Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘children’

Here is an excellent, in-depth article about grief, loss, and trauma from Western Governors University.

April 10, 2020

TEACHING & EDUCATION

Helping children with grief.

Sad child face

Grief is the body’s natural response to a loss. Historically, there have been five general stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Going through the five stages can be expected and understood, but the grieving process is individualistic; you can experience one of the stages, all of the stages, or none of the stages because all people deal with loss differently — including children.

According to Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Care, the impact of trauma in children depends almost entirely on the life stage that the event occurs during. The same book goes on to say that imposing adult grieving models on children’s lives has led to confusion and a generalized misunderstanding of how children grieve.

Particularly when it comes to coping with death, children have a unique way of processing and dealing with their grief. Oftentimes the first step to helping children grieve is ensuring that they understand the concept of death, and that there aren’t lingering misconceptions. In an article written by Mark Speece, he indicates that a child’s concept of death varies due to an inability to grasp the following terms:

  1. Universality: an understanding that all things that live and, eventually, die.
  2. Irreversibility: an understanding that once something has been declared dead, the death is irrevocable (aside from personal beliefs such as reincarnation, resurrection, etc.).
  3. Non-functionality: an understanding that when someone dies, the life-defining functions of a physical body cease to exist.
  4. Causality: an understanding of the relationship that everything has an origin: cause and effect.

In order to help children grieve, you need to understand the areas in which they are struggling. The same article by Speece elaborates on the terms of death and why children struggle with these concepts:

  • Universality: children are more likely to think that death is avoidable, and not universal. Overall, an inability to grasp that death can occur at any time, to anyone.
  • Irreversibility: children are sometimes unable to understand that death is permanent, not temporary or reversible through some means of intervention (either medically, or divine).
  • Non-functionality: children may have trouble comprehending that someone — or something — that has passed is unable to perform functions (both internally and externally).
  • Causality: children can oftentimes misunderstand the cause of death by unknowingly creating unrealistic causes of death (i.e. poor behavior), or fixating on specific concrete cases of death specific (poison, precise incidents).

It is important to take an individualized approach to helping children cope with grief. A great way to think of the grieving process is noted in Psychology Today, which says that “grief is like a fingerprint.” Yes, everyone has a fingerprint (like most individuals understand some form of grief) but every fingerprint is unique and unparalleled (similar to how grief varies from person to person).

How to help a grieving child as a teacher.

Empathy and creating an inclusive classroom are some of the top qualities and skills of a good teacher that go hand in hand with helping children cope with grief. While teaching degrees aren’t the same as counseling degrees, it is important for educators to learn how to be attentive to their students both physically and emotionally. Understanding the balance of too much and too little support can seem overwhelming, so creating an understanding of best practices can include the following tips:

  • Help younger students understand what has happened. While it is not a teacher’s responsibility to have the initial conversation, it is important for educators to reinforce the basic realities of death. Avoid using confusing ways of talking about death such as “passed away” or “deceased;” rather, be direct and reinforce the idea of death by using straight-forward approaches to the topic including words like “death” or “died.”
  • Reassure students that they can talk with you. Encouraging students and reminding them that they can speak to you openly can be a crucial resource for a grieving student. Leave the invitation open; by leaving the opportunity open, a child can approach and talk when they feel ready with little to no pressure.
  • Allow students to grieve in the manner that they choose. Some students will want to confide in anyone listening, while others would rather keep to themselves. Avoid making suggestions on how a student should grieve, and avoid telling a student they cannot grieve a certain way. How they cope may be extreme, but there are ways to manage extreme student behaviors.
  • Communicate with parents to get insight into the situation as a whole. Positive parent-teacher communication is crucial for the entirety of the education, but also specifically for insight into how the student functions best. Let the parents know of the various counseling resources available for the students, but also ask questions about how the child responds best, what things may evoke feelings, etc.
  • Provide structure and learning support groups. Keeping a child busy with structured activities can help students grieve while they are also learning. There is a lot going through a child’s mind at any given moment (especially following a loss), so it is important to offer alternative learning spaces such as tutoring, additional support, as well as flexibility surrounding deadlines and normal educational expectations.

How to help a grieving child as a parent.

Parents have a steep responsibility in helping their children grieve. While a parent cannot take away feelings of loss, they can help build healthy coping skills alongside being a key figure to confide in. If you have more than one child, it becomes exceedingly important to keep in mind that grieving may look different between children. Regardless of how young or old the child is, it is important to consider a variety of coping methods that can help. Parents should consider the following:

  • Be direct and honest. Anything less than the truth and the absolute truth can cause more harm than good. Just as stated above, children often misunderstand death, so it is important to be literal. This does not mean you have to do so in a blunt, inconsiderate manner, but rather avoid euphemisms that downplay or muffle the concept of death. If this is the initial time that the topic of death is brought up, this is especially important.
  • Be developmentally considerate. How you approach helping a 17-year-old may look entirely different than how you attempt to help a 10-year-old.
  • Encourage questions. One way to help get an understanding of aspects that a child is struggling with, is to encourage them to ask questions. Encourage them to always ask questions as they arise.
  • Encourage feelings. It is important to encourage children to express their feelings. Since everyone grieves differently it is important not to critique the manner in which someone may choose to grieve. While it may not make sense to you, the child is vulnerable, and criticism may make them feel like they are wrong in doing so.
  • Validate feelings. When a child expresses anger or frustration, support and acknowledge their feelings and reiterate that their feelings are completely okay, valid, and maybe even shared. Creating an atmosphere where feelings are normal is critical.
  • Communicate with other adults. Explain the current situation to others when the child(ren) is out of your care (e.g. teacher, dance instructor, coach, etc.). Creating an open communication channel for people in authority can give them insight into why behavior may be happening, as well as giving the individual time to prepare ways they can help the child grieve. When you don’t communicate these things, you can be doing your child (and whoever the individual is) a disservice.
  • Lead by example. Do not try and hide your grief. Be expressive, and grieve alongside them. Acting tough and avoiding the pain you are feeling can make a child feel that they need to do the same thing. In some cases, it can be reassuring for children to see that being upset is okay. This also gives you the opportunity to show a child (or children) healthy ways of dealing with grief.
Help Parents Homeschool Kids

Grief in elementary age children.

Elementary-age children — typically ages 5 to 12 have unique emotional needs when it comes to dealing with grief. Although teachers with elementary education degrees are trained specifically to work with children in this age range, not every adult is. During this period, a large hurdle can be introducing the concept of death. Children struggling with grief within this age group may ask questions about the deceased individual such as “When is ___ coming home?” or “Where is ___?” so it is important to be ready about how you plan to approach that conversation. Some tips to consider when helping elementary-age children cope with grief are:

  • Reiterate that the death happened. Sometimes elementary-age children need to be reminded time after time that the person isn’t coming back.
  • Avoid half-telling, or half-truths when talking about loss. The time is confusing enough, so be direct.
  • Pay attention to children that are grieving by distancing themselves.
  • Encourage children to talk about it, or ask questions. Create an understanding that it is important to talk about death.

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief in elementary-age children, regardless of the type of loss:

  • Anxiety
  • Clinging
  • Developmental regressing
  • Academic struggles
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Focus issues
  • Guilt
  • Change in energy
  • Imaginary beings
  • Isolation

Grief in middle schoolers.

Middle school-aged children become more and more fixated on observing how other people are responding to death. They may pose questions such as “Are you okay?” and “How are you doing with everything?” while worrying less and less about themselves. It is common for individuals to mimic the mannerisms or role that the deceased individual had. They also may ask extreme questions surrounding death such as “If I do ___ will I die?” or “What if ___ happens?”

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief for middle-school children regardless of the type of loss:

  • Emotional extremes
  • Expression troubles
  • Blaming
  • New interests
  • Humor
  • Isolation
  • Guilt
  • Easily molded
  • Developmental regressing
  • Academic struggles

Grief in high schoolers.

It is common for high schoolers going through the grieving process to isolate themselves; in fact, they may appear like their normal self. They feel that expressing a certain emotion is a sign of weakness. This can become exceedingly true if they have younger siblings, or are considered the “man” or “woman” of the house. They feel new responsibilities, and will oftentimes distance themselves both from their feelings and people. Phrases such as “I’m fine,” or “Stop worrying about me,” are common.

Symptoms of grief.

The following are common symptoms of grief for highschool children regardless of the type of loss:

  • Removed
  • Lack of academic drive
  • Bullying
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Trouble in school
  • Confrontational
  • Moodiness
  • Emotional outbursts and extremes
  • Irritability/short-fuse
  • Displaced anger
  • Lack of motivation
Father and son

Loss of a friend.

The loss of a good friend can feel the same — if not worse — than the loss of a family member. It is important not to downplay this death as anything less than the loss of a family member. If the death was sudden and unexpected, a lot of questions can arise, and a child’s stress level can spike drastically. When a child loses a friend, it is important to address the situation. Call attention to what happened, then use your body language, and verbal language to indicate that you are there to listen, to answer questions, and to be a shoulder to cry on.

Loss of a family member

The loss of a family member can oftentimes be one of the hardest and most traumatic experiences that a child goes through. The important thing to consider is the relationship of that family member, and how close they were (both locationally, and relationally), can make a large difference in how to cope with the death. You can expect that when a mother — that is part of the child’s everyday life — dies, it will evoke a different response and set of needs than when a great aunt that the child(ren) had only met once passes. Be direct when having conversations about the family members death. Be okay with silence. You do not need to force conversation, and giving time to process things can give children time to feel, ask questions, and express themselves.

Loss of a pet.

The relationship between a child and their pet is something that is truly unique and one-of-a-kind. In some cases, the pet may have been their very first friend in life. Many children feel guilty for the death of a pet, and they obsess over things that they could have done differently to avoid the death. Sometimes the loss of a pet can be a more intense grieving process than the loss of a human. There are some things you can do to help a child with their pet loss, these include:

  • Avoid downplaying the loss of a pet. This may be the first experience with loss, and this type of loss can be deep, personal, or could be emotionally hurtful for a child.
  • Talk to the child about their feelings surrounding the loss. Ask questions, encourage the child to ask questions as well
  • Create a memorial (e.g. burial ceremony, sit around telling stories, make a memorial clay paw mold, etc.).
  • If you choose to get another pet, let the child know (no matter how long ago the death occurred) that the new pet will never replace the old pet.

Loss of a classmate or teacher.

The loss of a classmate or teacher can be a very traumatic event for a child. Whether in high school or preschool, these are the faces that they spend the majority of the day with. Teachers and classmates can both have big impacts on the life of a child, so it is important to treat the loss of a classmate or teacher like any other type of loss.

Be direct and be patient, allowing them time to think and to ask questions. Encourage conversation, ask them about their relationship, and just be there for them.

Talking about suicide with a child.

When a child loses someone as a result of suicide, there are specific, unique concerns to bear in mind that vary depending on the age of the children. The importance of mental health awareness in schools is crucial, and so is talking about mental health awareness at home. In an article titled “Experts Explain How to Talk About Suicide With Kids By Age, Deborah Dilboa claims that it is important to talk about suicide with children for three reasons:

  1. Children deserve truth. Lying or hiding the truth from children in order to protect them can cause more harm than good in the long run.
  2. Mental health conditions can be genetic, so if a family member takes their own life, it becomes exceedingly important to talk about mental health, and give children accurate information.
  3. Hearing (and talking) about suicide and its impact on others is something that is good for all individuals to talk about — regardless of whether a suicide has pressured the conversation.

The same article goes on to give tips and suggestions for talking about suicide with children by age. The breakdown goes as follows:

  • Preschool – Kindergarten: Stick to the basics and keep it simple. Providing the foundations of what suicide is, and the specifics of the occurrence is not necessary at this age unless they are explicitly asking.
  • Ages 7 – 10: Offer truthful, concise answers. This is still considered an age group that doesn’t need all the details, but this is a good time to introduce suicide as someone dying from a disease, or an illness stemming from depression. This age needs truth, but not an overwhelming amount.
  • Ages 11 – 14: Be more direct and concrete. Talking about suicide during this age is more crucial because pre-teens are starting to become more aware, and some are experiencing mental health issues, or mood dysregulation that elicits some sort of coversation. Enter the questions by asking the child what they understand about the situation, and enter the conversation where they are.
  • Ages 15 – 18: This is the age where you switch from hypotheticals. Using phrasing such as “if you or a friend” changes to “when you or a friend.” During this age, teens are often distant and do not want to talk to parents about this, but so it becomes important for parents to let teens know that their feelings are completely normal, as well as offering resources available to them (e.g. counselors, family friends, prevention centers, etc.).

If you — or someone you know — are at risk of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “TALK” to 741741.

Coping with the trauma of witnessing death.

Coping with loss when an individual has witnessed death takes special considerations, tips, and approaches. Regardless of age, children may experience the following effects from the trauma of witnessing death:

  • Fear
  • Clinginess
  • Immobility
  • Nightmares/night terrors
  • Unfounded fears
  • Irritability
  • Academic struggles
  • Sleep troubles
  • Flashbacks
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Suicidal thoughts

Coping with these various effects requires extra reassurance and support following the traumatic event. Helping children cope with trauma should include the following considerations:

  • Minimize media exposure: The media can often cover material in a way that is more traumatizing for children. Avoid exposure to graphic images and videos, and if your child seems interested in the media’s coverage, watch alongside and fill in contextually as needed.
  • Engage your child: While you cannot force a child to talk, you can provide structure in order to be a key part of emotional healing. Provide ongoing opportunities to talk and encourage conversation while validating feelings. By and large, create a safe area to feel, express, and ask questions.
  • Encourage physical activity: Burning off adrenaline, and releasing endorphins (caused by physical exertion) can help children sleep better at night as well as help taking a child’s mind off of the traumatic event.
  • Create a healthy diet: Nourishing the body in a healthy manner affects an individual’s mood and ability to cope with the stresses of a traumatic event. Cook more meals from home to promote whole, minimally-processed food. In doing so, more opportunities for conversation arise, and you can promote healthy food choices by eating the same diet.
Child playing on tablet

Addressing the emotional needs of a child.

A death — no matter the type of loss — can be emotionally draining, confusing, and frustrating for a child. While addressing the loss of a relationship, you need to address certain feelings. It becomes exceedingly important to know of the different emotional needs of grieving children to be aware of. Like dealing with all types of grief, the emotions that children feel following loss vary from person to person, but the following are common emotional needs of children that warrant addressing:

  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Sadness
  • Stress

Acknowledging and validating these feelings is important to help these feelings turn into something positive. As current research evaluates stress and mental health of Generation Z, it’s obvious that mental health is of vital importance and it’s crucial to learn to validate and accept emotions to help younger generations. These are the feelings that they are experiencing following the loss of a loved one, so it is important to normalize them, be mindful, and encourage conversation surrounding each.

Healthy management of childhood grief.

There are many efforts that a parent, teacher, or another figure of authority can do to help a child who is experiencing grief. Each grieving process is individualized, and ongoing, so it is important to be aware of the ways you can contribute to the healthy management of childhood grief.

How to have a conversation about grief.

How a child reacts to having a conversation about grief will always vary, so regardless of how children grieve, there are ways parents and other adults can support them. According to a document written by American Academy of Pediatrics, “After a Loved One Dies — How Children Grieve and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them,” they write that while explaining death to children:

  1. Speak frankly and directly. Use word choice such as “dead” or “died.”
  2. Check back with your kids after giving them some time to process in order to make things exceedingly clear.
  3. If a child seems reluctant to talk, respect their space and check back later.
  4. Encourage feelings and questions.
  5. Allow all expressions.

Coping with loss in the short-term.

Coping with loss in the short-term may entail things such as conversational coping. The beginning stages are generally focused on creating understanding, grieving, and processing. These short-term stages are the foundational pieces that create the basis for healthy coping mechanisms, and for the groundwork leading into long-term coping strategies.

Coping with loss in the long-term.

Long-term coping strategies for loss are focused on moving on, healing, and creating normalcy. This stage is less involved with creating the foundational pillars, and focuses more on moving on. This phase often includes counseling, new hobbies, reminiscing, re-visiting a gravesite/spreading ashes (if applicable) and other steps towards letting go.

Resources.

There are various resources that are important to be aware of when learning how to manage childhood grief in a healthy manner. Some examples include:

If you’re studying to become a teacher or if you’re a parent, it’s important to be as prepared as possible to help children. Particularly when it comes to grief and death, these situations can creep up unexpectedly, so it’s important to be prepared before that happens.

 

Rites of Passage

41uBGeLbd8L._SY346_Midnight and Holding by Joyce DeBacco.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Midnight and Holding is a lovely collection of stories that include a woman daydreaming about the past, which helps her see the present clearly (Rubies and Other Gems); a shed which brings together a husband and wife (The Shed); a carefree youth who awakens dreams and desires of an older woman (Rainbow Years); a humorous account of a wife’s suggestion being taken to extremes (Mad Dogs and Fisherman); a parent’s rite of passage (Midnight and Holding); and a woman who buys her husband a new suit for his last big occasion (Harvey’s New Suit).

Ms. DeBacco has a wonderful sense of home, place, family, marriage, and a life of raising children. Themes of loss, living for others, and losing one’s self, run throughout these tales. In Midnight and Holding a mother speaks about waking up in the middle of the night to a quiet house, once the children are gone away to college. “It’s the middle of the night and, unable to sleep, I wander through the quiet house. Unshackled from the invisible chains tethering me between laundry room and kitchen, I now seek to busy myself with something, anything to keep my mind from dwelling on their absence. Reluctantly, I strip the beds on which they’d slept, my fingers pausing over the deep indentations in the pillows. The neatness of their naked dressers and floors assaults my eyes.”

It is a rare writer that can take the ordinary, and everyday family life, and stretch it just enough to be familiar, yet daring and different from our daily routines and expectations. The author of Midnight and Holding has this ability – the ability to nurture reality, blur the lines and witness characters gaining insight and/or having a transformative experience in the process. At first glance, this collection of stories is about the mundane, but upon reading it becomes clear that each one is a unique creation. They feel authentic and take one to the core of time passing, and the impact those in our lives have upon us.

Like Night and Day

41sUKwJHjgLA Secret Love by Brigitta Moon.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A Secret Love is told from Christina’s and Derek’s perspectives about their marriage, and events before Christmas, with one another and their family. They have two children, and Derek is a successful stockbroker. Christina’s feelings and behavior towards Derek change dramatically, without any rhyme or reason (to Derek). There’s also another persons perspective, which is shared much later in the story.

Ms. Moon has written a clever tale that doesn’t make much sense, until it does. It’s a hard act to bring off, and she does so with depth and precision. Reviewers often say that there are “a lot of twists and turns” in this or that book. This tale goes beyond twists and turns to inside out and upside down. Nothing is as obvious as it seems. Secret, threatening calls to Christina, and Derek’s jealous secretary (Frannie) add to the mix.

When everything comes out in the wash, it is quite a load to try to separate, fold, and put back together. A Secret Love is not quite like anything I’ve read, or thought of before, and that’s good. If you’re ready for something completely different, and unexpected, this is a book for you. Just when you think you know who your partner really is, you discover they aren’t quite the same person you married.

 

 

Midwife Murder Mystery

Death Of A Sad Face  (A Serafina Florio Short Mystery)
by Susan Russo Anderson. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51oL7gL-3fLShe’s gotta knack. A real knack for wonderful writing. In Death Of A Sad Face, Ms. Russo Anderson takes readers’ to the end of the eighteenth century, to a small town called Oltramari (on the coast of Sicily), where we meet midwife, and sleuth, Serafina Florio. Serafina is a mother of six children, and an orphaned 10-year-old child (Teo). Teo’s sudden disappearance the previous night, may have some connection to the murder of Cecco, the butler for Barron Ignazio Lanza, and his very pregnant wife Lucia.

While investigating who killed Cecco, and Teo’s whereabouts, Serafina comforts Mrs. Lanza, gets gossip from her lifelong friend (Rosa), and questions how much she really understands her own family. “Of all her children, Maria was the most puzzling, not at all like her siblings. She had adult responses to most situations and was concerned only with her piano. Seemingly unaware of her talent, she was kind, humble, gracious – or was Serafina blind? As her daughter stood before her, Serafina realized that she could cajole or insist, but in the end if Maria didn’t want to do what her mother suggested, Serafina had little recourse. She could solve most murders and already knew who had killed Cecco and why and where to find him. But her children? They were difficult. She felt helpless.”

One of the highlights of this story, is how intricately the characters interact, and know one another. A small town has its advantages, and disadvantages, as does a large family. Serafina doesn’t just go off by herself to track down Cecco’s killer, but gets information from various village members, the head of the local orphanage, and enlists her own family in catching the culprit. Even though she is a midwife, and amateur detective, Ms. Florio doesn’t see herself as special, just good at what she does. The author (Susan Russo Anderson) of Death Of A Sad Face is similar to Serafina – she’s good at what she does.  

Home Security And Safety Modifications For Domestic Violence Survivors

Very important guest post by Nora Hood at Three Daily.

For many domestic violence survivors, finding a way to feel safe and move forward is especially difficult. It takes a lot of courage to leave an abusive situation, and even more to strike out on one’s own into a new living situation where they can feel safe and comfortable. In some cities, there are support groups and shelters that will help a victim of abuse during that transition period, but they can be overcrowded or extremely short-term.

Untitled         Photo via Pixabay by Stux

If you or a loved one have recently left a violent situation and will be living alone (or are the sole caregiver for children), it’s important to take steps that will facilitate safety and a feeling of security. Whether the residence is a home or an apartment, there are several things you can do to make sure the new place is as safe as possible.

Here are a few tips on how to get started.

Let technology work for you

Technology has come a long way in the past decade, enabling the use of advanced features such as surveillance in a private home. Where home security in the past might only have consisted of a motion sensor, according to Angie’s List, “Today’s home security systems are far more advanced, and homeowners can now choose from a wide range of security options such as around-the-clock monitoring and video surveillance.” Taking into consideration your budget, do some research to find the best security option for your needs.

Pile on the locks

If you live in an apartment building, there may only be so much you can do to deter an intruder. One of the most important steps is making sure the locks on your door are secure; if it makes you feel safer, add a couple more, or reinforce the door with a steel chain. Remember to show sliding patio doors some attention; a sturdy broomhandle or steel pipe laid in the track will prevent the door from opening on the outside. If you live on the ground floor, ask the landlord if you can plant thorny bushes beneath your windows to prevent someone from getting too close.

Location is everything

If possible, do some research before you move. You want a home or apartment that is not isolated and has at least one neighbor. Moving too far away from town could be a mistake, especially if the area isn’t well populated. When moving into an apartment complex, talk to the landlords about not having your name on the mailbox, and let them know that you don’t want any strangers to have information about you.

Have an escape route planned

No domestic violence survivor wants to think about the worst possible scenario, but it’s important to be prepared in case an abuser does find out where you live. Have an escape route planned; keep your cell phone charged at all times and in a place where you can easily reach it, along with your car keys. Talk to your children about what you’ll do in the event of an emergency so they’ll know exactly how to react.

It’s always difficult to think about taking safety precautions, because it brings up unpleasant memories. It’s imperative to make sure you feel safe and secure, however, and the best way to feel in control is to make sure your home is a place where you can relax. Garner support from friends and family, if possible, or consider joining a support group where you can get help should you need it. Remember that you are not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes.

Porn, Romance & Pain

513yoXIyYDLBroken Dreams: Broken Pieces by Martha Perez.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Let’s see… How do I describe Broken Dreams? You could say it’s a blended cocktail of pornography, romance, and inspiration, or… a memoir-like story about a woman’s search for safety, sexual pleasure, and love. Either description would be accurate, as this narrative follows the loves and lives of Josh, Emily, Kyle, Trevor, Betty, Rick, Paige, and Tommy. The primary tellers of the tale are Emily, Trevor, and Josh.

The sex in this book is nonstop and detailed. The main characters change partners, and sleep with who they choose, as often as a bee goes from one flower to another. Through it all, Trevor is always in love with Emily, and Emily is in love with Josh. After marriages, children, and abuse and assault (acted out upon Emily by Josh), there is a slow awakening and understanding that begins to take place.

Broken Dreams is like reading several people’s journals simultaneously. The language used by the men, especially when they are just finishing high school, sounds like machismo jocks, and rings true (though somewhat extreme). Anger, frustration, pleasure, drugs, parties, bars, and sex take center stage. I kept thinking throughout, that they’d all be happier in an open (or polyamorous) relationship, and who knows, perhaps they are.

Upsetting the Status Quo

51AAuLof0GLNot Just A Girl: A Lesbian Romance
by Judy Folger.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

What happens in Royal’s life, in Not Just A Girl, has been experienced by many men and women. Living up to society’s expectations, not wanting to “overturn the cart”, let alone acknowledge there own feelings, they do what they’re “supposed to do”. In this case, it is Royal marrying a man not long after high school, while still being in love with her best friend, Mackenzie. Such circumstances were especially prevalent up to the beginning of this century, and still continues for some.

When Royal talks to her gay sister-in-law, Avery, she becomes acutely aware of herself, and how she’s been living to please others.

The words shot out of Royal’s mouth before she could stop them. ‘When a woman decides to make her own happiness, she upsets the status quo!’

‘Yes!’ Avery shot back, smiling, ‘Everyone else’s status quo…’

She reflected for a moment. ‘Oh. Oh, I see.'”

The youngest of four siblings, with three older brothers, Royal is told by them, and her parents, that she is “just a girl”. Which, in their eyes, means she should get married, have children, and take care of everyone else. Once her children are teenagers, and her husband (Jim) takes extended time away from the family, Royal begins to tentatively look at what she wants, and who she is. With the help of her friend at work (Claudia), a professor from her college days (Professor Belkin), and Avery, she slowly begins to acknowledge who she is and what she wants.

There are a number of family scenes with parents, and in-laws, which were all too familiar. For example, the Thanksgiving dinners found the men and women playing all the stereotyped roles of men watching football, and the women cooking and providing. It takes Royal half her life to start believing in herself, and break out of these roles. Ms. Folger has created an insightful, heart-felt story of one woman deciding to set herself free and find happiness. Not Just A Girl is not just a book, it’s an inner journey of discovery brought to the page for all to see.

Talking Behind Our Backs

Private Eye Cats: Book One: The Case of the Neighborhood Burglers
by S. N. Bronstein. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

517t6UgzCvL.jpgCatwoman has nothing on these cats. They may seem like your everyday, ordinary felines, but there is something quite different about sisters Nugget and Scooter in Private Eye Cats: The Case of The Neighborhood Burglers. They aren’t superheroes, but it becomes apparent that they speak English (when humans aren’t around). Turns out cats all over the world speak their native language, and they’ve kept is secret, until now. That’s the author’s premise, and for all I know, S. N. Bronstein may have the real skinny.

This story reminds me a little of the film The Secret Life of Pets. In addition to the cats conversing when their people (Tony and Misty) are gone, as the animals do in the movie, it also has sharp dialogue and humor. Nugget shares some of their secrets. “We play the games that most humans fall for such as waking them up on weekends at 6:00 in the morning by knocking something over, or crying over nothing so they come running to see if we are hurt or in some kind of trouble.

While figuring out a way to catch some local burglars in their neighborhood, Nugget and Scooter accidentally let slip a few words out loud to a local English teacher (Tyronne Williams). After recovering from shock, Mr. Williams says, “And if I did write this all down and turned it into a book, who would believe it? Would they say it was a funny story but none of it could ever really happen?” Read Mr. Bronstein’s Private Eye Cats and decide for yourself. Are your cats talking behind your back, or just meowing around?

Is She Real?

51AgjWHToWLTreasure Fairy by Judy & Keith.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Though Treasure Fairy takes place in a park in Southern California, with grandparents (Nana and Granddad) who are from England, it could have been in a myriad of locations in Ireland. Having recently returned to southern Ireland myself, it didn’t take much magic to go behind some trees with William and discover the Treasure Fairy with a bag of quarters. If there is any doubt that fairies (and other beings) are real, read this story. Or better yet, read it to your child, or grandchild.

William is transported to the fairies castle, discovers that there are surprises behind every door, and he and the Treasure Fairy, sadly unearth the fact that someone has stolen all of the fairie’s treasure. Who, you may ask, would have the nerve to do such a thing? None other than a thieving leprechaun, of course. The rest of the tale has William and the fairy tracking down the leprechaun and finding a way to retrieve the treasure. It takes some ingenuity and teamwork to accomplish their goal and return the treasure to the kingdom. Judy and Keith (grandparents themselves) have done a fine job giving the Treasure Fairy wings.

P.S. The covers of all there books are first rate.

A Midwife’s Joys & Sorrows

Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story by Julie Watson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41H1LHEanXL._SY346_Being that Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, is my favorite series on television, I was excited to discover this autobiography by New Zealand nurse-midwife Julie Watson. Born for Life is an intimate and honest portrait of the life Ms. Watson has led (so far), and her interest in nursing, which was inflamed when she first read about Florence Nightengale as a schoolgirl. The effects of birth, and having children, have an overwhelming impact on the author, in her own family, as well as her chosen profession.

Julie meets her future husband, Barry, at a young age (in 1968) and is married at 17. Four years later she has her first child (Kelvin). During the pregnancy she develops preeclampsia and must be on bedrest. “Preeclampsia is a condition that occur during pregnancy when a woman’s blood pressure rises sharply.” She first comes across the condition at work when it has devastating effects on a patient. “All these thoughts were going on in my mind. I never thought something like this could happen when having a baby. It never occurred to me that sometimes things can go wrong. Little did I know that preeclampsia was going to have a devastating effect on my own life that would impact me for years.” The impact she is referring to is the death of her second child, Shelley Anne Watson, who lived only a short time after her birth.

After having more children, and going back to school to become a licensed nurse, Ms. Watson had several other children (Angela Mary) and much later, another daughter (Elizabeth Jane). Not only does she have to deal with preeclampsia and bedrest once again, for both these pregnancies, but she also discovers that both her daughter’s have Albinism, which is a congenital disorder that results in the partial or complete absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It can also effect sight, which it does with her children.

The author speaks candidly about her periods of “depression, loneliness, and self-doubt”, which she struggled with after the death of Shelley Ann, and at other periods in her life. She describes the wonderful support she had (and has) from her spouse, family, and friends, and how they all came through to help, especially when she has a stroke in mid-life (from which she recovers). She also talks about starting to attend church, and the comfort prayer, and belief begins to give her. It is this faith that sustains her.

Though this review may sound as if this memoir is just about struggles, and sadness, Born for Life is anything but. Along with the writer’s personal ups and downs, she provides an abundance of details and tales, about different mothers, families, and situations in which she played a vital role in assisting in joyful and healthy deliveries. By far, the majority of this autobiography tells the stories of brave women giving birth, who are surrounded with caring and knowledgable midwives, such as Ms. Watson. It was an honor to read.

Tag Cloud