His eyes were closed and his breathing had slowed by the time I pulled my forehead away from his. A toothy grin alit his face, inspiring me to smile, too. I stroked his hair and savored the sound of his slowing breath as he fell deeper into slumber.
It’s been months since I last watched him step into dreamland. He usually wants to keep playing if anyone else is around, so our bedtime routine ends with a couple of stories and him humming himself to sleep, by himself, afterward.
I’d forgotten how magical it is to watch him transform from my little whirling dervish to my little sleeping angel. Something awakened in me last night watching this transition: a yearning to be enveloped in small wonders.
So busy looking for big bloggable events, I’ve lost sight of precious many small moments.
I’m seeing now. With a great big smile, I am seeing now.
Chain letters usually go straight to my spam filter, but when I received an invitation to participate in a chain blog, my curiosity was piqued. Its sender was Sara Burr, a writer and blogger who captivates me with her eloquence and thoughtfulness. I haven’t had a chance to read her first novel yet, but you can bet I’m looking forward to it!
With two days of editing my newest book under my belt, this chain blog was perfectly timed to get me thinking both about what it is and what I want it to be. It’s also got me wondering. I know we’re not supposed to play favorites with our children, but is it OK to favor certain of our books over others? Because it’s possible–not certain, mind you, just possible–that I enjoy this one a heck of a lot more than the ones that preceded it. Maybe. A little.
What is the working title of your book?
Elelu. It’s not the most descriptive working title, granted, but I’m still early in the process!
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It came from my idea box from younger years. I had a night dream that jarred that old idea loose and got to daydreaming up what the story would look like if I wrote it today. Then, without too much delay, I got to writing.
What genre does your book fall under?
Urban fantasy. I’d also classify it as Young Adult, but my fiancee, Ba.D., is fighting me on that one: “Everything is YA right now! It’s a meaningless classification. Just go with what it really is.”
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m way too early in the process to start playing that game! Right now, I want to stay true to my characters as they are instead of envisioning who else they might be.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When the sole survivor of mermaid genocide lands in her lap, loner Abigail must decide not only what she believes in but how far she’s willing to go to save someone else.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Independently published. Although there are pros and cons to each, I’m much more interested in creative control than traditional publishing at this point.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About four months, excluding the month I took off.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This question had me stumped until I started reading Necromancing the Stone last night. So far, it’s similar to that book’s predecessor (Hold Me Closer, Necromancer) in tone and pacing.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My fiancee inspired me. When I had the dream that got me thinking about writing my old story, I described that dream in depth to Ba.D., who told me that sounded like a book he’d love to read. Over the next couple of weeks, I told Ba.D. what I was thinking and asked for his input when I encountered any logic or plot hurdle I couldn’t seem to jump by myself. With his encouragement, I moved from thinking about the story to actually writing it.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I grew up poor, but not so poor that my mom couldn’t cough up gas money to take one of her barely-running cars to the Oregon coast every year or two. Those coast trips brought me a sense of possibility. In Elelu, I’ve captured the feelings of hope and home that imagining the ocean continue to evoke in me. I’ve done this within an exciting story full of characters you might not always agree with but whom I think you’d probably enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee.
Click here to learn a little more about Elelu. Otherwise, please mosey on over to visit the next link in the chain, my friend E.L. Farris. Her heartbreaking yet inspirating first novel, Ripple, will hopefully be out in time for Christmas.
Space research: fascinating, but not an especially good use of money with our own world full of hunger and unresolved needs. That’s how I would have characterized my take on space research early last year, before I read a couple of compelling posts on its merits.
Thanks to changes in thought and heart rippling out from my reading those posts, I knew enough to stand atop a roof and watch for the space shuttle Endeavour as it passed over my office today.
That shuttle was not so very long ago among the stars. It was among the stars because we have minds great enough to dream up, create and send not only technology but life into space. With minds out there great enough to accomplish these things, I cannot help but have faith that time will see many more wonders worked both in the sky and on our own home planet.
To do things, we must first dream them. As I stood and watched the shuttle fly by, I was heartened by the vastness of human dreams, and by the amazing impacts of our drive to see them come true.
And let us hope that all the other leaders in all the other fields look up into the night sky and ask, “What do I want? Would I be happiest to see the stars from here on Earth, or to fly amongst them?”
– Kristina, “Want Versus Need…Stuff and Space“
Penny (Life Reconnected) began her blog to help cope with a convergence of losses, but it’s grown into something much greater. In addition to documenting her many–and I do mean many!–external adventures, she’s enchantingly forthright about her internal adventures piecing together “a sense of place, purpose, balance and love in this world.” Her blog enhances my own sense of connectedness to this world.
Recommended post: A Month in the Country of Blogging Land
The Power Of Words To Reconnect A Life
‘I’ve Been Blogging Since You Left Me’ was one of the original title possibilities for my blog. Along with ‘Dumped at Fifty‘, ‘On The Scrapheap’ and ‘Better Out Than In’. As I moved through trying to amuse myself to getting to the essence of what I needed to express ‘A Design For Life’ and ‘House, Job, Life’ finally became Life Reconnected. That was one year ago.
Then, I was sitting in a house that I hated. Strong words but it felt like I had a life that I hated then too, one that I couldn’t control, recognize or find any purpose to. I was disconnected. So I began my blog.
It became my lifeline, literally a line to connect my life to something, anything, that felt meaningful. It has all been said before about how writing is cathartic, a way to find meaning and how blogging is the modern way to put that writing out there but like most things until you actually do it you don’t feel all of the power. I had been diary writing for years in that cathartic way but the power of blogging has come to me in ways different to what I imagined.
In her book A Brief History of Diaries, Alexandra Johnson traces the history of writing for and about one’s self through centuries of writing and she notes that some of the most widely read diaries, many still bestsellers, are written by women. Centuries of literary prohibition and inhibition she says, had driven women to diary keeping:
“Safe yet secret. The finest diaries expose the raw nerve of creative ambition. For writers like Mansfield and Woolf, by being able to practise craft, a diary became a first draft of confidence……..At their core, Burney’s (Fanny) diaries involve the deep permission to begin and sustain creative work“
I am just recently back from Amsterdam and I visited the home where Anne Frank wrote what was to become the most widely read diary in history. I had my moments there. That time when the feelings and emotion well up and you embody the connection. Just the day before a friend had told me the most moving part of her visit to the house was hearing Otto Frank, Anne’s father, saying how he had realized on reading her diary that as a parent we never really know our children. So true and my response had been, well, do we ever really know anyone?
I came away from the house with a poster of the chestnut tree that Anne had been able to see out of a window. The attic space had been the most significant part of the building for me; I could just imagine how being able to see the sky and have some connection with the bigger world was so important for her. To be able to see through a gap of any sort sustains hope.
Traveling back from Amsterdam I was sitting in Schipol airport lounge with a friend and I was commenting on the fact that my blog had had two views that day! We were having a conversation around me starting my business and how I had felt such a disconnect with where I lived and how I hadn’t really told anyone I knew about me blogging and having no ‘local’ readers. “But how would you know?” she asked. How indeed.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate how powerful our words can be and how far out the ripples can radiate. In her second day’s entry Anne wrote ‘Writing in a diary is really a strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl.’
As I sit today in the front room of that same house I hated a year ago, I look out at the gorgeous view of two magnificent Birch trees framing a small slice of a longer view to the mountains surrounding Belfast. The newly sprung leaves are dancing magically in the wind. Looking more closely in my frame of view I embrace the newly painted walls, the bobbing blackbird reflected in the shiny mirror, my rapture at the patterns my magnificent light shade make on the ceiling above. I appreciate it all. My lovely house swept white, clean and modern. My life swept white, begun again, healed.
I have effectively swept clean my life. A new and lighter life with small details that bring appreciation, grace, shape and form to enjoy. Each day to admire, to take pleasure from as I begin to use my art, my journey and my expression of it here in my blog to form both a business and a basis for my new life.
I could just as easily called my blog ‘The Power Of Words to Reconnect A Life’. It has given me a deep permission to begin and sustain creative work. This little house, this little blog. This little life. Reconnected.
I give thanks to all who share and express some of what and who we are.
As I type this, I have nearly 100% less hair than I did the last time I posted.
My progression toward baldness began with reading the post “Blissfully Bald,” in which my friend Chris (From the Bungalow) announced that he and his wife, Karin (Pinwheels and Poppies), would be shaving their heads for St. Baldrick’s. Their inspiration, Donna’s Cancer Story, chronicled one girl’s 31-month battle with cancer.
I’d seen references to Donna’s Cancer Story since September, but it seemed like such a commitment to follow a 31-day blog series. Also, really depressing. I couldn’t imagine a more depressing read.
After reading “Blissfully Bald,” I knew I’d have to read Donna’s Cancer Story. That Friday evening, I settled in and began reading about Donna.
I cried. Oh, how I cried. But I also felt barriers between me and others removed by growing understanding. Through Mary Tyler Mom‘s open, raw descriptions of her daughter Donna’s life with cancer, “them” became “us.” “Those parents” became “someone who could be me”; the children, “someone who could be my son.”
My world grew simultaneously smaller and larger.
As a writer, I (naturally) had to write my way toward clarity. I did so in my post “On bald heads & being unending.” I let people know where they could donate to team Blissfully Bald.
On Valentine’s Day, following a prompt from Chris, I joined an abundance of bloggers in writing about the March head-shaving event in which Chris and Karin would be shaving their heads. I knew I’d be in Chicago for the event, as well as to catch up with my old friend Dana, but I had no idea I’d end up joining team Blissfully Bald.
On March 11, Chris sent an email including the following paragraph:
I just wanted to mention that anyone can join our team or Team Donna! If you are/will be in the Chicago area on March 24th, we’d love to see you. And if you decided to join our team as a shavee, well, we’d love you forever.
“Damn it, Chris,” I muttered.
Once thoughts like that get in my brain, it’s hard to make them go away. Typically they’ll only do so if I do something like sign up. Which I did the next day.
I’d like to say mine was a really considered choice, but it wasn’t. There were little fragments of thoughts here and there, but mostly it was a gut choice inspired by a girl named Donna who’s been in my mind and heart every day since I read her cancer story over a 12-hour period.
I wrote about my decision to join team Blissfully Bald here. It still didn’t feel like a huge decision, exactly. Just something I was doing.
Then I started reading the comments, both on the blog and on my Facebook page. I learned about more people who’d fought or continue to fight cancer and was bowled over. What started as “something I’d be doing for Donna in a few days” became something all-consuming. Something that I felt bound me so much more powerfully to this world, and to the hearts of others. Beautiful, inspired, inspiring hearts.
The days flew by. I found myself in Chicago. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.
I got to meet Katy (I Want a Dumpster Baby), whom I instantly loved every bit as much as I thought I would.
By the time we parted ways, I felt like I’d known her forever. Indeed, my heart continues to insist it has.
That evening, I met my teammates. Like Katy, I loved (and laughed with!) them immediately, and couldn’t believe for a second we’d only just met.
By the time Chris and Karin collected me the next morning, I was feeling anything but collected. I’d had a rough night’s sleep, imagining everything that could go wrong the next day and fearing what I couldn’t imagine–in other words, everything about the event.
As we ate lunch just before the event, my anxiety had a direct line to my bladder, which it used to send me scrambling to the bathroom four times in an hour and a half.
Arriving at the event venue, the very place where Donna had celebrated each of her birthdays, I found my nerves instantly soothed. I looked into the faces of others who’d soon be shaving their heads as well as those cheering the shavees on and knew I was safe. I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening, but I knew I’d be fine if it did.
We met Mary Tyler Mom. I wanted to crush her with hugs and tell her how much she’d changed my life with her words, but instead simply hugged her.
We chatted. We schmoozed. We checked out the haps. We hugged Katy lots when she arrived.
Chris was one of the first to get his head shaved.
Karin followed soon after.
My slot was an hour and a half after Karin’s. I was impatient for its arrival, but needn’t have been. It came quickly.
What I’d built up in my head to a momentous, earth-shattering thing was instead quick. Painless. Hardly noteworthy.
My hair was divided into four ponytails I’ll (hopefully) donate to Locks of Love.
Each ponytail was clipped.
My hair was cut.
My head was shaved.
I beamed the whole time. Just beamed.
When I stood in front of a bathroom mirror a couple of minutes later and took in the change, impossibly, I found myself smiling wider still.
I was seeing me. Me unconcealed.
By the time my friend Dana arrived, fresh in from Ireland, I must’ve rubbed my head 100 times already.
Dana returned my sock puppet Arrrgyle, who’d visited Ireland with her for reasons described here, but demanded a picture in exchange.
Dana, her honey and I left the Candlelite shortly afterward, but we had time for a few more pictures first.
By the time I returned to my hotel around 8 p.m., full up on Indian food, I was equal parts exhausted and happy.
I’d started out the day so anxious I was shaking, only to conclude the day so calm I could’ve given 90% of my calm away and still been feeling just dandy.
In the morning it had seemed like such a huge thing to be shaving off my hair, not just for me but for the people whose loved ones’ names I held in my hands (on a couple pieces of paper) and heart throughout the day.
By the evening, it seemed such a small offering. A token, or one-tenth of one, especially in comparison to all those who’ve lost their hair in the hopes that doing so would allow them to only lose their hair.
My baldness pales by compare, but I hope that someone, somewhere, someday will know greater health because of my small step toward conquering cancer. I wish everyone, everywhere could know that health now, but that’s outside the power of any one individual. Real progress will be in the accumulation of all our small steps, one added to the other added to the other.
My steps were small, but in the right direction, and taken with arms linked through those of so many other steppers, each of whose steps take might different forms, but all of whose steps leads us toward a brighter world less full of needless loss.
It’s thinking of all those steps we’re taking together, with arms and hearts linked, that I leave Chicago not only bald, but blissfully bald.
- Read Karin’s account at My Tale of Baldness, Bliss, Magic, and Cheese Sandwiches.
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
Shannon (Mynewfavoriteday) spoke with such candor about the simultaneous grace and hardship in her life since becoming a mother, I was immediately drawn to not only her prose but to her.
When she asked some months later if she could interview me for her blog, I was delighted. Could she ever! I was excited to complete the interview, but even more excited when the interview unearthed a few similarities between us. It turned out Shannon and I were both (a) Oregon Ducks (b) living in SoCal after (c) each spending some time teaching in Japan. While I couldn’t really tell you if there’s such a thing as fate or if it led to our connecting, my heart frequently weights in with a hearty (get it? comic genius right here!), “You betcha!”
Shannon’s voice of gratitude, love and compassion brings light to the gloomiest of days, and yet she is also a vocal advocate for her children—and her readers. As you’ll see if you meander over to her page, which I sincerely hope you’ll do, her “About me” is in part about her well wishes for you.
Recommended post: Lost and Found on Hallowed Ground
My Blog Saved Our Family
‘Whenever someone sorrows, I do not say, “forget it,” or “it will pass,” or “it could be worse” — all of which deny the integrity of the painful experience. But I say, to the contrary, “It is worse than you may allow yourself to think. Delve into the depth. Stay with the feeling. Think of it as a precious source of knowledge and guidance. Then and only then will you be ready to face it and be transformed in the process.’
To say I had sorrows could not begin to describe the emotional place I was in in March of 2011.
As I sat on the couch with my legs crossed and my computer in my lap, my babies were on the floor. E in her baby chair with the oxygen tube delivering her the air she needed to survive with each breath while her monitor quietly registered her heart rate and oxygen levels with each beat of her pulse. Q happily rolling around on the floor knocking into seemingly every hard and potentially dangerous surface with his overly large head. My precious babies were now 18 months old from the day they were born, but because they had been born 3 terrifying months early, they were supposed to be developmentally around 15 months. Supposed to be.
It became clear after E came home after her 4 months in the NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit) that something was wrong. She wasn’t engaging, or looking at our faces. She wasn’t cooing or doing any of the things her brother was doing, or anything that any baby her age would be doing at any age over 20 days old. She was now 18 months old and virtually the same developmentally as a 2 month old.
I was crumbling into tiny little bits and pieces: one moment, one breath, one conversation at a time.
The resolve and strength I had been mustering and presenting to the world was only seconds from falling down around me. Everything was at stake. Our lives were at stake. I was no longer able to construct a future for us.
Like so many families, I, as mom, am the hub. And with 2 babies with medical and developmental challenges, I had been thrust into a world I had not imagined or planned for.
As a business professional, I am good in a crisis. Methodical. Rational. Practical. Resourceful. I can navigate systems and present my case to get my desired outcome.
I had been doing this in our personal life for 18 months and now it was all at risk.
I no longer really wanted to get out of bed. I wanted to stay there, with the babies. Just be with them. Shut the world out. Pretend. Pretend that for 5 minutes everything was “normal.” Not our “normal,” but “The What to Expect When You’re Expecting” normal. I wanted to pretend there were no wires or monitors. I didn’t want to talk about how they were doing, or what E’s prognosis would be, or have to make anyone feel better about our situation so that they wouldn’t worry.
I was consumed by worry but couldn’t show it and rarely spoke about it for fear of making it so.
At work I would cry, in the car I would cry, alone with the babies I would cry. I would never cry in front of anyone else; only when I was alone.
All around me people had regular babies. Happy, healthy babies. As those babies grew, they surpassed E in her own development. More cracks and tears into my façade.
I just wanted to hide.
So there I sat on the couch, hiding in our house with our precious babies but knowing I had to do something. I knew I needed therapy of some kind, but I couldn’t fathom sitting across from a therapist who had never sat in a hospital day after day as their children nearly died and came back to life on a semi-regular basis. So, a therapist was out but therapy of another kind quietly lurked at my fingertips.
From the time the babies were conceived through IVF, we had kept a journal for them. Thoughts, sentiments, pictures to show them just how happy we were they were coming to be and had come to our family. In the writing I had found some catharsis. Relief. As if air could fill my lungs can come out through the pen as it rolled across the paper.
Almost hauntingly my fingers started typing “blogging platforms.” And so it was. I would start a blog. It would be my therapy.
As I am optimistic by nature; my idea was to get back there. To pull myself out of the darkness that was enveloping me. The darkness would not beat me. My precious babies we here and alive and we would make it through. The simple gift of being here, in this world, fighting to survive, was enough to incent me to remember that each day can be and will be “mynewfavoriteday.”
And so 8 months later, “mynewfavoriteday” has become something greater than me.
It has set me free. Free to grieve, free to feel, free to speak, free to share, free to be supported, free to be me. To say my blog saved my life is not an exaggeration. It saved my life, as I know it. The positive, mostly happy, optimistic, compassionate, empathetic, hopeful, loving, and resilient, life as I know it. So today, in this great honor to guest post on TMiYC, I am grateful for my blog as it saved my life and the life of our family as we know it.
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