Life, Death, and Gratitude -ROW Update #6

If you enjoy this post, and are so inclined, please leave something you are grateful for in the comments…I love knowing the little things that delight others.

Excerpt from July 25, 2012 75 Words entry…

I have been gearing up to write the flash fiction versions of the points for my Blood and Breath story arc. These will, I hope, form the basis for each chapter, with a built in sense of urgency due to their beginnings.

But today is July 25, and July 25 marks the end of Elijah’s Days.…the 12 days that encompassed the entire lifetime of our second child.

I have been living twice, at once, today. I am in the here and now – and I have sunk simultaneously nine years back in time, to the day in 2003 when our baby boy died….peacefully, without fanfare, simply slipping away forever beyond our reach….where we knew his soul had already gone….

A Pegacorn curled in her egg….

Today, here, live a girl who just turned 8 (a mere five days before Elijah’s Days commenced), a man who nearly died on the eve of his last birthday when a deer collided with his motorcycle, a boy who will be 11 in a bit more that five weeks, who was only 22 months old when his brother came and left so quickly, and who still carries his own memories of that time.

And me. In four days, I will be 43 years old.

My own day of birth is so close to my son’s day of death, that the two are inextricably linked in my soul; just as Annalise’s birthday, five days short of a year after that of the brother she never met, will always be inextricably bound up with his birth, and death….

If Elijah had lived, there would be no Annalise.

It’s been 8 years since she got here – and she is hugely here. She is a robust girl, interested in nature and genetics and anatomy and storytelling and fashion and horses and art…and a great many other things, as well…..

She is so very here, it’s hard to imagine a world or a life without her.

We would not be who we are, as a family.

I would not be who I am, as a parent….

Or as a woman.

There is a part of me that needed a daughter. Maybe always, maybe only after the traumatic experience of loving and letting go….of a newborn.

There is something in me that only awoke after I was the mother of a daughter….a part of me neither Jeremiah nor Jim have ever needed.

I think it’s the root of my femaleness, and hers; a way of embracing it, championing it, protecting it – without acting as though femaleness is superior to maleness.

Because, of course, it isn’t.

But neither is it worse…..

I have learned to let go of many many things since Elijah died, and I had little choice but to let him go, to let go too of the fantasy of a perfect and complete family…

As we were, three years ago….

We are a complete family, and yet we are not.

There is this fracture… the eight ribs that Jim fractured when he collided with the hard surface of the road, 100 feet from where he had been…

We’ve healed….we are healing, over and over, and yet that break remains.

A life was severed from us, and all the possibilities that life held.

Elijah lived only 12 days. The entirety of that life was spent in St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, NY. Most of that time was spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

There aren’t many memories to console ourselves with, to hang tightly to and treasure….

And maybe that’s a blessing. Maybe, in some sense, it is what forced us not to remain there, remembering and grieving, but to reach into our future, to remake our family, to remake our lives…

I have said, but seldom had it understood, that Elijah is the impetus behind our unschooling, although it was another five years before we even began to move in this direction.

Sadly, and perhaps unavoidably, considering where we began, we needed to live through several more years of controlling and forcing and punishing…..and those too-frequent outbursts of rage, directed at my children, that were the inheritance of my own childhood, by nurture and nature….

But, where I had accepted, before Elijah, that I needed to be in control in order to be a good parent, his death plunged me into a deeper place. I began to wonder why so much of mainstream parenting was about manipulating children to suit the adults “in charge”, and to wonder how this might tie in to people who see nothing wrong, as adults, in doing to their children the same things they KNEW were unfair, when they themselves were children.

Tiny Tiger, age 8 days.

I began to question…how does love laced with pain affect people? Are the people we call adults infallible? Are they always grown? Is surviving childhood enough? If my remaining children died tomorrow, what regrets would I have?

And those questions began to lead to a new and gentler way of being…..I am still learning, and growing….

And so, in some odd sense, so is Elijah….

 And now, for my ROW80 goals….

WIP Novels:

Trueborn Series

  • Trueborn:
  • Reread current rough drafts from 1998-9ish and 2000.
  • I am currently on Chapter Forty-Nine, page 196 of 240, still jotting notes and impressions as I reread.
  • Triage existing research.
  • I have begun moving the raw research to my work space, which I will be sharing with Jeremiah as he moves through his testing process. We’ll see if that means I wait to sort until later, or if we can work side-by side…
  • Blood and Breath:
  • Create a flash fiction piece for each story arc point.
  • I attempted to write the first flash fiction piece, and had trouble finding my opening point.
  • Instead, I wrote some sketchy backstory and plot elements. A few pieces that had not quite fit fell softly into place, and,when I begin to write again, I think I will find it far easier and truer.
  • Use Scrivener to compile into a pre-rough draft.
  • I am going to change this goal slightly. I like Scrivener, but, on more than one occasion, some of my files (files I know I saved) are not available to me, later.
  • I am therefore going to experiment with another program I have learned of, yWriter. It’s free, so I will explore it for this novel, and keep using Scrivener for Chameleon’s Dish, at least for now.
  • Chameleon’s Dish:
  • Finish inputting into Scrivener ( completed during break).
  • I did finish this – but fifteen chapters seem to have gone missing. I will be reinputting them as I edit them, and, if Scrivener loses them after that, I will stop using it.
  • Complete basic research based upon library books and websites; looking for information to enhance later digging and prevent hugely obvious gaffes).
  • My research reading has been going well.
  • Hamlet and Shakespeare: His Work and His World have been completed.
  • I am on page 120 of 128 in The Colonial Cookbook, and may copy several recipes to try later – tactile research, you might say, or fertile play.
  • I am on page 80 of 252 of Shakespeare’s England. I am reading for impressions rather than note-taking.
  • Experiment with removing Tisira’s story as a YA novel, with a potential optional add-on of the fanfic elements….not sure how this will work, exactly, but I think it might be the best approach to have something marketable without sacrificing my vision.
  • I think I have at least the beginnings of an idea on how to separate the stories, without losing the flavor of either, or of both, together.
  • I have begun, in a tiny way, to explore this, while re-inputting and editing the first scene, which involves only Tisira.
Jeremiah made himself three kinds of eggs!

Homeschool Administration Ad Infinitum….:

  • Standardized Test for Miah (due Sept.1).
  • On Tuesday, Jeremiah and I had a mom/son date, and bought his pencils and an electric pencil sharpener with a cord,
  • When we got home, Jeremiah set up his work area in my office…we will share the space so that he has a dedicated place to do the testing.
  • Wednesday evening, I ordered the PASS test – it is specifically designed for homeschoolers not familiar with taking tests, and will fit into our lives rather than causing stressful disruptions in it.
  • The test should be here by midweek next week. We have four weeks to complete it, so I am thinking we will start slowly, unless Miah wants to dive in.
  • IHIPs for both children (due four weeks after receipt of packet from school district).
  • The rough drafts of both IHIPs are completed.
  • I plan to let them rest while I return to the fourth quarter reports, and return to them when I finish the report drafts or want a break from them.
  • Begin setting up portfolios for both children – invite them to be a part of this process! =)
  • I took a few more photos, and sorted a bit more art for this project.
  • Relax, enjoy, learn, grow, laugh, and … BREATHE!
  • Check. Jeremiah and I enjoyed shopping together, doing a half-mile on the track at the Y (we had been planning on t’ai chi, but he wasn’t up to the newness of it, and I was a bit concerned about my knees. We had lunch at Bruegger’s, and thoroughly enjoyed our time.
  • Meanwhile, Jim took Annalise to my parents’ house, because my mother had stopped on the way home to tell Annalise she had a gift for her. They also enjoyed watching ChoBits together.
  • Both children are growing – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This has created some turbulence and disequilibrium, which seem to have coincided with Elijah’s Days, and the ebb in my energy cycle….
  • We’re all doing what we can to ride the waves with as little soaking as possible, and this does seem to be a less threatening degree of turbulence than we’ve had before…
  • Last week’s creative torrents have slipped into this week’s mellower, more sedentary pastimes…but Miah cleaned the guinea’s cage and learned to use a compass (the kind for making circles; he already knew how to read a compass), while Annalise detangled her own hair, and took a solo road walk. There’s been reading, TV, and gaming – and lots and lots of connection and flowing conversation….and we are finalizing plans for their birthday party! =)
Pegacorn hatching…..


  • Continue reading books for Bookmark Break Challenge – aim for 7 in July, 8 in August, and 9 in September, but these targets will be flexible – summer is prime traveling time for the kids and I and we have things planned and others we’re considering.
  • I have decided to let go of the official challenge, but not the reading. I will just set my own parameters, and read what delights me.
  • I am at peace with this decision, and I am grateful the Challenge was there to get me reading.
  • Guerrilla Learning Completed.
  • The Mermaid Chair – Completed.
  • Container Gardening – page 120 of 256.
  • Shakespeare’s England – page 80 of 252.
  • Since I have decided to drop the challenge, I can count The Colonial Cookbook (cookbooks weren’t allowed in the challenge). I am on page 120 of 128.
  • I have completed 3 of 7 books for this month.
  • Read at least one book each month from my Kindle Cloud Reader, as a learning and experimenting process.
  • I am continuing on with The Digital Writer’s Guide to Blogging. I have completed 64% of this book.

Other Writing:

  • Play with flash fiction pieces as the mood strikes; aim for two submittable stories each month.
  • I played a bit more with my prologue scene (not sure it hasn’t left flash territory, though), and with the opening point for the Blood and Breath story arc, although I didn’t complete anything.
  • Play with essay ideas as desired; aim for three submittable essays each month.
  • I have written a few things in 750 Words that may eventually become essays.
  • I am still composting ideas, but I feel them bubbling up to the surface; stronger now, almost a boil…and they are winding their way into my fiction planning, too….
  • Use 750 Words for whatever – flash pieces, essays, venting, ranting, reports, book reviews, etc.
  • I played more with my prologue scene.
  • I made two exploratory efforts at Blood and Breath flash fiction.
  • Those attempts led to story stuff; and I have a deeper sense of the story than I did.
  • I wrote the beginning and ending passages for my last update.
  • I wrote a bit of a tribute to Elijah, on the anniversary of his death.
A future short order breakfast cook, perhaps?
  • Organizing/Tootling my Horn…
  • Choose a new notebook; input into Penzu.
  • Jeremiah chose my October/November 1999 Writing Practice Notebook.
  • I am on page 3 of 140.
  • Continue reading marketing and ebook publishing sites and articles.
  • I am in the midst of a marketing ebook (see above).
  • Draft a loose Mission Statement to guide me through the rest of the ROWnd, and carry me forward into the next.
  • More of this is surfacing from my deeps; I think I will be writing soon! =)
  • Set aside time each week to winnow email. Read items being saved for later reading, sort or dispose as indicated.
  • My Inbox is a bit full, right now, as I have been tending to other things and not reading much from there. But it is my intention to keep it under 50 messages, and there are still more businesses and sites I will be unsubscribing from as I fine-tune this tool.
  • Be bold and daring in commenting, sharing, and submitting. Declare myself, learn, grow, and sometimes do things that make me uncomfortable. Open and blossom!
  • Like so many of the other things here….I feel it coming, a grand upswell of daring and adventure. I don’t know yet what forms it will take, but I know that it will come, and I am quietly setting myself to flow into it when it arrives…
Pegacorn, hatched and celebrating life!

Celebrating Life!

  • Add some form of specific motion (t’ai chi, swimming, hiking, biking, skating, dancing, etc) to each week. Keep track of what, where, when, for how long, and how I felt during and after.
  • Monday was shopping with Miah, and walking and a bit of very light jogging on the Y track. It totaled half a mile, and, while my right knee caught several times, it was never the intensely painful locking it has been doing since May. I am looking forward to more time at the Y, hopefully helping the knee to recuperate.
  • I have done hometending and some weeding, and just a tiny bit of dancing.
  • Fill us all up with joy, and continue cultivating family peace.
  • I have been in an ebb phase, more inclined to quietness than exuberance. Still, the kids seem to be in a similar, hibernating place this week, so maybe that is the best energy to be having, right now.
  • The children have discovered that, if neither parent intervenes in their disputes, they can often work them out or just forget them. This has led to somewhat more conflict, but definitely more that they are resolving on their own, There is growth and deeper peace for us all in this, although it may take some time for both to equalize and absorb the new skills they are learning.
  • Spend time cleaning and beautifying my personal internal and external spaces each week.
  • I have worked some in my own room, and a little in my office.
  • I have gone deeper and more quietly into myself over the last days, as new things brew within me…
  • Embrace and be present in all my moments.
  • I am continuing to strive toward this goal, and I am seeing more grace, beauty, and sweetness in life…
  • Allow my emotions to be as they are. Practice expressing them calmly and reflectively.
  • The last few days have been calm and reflective for me in their nature. I am learning.
  • Tend kindly and sweetly to myself and others. =)
  • I have felt very tired, and maybe not as sweet as I might be. I am trying to make up for that when I can, and with the gift of my time and attention.

Annalise, then 5: Cameron, 9, and Jeremiah , 8.

So, it’s the day after the end of Elijah’s Days. The kids are in the midst of a South Park and Ruby Gloom session on Netflix.

I am bouncing between hometending, party organization, and reading, and writing.

The storms that were threatened…serious ones, with chances for tornadoes (not frequent, here, and we do not have a basement), have not yet arrived, although the hour or two before dark became progressively darker.

I am hugely pregnant with ideas and epiphanies, and, soon, I think, they will begin to break over me in crashing waves.

Annalise has an extremely wobbly top front tooth. Her milk teeth do not give up easily. The permanent tooth below is shoving it so far down and forward that we took to calling it Crazy Tooth two weeks ago.

We talked about the meanings of “imminent”, and “black market”, and Annalise and I discussed indexes, life in Shakespeare’s time, and colonial cooking.

We’ve discussed, the children and I, their guest list, party activities, and menu. The party will be next weekend, halfway between their birthdays, at an indoor play space they love, but which is a bit pricey to get to often.

When we come home, we will have my 12 year-old nephew, Cameron, who goes to school but wishes he didn’t, and who adds a “big brother figure” to our mix.

Ready for their close-ups!

Cam always wants to go to the state museum, and to the Y to swim. We’ve included him in other trips – to a local haunted house, to the neighborhood Aerosciences Museum, to our unschooling co-op, and to CMOST, which has a digital planetarium he loved.

Life will be swirly and maybe somewhat hectic, but largely in a good way…

So, just now, I am enjoying the lull…the quiet space of days between now and Sunday, when my own birthday will mark the figurative end of our July roller-coaster, and we begin moving outward into the world and bringing the world back in with us.

The lull before what is within me, building and growing, breaks wide open, and there is no cure for it but to write, and learn myself, and become, in the process, deeper and wider, so that there is always more awaiting its time to break loose, and more to be explored.

Hot , rumpled, and happy in Plymouth, MA, 2010

I am wrapped in a quiet type of gratitude –

  • for ebbs and flows,
  • for the taste of frozen grapes,
  • for Jeremiah making three types of eggs (sunny side up, over easy, and scrambled), just because he wanted to.
  • For the Pegafil (that’s a Pegacorn filly, of course – and a Pegacorn is a winged unicorn) who hatched in my backyard and asked me if I would own her.
  • For the many animals Lise sees in the clouds, and the tree that looks like a cascading firework.
  • For the fact that Jim took the car, and will be home before too long.
  • For the messy chaos of our lives, and the sweetness.
  • For all three of my children – the gloriously living, and the long-dead, who still lives on in my soul and makes me better.
  • For a dog who looks at me adoringly, and greets me each morning, shoving his nose up under my hands if I stop scratching his head too soon.
  • For the sound of guinea pigs purring.
  • For the sight of Margot the Manx out hunting at the edge of the brush that borders our yard, and the way she startles into perfect attentiveness when a young and foolish rabbit hops too close – but does not give chase.
  • For how she and the rabbit share a certain quality of shape and movement.
  • For a mind that stretches and a soul that delves, and the time for stretching and delving to unfold as they will.
  • For nights I stay up until past dawn, and mornings I wake to a peaceful and happy family who so often let me sleep.
  • For hot sweet coffee various people in this house are willing to bring me, because, while I love to drink it, I don’t love preparing it.
  • For good books that weave poignant stories, that engage my soul, and leave me weeping at dawn – silently, so I don’t wake the best friend softly snoring beside me….
  • For my chosen family, so far-flung, but so very much a part of my living.
  • For the growth of compassion, and the beginnings of being able to set to words something that I have longed and needed to say, but which must be said well, else not at all…
  • For the understanding that we each bring our own perceptions to the table, even when we don’t know it…
  • And for the much-needed, rejuvenating rain that has lately fallen on our parched little bit of earth….
  • And for all of you, reading this……
The Sweet Life! Annalise, 4, and Jeremiah, 7, after a trip to the New York State Museum.

One comment

  1. I’m in an ebbing state at the present myself… Pregnant with thoughts and ideas and so much more. I love that image.

    Many things to think about and consider, but so much unconsidered. I won’t dwell on whether you wish help with Scrivener. I am sure your files are there somewhere, but I would have to see the machine to fix that. There will be a day someday. And if YWriter ends up working better for you, that’s fine too (though, you may wish to let Lee and the team at Literature and Latte know about the problem–they’re a small office of five programers who are trying to make a great product and they would want to know so they can prevent problems from happening to other people… just oddly seems apropos after reading about Elijah Days and helping others through personal loss… though stated with consideration after the reading of your post on Henrietta Lacks)

    Back to an ebb.. with gentle thoughts, with love and patience… those always flow.

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