holidays

The Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge

The holiday season has arrived once again, and sure, that can be all-consuming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little time writing.

And by a little, I mean a very little.

Because we can’t do all the things all the time, but we CAN do some of the things some of the time. Which brings us to . . .

The First Annual Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge!

Yes, you read that right. This challenge is one part writing, one part community, and two (or more) (perhaps many more) (oh god is it January yet?!) parts vodka-spiked eggnog and matzah crackers for breakfast.

What it’s all about:

Writing. We love it. We need it. We don’t always have time for it. Especially during the winter holidays.

But the Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge? We can manage that (probably) (maybe) (more vodka-spiked eggnog, please).

Here’s how it works: I’ve provided twenty six intriguing prompts to spark your poetry/fiction/journaling/pick-your-favorite-writing-flavor.

You pick ten of those.

Yep. Just ten.

And you write on those, one at a time, over the course of December, as you are able.

Because we can’t do all the things all the time, but we can do some of the things some of the time, and maybe some of those things can involve a smidge of writing.

Are you in? First, enter your email for some friendly reminders and only slightly sarcastic encouragement:

Then post this graphic with the hashtag #sheofthewildwrites on your favorite social media platform:

We start December 1st (I’ll shoot ya another email then, just to help rev your writerly engines).

And! If you want some more fun and support, come join our free She of the Wild creativity circle on ye olde Facebookes. We have a great introverted time not talking to each other very much.

See you in December!

Gifts for Grievers: 8 Holiday Gifts You Can Give Yourself {UPLIFT Series}

This post was originally published in 2012 at my old blog, and I'm bringing it back as part of the UPLIFT series for parents who've lost a baby and are ready to take responsibility for their own grief. I originally wrote this as a guide for friends and family of the bereaved, but it is an equally good resource for the bereaved themselves. I hope that this guide inspires ideas that will serve you in honoring your child[ren] and healing (and treating!) yourself. Enjoy, and much love.

In my experience, the holidays can be a difficult time.  Between the pressure to buy the perfect gifts, to cook the perfect meal, and have the perfect celebration filled with perfect feelings, expectations and emotions are running high.  And that's for those whose holiday table isn't missing a place.  Factor in the absence of a much-loved and much-wanted child . . . and, well, the holidays can feel downright dismal.

Last year, Christmas fell about a month after Eve died.  Suffice it to say -- I was not looking forward to the holiday.  I did everything I could do avoid any and all Christmas cheer, but my husband and I did visit family.  When the time came to open presents, I got the best gift ever.  My six year old niece, under her own power and with her own money, had donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Eve's memory.  And let me tell you -- that recognition of Eve's absence, not to mention the beautiful and extravagant generosity of my niece, meant everything

So I got to thinking about what other gifts might help fellow grieving parents enjoy the holidays.  And here's the result -- a list of beautiful gifts for bereaved parents that will uplift and, more importantly, offer that precious recognition of the little ones lost.

1Personalized Sand Drawings

Eve's Peace Dove

Carly Marie offers comfort to fellow babylost parents by drawing their names in the sands of Australia's beaches at The Seashore of Remembrance.  Her exquisite sand drawings cost between $6.00 and $20.00 AUD.  Carly Marie has a variety of different types of drawings to choose from -- from names in the sand to Christmas butterflies to peace doves like the one pictured above.  I love collecting the different types of sand drawings for Eve.

2Personalized Jewelry

Untitled 

Personalized jewelry is a great way to remember babies gone too soon.  I purchased this particular necklace from PatriciaAnn Jewelry Designs, and it has been very comforting to wear.  I have since received other pieces of jewelry that recognize both of my children, and I cherish every one.  Held Your Whole Life also provides free remembrance jewelry for bereaved mothers.

3.  Artwork

Held

While as an artist I may be biased, I think that artwork makes a great gift.  Some of the bereaved mothers that have purchased prints of my work have described it as soothing, healing, and calming -- all of which are so important to the grieving, especially around the holidays.  I offer pieces that are specifically about loss and grief as well as many other uplifting originals, prints, and cards like the image above.  You can check out my artwork on Etsy hereBeyond Words Designs is another great artist to purchase loss, pregnancy, and family pieces from, as well as handmade baby books designed for miscarriage and stillbirth mothers. 

4.  Custom Remembrance Items

on Eve's first birthday

Any custom remembrance items, either handmade by you (as this little quilt was, given by a friend on Eve's first birthday) or purchased, are always a huge blessing.  Some of my favorite online shops that provide such items are Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Baby Boards.

5.  Books and Music

books for Eve's birthday

There are many wonderful books written on loss and grief, and some specifically on the loss of a child.  I know that such books have provided me with much needed comfort and support and ideas on ways to cope.  Some of my favorite loss books are A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser, I Will Carry You by Angie Smith, and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  You can find more book ideas on my Goodreads page.

Music has similarly been a huge gift to me.  It has helped me to cry when I needed to and couldn't, to worship when I wanted to but didn't have the words, and to be joyful when it was time to be joyful but I couldn't muster up the courage.  My two favorite albums that convey the reality of living simultaneously in hope and sadness are You Deliver Me by Selah and Beauty Will Rise by Steven Curtis Chapman.

6.  Calendars

calendar 

I always feel like a calendar is a can't-miss gift.  Beautiful and useful, how can you go wrong? The Lost For Words calendars from Carly Marie and Franchesca Cox are also a beautiful option, filled with amazing photography and quotes from bereaved parents.

7.  A Special Ornament

P1180296

Last year a friend gave me a special angel ornament in memory of Eve.  It was small, simple, very beautiful -- and meant the world to me.  A bereaved mother's greatest fear is that her child will be forgotten, and a special little ornament or decoration in memory of the one that is lost is such a great gift.

8.  Donations in Their Name

Untitled

There are so many wonderful non-profits out there working for babyloss awareness, support, and prevention.  I think that a donation ton one such charity in the name of a baby gone too soon would make a very sweet present for a bereaved parent.  Some of my personal favorite organizations are Sufficient Grace Ministries, the Sweet Pea Project, Molly Bears, and Cora's Story.

Find the rest of the UPLIFT series here.

Easy Holiday Ornament Tutorial {UPLIFT Series}

This post was originally published in 2014 at All That Love Can Do, and I'm bringing it back as part of the UPLIFT series for parents who've lost a baby and are ready to take responsibility for their own grief. While this easy tutorial is focused on bereaved parents, it is a fun craft for anybody, for any reason. Enjoy!

www.sheofthewild.com

When my daughter, Eve, was stillborn, the holidays quickly became my least favorite time of the year.  And it wasn't just because she died just a week before Thanksgiving.  There's something about the holidays that makes us realize with extra clarity both the loveliest and the hardest things in our lives.

Every holiday celebration was, for me, excruciatingly highlighted by her non-presence.  For the first couple of years after her stillbirth, I could feel the holiday season coming in my body -- starting in the beginning of November, my muscles would be incessantly taut, my jaw clenched, my heart aching more than usual.  I did my best to breathe and get through it, exhausted by the turn of the new year.

I don't have much advice on how to survive the holidays as a grieving person, except that you do what you need to get through it.  Avoid parties, cards, people, and whatever else if you can't handle them.  Let yourself ache.  Invest in a massage or see a therapist for extra support.  Boil life down to the pure essentials.  Journal angry/sad/silly/lonely/dizzy.  Make art.  Sleep a lot.  Eat some chocolate, watch a lot of reality TV.  You have permission, no matter what anyone else may say.  Your allegiance is first to your own heart.

That said, I have enjoyed the small tradition I've set for myself of purchasing a new tree ornament every year for our Eve.  No matter how people do or do not remember her, I can look at the tree and see evidence of her life in ours, evidence of how her tiny existence changed mine forever.  And, in ways sometimes small and sometimes large, this helps.

Today I have a simple tutorial to guide you through creating your own memorial ornament.  It makes of use only a few supplies (I encourage you to use what you have around the house as much as possible) and is quite unintimidating for those newer to arts and crafts (said the artist who, paradoxically, is terrified of crafts).  Enjoy, and I'd love to see your ornament in the UPLIFT Facebook event if you try your hand at it!

Easy Memorial Holiday Ornament Tutorial


Supplies:
  • blank ornament (I used a ceramic star purchased at Michaels)
  • two colors of craft paint
  • adhesive (I used a glue stick and a decoupage glue)
  • scrap papers and old book pages
  • scissors
  • paintbrush
  • an old credit card or gift card (or a firm piece of cardboard in a pinch)
  • ribbon
  • glitter (optional)


Start with your ornament on a flat surface. 


Begin collaging scrap papers onto the ornament's surface.  Be sure to put adhesive on both the ornament and the backs of the papers for the best adhesion.


Be sure to firmly run an old credit or gift card over the papers as you glue them to the ornament to remove air bubbles.  You can also smooth the bubbles out with your fingers.  One you are finished collaging, allow the ornament to fully dry.


Apply your first layer of paint.  Pick two colors that complement each other and are meaningful to you.  Allow the paint to fully dry.


Apply your second color of paint.


While your second layer of paint is still wet, firmly press a piece of paper across the ornament's surface.


Carefully peel the paper back.  You've now easily created an interesting and textured multicolored effect, and you can use the "stamped" shape on the paper to make a gift tag (or something else entirely!) if you wish.  Allow the paint to dry fully.


Next, collage your baby's name onto the ornament.  I was able to find Eve's name intact in an old book, but you could cut out individual letters and glue them down, or print your child's name off the computer and adhere that.  Additionally, you could write your child's name with a gel pen or in paint if you wish.  At this point, I also painted the surface in decoupage glue and sprinkled glitter over it. Allow the ornament to dry fully before threading an lovely ribbon through the hole. 


And there you have it!  A handmade memorial ornament for your tree (or your home) that affirms the precious life of the one you are missing so deeply.


May your holidays be gentle and surprisingly sweet, and please be exceedingly kind to yourself.  You both need and deserve it.

Find the rest of the UPLIFT series here.

I Believe in the Night {On Decembers}


There's something about December.

I've long resisted it.  The depth of night . . . the buzzing of the holidays . . . the overabundance of delicious and bad-for-you things in all the places. 

I used to say that this was my least favorite time of the year.  And that was before my baby was stillborn days before Thanksgiving.

But this year feels different.

Maybe it's that I'm resting with the hibernating earth, staying away from the manic hustle and bustle of holiday to-do lists and presents and unnecessary obligations.  Maybe it's that I'm doing the holidays my way, perhaps for the first time, and choosing only what is nourishing and enlightening for my spirit.  I feel like I'm wrapped up in a cloak of star-marked night, breathing in time with the bears sleeping winter away in their mountain dens.

Maybe it's that I'm pregnant -- a time that always makes me feel more visceral, more embodied, more sexy and sacred.  Maybe it's my body waxing around the seed of life in the darkness within that makes me appreciate this time of thick, cold night.

Or maybe it's that it's my fearless year (just for a little while longer now), and I'm reaping the benefits of challenging myself to find treasures in winter's darkness. That I'm learning to not run from the dark, but slowly turn my face toward it and invite it in for tea.

This year is different.


I hope next year is different in the same kind of way, too, more and more different-in-a-needed-way, as I learn to trust this soul of mine, and the feeling coursing through my marrow. 

I hope I never forget to honor these long, dark nights. 

I believe in the night, when dreams run free across the stilled landscape.  When the moon wanes and waxes and wanes above, her eternal dance that tells us so much about ourselves.  When the stars play behind the wandering clouds, and all the earth is a question.  When I teach myself again and again, and sometimes learn, to surrender to myself, to this body, to rest.  When slumber makes us children again for a time, trusting in what is, if only for this night.

I nestle into December's darkness and try to heed the quiet throb of my own heart's pace.

"You, darkness, of whom I am born–
I love you more that the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illuminates
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations–just as they are.
It let’s me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, from Rilke's Book of Hours*

Your turn: how is your December different this year?  Is it a welcome kind of different, or something less desirable?  How would you like it to be different next year?  Let your thoughts wander over how you can make December 2015 a good-different for yourself.


*affiliate link

Making Memories: A Simple Holiday Ornament Tutorial

http://allthatlovecando.blogspot.com/2014/12/12-days-of-christmas-day-eleven.html

Today I am over at All That Love Can Do for the wonderful RaeAnne's 12 Days of Christmas, a series that provides support for babyloss parents during the holiday season.  I share a few words (sneak peek below), and a simple tutorial making your own memorial ornament for your tree or simply to adorn your home.  I'd love for you to join me over there!

"I don't have much advice on how to survive the holidays as a grieving person, except that you do what you need to get through it.  Avoid parties, cards, people, and whatever else if you can't handle them.  Let yourself ache.  Invest in a massage or see a therapist for extra support.  Boil life down to the pure essentials.  Journal angry/sad/silly/lonely/dizzy.  Make art.  Sleep a lot.  Eat some chocolate, watch a lot of reality TV.  You have permission, no matter what anyone else may say.  Your allegiance is first to your own heart."
 
Looking for more support for a difficult holiday season?  Check out my 2013 blog series Hurting For the Holidays, featuring many writers' gentle wisdom for achy hearts during this sensitive time of year.

Five Days of Holiday Yum Starts Saturday! {Holiday Art Specials}

Just popping in here for a moment before heading off to some Thanksgiving festivities to give you the heads up on Epiphany Art Studio's holiday discounts and deals, which start this Saturday, November 29.  Introducing, Five Days of Holiday Yum!  Here's what's going down:


Starting on Small Business Saturday (November 29), Epiphany Art Studio customers get to enjoy five full days of major discounts, bonuses, and freebies.  There will be a new deal each day from November 29 through December 3, and each one is pretty dang sweet.  Stop by the shop to take advantage of what's happening.

 Please note that each deal lasts for 24 hours only, meaning that you can't get Saturday's 20% off on Monday.  Once it's gone, it's not coming back (well, until next year, perhaps). 

And now I shall go eat some turkey and pie.  Well, mostly pie.   You know how it is.

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.