Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mind Games and Imperfect Parents

I love the Cassie Scot Series by Christine Amsden. One of the reasons I love this series so much is that it has a mix of paranormal fantasy and raw honesty. Sometimes heart wrenching raw honesty coming from or about characters that are multidimensional, much like real people. Cassie has some issues with her parents. She has been hurt, deeply, by them. Understanding and forgiveness may or may not be possible. I have read the first three books in the series and I am not certain if either would be possible for me. I like to think that in the end I would forgive, if only for the peace it would bring, but given what they did I just don't know. 

I think Mind Games is a perfect title for the third book in this series, (read my review here). There appears to be some mind games going on and not just with Cassie's love interest. I feel like Cassie's parents have played mind games with her. I am fascinated by psychology and really enjoy this aspect of the series. For me it is one way this series can be enjoyed over and over. There is always some piece to examine and get a fresh take on as you grow in life experience. 

I am reprinting, (with permission from author Christine Amsden), what the author of the Cassie Scot series has to say about imperfect parents. This article appeared previously on the blog, Emeraldfire's Bookmark.

'Imperfect Parents' by Christine Amsden

No one's perfect, but many of us expect our parents to be. Or maybe the trouble is that as children, we believe they are. The truth comes as a crushing shock to many adolescents, which feeds into the “generation gap” that commonly surfaces during the teenage years. It usually isn't until young people leave home and see some of the world when they can finally resolve the gap between expectation and reality. 

Of course, some parents are more imperfect than others. Some mistakes are easy to forgive or overlook, some human weaknesses, such as temper, so normal that it takes much less to recognize that only we who are without sin should throw stones. 

But what happens when parents make a bigger mistake? Is it okay to forgive them, even though what they did was not and can never be all right? 

I see forgiveness as one of the major themes of my Cassie Scot series. It is my view that forgiveness isn't something you do for the benefit of the person being forgiven, but rather for the benefit of the person doing the forgiving. Forgiving is a process of healing and moving on. It is not about saying, “Well, I understand and that's all right then.” Maybe it isn't all right. Many things aren't. Many people act out of fear or selfishness and do things that leave deep, permanent scars. But when we forgive, which (done correctly) is a long-term process rather than a momentary act, we set aside anger and work towards healing. 

I'm not a big fan of black or white characters. These days, it doesn't seem like anyone is, but it can still be challenging to depict certain people as having redeeming qualities after they do terrible things. I mean, is it okay to like anything at all about a man who kills, or steals, or disowns his daughter out of fear and selfishness?

Cassie Scot's parents are not likeable, but they do love their children. All of them. Including Cassie. She's a challenge for her parents because she reminds each, in their own way, of personal failures. (Part of what I mean by that comes clear in book two, the rest will be revealed in full in book four.) 

I won't tell readers how to feel. Some hate Edward and Sheila Scot (passionately). Some have mixed feelings. Not too many people really like them, and I can't blame them. For my part, I … understand them to a certain extent. They aren't good people who do bad things and they aren't bad people who do good things. They are people who act at times out of selfishness and at times out of fear, but people who still have the capacity to love. 

But this isn't their story. 

Another theme I try to present in this series is that change comes from within. Cassie can't fix the people around her. (This is why I was ultimately forced to write spin-off novels for her two best friends. At first I was as confused as Cassie, thinking she could solve the problems that began to develop in the second book.) Cassie's parents won't change in this series because she doesn't have the power to fix them, and this isn't their story.

Cassie will never have perfect parents; she'll only ever have the ones she got. But she can forgive them, and she can decide that they were wrong about her. She can decide who she wants to be, regardless of what they think she can be. 

Author Christine Amsden

Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. (You can learn more here.)

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Connect with Christine Amsden

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Parenting Nightmare

Today when I opened up Yahoo I came across the story of a Utah man who is accused of chaining his six-year old son to his bed. It was disturbing on several levels. Perhaps the part that frightens me most is my fear that we will come across more and more stories like this one. 
Politically this country does not take care of its self. With out of control spending by the government the economy has been severely trashed. The examples the leaders of this country set are that it is okay to spend more than you have. If you believe you have good cause then bad behavior can be excused. If you use the money to help someone else, it doesn't matter how you get it. These examples are from both major political parties and have been increasing for years.
With government stepping into homes taking responsibility for raising children, while requiring parents to learn none, we have parents who do not know a good parental decision from a bad one. We have children growing up with no real values being instilled in them. I'm not saying there is no value in social services. I believe they are necessary. However I do believe people need to be held responsible for their decisions, good or bad. Natural consequences are not a bad thing. 
If government wants to step into our homes they should begin by setting the example with the nation's biggest home. All officials, (the parents), should be setting the example of being able to set aside differences to work together for the benefit of the nation, ( the family). They should set the example of living within their means. Just as those of us with credit card issues need to formulate a pay off plan we can live with, so our leaders should do with the nation's debt. Yes it involves sacrifice. They could start by adjusting salaries to reflect what the people of this country make. The money saved could be filtered in to paying down debt. Perhaps with these adjusted salaries they would truly come to understand the problems we the people endure and what we really need. They should set the example of fair fighting: No name calling. Stay on track with the issue. If things get heated a cooling off time out period, giving time to think about what was said. Respect and attempt to understand the other person's view of the situation. A strong home will make a strong nation. 
As for the article, I do not know this man or what the circumstances actually were. From reading the article, (which can be found at http://news.yahoo.com/utah-man-accused-chaining-6-old-son-bed-221455060.html), let's take an imaginary walk in his shoes. I'll be making assumptions so please keep in mind this is an imaginary walk.
The man in the story became a father at age 22. The child had a mother at this time. The parents have high school or less education. They are not making the big bucks. They are intimate with poverty. A year after the child was born the man was arrested for forgery. Maybe it was a party lifestyle but more likely it was the unending need for shelter, food for an infant and 2 adults, an endless need for diapers, wipes, clothes that are too small before they are well used and way overpriced, toys - many of which are overpriced and labelled as educational leaving some parents feeling they are keeping their child from educational development if they do not buy them, hygiene products and possibly an occasional dvd the parents really wanted to watch but fell asleep before they could. The dad is placed on probation. The family is struggling to make it. Maybe mom is staying at home because child care is too expensive, the slots are full or there is no way to get him there. Maybe mom is working but her paycheck is going for the cost of childcare and that dvd they wanted to watch. Maybe dad is working but with no major education or job skills he is barely able to pay the necessities of shelter costs and food. Maybe mom and dad are fighting a lot at this point. Dad knows he is looked at, by society and most likely family, as the "man" who is failing
 in his responsibility to provide for his family. He turns back to crime - maybe he can get just one more check to go through without getting caught and bring home some tylenol, ear drops and maybe a little car for his crying three year old son. But it doesn't happen that way. Dad is caught and goes to jail. Mom is now alone with a three year being both mom and dad. Maybe she looks at her life and wonders where it went. Dad comes home thinking they can pick up the pieces. He missed his wife and son. He is sure, with a little help, they can make it. But finding a job with a record is proving difficult. Nobody believes in his change. Maybe not even his wife who is just exhausted and depressed. Maybe she decides to try to get her life back and leaves. Maybe she gets ill and dies. Maybe she ends up in jail. Whatever the reason she is gone. Now it is Dad and son. Dad knows the path he is on. Not many believe in a dad raising a child. He has the added stigma of a criminal record, never mind the reason or the change. He does his best but he faces all the responsibility alone and the issue of childcare. He may think that reaching out for help will get his son taken away. After all he is not just a single dad; he is an ex-con single dad. Maybe he turned everywhere he trusted but there was no help. So he makes a bad decision to keep the wolf from the door. Maybe he goes to work worried, scared and feeling awful about that decision. He probably knows it was a bad decision. Not working and providing no shelter and no food for his six year old is a bad decision too. Maybe he took the bad decision he could live with. Maybe he prays constantly for a miracle or just a little compassion and help.
You may think the scenario I wrote of is making excuses. It is not. What happened could have ended much more tragically. I do not advocate any type of child abuse, intentionally done or not. It is my fervent hope that this case is investigated completely and the child's best interest is what is the priority. My point of the imaginary walk is that many parents in this country face many of the issues I brought up. They may think in extremes. They may feel judged harshly so they seek no help. As a nation we need to stop judging each other and start finding real solutions. We need to all be responsible for ourselves, our family, the community and the nation. We need to teach this responsibility to our children. We need to demand it of our elected officials.  

Judgment is only good if it helps bring a positive change.