The Power of the Positive Press

I sat down on the rattan sofa with its blue and white stripe upholstered cushions in my backyard, two years ago, the long-awaited funeral of my daughter Celeste then behind me. For months, my days were absorbed with the emotional preparation, the material preparation, the familial preparation of a life-limited diagnosis, a child who would not live long outside the womb, who indeed, did not live at all beyond the safety of my body. “What will I do next?” I asked myself.

 

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The writing world is full of best-practice advice. The advice almost always includes social media. If you read here regularly, you’ll notice the change in frequency in posts, and how these days, we see just a weekly post of a reprinted column.

I am living life. I cannot analyze alongside Google. I cannot pour my heart out over MailChimp. I cannot fret over whether or not this is the best blog layout.

I want to notice the feel of the breeze in my backyard. I want to stop and observe the beauty of my children’s faces. I want to focus when I ask them to focus on school work.

I want to be here. Alive.

This does not mean I have not been writing.

The weekly column continues, and along with that, the front and back pages filled with the news stories I have been fortunate enough to cover. I write for the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch. We are the positive press. We celebrate community. You get enough bad news. I come into events ready to learn others’ stories. I always wanted to know what motivates people. That is why I went into psychology.

Now I not only get to learn, but I get to share those stories as well.

I’m limited by a word count (or column square inch if you will). I do not get paid very much per photo. But I love it.

Each week, lately, I’ve been writing on seeing the bigger picture. My job presents me with a world to discover, to go in and uncover, and then report, shining the spotlight on the folks who might go unnoticed, counteracting the skepticism of our time, showing there really are people doing what they can to do good and help others, without looking for accolades.

 

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Below is one such story, and if you’ll permit me, while town events and graduations continue at full speed and my column is on hold while I take photos of kids eating ice cream and interview veterans serving their community, I’ll share a handful of these stories in lieu of the regular column. I hope you enjoy it. I know I do.

 

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Review of Adriel Booker’s Grace Like Scarlett

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope After Miscarriage and Loss helps women lean into grief

I am ever on the hunt to find new resources to share with you. You have read about the stages of grief and coping skills for anxiety, fear and building blocks for the good life. Today, I share with you a book I encountered that may be useful in your life or in the life of someone you know: Grace Like Scarlett.

Photograph of book cover for Grace Like Scarlett by Adriel Booker

It is about miscarriage.

We do not usually talk openly about miscarriage in society. It seems like a private thing, a woman’s thing, a family issue. That privacy that surrounds this tragedy often exasperates the grief those who have experienced miscarriage feel. They do not know where to turn. They do not know how to mourn.

My miscarriages took place long ago, in a far-a-way life before the present concerns of my world existed.

But I remember miscarriage when was felt all the way to my bones. It opened up a world of fear, what if I cannot have children or carry children? Then my firstborn came and she was perfect. I thought that was the end of miscarriages for me. When it happened again, I felt the wild grief that Adriel writes about.

As part of the launch team, I read Grace Like Scarlett

As I read, I thought of my experiences and the women I have known since then who miscarried, while reading, images of women I knew who bled and suffered flashed through my mind. Women who had no more children following a miscarriage, women who were afraid to name their babies as they ran from their grief, women who lost their faith when they lost their child, women who went on to have other children and, surrounded by that blessedness, dwelled little on the little ones they lost.

This was the first book I have seen that addresses this topic. She does so, unapologetically from a Christian perspective. In times of crisis, one’s values become sustenance. They either strengthen or fall away. Even for those who do not hold a Christian worldview, she offers poignant insights on the nature of grief, shame, comparison and jealousy worthwhile to behold.

We cannot know exactly what someone is experiencing it, which makes it nearly impossible to prescribe what the person should do with her grief. Adriel’s approach is to walk alongside and share about her three miscarriages. She emphasizes how important is not to compare our grief to another person’s grief, either in order to pity ourselves more or minimize our suffering.

Adriel dives in. Her language is direct and gritty in those early chapters. The particulars of trauma stain our memories so deeply that her bluntness resonated with me. It mirrored the way I experienced my experiences, but in ways not generally shared in polite society. Her writing softens after that because it would be far too much intensity for an entire book.

Suffering is normal

but Adriel preaches that at the heart of God is love for us and a desire to help us. She identifies that God works with us to help us, the key word being with. It will not happen magically without us leaning into our grief.

In Chapters 6 and 7, Adriel brings in the testimony of women she interviewed, universalizing the message to fit the many shades of grief.

When discussing shame, she gives voice to the irrational jealousy that accompanies loss. This jealousy gets us nowhere, but it does point us back to ourselves to see which wounds hurt most.

In the end, she writes the path I walked.

These times of crisis are opportunities for grace. An open heart’s capacity is to feel the full range of emotions. That is what it means to be fully alive. To shut off or run from the bad means, eventually, we will no longer be capable of fully experiencing the good. Grief must be leaned into, or as Adriel put it, we must duck-dive, head first, into that wild world of emotions. Only then, can we find healing.

For more thoughts on Grace Like Scarlett, check out my review on the Blessed is She Blog.

Making Decisions

Previously printed in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

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There will be a lot of decisions to make this season. Should I go to this event? Take on this activity? Host this dinner? Take that trip?

Mine is the type of personality to get an inspiration and dive in. Because my inclinations were never for risky behaviors, it was safe to say I could just back out of if things did not work out. What do I have to lose? What is the worst that could happen?

When my husband and I married we moved to Virginia for me to attend graduate school. Why wait to start a family? I knew other students with a child or two, and another on the way. Taking risks meant being open to readjusting the plan, and not lamenting too much over it. That was the most consistent plan in my life, other than serving God and family.

The first step for me is to consider what do I really want? Do I want an intellectual activity to stimulate thought? Do I want a business endeavor to contribute to my family? Perhaps I am looking for light-hearted company and conversation? Or perhaps I am looking for a way to give of myself and from my experiences that take place outside the home. Maybe all I want is to get outside the home without spending money. When I know what I want, I can start to assess my options.

There was a time in my life when it was easy to make commitments. All I needed to do was assess how much time I have. Now I can only make commitments with a return policy because family circumstances require sudden cancellation at times.

I wanted community, and I wanted to give and have a place to go. I decided to get more involved in the Young Ladies Institute (YLI) at St. Anthony’s here in Hughson. It has so many things I have been looking for: community, close locale, and a way to give.

My urge is to organize and lead events, but I might have to cancel. So I will co-chair. That way, if I need to disappear, I have a backup. The more honest I am about my limitations, the better decisions I make.

I know another woman who is making decisions about her commitments. Her method is to look in one direction, YLI will be her “thing” and she will look away from other options that arise. This frees her up to volunteer for this or that. She can assess her availability based on her young children and husband’s work schedule. It works.

Another friend, who experiences fatigue, has to make decisions based on her energy level. She plans no more than two activities a week in order to conserve energy for taking care of her young kids.

What do I want and what conditions do I need to do it? Knowing these things ahead of time helps prepare me for those moments when I need to decide quickly. Emily P. Freeman, author of Simple Tuesdays and A Million Little Ways, in consider pro/con lists, encourages the reader to first make a list of priorities. What are the things that are most important to me, and in what order? An activity might sound great for me, but if it is a strain for my spouse, and my spouse is more important than the activity, then that “con” weighs more.

When we know what is important to us, too, it strengthens us for the times when it is difficult to say no: when we are needed, when no one else is stepping up, when someone asks for help. Awareness of priorities (like caring for my children) can help make sense of why other commitments matter (like self-care away from home so I can better care for my children).

I change plans less often with this in mind. There still may be cancellations, but only because one priority trumps another. Most people are understanding of that. And frankly, if they are not, then they probably should probably move down a place or two on the list.