Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Art is Everything {Introducing Healing HeARTs}


I'm not sure that I came to art journaling in the usual fashion.  I didn't start with that deliciously freeing, fast and loose visual alternative to handwritten journaling that I hear my friends describing their introduction to art journaling as.  Instead, I used an art notebook of mixed media paper to learn how to paint faces.  I'd signed up for an online art class and needed to practice.  But painting on canvas felt too scary (and expensive), and loose paper annoyed me.


So art journaling it was.  I filled page after page of the art notebook with full-on paintings of women.  I painted for the distraction, to have something to think about other than a dark, dark time that I was enduring in my battle with an eating disorder.


But it wasn't long before I reaped more benefits from painting than mere distraction.  Instead, I found emotion pouring out of the end of my brush, and within a startlingly short amount of time, I was making major forward progress against the eating disorder -- something that I had literally given up hope for.


Painting became self-preservation, self-healing, self-care.  It filled me with purpose, a sense of an accomplishment, and joy.  I could lose myself in painting for hours and hours.  I had never experienced anything like it, and I will never stop being grateful for the powers and coincidences that brought art into my life.  It turned me back into a person at a time when I thought that living as a shell was the best I could expect, and continues to be a healing and illuminating force for me.


So when I heard about what my friend Anna is doing with her program Healing He[art]s, I was more than a little excited, and wanted to tell you about it . . .

www.annameadearts.com/healing-hearts.html
Healing He[art]s is a mechanism to put art supplies in the hands of women who are struggling. The vision is for women to give the gift of art to other women. Because we know that art heals. We have lived it, and we would like to pass along that encouragement to others.
Anna and her supporters are gathering art supplies in order to assemble and donate 144 art journaling kits this holiday season.  Each kit costs $25, and contains some basic supplies, such as paints, pens, papers, brushes, and, of course, a journal.  

I love the vision of this project, because I know the powerful healing effect that art can have.  You start painting, pretty sure this art thing is going to amount to a whole lot of nothing, and then all of sudden you find that you're painting your fractured soul back into wholeness for the first time in forever.  

If you'd like to donate to Healing He[art]s, you can do so here (major credit cards, Paypal, checks and money orders are accepted).  And stay updated with the kits' progress here.

www.annameadearts.com/healing-hearts.html

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Novembers {Life After Stillbirth, Three Years Later}


I keep waiting for it to get bad.

I mean, three years and one week ago, my baby died inside of me and my world shattered and I didn't think I'd survive the day, much less make it out of the dark places.

I never thought that Novembers would start being not-hard.

But then, there's still a week to go until my girl's third {still}birthday, so I guess anything could happen.  I don't want to speak too soon.  I don't want to jinx myself.

Still, based on previous Novembers, I expected to feel memory's cold fingers stealing over my shoulders, pressing, clenching until I could hardly breathe.

 

People keep asking me (thank you, thank you, thank you for remembering) how I'm doing.  And I have to shrug and say, not sure how it can be, that I think I'm doing okay, actually.

That truth sounds strange coming from my own tongue.  But that doesn't make me less grateful for it.

I guess I thought that, if I ever got to this place where November doesn't sting like it used to, I'd feel guilty.  That it would make me less of a mother to the daughter I never got to raise.

But I don't feel that way.  Mostly I just feel glad.  Maybe a little confused, and a bit nervous, afraid that November 20 is going to hit like a hurricane.  But aside from that, I'm glad.  Because even though I love her, I don't want to spend the rest of my life losing a month or more of my life each year in a black hole of grief's resurgence.  Not on top of the grief I've already traversed.  Not when I have so much life to see to.


Maybe it's just pregnancy hormones, protecting me somehow.  They do that with my depression, after all.  Somehow, though, I don't think that's it (although I guess we'll see next year, huh?).

And I hesitate to saw why things are different this year.  Maybe it's just the passing of time.  Maybe it's how deep into the darkness I let myself descend.  Maybe it's the art journaling, or the questioning and pondering, or the sea of tears my eyes have poured out over her name.  Maybe it's how grateful I am for the life she's given me -- I will never stop wishing she could have stayed, but treasure the many, many gifts she left for me with her absence.


I don't know.  I don't know.  I don't know.  

I don't know what next week will bring.
I don't know how I'll spend her day.

But I am glad. 

I am glad of her.  I am glad of the me she birthed with her death, the greatest paradox I have yet to know.  And I am glad of this calm and unexpected loveliness, three years later.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

We are Made For Changing

one of my poetry holiday ornaments -- find them all here, with new ones like this going up soon

I really don't know what brought it on.  Maybe it was the early morning dark, or the fact that I was still bleary from recent sleep.

But all of a sudden, it dawned in the dawning hour -- the next shifting.

Don't you know, we all shift in small ways and large throughout the day, month, year, and all years together?  Or we should (and not that icky, "do more, do better, rush rush rush" kind of should -- I mean the slow and nourishing and natural kind).

We are made for changing, not for staying the same.  Look out the door, the window.  See how the earth makes way for roots and greenery, how the trees blossom then turn skeletal, how the sun and stars and moon turn and turn, always turning.  Watch the snake shed her skin, the woman shed her bloody monthly lining, the child shed his baby teeth.

We are, all of us, made for changing, growing, shifting.

This morning, my next one came.  Or arrived.  Or began.

I had begun to think that it wouldn't.  That I was trapped in this sameness, and while it's not a bad place to be, you may have heard that we're made for changing.

Then, there it was, blooming wide in my heart and mind: I don't want to live that way any longer.  I can't. I have decided that I won't.

And that was it.  An end, a beginning, and the start of a new middle-ish place.  I can't say where this will bring me, only that I am glad.  Because I am made for changing.

I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it:


A declaration?  An anthem?  Maybe.  A fitting way for starting to bring my fearless year to a close?  Absolutely.

I've been wanting this for a while.  But I wasn't brave enough, wasn't quite ready.  I was too afraid of what -- who -- I might lose.  Until I saw that I lose those things, those people, anyway, because I guess people can sense when you're not being all of you, or that maybe you really weren't meant for each other anyway, not in this here and now, at least.

This time, I'm ready, I think (I hope).  I feel like I can't afford not to be.  We are made for changing, you know.

I can't, I won't keep asking permission for the things no other person has the power to permit or deny.  I refuse to keep asking if I'm allowed to be who I am, because I am.  You are.  It's allowed.  It's necessary. 

Just like that, the inner walls of stasis and stagnation begin to crumble.

Because we are made for changing and changing and changing, becoming ever more of who we truly are at the core.


Your turn: what are you asking permission for that perhaps you don't need to be?  What's one think you'd like to try on in order to become more fully and authentically you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When Forwards Feels Backwards {On Depression, Pregnancy, & Other Things}


This summer was hard.  Hard.

It shouldn't have been.  Everything lined up.  My son was napping regularly and sleeping well, not to mention continuing to exponentially grow in cuteness daily.  I had time for creating -- lots of time, in fact.  I traveled -- alone! -- to a writing retreat and got to meet some of my dearest kindreds.  The weather wasn't too oppressively hot, much to my relief.  I was in good physical shape, doing dance workouts that fed my soul as well as tended my body.

It should have been a glorious summer.

But it wasn't.  It was hard.  Damn hard.

* * *

In June, I stopped taking my depression medication (under medical supervision).  At first, everything was okay.  Great, even.  But then my eyes started leaking all. the. time.  And then I got tired.  Really tired.  And soon after that, the iconic what's-the-point's set in.

And the summer that should have, could have been wonderful felt like a forced march with no known destination. 

Most of all, creating was hard.  Sitting down to write or paint felt like an exercise in self-hatred.  It got to the point where I had to either step away or risk losing my love for these outlets entirely -- not to mention launching myself deeper into depression, and possibly back into eating disorder land.  This has happened before, and it's not an ordeal I care to repeat.

So I did.  I pulled back.  I spent more time at home, focused on snuggling my sweet son, and waited for fall.  Because surely the cool spice-scented air of fall would bring the refreshment and soul-growing it always seems to.



But it didn't.  And then I became pregnant.  It was (is) a planned and wanted pregnancy, but oh those first trimester hormones had me reeling more than I already was.

Now, though . . . now, I slowly feel myself coming back to my self.  There's something about pregnancy that, as the second trimester draws near, protects me from depression.  It's happened in my two previous pregnancies and, thankfully, seems to be happening again.  I'm finding some words, finding some energy, some much longed for want to.  And that is very good.

* * *

But.

I look at this year that I called my fearless year, of all things, and only about one third of it so far feels fearless.  The first part of the year, I pushed every envelope I could get my hands on, challenged myself and my thinking, tried on new practices and ditched old ones, and set so many things alight in the renewing fires of needed destruction.

This summer, though?  I existed. And maybe, when depression comes back on the scene, maybe that's enough.  Maybe that's fearless.

But what it feels like is backwards movement.  Like I lost all the ground I'd taken.  Even writing these words, a thing that used to feel fluid and effortless, feels odd, awkward.


For the last year or so, I felt like I was in the midst of a battalion of lioness women charging up a mountain toward its pinnacle of freedom and authenticity and love and enough.  And now, it seems like all of those women are [awesomely!] continuing onward and upward, while I'm trying to extricate myself from a mud hole somewhere around halfway -- or worse, slipping back down in slide of scree.

And it's scary.  I wonder if I'll ever reach that peak.

* * *

But then I wonder -- maybe it's not about reaching the peak.  Maybe this isn't the peak that I'm supposed to be sweating and loving myself toward.

Maybe I'm supposed to be climbing another mountain entirely.

* * *


It's a funny thing about pregnancy -- that while it is a very real and literal growing, there's also an internal stripping away.  

It was most stark and obvious in my first pregnancy, which ended in an excruciating and incredible life-altering stillbirth, but happened with my second, too.  I came home with a beautiful baby boy tucked against my breast -- and a sense of my soul tearing away from itself and morphing into something new.

I already feel it happening this time around, and this time instead of being scared of it or flailing against it, I am trying to allow.  

Because maybe at the end of this pregnancy, I'll know if indie-publishing-mama truly is the present incarnation of my soul goals, or if I should be looking at some other work.  Maybe I'll have a clearer picture of who I am, and how I want to be that glorious woman.

Maybe I'll find the mountain I'm meant to climb.

* * *

That doesn't mean that depression will never rear it's ugly head again, of course.  But I've learned (the harder way) that I need medication to help me fight this very real disease, and that that's okay.  That my life, my mothering, my creativity, my courage, my everything are better when I'm getting the help I need.  

There is no shame in this.  I already knew that, but I was stubborn, didn't want to rely on what might be a crutch.  

But when you have a broken leg, you need a crutch.  And sometimes, when you have depression, you need medicine.


And while part of me hopes that when I start taking my medication again sometime after this pregnancy ends I will find myself back among the lionesses, growling and purring and climbing together, I have a suspicion that I very well might not.  That this part of my journey is perhaps more intimate, more solitary.

* * *

There's no good way to end this post, of course.  I'm still here, twelve weeks pregnant, incubating both this child's new life and my own, wondering.  I am wiggling my toes in the mud and keeping my eyes open for the next signpost to show itself to me on this odd and winding path.




It's a little early to be thinking holiday shopping, but holiday shipping is not to be toyed with, so make sure you order your Epiphany Art Studio holiday gifts by the end of November to guarantee delivery by Christmas!  Check out these yummy one-of-a-kind handmade poetry ornaments.  And don't forget my fabulous art originals, fine art prints, and the sale section! I'm also still offering signed copies of my sassy love story for people who don't like love stories, The Light Between Us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why, Hello There! Or, Where I've Been . . .


Well, it's been quite silent here, hasn't it?  And while I try to give myself both space and grace to be okay with not-writing, it makes me sad to not connect with you for so long.

So, let's start off with what life's been looking like in my corner of the world, shall we?

We've had birthdays (as cliche as it is, I cannot believe that our not-so-little guy is growing up so fast!) . . .


. . . gotten our annual family pictures taken (I love this tradition of documenting our lives and how we've grown and changed both as individuals and a family) . . .


. . . and gotten pregnant (do you like how I just slipped that one in there? sneaky sneaky). 


Check out my epic eight week belly from a couple of weeks ago.  I mean, come on.  What is in there?  It's like all my innards decided to unite to make space for our new tiny, tiny one.  But I love having a pregnant belly, so it works out quite well.  Although this time around I'm experiencing much more all-day nausea, so that's not as fun.  But I am determined to enjoy this pregnancy, and will try to leave my anxieties aside.  So far, so good . . .


We've been enjoying beautiful fall, although it's been unseasonably warm.  I'm ready for some crisp sweater weather!  Autumn is my absolute favorite season:



It was also my pleasure to be involved in the creation of my city's first ever October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness remembrance event.  It was a sacred, special time, joining the international wave of light with our own candle-lighting:



And as if that all wasn't enough, I've returned to my novel-in-progress:


As you may remember, since just before the release of my first indie novel, The Light Between Us ($0.99 on Kindle, FYI!), I've been working on a second novel.  This one is more ambitious and complicated, a sort of urban fantasy inspired by Celtic mythology.  And -- writing it ran my heart into the ground.  The story stopped making sense or having any sort of direction.  My depression returned with a vengeance, and sitting down to write felt like an exercise in self-hatred.

So I walked away.  To save my sanity, I walked away.  Put the book aside, even though I'd invested a great deal of time into it and had written over 60,000 words on it.  Showing up, doing it anyway, and faking it 'til I made it weren't helping, so I rested.  And got pregnant, and therefore rested some more.

But recently (perhaps inspired by my dear friend as she prepares to launch her own book into the world soon), I felt the novel calling.  So I've come back to it, with more than a little trepidation, and have s l o w l y begun laying down words again.

I seem to have found the ends of at least of the couple of threads winding their way through the story and I think I know where it's all going now.  And, best of all, I believe that I can finish, and that it will be an enjoyable tale -- whereas before I thought I'd never be able to figure it out, and even if I did, it was all totally tripe anyway. 

I suppose you could say I've found some confidence again.  Or (or perhaps and) that wonderful blend of egotism and fatalism that seems to protect every working writer -- the simultaneous beliefs that the story is wonderful and will be read and enjoyed, encouraging the writer, and also that no one will read it, therefore freeing the writer from fear of criticism.


But that still leaves the blog.  Because I'm not sure what's going on here in this space anymore.

For the longest time, this blog has been a place for me to process.  First through my eating disorder, then my Eve girl's stillbirth, and most recently through my faith thrashings.  But now, I feel that I've come to a good measure of healing in all these areas, and the words that needed to be expressed on these topics are no longer pressing up against my soul, begging to be loosed.

So what to write about?  What is there for me to say?

I don't know.  But I do feel that this blog is going to change slightly, to accommodate my inner changes.  I no longer seem to be "writing through the dark," as this blog's subtitle was for the past year or so, but have written my way into some sort of freedom.

So keep your eyes on this space as once again I/we change and shift and grow.  Into what, I have no idea.  But finding out will be quite a wonderful adventure.

Over to you -- what's been going on in your life these days, my dear blog friends?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas {Cover Reveal!}

So. It's been a little while hasn't it, dear blog reader? And perhaps it seems to return (maybe?) from my writing sojourn with a post about someone else's book. But I don't think it's lame at all, because this book is one I've been watching gestating many months now, growing at the fingertips of a dear, dear friend.  

Let me introduce a fairytale -- no, fairy epic: Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas.  I have had the opportunity to beta reader this story, and it is just yummy, stuffed with myth, adventure, war, love, allegory, and a helluva lot of beauty.  Absolutely fantastic for an author's debut!  Portals will release December 1, and today, it is available for preorder on Amazon, and is just $0.99 for Kindle Eeee!!!  

Want to know more?  Read on for an exclusive synopsis and the dish on its kick-ass author, not to mention how to get in on the Portals online release party . . .


The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore. They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.
The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him, but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.


R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at dramaticelegance.blogspot.com.




Portals of Water and Wine releases Dec. 1. Preorder it now on Amazon, and add it to your "want to read" list on Goodreads. And don't forget to RSVP to the book release party!


Photo credit: Cover design by Megan Mahen of Megan Mahen Illustrations. Author photo by Jennifer Upton of Photography by Jennifer Upton.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Somewhere Between Water and Sky {A Book Launch + Giveaway!}

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.

Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.

And every single one of my tears could fill a book.

But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.

Kevin.

This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.

Waiting leaves room for the voices.

Somewhere between water and sky, I'll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.


Writing a book is really hard.  Like, really hard.  The combination of blind hope, precision, and sheer guts that it takes to not only write but release a book is insane, and awesome, and calls up all sorts of exhilaration and terror (the good kind) within me.

So when someone I know does it, launches a book out into this wide world, I'm going to say something.  And today, Elora Ramirez releases her latest book, Somewhere Between Water and Sky (that's what the above gorgeous words are from).  This is the sequel to her premiere novel which came out last year, which I also highly recommend.  I haven't gotten to read SBWaS yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  I know Elora from her online writing community, The Story Unfolding, and without her and the wonderful women I met there, my own book would never have happened.  So . . . thank you, and congrats, Elora!

And -- Elora is giving away a coaching session and an Amazon giftcard!  You can enter here, and following are links to where you can purchase a copy (psst: it's $0.99 on Kindle!), and to more of Elora's creations.

Grab a copy:

Elora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space--including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she's grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband's lavender liqueur. 


http://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Between-Water-Elora-Ramirez-ebook/dp/B00MR3Z62A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410403770&sr=8-1&keywords=Somewhere+Between+Water+and+Sky