Coffee and Conversation: The Gift of Grief

 

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again – 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..

Are there times of year that you find emotionally charged? Where your feelings are tumultuous and close to the surface? Where small things can lead to huge inner shifts?

As I mentioned in my posts throughout this past week, July is an emotionally complicated month for me – turbulent, surging up in joy, plunging into sorrow, lifting again…

Alive and silly, ten years after birth!

 

Earlier in the month, my daughter celebrated her birthday. She was born in July of 2004.

July of 2003 was a very different matter.

After a textbook pregnancy, our secondborn, Elijah James, decided it was time to be born, four days before his due date. Things didn’t go as expected. Eventually, forceps were used – and our baby boy, healthy only a few minutes before, was born not breathing.

Things got a little blurry for me, after that. My blood pressure tends to be low; it dropped precipitously. I remember asking the nurses what was wrong with my baby, and the nurse answering, “He’s fine, he’s fine,” as I watched them attempting to resuscitate him.

After what seemed an eternity, they got enough response to whisk him away and intubate him – I’m not sure about the order of those events, only that both happened in the four hours I spent recovering before the maternity staff allowed me to use a wheelchair to go to the NICU.

My husband went to be with the baby, and my emotionally volatile mother stayed with me. She had been with us through Elijah’s birth, and I know she was feeling protective and helpless – but she became embroiled in a power struggle with my nurse, and the conflict had me trying to play diplomat, and feeling not only raw and terrified, but also like I was the non-sentient tug of war rope in their battle of wills. All I wanted was to see my baby, and for him to be okay.

I am lucky. Elijah was awake when I met him; we regarded each other. I wrote about that meeting in my poem, “Soul to Soul”. Here’s an excerpt…

Elijah lived twelve days, and died on Friday, July 25, 2003.

I turned thirty-four 4 days later.

I’ve learned not to try to hold a balance during this month. I live a life that is peaceful, chaotic, often laughter-filled, inspiring, sometimes frustrating. I have a tremendous deal to be thankful for. I have a marriage that survived a loss that 85% of marriages don’t, and that has grown stronger, deeper, and richer. I have two living children, and they are happy, strong, curious, kind, affectionate, bright, funny, confident, independent, and many other wonderful things – the chiefest among them being that magical word – LIVING!

I have a child who lived and died in less than two weeks. He never cried, never nursed. I never held him without tubes and sensors attached to him.

His death is the most shattering thing I have ever known. And it was the catalyst for deep healing. His donated heart valves made a little girl’s life easier. His brief life made me take a long hard look at the way I was raised, and what I wanted for my own children, my marriage, and, maybe most importantly, for myself. It led me to make massive changes, as a mother, and as a human being. He is my most precious and painful gift.

I don’t know how to balance between the extremes of this month. Instead, I go for blendings- allowing the emotions and memories to weave in and around and through the life I live now, the love I share, not only with those who are here, but also for the small life so quickly ended, and whose presence has been a part of me, ever since…

It’s July 14, 2014. I’m home alone, remembering, writing, hometending, and planning a weekend camping trip. Life goes on, and I remember, and make memories, all at once…

I ask you to take a few moments, today, to look at your life, at your loves. What would life be like without them? How can you show them how very cherished they are? How can you do that for yourself? Most importantly, what are you waiting for? I’ve got a fresh cuppa something hot and sweet. Won’t you drop by and chat a bit?

Sitting up front and looking mighty grown at twelve.

 

 

 

Stretched Between… – ROW80 Update, July 13, 2014

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Have you ever been stretched between joy and sorrow, light and shadows, sweetness and sadness?

That’s what July is for me. Tuesday, as I mentioned in Wednesday’s update, was Annalise’s tenth birthday- a day of fun and celebration, where I celebrated this daughter I never thought I’d have…

Because, you see, we were only planning to have two children, and she is our third.

And today – July 13 – is our second child’s birthday…and the beginning of the twelve-day stretch I call Elijah’s Days – the days that mark his very brief lifetime, all of it spent in the NICU, mostly in a coma from which he never woke. July 25 will mark the end of that lifetime, and, four days after that, I turn 45.

July is tricky. Elijah would be elven today, if he had lived – and Annalise wouldn’t exist. Our family would be different in ways too numerous and profound to mention here. I plan to take that on tomorrow, in my Coffee and Conversation post.

What I’ve found is that sorrow can coexist with grief. They’re interwoven, for me, forever. There’s no “getting over” the death of that sweet baby who lived only 12 days, but will forever be a part of who I am. The best I can do is to accept that it is as it is, and give love to those I can, and remember a small, perfect little person with an irreversibly injured brain, who was gone so long before I was ready to part with him…

In honor and remembrance of Elijah, I’m asking that, over the next 12 days, you lavish your beloveds with love. Life is brief, and uncertain, except for one thing…we are all going to die, someday. I’m not trying to be morbid, only realistic. Our time here is finite. Pretending it’s not, changes nothing.

Will you do it? Can you make life sweeter for those you love? Can you include yourself? If you do, I would love to hear about it in the comments. It would be a note of joy and hope to balance those lower emotional tones…

Elijah James Burton, July 13-25, 2003.

And now, on to the update, because, as always, writing helps!

July Focal Areas:

  • CampNaNoWriMo Target attained!  (50,115 words).

  • Homeschool Administration

  • Blog Maintenance and Exploration

2014 Blogging:

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

Maintain regular posting schedule;queue one post for each regular feature.On target.

  • All regular posts done.

  • Sunday Post for July 13.

  • Gathering mental ideas for queues. This will not apply to SoCS posts, since those are prompted weekly on Fridays.

Develop a sharing strategy that feels natural; incorporating input from Kristen. On target.

  • No Kristen yet, but I’ve put a couple ideas into experimental use; more on them later.

Continue interacting through comments; expand and diversify my willingness to comment. On target.

  • Again, I’ve put a couple new practices into play; more on them later.

  • Comments are being answered, but so many lovely folks have things to say that I’m a little backlogged! If I haven’t gotten to you yet, I am on my way! =)

2014 Writing:

Complete rough drafts of To Be or Not to Be, The Stars Are Fire, and Perchance to Dream.

Continue drafting Perchance to Dream during July NaNoWriMo. On target.

  • 19,409 new words! WHOA!

  • 50,115/50,000 NaNo Words

  • 113,551 WIP words.

  • 35/60 scenes.

  • NaNo is won; but I’m continuing on at a slightly more relaxed pace for the remainder of the month.

Joy!

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, and inhabiting my study.

Clean out email files. On target.

  • A few more done, but now there’s more…

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

Experiment with Daily Writing Frames from Round 1.On target.

  • I’m paying attention to the flow of days, and what I tend to do with them. It’s early days, yet.

Develop Daily Hometending Frames. On target.

  • Same as above; paying attention.

Set aside time weekly for administrative stuff (Adminstrative Frames, maybe?) On target.

  • Same as above…

2014 Lifetending:

Continue exploring fitness goals – more on this throughout the round.

Nutrition goals for July:

Acquire Intuitive Eating ebook. Target attained!

  • Book is waiting in my Kindle.

Consume minimum five veggie/fruit salads and/or fruit smoothies each week. Target attained for this week.

  • 3 salads; two smoothies.

Consume Greek yogurt and nuts minimum twice weekly. Target attained for this week

  • Twice for each.

Sponsor Visits:

  • Yes, I visited…adding them to Wednesday’s post…time grows short to post before midnight!

Come ROW with us!

Welcome to My Sunday Post for July 13, 2014

 

Have you ever had the best of intentions, but found yourself spread just a bit too thin to manage everything you’d hoped to do?

Yes, that’s me, over the last two weeks. I meant to do a Sunday Post, both weeks, but…

Well, I was writing, and reading, and celebrating, and, today, I’m mourning when I might have been celebrating. It’s the eleventh birthday of our second child, Elijah…and we are now twelve days from the eleventh anniversary of his death.

What makes it even stranger is that Tuesday was our daughter’s tenth birthday, filled with all the goodness a birthday should have.

For me, July is just like that. Four days after that anniversary, I will have a birthday, too. The entire month is something like surfing, trying to balance on the surging and ebbing waves of emotion.

I am a person who prefers an optimistic outlook. I choose to be grateful for the twelve days we had with our beautiful little boy, and the profound affect he’s had on the course of our life as a family. I choose to allow the grief to wash through me, but not to wallow in it. Death is an inevitable companion to life, like the shadows are to the sunlight.

Elijah James July 13-25, 2003.

 

That being said, here’s what’s up in my little corner of the blogosphere

Recently at shanjeniah:

 

Coffee and Conversation:

  • And Then She Was Ten… A celebration of a decade’s worth of my daughter, and some musings on the experiences of the day.

 

WIPpet Wednesday:

 

SoCS (Stream of Consciousness Saturday):

  • Are We Getting Away From Getting Away?, in which I explore whether we will be taking a planned camping trip, or bowing out in favor of the comforts of the little cocoon called ‘home’.
  • Body Language, a Star Trek fan fiction excerpt, written stream-of-consciousness style, with the theme “body”.

 

ROW80 Updates:

 

I can’t imagine life without her in it!

 

What’s Next:

 

I’ve completed the rough draft of my first July CampNaNoWriMo WIP, The Stars Are Fire. This week, I’ll be continuing with my second WIP, Perchance to Dream, a Star Trek: TOS/ Enterprise fanfiction novel, and the other half of this duology.

 

In the Wilds of Internet-Land:

Life Stuff:

  • It was a busy “weekend” – ours is Monday and Tuesday – since I squeezed my workout in a day early, so that I could take my daughter out for a Girl’s Day to celebrate her tenth birthday. We took in a movie, did a little shopping, and went out to dinner. =)
  • I completed July’s CampNaNo challenge.
  • I pinned to my Pinterest boards for the first time in months!

 

Want to join the Sunday Post fun?

 

A Festive Stretch – ROW80 Update, July 9, 2014

 

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Ahhh…here we are again, at the first check-in of a brand-new round!

I’ve been up to a lot, but not so much things that are directly writing-related. You see, this round started on Monday, and Tuesday was my daughter’s tenth birthday. She wanted to have a Girls’ Day just with me. So I squeezed in my weekly workout on Monday, and Tuesday was all about her – taking her to a movie, shopping, and out to dinner.

We had a lovely time. She is delightful to be with, and I am amazed at the way she’s blossoming.

I haven’t really hit my stride with my ROW80 stretching just yet, because, well, the blue-eyed Force of Nature had priority. And I am more than OK with that! =D

How does this Wednesday evening find you? Are you happily engaged with people and activities that bring you joy? Is there some way you could have more of that? Have you stretched in any way, lately? I’d love to hear about it! =D

Part of the life ROW80 knows I have. =)

July Focal Areas:

  • CampNaNoWriMo

  • Homeschool Administration

  • Blog Maintenance and Exploration

2014 Blogging:

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

Maintain regular posting schedule;queue one post for each regular feature.A bit of a rough start; writing and celebrating took precedence.

Continue interacting through comments; expand and diversify my willingness to comment. On target, although I have a comment backlog to address due to writin’ and celebratin’ and workin’ out.

  • I’ve visited several blogs, including my sponsor visits, and left often extensive comments.

Striking a pose, with attitude!

2014 Writing:

Complete rough drafts of To Be or Not to Be, The Stars Are Fire, and Perchance to Dream.

Continue drafting Perchance to Dream during July NaNoWriMo.On target.

  • Current word count: 94,846 (this is clearly going to be a loong draft!)

  • CampNaNo word count: 30,988/50,000

  • Scene 30/60 in progress.

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, and inhabiting my study.

Clean out email files.On target.

  • I did a bit of this while looking for an email.

Birthday Dinner.

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

Indulge in days with both children, at least one date with Jim, and one with myself. On target.

  • As noted, Girls’ Day to celebrate Annalise’s tenth birthday.

Seek out playful new ways to move and challenge my body.

One workout at the Y each week. On target.

  • A moderately intensive workout on Monday – weights and cardio.

Continue exploring fitness goals – more on this throughout the round. On target – I’ll explain these a little better on Sunday.

Workout goals for July:

Treadmill: 22 minute walking mile using “Rolling Hills” program.On target.

  • .48 miles in 10 minutes.

Recumbent bike: 8 miles in 30 minutes, using an interval program.On target.

  • 6.17 miles in 30 minutes; resistance to 13.

Weights: At the Y; minimum 3 machines for arms, legs, and torso weekly.Target attained for this week.

Nutrition goals for July:

  • Acquire Intuitive Eating ebook.

Consume minimum five veggie/fruit salads and/or fruit smoothies each week. On target.

  • 2 of each, thus far.

Consume Greek yogurt and nuts minimum twice weekly. Target attained for this week.

Weight goal for July:

  • Maintain or reduce weight measured at beginning of the round. On target

Sponsor Visits:

Wanna ROW a little further?

Still Silly After All These Years!

 

Coffee and Conversation: And Then She Was Ten…


Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday -uhh, late Tuesday again – a little past 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..

So, why I am I late with this post?

It’s been a busy day. My daughter, once my baby girl, wanted to celebrate her birthday with a Girls’ Day – just the two of us. We went to see a movie – Earth to Echo. It was her first “teen” movie, and we both enjoyed it, although parts were scary and sad. We shopped - Monster High makeup kit, a cute kitty case for her Kindle, nail polish, and the all–important and very very pink birthday cake (which she says she’ll enjoy tomorrow).

We had dinner at a local favorite, Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary.

Everywhere we went, she complimented people and struck up conversations. She was a delight.

I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother. I’m saying it because she spread smiles and happiness around liberally, and left a wake of surprised adults who maybe aren’t very used to children who look them in the eye and engage them as equals.

Birthday candid. I treasure her.

It’s something I notice, because I was raised with the far more familiar dynamic of “adults before kids”. No, it isn’t said that way, not in so many words, but it is the way things were in my family, and mostly what I see in the interactions of people we see when we’re out and about.

Most adults seem to take children to the places the adults want to go; the places they value. Children get carted or dragged along, too, often, as though they are baggage or burdens. Often, the adults with them only speak directly to them when they’ve done something deemed worthy of correction.

Adults tend to talk to children they don’t know in scripts. “Are you glad school’s over?” asked a young woman working at Java’s.

Lise looked at her blankly; she never seems to be expecting these types of questions, and they aren’t relevant in her life. “I don’t go to school,” she answers, after a pause, thus negating the most frequent and equally irrelevant follow-up: “What grade will you be going into?”

Most kids who go to school know these scripts, and seem to expect nothing else from strange adults – a conversation amounting to shop talk, and not even very polite shop talk. After all, who likes to be reminded of their job by strangers while they’re on vacation? How about if the job was assigned to them by someone else, and they had no choice about doing it?

My daughter is different. She invites something I’ve seen from only a handful of kids used to living life by scripts. What is it?

Honest, joyful communication.

And there’s something very refreshing about watching her, as she’s growing older, and finding her own way of interacting with others. It heals the little girl I was, who didn’t have remotely as much confidence at her age, and who was expected to treat adults as somehow better than I was, by sheer virtue of them being older.

Watching my now ten-year old Force of Nature interact with people of many ages, genders, orientations, ethnicities, and varieties, finding beauty and seeking connection, awes me a little. Seeing her offer small kindnesses, like holding a heavy door for people coming in as we were going out, makes me very happy to have let go of the scripts I used to live by.

She’s growing in kindness and self-awareness – and, by virtue of being with her, so am I. There’s an indefinable treasure in it that can’t be wrapped up. It’s a gift to everyone it touches.

When was the last time you had an unscripted conversation with a child? Did you know them, or meet them in passing? What did you talk about? Did you come away feeling energized and a little amazed at all that could be held in such a small person? Were you a little unnerved at the audacity of the child? Grab a fresh cuppa, and let’s chat a while!

Coffee and Conversation: Projects, or People?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday Tuesday again  (Okay, I’m a day late!)- 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...

What happened when I stopped treating my children as projects to be completed, but instead as whole people, already?

Too often, in modern American culture, children are seen as projects. Maybe it comes from an illusion, carried over from times past, that babies are blank slates, empty vessels waiting to be filled with what their parents and their society deem important. It’s true that babies aren’t able to do many things – but they aren’t empty. If I look at my children today, at nearly 10 and approaching 13, I can see in them the seeds of who they were as babies.

Jeremiah on his twelfth birthday. We were on our way to lunch.

Maybe it’s because very small children need a lot of care. They need to be changed, fed, carried, cuddled, comforted, helped to know what is safe and how the world works. There are many book, magazines, programs, classes, and products designed to meet these needs…and the insecurities and fears of new parents, maybe far from their own families. Much money is made by preying on parents’ desires to not only do well by their kids, but to give them the advantages that will lead to a “successful life”.

I used to indulge in more of these than I’m comfortable admitting. I bought into the idea that I “owed” my kids all I could afford, and then some.

But over time, I started to notice something. So much of the literature and programming was designed less to help children, and more as a means of manipulating them, steering and pruning them, making them more convenient to live with, and steering them in the directions we want them to go…often, directions that will give their parents something to brag about.

At Lake George, NY, being Just US. Three people. Photo by Jim Burton.

When my children were 7 and 4, my growing unease with this led our family to make a huge shift. We were already homeschooling our oldest, and the lessons I was conducting at the kitchen table were not going as well as I wanted. My son’s spark of curiosity was fading, and household battles were far more common than I wanted.

My kids were my projects, and I was screwing them up.

And so, we stopped.

I gave up the idea that they were projects, and began to learn to see them as….well, as people. Just that. Small, new people with lots to learn – but with the skills and desire to learn it.

It’s been remarkable.

Every day, one or both of my children will do something unexpected, or learn something I never would have thought to teach them. Every day, they become more who they are. And, because my role is as facilitator rather than project manager, I get to see something I might not have, if I were still managing them as projects.

I get to see that they know how to learn, that they’re hard-wired for it. They’re naturals at growing up – they just need support along the way. All that effort and angst and never knowing if I was getting it right, when they were little, was time and energy I could have spent on simply loving and supporting and enjoying them…

Because they are remarkable people. They always have been. There’s no one just like either of them. Each of them is unique, individual. Each of them is learning to become an adult – one moment, one breath, one action at a time.

And, now that I’ve let go of the idea that I need to direct this, I get to do something I like a lot better. I get to just be myself, and enjoy. =)

Girls Night Out, to see Phantom of the Opera with a sweetly silly person.

Have you noticed the “projectifying” of children? Have you seen the people within? Pull up a chair, enjoy your cuppa, and let’s converse!

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “With/Without Kids”

When they’re here….they’re HERE! =D

 

This post is a part of Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday meme.  Click the title  for the rules, and to read other posts! =)

The point is as simple as it sounds. Using the weekly prompt, I write a stream of consciousness piece, correcting typos but not otherwise editing.

So, raw and immediate, here is my post!

Today’s prompt is With/Without.

I’m sitting in my study, in a house without children. That’s not a common state, for me – partly because my kids have lived their lives without school, and with me.

We orbit one another, much of the time, intersecting, then moving away into our own lives again…it’s very different from the life I lived, growing up, and yet, in other ways, not.

They do not live with parental abuses, shaming, punishing, arbitrary rules arranged to make their parents’ lives more convenient.

They live without chores, homework, fierce competition for their parents’ love.

They live without a brother who died while one was a toddler, and before the other was born…

And they live with each other, and with us, their parents.

I am their mom.

I am also their friend.

So often, in parenting circles, this is set up with a false dichotomy….you can be your child’s parent, or their friend, but not both….

But I can’t be one without being the other.

I am their mother- by biology, by law, by choice. That title comes with responsibilities, and authority. At almost 10 and 13, they aren’t little kids anymore; there’s no need for me to be forever perched or hovering over their shoulders. That would only get in their way – and, if I’ve been a good friend to them, they won’t need me to.

Why?

Because good friends look out for you. They don’t let you get yourself into trouble without trying to keep you out of it. They forgive you when you make mistake, and offer you support when you need it. They don’t act superior, or lord the fact that they sometimes have greater skill and experience.

That’s the kind of mom-friend I strive to be.

The kids are home, now, and the flavor of life is different, now that they’re home. Time to go enjoy that – they aren’t going to be these ages, forever!