(Maybe Not So) Boldly Growing (In the Coffee Shop): Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.

So settle in, and I’ll get you a cuppa something refreshing…

And let’s have a conversation…

Tonight, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before.

I’m boldly going to a local coffee shop,

to read a poem at an open mic poetry night.

No, it won’t be the first time I’ve read my poetry aloud to an audience. This isn’t even the first time I’ve read this particular poem for an audience, and the last time, the audience was much larger – on the order of a hundred people!

But there’s a huge difference.

The first time, I read to unschoolers at a talent show that might possibly be the most supportive event I’ve ever been a part of. There was lots of space, and lots of relative anonymity. At the same time, many of the people in that audience knew me, my family, and our story.

This time, I’ll be reading to an indeterminate group of people in an intimate setting – the library of Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary.

I have no idea who will be there, other than me, and most likely my eleven year old daughter.

One of the most daring people I know! Annalise at 10, on the Oregon Coast. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

To make it even more butterfly-inducing, my poem is deeply emotional, deeply intimate –

It’s a poem that commemorates the twelve-day life of our second child, Elijah James. And today is the twelfth anniversary of his death on July 25, 2003.

When I saw the notice for the open-mic night, and when it was, I felt a zinging ‘a-ha!’ feeling. I tried not to feel it – I’m not especially comfortable with groups of strangers watching me; I prefer a higher degree of anonymity in a crowd. To be the focal point, in an emotionally vulnerable moment…and in front of people I don’t know…or, maybe, even some that I do know…

Scary…and potent.

And the type of thing I feel I need to do, for inner reasons that aren’t easily articulated. It’s a threshold I haven’t crossed before, and the timing is right…

I think these moments come to us all, and they’re pivotal. Do we stay where we are, in our comfort zone, playing it safe? Or do we pay attention to that zinging, “This is it” feeling?

August Joy! This lovely lady, August McLaughlin, has inspired me to dare (and dream, and grow) greatly, these last few years. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton. Click to  visit August!

I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve turned away, run off hiding, pretended that I didn’t see the opportunity. But, from time to time, that sense of rightness has compelled me – when I traveled cross-country on a train with fifty dollars to my name, to take a job at the Grand Canyon, where I knew no one. When we decided to shift our parenting model to one that’s peaceful and partnering. When I chose to release relationships that weren’t mutually beneficial.

Something’s changed in me, since I entered my 40s.  I’ve realized that this is my life to live, and, since no one else can live it for me, I’ve got to be the one who decides how to live this, my one and only life (well, I think it is, if you don’t count the fictional worlds I very often inhabit!).

I draw inspiration from people, music, literature – wherever I see daring, and openness, honesty, vulnerability, and the spark of passion. That’s why I’ve included the photos and music in this post – these things remind me off why I’m doing what I’m doing in only a few hours, now…

This night is dedicated in loving tribute to Elijah James Burton, our Tiny Tiger, July 13-25, 2013, and forever beloved of his family. Photo and poem by Shan Jeniah Burton – Mommy.

How about you?

Have you ever done something that was very scary to you, but where you just knew you had to do it to grow? How did you prepare for it? What was it like just before? During? After?

My nerves, and my soul, are a little frazzled, today. I’m just going to sit here quietly and listen. Please, go ahead and talk amongst yourselves; I find it fascinating, inspirational and soothing.

And then I’m off to explore that new world, and dedicate this growth to a soul who didn’t have the chance to stretch in this way…maybe not where no man has gone before, but certainly where no Shan Jeniah  has grown before.


The ‘It’s A Tricky Day’ Edition: Second Serving Sunday

A weekly peek backwards and a look ahead, from my little corner of the blogosphereare you ready?

Life Stuff:

Last Week’s Edition: The Omega and the Alpha.

  • Click the link for my recent posting history!

Today, as the title of this post suggests, is a slippery slope kind of day, for me. You see, here in the U.S., it’s Mother’s Day – and, while card, jewelry, and floral businesses might want us to believe that motherhood is always a beautiful, joyous journey –

It isn’t.

It can’t be, for me. Or for any other mother of a deceased child…or the child of a deceased mother…or people, who, like me, for whatever reason, are estranged from their mothers…

Or even mothers who work, or whose partners do, thereby eliminating or seriously limiting the level of pampering advertisers would have us believe is our due. Impoverished mothers, mothers in war zones, mothers who are ill or single, or dealing with issues that aren’t always apparent from the outside…

Yes, there is sunlight in my life – two thriving children who delight me even more, as they each make their unique way toward adulthood. We live in a country that is prosperous; we’re relatively safe and have more than most people in the world possess. I have a loving, long-time Accomplice who still makes my heart leap…and who understands me in all my complexity, and loves me still…

And yet, there is the sorrow, and the shadow it casts. It’s the contrast that makes the warmth of the sun more precious…

Sunshine! Annalise, 10, and Jeremiah, 13, on the South Jetty; Florence, OR, February 2015. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

It’s not a greeting card day, for me.

It’s real life – happy, and mournful. It’s embracing them both, knowing that neither is wrong, or right.

They just are.

Do you know what I mean? Are there holidays that don’t follow traditional paths, or mean expected things, to you? I’d love to hear about it, and share a bit of reality with you.

Last week’s features:

ROW80: The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life.

  • Story Blossoms: Things are blooming, in my yard, my writing, and my soul!
  • Fluid Growth:  Sometimes growth and progress are a bit of a muddle, like a wild river…

Eight Sentence Sunday:

  • “Too Fast”:  Sometimes, things happen too swiftly to stop, and have powerful impact. So it is with Gladys, Iris, and Howard.

Coffee and Conversation:

WIPpet Wednesday:

SoCS (Stream of Consciousness Saturday):

Story a Day May:

  • You, Me, and Her”: / Can a newly forged family survive the madman intent on destroying it?
  • Hero of the Catwalk: When presented with a problem she can’t solve alone, T’Pol seeks assistance from a real hero…
  • It’s The Little Things…”:  In a time of mutual grief, small items and tiny gestures open new possibilities…
  • Apples and Peanut Butter:  Just a sweet little piece about pregnancy cravings and graphic novels….
  • Unsettled: When reality defies logic, unsettled emotions can overrule even Vulcan discipline.
  • Phoenix Time: Something very strange is happening with Trip and T’Pol…
  • Something…: Trip knows there’s something very wrong with T’Pol, and he searches for clues in her quarters.

Variety’s Spice (something extra!):

The sweetest of sorrows, forever cherished. Elijah James, July 13-25, 2003. Photo and poetry by his mama.

May Focuses:

  • Complete the Story A Day May Challenge.
  • Complete revisions and submit “Slow Jazz Awakening”
  • Resume revisions on “Peach Liqueur Love”
  • Plot Sea Changes: Kifo Island Chronicles #3.
  • Update blog sidebar.

This week, on the blog:

  • For Coffee and Conversation: C and C is back from April hiatusand is moving to Thursdays! This week, I finally talk about a naked challenge where I bared myself in a whole new way!
  • For WIPpet Wednesday: New stuff for April – July. I’ll be sharing whatever I’m writing, when I get to Wednesday. This week….another snippet from The IDIC Romance….
  • Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS):A post based on the weekly prompt, TBA Friday. Most likely fiction, this month!
  • Eight Sentence Sunday: Eight sentences from the same story as my WIPpet Wednesday post, but probably a little further on…
  • ROW80 Updates: My progress on my current and/or long term goals for A Round of Words in 80 Days, posted on or near Sunday and Wednesday.

In the Wilds of Internet-Land:

  • Adversity is Our Strong Suit: When love and family aren’t storybook-perfect, wondrous connections can emerge from the struggle.
  • Need a little sweetness and laughter in your life? Who doesn’t? This little treat might help!
  • And a video clip that has turned into a story spark, and maybe more…

Firehole and Fumaroles: #atozchallenge Day 7

Yesterday, I shared my experience with an eagle in the Firehole River. Today, I’m going to start with one of my attempts to capture the magic of that moment, with my poem, “Firehole River Splash”.

Poetry might be the best way to attempt to crystallize these epiphanic experiences into language. No, it’s not perfect – but, in writing the poem, I was at least able to reconnect with that instant in a way I can share with you, and give you some hint of its spiritual, magical nature.


Firehole River Splash; Revised

Something rising from the water

Something alive –

The moment crystal and infinite

White feathered head

Yellow eye meeting mine without

Hesitation or fear.

I am the one who does not belong


Rising, rising, rising…


Rainbows of water

Powerful wings spread and lift

Beak opens in a fierce cry

Away from the trees on the

Opposite bank comes

Eager answer.

And now, the talons

Clutching the small, arching trout

Who could not avoid

The bald eagle








Living close to nature has given me many of these moments of inexpressible wonder. Some, though, take longer to show themselves…

When we lived in the Old Faithful area, and worked in the Inn, we often would take walks along the various boardwalks, to enjoy a diverse array of geothermal features. There were the hot pools, like Morning Glory and Grand Prismatic Springs. There were little mud pots, where hot clay bubbled like cooking oatmeal. There were, of course, the geysers – the roar and rumble of superheated water building under pressure until it bursts forth from the earth’s hold in a violent, beautiful, deadly fountain, and washes passersby in sulfurous steambaths.

And then there were the fumaroles

A fumarole is a fissure in the ground, through which the building steam can escape. A few months later, we returned – and there was our fumarole…except that now it was a brand-new, tiny geyser.

“My Liquid Laugh” – a magnetic poetry online poem I wrote in October 2014.

Things like that can happen in Yellowstone, where geothermal forces are ever shifting, always changing…they can happen in life, too. This post is part of the #atozchallenge; find other friendly folks and their fantastic “F” posts by clicking the banner below.


What about you? Have you ever seen something you thought was permanent proven temporary and changeable? Has life handed you any surprise packages to unwrap, lately? Are there any poems within you, or the moment, just waiting to be born? Now’s the time to be daring, because I love your sharing! =)

Porcelain Basin with fumaroles; Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy of YellowstoneNPS, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.


C and C and #LoIsInDaBl Day 16: If I Could Be…

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while! It’s time for Coffee and Conversation!

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own..

Put a Little Love in Yours!

Put a Little Love in Yours!

Today, Bee‘s prompt is “Mothers. That’s a charged topic for me. I spent months regarding my mother as my best friend. I forgave episodes of shaming, incidents of abuse, and emotional manipulation. I did some of the same myself.

And then, I began to understand that this was a pattern. It began long before I was born, and, without a concentrated effort to change on my part, will continue on to my daughter, and perhaps even further.

My mother lives only a few hundred feet from my home, and yet, I rarely see her, and then there’s no real interaction.

There’s unfinished business between us. There was unfinished business between her and her mother, too. Her mother, my grandmother, died with that business still unfinished. My mother and I may never resolve the issues between us, and there’s a sorrow in that, a sorrow I’ve come to accept.

Accepting that this is the way that it is doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it, or that I don’t wish it could be different. I work to channel that into positive actions that don’t affect my family…because I want something else for my connection with my own daughter.

I’ve had to learn a new way to be, with her, and as a person. That’s deepened the rift with my own mother – and, at the same time, made me wish that I could somehow go back in time, so that I could mother my own mother, in a way that she never was…

This as-yet unfinished business between us led to this as-yet unfinished poem. It’s unfinished because I don’t know where or what the end of it is…

If I Could be Your Mother Now

If I could be your mother now

I would never have given you, so new, away

Left you as though you were nothing but

The shame and burden of your conception and birth

And not a person at all.

I would have held you and helped you

As you learned to nurse.

Feeling your strong urge for life in the power

Of your greedy newborn suckling

As you took life still from my body to yours

I would meet your fresh gaze

And fall fiercely in love with you

For eternity.

Is there someone in your life you have unfinished business with? A broken relationship you don’t know how to heal? A healthy one you’re thankful for…? I’d love to hear about it, and I’ve got virtual refreshments!

Looking for more Love Is In Da Blog? Find it right here!

Coffee, Conversation, and #LoIsInDaBl Day 9: A Not So Level Tribute

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while! It’s time for Coffee and Conversation!

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own..

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

My Accomplice and I have pretty much stopped buying material gifts on the days the calendar marks as “special”. Over the last year or two, we’ve spent more time, year-round, honoring one another in smaller, more consistent ways. Things like respecting one another’s need for quiet or personal time or connection.

Put a Little Love in Yours!

Put a Little Love in Yours!

Today, at Love Is In Da Blog , Bee  prompted us to write a tribute, perhaps a haiku or something short, to our significant other.

This poem isn’t particularly short, but it’s nonetheless an honest, autobiographical tribute to my Accomplice, and to the nearly eighteen years we’ve been together. I wrote it last October, for OctPoWriMo – but it’s perfect for today, so here it is again – as my first #LoIsInDaBl poem post.

Lava Lake, Gallatin National Forest, Montana. The trail kept going up the mountain, but this is where we camped.

It Levels Off Up Ahead”

“It levels off up ahead,” you said,

As we hiked toward Lava Lake

Love can be like that trail,

Winding up and up

Strenuous, taxing,

Fraught with dangers

Like the bears

In the Montana wilds

The obstacles and the

Rough places of life.


Bliss is the thing we expect, maybe

When we give ourselves over to love

What we want is the glory

Consuming everything but

Each other

Those long wild nights

When it’s lovemaking

And talking

And touching

And more touching

More talking

And a lot more

Making love.


Blinded by emotion

By hope and raw desire

Hunger and need

And the dreams

That wrap us round

Tighter and tighter

Cocooning us in

A webbing of unity

With no room left

For the world beyond

Or the future

Or even



Honeymoon fights

As reality solidifies

I want to go to the

Aquarium – you don’t

We fight, I cry, you win

Later, in Kingman AZ

Reality a vise, a leghold trap

teeth at my throat

I left the car, walked out

Nighttime desert

Scorches with truth

Hot and relentless

In every heated breath

“I can’t believe

I married you!”

Words sharper than

Agave thorns.


Euphoria is a bubble

A cloud a wave

Something that ebbs

And rises anew

Like switchbacks, and

the steep broken path

Up the side of a


Leading to the

Treasure of a

Hidden blue lake

A place to rest and renew

But the path winds up, still

It never did level off up ahead

Not on that trip anyway

And we chose not to climb

Higher that day, but to

Find peace with our descent

And delve the lower places

Within and between us.


Annoyed too often and for too long

A seething lava pit beneath

The surface of our love

And our shared lives

Boiling over like a geyser

Rumbling and rending

Poisoning the waters

Upheaval at the roots

Like a fallen sequoia

Or Sedona’s red rocks

The schisms and rifts

Whenever we didn’t



Bewildered by new identity

Mommy and Daddy – who, us?

To suddenly be the ones

Responsible for his life

His health his laughter

And far too many early tears

Frustrations, rages, his and ours

The trips and stumbles

along the path

Many unseen dangers

Lurking like Montana bears

Hidden by glacial boulders

Shadows in the wild places

In the world, in ourselves

Jagged edges that threaten

This fragile being, our son

Our love blended and grew

Glowing in baby blue eyes

Eyes fixed on us.


Grief grabs us, squeezes, clenches

You hold our secondborn so gently

As the monitors slow, ssllooww


You hold him for another hour

Squeezing and clenching

Shock of sorrow

Piercing reality

This isn’t a level place

This is trauma, soul deep

Black clouds, gaping void

Empty clothes, empty crib

Empty arms, empty womb

We cling together and

Fill what we can.


Joy isn’t always held in

Those leveling off spots

It’s like the sudden grin

Our daughter’s dancing eyes

Child born from tragedy

Force of nature

Like that climbing path

So long ago

Joy is a flower



And not really the point

Of this hike, this life

Lived together

It’s the rainbow

The squeals of laughter

The moments in firelight

In desert mountains

In caves and scuba gear

Touch and taste of you

Quickening my heart

Binding me tighter with

Spidersilk webbing

Tensile strength and



It’s always been

About the


What’s your love story? Have you ever set it to music or poetry? Captured it in images?  It’s snowy outside, but snug and cozy in here.  Won’t you have another cuppa, and share with us?

The path ahead still isn’t level…but so worth it!

You can find more Week 2 posts here (add link when available) – and, if you’d like to get more of that lovin’ feelin’, join in with your own take! =D

JusJoJan Day 16: Three Minus One Equals Two

Just Jottin’ my way through January…

Are there any equations – mathematical or otherwise – that trouble you deeply?

I know. That might sound like a strange question – but the equation above troubles me, because, in my own life, it has taken on a far deeper significance.

I’m posting late tonight – this was a difficult post to write.

Those who’ve read here for a while may know that I have two children. But that’s not the whole story.

I’m the mother of three children. Our middle child, Elijah James, was born on July 13, 2003, and died twelve days later. His entire life was lived in hospital, the vast majority of it the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. A brain injury at birth caused profound and irreversible damage, and a grand mal seizure when he was six days old left him unresponsive, even on an instinctive level.

I had never thought about a baby’ crying as a blessed sign of health, until Elijah. Our eldest was born with a very strong set of lungs, and he used them. It tore at me, his cry – as evolution intended that it should, so I would keep him safe, and care well for him; so he could alert me when he needed something.

We never heard Elijah’s voice. He never cried, never suckled.

Such basic things. Things that parents of healthy babies take for granted.

Things subtracted utterly from the life of our second child, in the way that he was subtracted from our lives…but never from my soul.

I was sorting pictures last night, and I found two treasures I thought were forever lost: the only picture of Elijah with both his eyes open, taken the afternoon he was born, before I had even seen his face (he wasn’t breathing when he was born, and, once resuscitated, he was whisked off to the NICU, while I was kept for another agonizing four hours in recovery). He looks so calm in this photo, and there’s some solace in it; and the only picture of our family of four as it existed then, before Annalise was conceived, before we knew she would ever exist. It was taken two days before Elijah died, the day before the neuroneonatologist found him completely unresponsive, on the day when it became clear that he wasn’t likely to survive the circumstances of his birth.

I’m not ready to share these rediscovered treasures, just yet, even though Elijah would be eleven years old now. I want to keep them, for now, for us – our little family which can never be quite complete…

Do you have loved ones who’ve been subtracted from your life, and yet remain a part of your soul? There’s a safe place to share anything you’re inclined to, here.

And hugs to all.

Other, possibly more cheerful JusJoJanners.

Sweet baby boy…deeply missed.

WIPpet Wednesday: Cowl Invites Touch

Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday, a weekly blog hop which encourages writers to move WIPs (works-in-progress) to publication by posting excerpts related to the date. It is hosted by the lovely K.L. Schwengel, maven of bad boys, stock dogs, and flying monkeys!

My life has slowed down considerably the last few days. I came home from our local NNWM Write-In Sunday night with a migraine and an odd dizziness that made me feel not quite in charge of my body…I’m better, but I’ve got the feeling that, if I push myself too much…so I’m writing, but my pace has slowed. I’m paying attention to what my body needs, rather than rush back to a more typical routine.

And, just in time for the new year, I got my three contributor’s copies of World Unknown Review!

My story, “A Splash of Red”, is a combination of a dream, my own life, and a lot of imagination…I first conceived it three years ago, and there’s been a lot of tinkering, revisioning, cutting apart, shuffling, and putting back together (literally)…

Pretty amazing, to read it in a collection on my Kindle screen, and hold a print copy of the anthology in my hands, flip to page 37, and see my own name, and my own story!

It totally makes up for the not feeling great in body…my spirit is out there, dancing on stars!

If you’ve got $.99 burning a digital hole in your digital pocket, this anthology is definitely worth it (yup, that’s a shameless plug. Forgive me; I’ve never had a story published before, and I’m excited!).

I’m writing the penultimate scene of Perchance to Dream, the last WIP I have left in a “hanging” state, and which I want to have finished by 2015. I think I’m going to be able to do it! =D

Trip and T’Pol are finishing up their holiday break this week, but they’re in a giving mood, and have invited us in for another take on their first meeting…no, I’m not talking about the ‘official’ one, in Captain Archer’s Ready Room, but a more clandestine encounter, when a young Vulcan woman illogically follows her curiosity, and chaotic music, and is Awakened to a smiling human man who holds music in his hands

This poem was originally written for OctPoWriMo; TnT snuck in to claim several poems for their own, this year. This one is a little rough, in places, but it’s got potential – like seeing someone utterly unexpected walk into the room, and shift the course of your life, without saying a word, or touching in any way you’ve ever known…

It’s a blitz poem, one of my favorite new poetry forms. It’s intended to be read aloud and quickly, without punctuation….

Disclaimers: Trip and T’Pol, , as well as the rest of Star Trek are property of CBS/Paramount; no copyright infringement intended. I just want to play with them, and I’m careful!

WIPpet Non-Math:

  • Today is December 31, 2014.
  • It’s New Year’s Eve, and this moment has a festive vibe (who knows, it might even BE New Year’s Eve!), there’s the correlation. I’ve probably mentioned by now that I’m not especially a rules girl….and I like daring Kathi’s flying monkeys now and then! ;D

You can catch a bit of  the cowl here…

Cowl Invites Touch

Alien woman prowls in

Face framed by a cowl

Cowl hides pointed ears

Cowl names her Vulcan

Vulcan eyes search

Vulcan eyes stare

Stare into me

Stare and declare

Declare alien yearnings

Declare Vulcan fires

Fires hot and unexpected

Fires like plasma arcs

Arcs sear and burn through me

Arcs scorch through soft jazz

Jazz binding us together

Jazz winding through us both

Both caught in arcing music

Both caught up in a breath

Breath tangles into music

Breath exhales wanting

Wanting this to never end

Wanting so much more

More music more time

More whatever this is

Is she feeling what I do

Is she even able to feel

Feel her heart beat faster

Feel hot blood in her veins

Veins green-hued not red

Veins from mind to heart

Heart opening to heart

Heart conquers mind

Mind pleads for reason

Mind begs for logic

Logic burned by plasma fire

Logic utterly undone

Undone by Vulcan eyes

Undone by shadows

Shadows moving softly

Shadows on her face

Face transformed by music

Face inconvenient facts

Facts of human man

Facts of Vulcan woman

Woman breathing in music

Woman I long to touch

Touch her deep within

Touch her man to woman



Next week, we’ll go back to that nondescript little Suliban cell where TnT are creating the shape of things to come – and lots and lots of sparks and friction!

May you, one and all, ring out 2014 with fondness and warmth; and welcome in 2015 with love and a sense of adventure!