weird, but you just have to take it one thing at a time.

No matter what they’ll be, and who they want to be. They’ll be who they need to be. Learn from your mistakes when helping them learn not to make those same mistakes.

I’m just talking and musing today. The the best parent you can be so your kids will be the best they can be.

I know this is simplistic but it seems to work.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “P” and the “V” Words. Six years of Vampire Maman.

A life with a blog and children is a life of continuous interruptions. Add in a spouse and, well, good luck with any train of thought you might ever have forever.

I just realized, today that the first post on vampiremaman.com went live on April 12, 2012.

In the beginning I didn’t know the “P” word, and the “V” word carried so much emotional weight with readers. OK I’ll admit I knew the “P” word would. That is parenting. That is something I am firmly and completely dedicated to.

The “V” word, that is “Vampires” is something completely different. At first I had readers show disbelief. There were also Vampire “experts” who felt the need to tell me that I was wrong. Excuse me? As a mom there were only two words I wished to express to those yahoos and that was “fuck you.” But like a good mom, and even a better Vampire I refrained. Several folks told me that I was going to go to Hell without so much as a Do Not Pass Go. It makes one sort of think what motivates people to search out others and tell them that? Parenting 101 will tell you to teach your kids NOT to behave like that. Since then those kinds of assholes have ceased their yammering. I know all of you who blog know the type.

But enough of that. I have been so surrounded by love and support and community that it completely warms my cold Vampire heart. Completely!

Six years ago I started the musings of a modern Vampire mom. Six years. Wow.

My blog has grown from what I thought would be a few parenting posts, and maybe a bad poem or two.

My first guest posts in May 2012 were from Marie Williams the Half Pint Historian, and Mandy White, author of The Jealousy Game (a book about relationships that I recommend to everyone.)

In the summer of 2012 I started to blog about the TV show “America’s Got Talent and Cocktails.” The comments from the Vampire peanut gallery, plus cocktail recipes from my husband Teddy proved to be fun and popular with readers. I’ve continued the series every summer since then.

It was then that I also posted “Love Poems and Letting Go”, my first post about love letters and the teenage heart.

September 2012 brought the first appearance of The Ghost. Yes, that would be Nigel. Yes, he is still around, making snarky remarks and flipping me off every single chance he gets.

In October 2012 you were introduced to Tellias and Eleora the ancient Vampires. Like a lot of my readers I was raising children and taking care of elders. It is both frustrating and rewarding to be in the middle like that.

Soon after that came the most popular post on this blog, “How to Write a Response to a Love Letter (which is more fun if it isn’t addressed to you.) On some days over half the traffic on this blog comes from that post. Since then I’ve written quite a few posts about love letters. I’ve become the Queen of Love Letters.

On August 4, 2013 I first posted the story about my brother Andy called, “Dancing on the Beach.” I need to write a book about Andy and his crazy adventures.

Sometime around then I started the regular feature “Short Story Sunday”. Every Sunday you get a new story, or a good rerun.

2014 brought “The Hunter,” and the introduction of the Austin and Elizabeth series. He is a Vampire Hunter. She is a Vampire. Yes, it is complicated.

And in December 2014 I posted the first installment of Vlad’s “Vampire Diary.”

That is just a few of the regular features. I’ve written about taking your kids to rock concerts, school, a lot about bullies, helping your kids get through rough patches, and all of those things our kids go through until they reach adulthood and leave.

Now that my kids have reached adulthood they still need me. And I still need them. You never stop being a parent.

I continue to write about Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, and others who are different.

A long running occasional feature is “What we talked about this morning on the way to school.” Today I write about this feature with a heavy heart. Too often we talked about school shootings. Since 2013 there have been over 300 school shootings in the United States. There have been at least 43 in 2018 including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida where 17 were killed, and today in Texas. I cried when I told my kids about the Sandy Hook School shooting. I still cry. It has to stop. It is happening in elementary schools, high school, and colleges. It is happening at concerts, in clubs, and you name it. The insanity needs to stop and you need to talk about it with your kids. You also need to VOTE and tell your 18+ year old kids to VOTE.

My main message here for parents always has been, and always will be TALK WITH YOUR KIDS. Don’t talk at them. Don’t lecture. Share and listen. Listen to your kids. There is a lot you can learn. Don’t shelter them. Don’t judge them. Be honest. Be firm. Be loving. Let them know that they can trust you and come to you with anything. They’re your children. There is NOTHING you need to be uncomfortable about. And even if you don’t agree with them, the least you can do is hear them out. Let them know that their opinions count. Let them also know that your opinions also count. Guide them, love them, hug them, treasure them.

And on a lighter note, this year I started the NEW feature “50 Burning Questions.” For fifty weeks, always on Saturday, I will be asking a BURNING QUESTION. On each post is a simple poll where you can check your answer. Comments and theories are encouraged. Check it out!

With almost 2,000 blog posts here there is a lot to read and something for everyone. I hope that in the next six years I’ll have another 2,000 posts to share.

Thanks for helping me make Vampiremaman.com a success.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

juliette

Vampire Maman