Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Power of Story by Cynthia Lee

art and images by Cynthia Lee
{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

So far, 2015 has been a year of intentional wandering as I have chosen to push pause on the external voices that I had allowed to guide me in the past. Though I honor the good that has been brought into my life via the words of kindred spirits, I felt that it was time to be my own guide, to listen to my own wisdom, to find my way in the world.

I thought this year would brings huge adventures as I carved out time for myself. It's not to say that life has been boring but it certainly has felt more aimless than I intended. There is something missing. It feels as though I have forgotten something. At times I have longed to go back to my guides, to being led ever so gently, to whispers of, this might be a good way.

These words were gifted to me today: I just don't believe in the system anymore.

Yes. yes. I stopped believing in systems a long time ago.

Long before I rejected the school system for my own children, I identified the farce it was in my own life. I may have played along but I knew full well it was all a game to play. It wasn't real. I didn't need the classroom, the tests, and grades to motivate my learning. I was and am insatiably curious.

After years of playing a role in the perpetuation of thin belief, words began to echo in my mind as I marched in and out of the church building each Sunday: there has to be more to it than this. Thus began the unraveling of another system. I was tired of pouring energy into the facade of community, of family, of support. The empty promises piled up around me and became the staircase of rubble that I used to climb out. The people of God let me down long before the word of God became a fairytale I could no longer believe in.

Systems exist everywhere. A quick internet search will find articles, books, and workshops for blogging, painting, internet marketing, journaling, home management, parenting, clean eating, fitness, meditation. You name it and someone is offering a system for it.

Call me jaded but I just don't believe in it.

What do I believe in?

Ah. Here is the missing piece. Here is what I forgot as I took off on my own.

I believe in the power of story.

This statement came about a while ago after purposefully considering what beliefs I had left behind and what I was left with. I knew that I believed in beauty, in truth, in authentic experience, in good overcoming evil and when I considered where I encountered such things, it was in the act of story. Whether in a book, movie, musical, play, song, dance performance, or in the shared conversation over a cup of coffee, I love story. I believe that story has the power to change lives for better and for worse. I want to be a storyteller and a story holder. I want to speak and I want to listen. Most of all, I want to allow story to move through me in expression.

So this is what has been missing this year while out wandering the wilds of my soul. I have forgotten to tell my story. I may have even forgotten how to tell my story. I might have let myself believe that it wasn't important or that it was self serving. Already, it felt selfish to be focusing so intently upon my own soul journey. I have been conditioned to serve the journeys of others as my primary and most important work. It was a real struggle to say aloud, "I cannot give to you right now." Yet, these are words that I had to say, that I still have to hold onto.

Today, half-way through the year, I am reminding myself that this story is important and my words are important. If I don't tell my story, someone else will tell it for me.

As important as it is to take this journey, it is as equally important to record it, to speak it, to give voice to the getting lost and being found. I begin today. 

Cynthia Lee is an artist, thinker, feminist, unschooler, reader, storyteller, story-listener, mother soul, wife and lover, and spirit uncaged.  Follow her on Instagram.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Painting & Its Story by Deana Ruston

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

Several months ago I purchased this painting from Beth. She’s been a friend for a few years and this painting spoke to me. I just had to have it. 

My grandfather passed away in my first year of college and that led me to study grief and bereavement counseling. I was born at 25 weeks' gestation and knowing what could’ve been for my family and my life I began to have an interest in helping families who are experiencing pregnancy and infant loss. 

The moment I saw this painting it spoke to me. I needed it. 

To me the painting symbolizes the rainbow baby growing inside a mama who has experienced pregnancy and infant loss. One in four mothers experience pregnancy and infant loss- this can be through miscarriage (a baby born before 20 weeks gestation), stillbirth (a baby born not alive after 20 weeks gestation), preterm birth (a baby born before 37 weeks gestation) or infant death. 

A rainbow baby is a baby born following the death of a child. They are a referred to as a “rainbow baby” because they are the rainbow that appears after the storm (loss) of the baby. While they never replace the child that died, they are something special in the midst of sorrow. 

With my interest in pregnancy and infant loss, and desire to help these families, this painting brings me inspiration to continue the work I do. I am honored to walk along side these families as they journey through their sadness, fear and sorrow. Having a rainbow baby brings along with it anxiety and doubt that baby will be healthy. It is an experience like no other- in a time which should be filled with waiting and excitement is now painted with fear and worry. 

A few weeks ago, I took the painting to get custom framed at my local Michael’s craft store. A young woman about mid to late 20’s assisted me in finding the perfect frame. As I was in the process of choosing a frame I asked if she wanted to know the story behind the painting. She said she would love to. I told her that my friend Beth had painted it. Beth is a mother who experienced pregnancy and infant loss when her daughter Eve was born still. When I purchased the painting Beth was pregnant with her rainbow baby. I explained what a rainbow baby was and said that I am a grief and bereavement counseling student and that I work with families experiencing pregnancy and infant loss. She said that the story of the painting was so lovely. 

As I paid for my order, she paused and said ‘you probably hear a lot of people’s personal stories -- but I had a rainbow baby too.” Tears rolled down her face as she told me this and I asked if I could give her a hug. I told her that her babies are loved and remembered. 

This single moment I shared with her brought me inspiration, hope, love and a multitude of other emotions. It was such a special time -- one I will cherish forever. 

It also taught me that you never know where and how you will impact someone’s life. Everything makes a difference -- make it a positive one. It also reminds me that pregnancy and infant loss touches the lives of everyone -- even if  you don’t know it. 

As I picked up my painting this week the same woman was working.  As soon as I approached the counter, she said she remembered me and my special painting.  I smiled and thanked her.

Deana Ruston, a 23 year old from London, Ontario, Canada (about 2 hours from Toronto), studies grief and bereavement counselling at King's University College at Western University. She has an interest in pregnancy and infant loss, loves to bake, cook and volunteer. Born at 25 weeks gestation, she identifies as a fighter. She won't back down. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Beautiful Mystery of the Creatrix by Dejah Beauchamp

image by Rafael Edwards via Creative Commons

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

I don’t know why the word creatrix isn’t used more often. I think it’s a beautiful word for a woman.

A creatrix has a rich and fulfilling life, full of varied encounters and adventures. She can’t be molded, branded, or truly known. There’s always a bit of mystery about her. Her most important aspect? She creates, of course. She makes things. They can be physical things, or metaphysical things, or things for which we don’t even have a word yet.

Who are these creatrices? Me. You.

If you’ve gotten your hands messy in paint, clay, mud, dug deep into your Self and sparked something true and vital...

If you’ve thought something brilliant and then worked to bring that thought to fruition...

If you’re a mother, if you’ve called forth little parts of your flesh and soul into beautiful being...

If you’ve ever sung, quietly or loudly, hummed a tune, written a poem, written a word...

If you’ve ever spoken up for someone, stood up for what’s good in this world, fashioned a moment of truthfulness...

See? You’re a creatrix too.

I use creatrix as my own “inner” description of myself. I came upon the word when I was going through a deep depression, questioning my role as a woman, as an individual, as a human being. I was desperately trying to figure out my place in the world. I thought I was too old to have an identity crisis (I mean, shouldn’t I have my shit together by now?).

None of the labels I’d given myself really seemed to fit me anymore. Nothing described me completely. Wife, mother—those words can often come with baggage that dims our true being, puts us in a nice socially acceptable, pre-defined box. Even when I found my writing voice and realized Yes, this is it! I was still unsure about calling myself a writer.

But creatrix...that’s a powerful word. An embraceable word. There’s something about choosing a new word to describe yourself that causes a beneficial shift in your psyche.

When I began to think of myself as a creative force, unlimited and open to everything, I really felt alive.

My writing benefited because I was no longer hindered by a constant inner critic, or worries about what other people might think of me if I wrote honestly. My relationships benefited because I was able to speak from an authentic place. Isn’t that what we’re all striving for? To live authentically, honestly, to speak up for ourselves, and to create beauty?

So, not creator: creatrix. I’m reclaiming the feminine ending for this one (I’m a sucker for fancy Latin words).

Are you a creatrix too? What is it that you love to create?

Dejah Beauchamp doesn't know the answer to anything, but she's perfectly content to wander aimlessly through life with the hope that she'll end up in the right place. She has written for elephant journal, Be You Media Group, and The Tattooed Buddha, and has had poetry published in Pilgrimage Magazine and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. She lives in New England, raising two sons and writing about all kinds of things on her blog. You can also connect with Dejah on Facebook, or Twitter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I'm Not Sad by Deana Ruston
image by Geoffrey Fairchild via a Creative Commons license

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

On December 27th, 2014 I was diagnosed with Stage IIB thyroid cancer. It had also spread to my lymph nodes- but I felt fine before. Didn’t have a clue, rhyme or reason to think it would happen to me. It was found through a spine MRI as I have scoliosis- so it was a shock to say the least. 

In February, I had my surgery and everything is now back to normal. I’m me -- how I was before all this happened. 

There’s no doubt that with this news and experiences I’d faced -- I’m encountering a multitude of emotions. Happy, sad, angry, frustrated. No one wants to be told they have cancer- that’s crazy! I never thought at 22 it would be me! So through this time I’ve been riding the waves that each experience and trial brought me, not one by one but sometimes many at once would come crashing down.

There’s one thing though. Maybe it’s part of our human instinct -- I don’t know. But maybe it’s because we’re trying to comfort one another, maybe we’re pushing our feelings onto the person who just got diagnosed when we really don’t know what to say. . .   No idea.

People have been assuming that I’m sad. 

I guess people think, oh she got cancer . . . she’s sad. 

I was at a visitation following the death of a distant family member a few days after diagnosis, and another family member had heard the news. She started off saying, “oh you must not be very good.” I was completely caught off guard; no hello, she just assumed how I felt. I wasn’t happy -- not with her, I mean. I was totally fine before she said anything. But her assuming how I felt?  Hmmmm, no, not okay. I mustered up a, "I'm actually doing pretty well, thanks." And carried on. 

From this cancer experience I’ve learned so much. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For real. I’m not sad I got cancer. It’s made me a stronger, better person. I’ve always been a fighter, why back down now. Everyone has their own troubles, stories and struggles. We all get through them. At first I thought it was strange I wasn’t sad. To be honest, I thought it was almost wrong. Everyone else was sad. Why wasn’t I? I study grief counseling so I know everyone’s experience is going to be different. I had to remind myself of that. I know grief doesn’t come with step by step instructions -- who am I kidding? 

This isn’t all bad. So much good can come from it. When others try and define our feelings for us, they try to place us in the box or their template. That doesn’t work for me and probably doesn’t work for you either. Our lives are all individualized and unique. No persons story is the same as another. 
That’s the amazing thing.

Don’t let someone else define how you feel. It’s okay to feel how you do. Everyone’s experience is different. That’s okay. And we could even learn a little something from one another. 

Next time you talk to someone, ask them how they are, let them tell the story.

Deana Ruston, a 23 year old from London, Ontario, Canada (about 2 hours from Toronto), studies grief and bereavement counselling at King's University College at Western University. She has an interest in pregnancy and infant loss, loves to bake, cook and volunteer. Born at 25 weeks gestation, she identifies as a fighter. She won't back down. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Curse of Superwoman by Cassie Hart
image by Angus via a Creative Commons license

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

I have struggled with many things in my life. I have struggled with depression, with suspected bi-polar, with self-harm, with recovering from a string of unwanted male attention in various horrible forms, with PTSD, with a lack of self-confidence, with motherhood, with balance, oh, so much with balance.

But more than anything else, I have struggled with being Superwoman.

It didn’t begin with being Superwoman of course. It began with being a Good Girl. With living up to expectations. With an uncanny awareness for the feelings of others and a desire to help. A crushing sense of responsibility. For everything. I don’t think it’s always a ‘girl’ thing, but I know more woman than not who feel this. Like they have so much to live up to. Like they must take care of things or the important stuff will fall through the cracks.

And so we do what needs to be done. And we put other peoples needs ahead of our own. And somewhere along the line, some of us get lost.

I got lost. I drowned in the needs of everyone else until it got to the point where I wasn’t sure what I was doing because it was expected of me, and what I was doing because it was the real me. Have you ever felt like that? Like you’re not even sure if you’re a real person anymore, that maybe you are only the sum of expectations placed upon you by others and yourself?

Well, that was how I felt. I was ‘kind’ and ‘creative’ and ‘generous’, I was ‘Superwoman’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderful’. But inside, I felt like a doormat, like a slave, like there was nothing left of me, and I couldn’t even be sure if I was any of those things people thought of me because it was me, or just because that was what was expected. I was living from a place of imbalance, not from a place of love.

And not love from others. I am well loved by everyone around me. I am cherished. I am worried for. At some point all the expectations I felt placed on me were internalized. No longer driven by others, but driven by me, by this ridiculous image I felt I needed to live up to.


But I’m not. I struggle. I breathe and bleed and cry. I laugh and smile and dream. I am human, and I AM amazing, and sometimes I do carry more than I have the strength for. And that is the wonderful thing about being human. We can overcome so much. But, it wasn’t until I realized that I wasn’t giving myself the same love that I gave to others, that I could really start to acknowledge that. I may not be Superwoman, but I am awesome, and I deserve love, deserve to be a priority, deserve to know myself and feel whole and like I belong in the world. Just like everyone else.

I’m not lost any more, at least, not entirely. I’m on a journey to rediscovering who I am. Creating my own labels, discarding the ones I had pinned on myself when they no longer apply. But more than anything, trying to make choices out of love – for others, yes, but for myself as well. Because when I make choices from a place of love, I am free.

Cassie Hart is a home-schooling mother to three beautiful girls, and wears far too many hats for her small wardrobe. She writes speculative fiction under the name J.C. Hart and her blog can be found here

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Letter To A Restless Heart by Jamie Wright Bagley

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

Dear Restless Heart,

I hear you’re not feeling up to things lately. As a pioneer on the prairie of dreams, I know you have given a lot, but now you are worn, and more than a bit panicked. I know what that’s like. Sometimes it feels like the trail is going nowhere, and the dreams are growing cold. What if there is no second wind?

It is going to happen, though. Have courage, friend. Trust the whole process. You have set out on the track, carrying your dreams into a wide expanse of the plains of possibility. There are prospects and there are risks. Both of those things are scary: success or failure, and all the what-ifs it takes to get there. I know, because I, too, am guiding my wagon through the unknown right now. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to turn back the clock and toss the original idea away before it could be formed into a dream.

We are not turning back, you and I. No, we are not! Let me remind you of something: Each road we travel has different challenges. When the land is smooth, oh, you know it’s a wonderful adventure because you are going fast and can see so far in front of you. When the path is rugged, nobody expects their wagon wheels to get caught in a rut, but sometimes it happens. Getting trapped like that can be jarring. It’s then a little voice inside says “Give up! Give up and go home!”

I don’t advise that option today, dear one. You have more mettle than that. This wagon you are steering, your dream, is meant to be. Trust the whole process. The journey is made from all kinds of terrain. Embrace the beauty of differing scenery.

The other thing I want you to remember is that your wagon is one-of-a-kind. If you share the road with a larger vehicle, a faster vehicle, or one that seems more beautiful, let me remind you that each one carries its own unique and important dream, and not one of them got where they are without help. Not one. Where does your help come from? This is the question you must ask yourself now. The other wagons are not meant for you. Stick with yours, in all its weathered glory.

Are you tired of all the jolting and clattering? There will be smooth paths again.

Are you anxious for adventure? The prairie has seen its share of storms.

Be in the moment, whatever it is. Love your surroundings. Say a blessing over every part of your wagon and call it good. Call it beautiful. Call it holy, because it bears your essence; all the rare pieces of your self instilled even before birth. Nothing outside of you gets to determine the worth of your dream. Embrace it. Care for it. And keep your chin up.

Finally, remember who crafted your wagon. You, and the spirit of creation: the inspiration behind every trek. Your wagon is your gift and your charge to care for. You get to steer it, and you get to name it.

Give it a good name. Give it a name that reminds you always of who you are, how far you’ve come, and how much your presence matters to the world you journey through. Things are different because of your dream. Things are better because of your dream. And once you make a habit of rehearsing these truths, you’ll remember why you do this at all: it is not to be the best; it is to be your best. And only you and the spirit of creation get to determine what that is.

May you always enjoy the ride!

Much love,

P.S. Go easier on yourself than you think you should. You really do have the time.

Jamie values connection, energy, empathy, freedom, and happiness. She believes in the lifelong pursuit of dreams, and will write poetry and song and everything else to that end. Flowers delight her and trees are her people. She’d love to bond with you over tea and pie, but will probably substitute the small talk with awkward jokes and deep topics. You’ll find her writing her heart out at, and @jamiebrightley on Twitter.

Monday, May 4, 2015

When the Planning is Done and the Time is {Nearly} Now

Today, as I sat in the exam room at my obstetrician's office, an amazing/terrifying/thrilling thought struck me -- this is is it.  My last appointment of this pregnancy (and, as we're not planning on having any more children, perhaps ever).  There are no more appointments, no more preparations to make.  All the baby clothes are washed and sorted, the bassinet is set up, all the necessary bags are packed.

It's funny.  Not ha-ha funny, but hard-and-weird funny: even though this pregnancy has felt very redeeming in terms of fear, even though I've been able to hold onto hope and dip a little deeper back into naive innocence more better throughout these last nine months far better than I could with my two year old's pregnancy -- even so, writing the words I am writing here feels like a gamble.  Because the worst could still happen (again) and this post and those clothes and that bassinet and just everything will turn from a joy into searing pain.

I guess that's pregnancy after a loss for you.  Even when it's years later, when it's the second pregnancy down the line.  Even when you've been doing really well.

And yet, at the same time, I am so excited and beyond ready to meet this new little person who is, as I write this, attempting to pry my ribs apart with his feet.  I try to avoid dwelling in anxiety as much as possible, because really, at this point, there's not much I can do about all those horrible "what if's." 

I think this baby is going to look like his siblings.  But I'm hoping for a dark-and-curly-haired little dude, someone to carry on his mama's wild mane.  I've had terrible reflux this pregnancy, which is new for me -- anyone care to make any guesses on hair levels?  :)

* * *

After baby arrives, I'm planning on (and psyched about!) being totally swept up in tiny-person-land, consumed with caring for the two small boys I'm so lucky to be mama to.  Which means that there won't be much time for blogging.  While I do hope to get a post or two in sometime (I mean, it'd be lame of me to write so much about pregnancy and not introduce you to our latest love), I'm trying to be generous with expectations and let all non-mama things go for now, including blogging.  I'm sure this will prove easier said than done. 

In the meantime, I've had some very generous, beautiful souls (who also happen to be incredibly talented writers) offer to save this blog space from getting too dusty. The first guest blog post will go up this week, on Wednesday, and a new guest post will be posted just about every week after that through August.

I'm so thankful for these writers, and for their creations -- not just the words they will offer here, but for what they offer the world everyday with their hands and makings and love.  I hope that you will be as inspired by them as I am.

Thanks for hanging in there with me through this rather quiet writing season.  There haven't been many words wanting to spill out of me into this space, but there has been a deep sense of shifting, sorting, and (perhaps) finding.  I know that I won't be the same person I was on the other side of this birth, or this pregnancy.  I'm just as excited to meet that new woman as I am to meet this sweet baby.

In the meantime, I'm hanging on, epic belly and all, and enjoying the wondering.

yowzer.  38 weeks!