What I Learned This Spring

I used the calendar to jog my memory of what took place during the past three months. It is late in the game to make this reflection. Nevertheless, let’s begin.

 

1

It is worth it to travel for a good haircut. I am sure there are a lot of wonderful stylists in the area, but after a year of looking, I did not find the one for me. Keeping in mind the wisdom someone’s mother once said, “you wear your hair everyday,” I will travel an excessive distance every three months to have a haircut. From every angle, this sounds crazy to me, until I leave the salon and am ever so glad I made the choice to do that.

 

2

A common mission illuminates a marriage. My husband and I have always had our values in common. It has not been difficult to navigate our parenting styles. Financial style is still a work in progress, but it does not generate altercations. Even with all this goodness, it was this spring when we invested our energy into each other’s endeavors the most. My husband took a composer’s retreat, three days away in the coastal redwoods to dig into his work, in this case, a hymnal. Twice a week surrounding that, I lock myself in the bedroom while his voice scolding the children resonates through the walls of this room of my own, and I write. Discussing our businesses and their branding was a spring project of spring and added a joyful thrill to marriage. We are artists. While I always thought faith brought us together, lots of people have faith. For us, it was faith and art.

 

3

Lent and Good Friday can be a refuge for a grieving parent. Many a feast is cause to celebrate, but one’s heart is not always in it. My spirit felt congruent in this season of faith. There is suffering in this world, it is not the end, and even if the “only way out is through” others have walked that way. I am not alone.

 

4

How not to take a vacation. Yes, this medical mom made a bunch of mistakes, mostly due to not researching ahead and not communicating with the medical team. No emergencies happened, but they could have. There are additional steps on my vacation to-do list, and I am using them as we prepare for the next attempt. I want to learn how to travel even with medical needs, do it well, and for now, we will just do it in California.

 

5

Dress rehearsals are better to go to than performances when writing a review or an article. Most places will not allow photography during performances. This is the way in, plus opportunities to talk with performers.

 

6

My suspicions confirmed I learned through four instances that it is better to charge less and sell more when you have an inexpensive product and your main concern is community, not currency.

 

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Lemonade for Sale! Fifty cents a cup!

 

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All American Classic Meal for Sale by the Knights of Columbus and YLI, four meals for the family for $10

 

7

Different theories inform feeding and speech therapy. They are rooted in psychology. I can navigate this world of speech and feeding therapy for my son, as I have navigated the medical world. This spring brought about first lessons.

 

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8

I believe in Providence. This spring, I learned remarkable things about one of my son’s doctors that sheds new light on much of the path we trod.

 

9

I have only so much energy for relationship investment. Children and spouse require most of it. Of what is left, the investment in social media relationships caused me to neglect in-real-life relationships in this season of my life.

 

10

I am giving priority to life at home over career, putting the brakes on ambition and personal dreams, indulging my passions within the space parenthood allows and, this spring, I learned that’s okay.

 

11

Lin Manuel Miranda and Flannery O’Connor are brilliant.

 

12

And I love reviewing books and writing others’ stories.

 

I encourage you to make your own list, too! You can share it with me by emailing me at Writer@kathrynannecasey.com

What I Learned This Winter

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

When do you take the opportunity to look back? We often do it at the turn of the New Year, or at the end of a time commitment, like a month-long fast from shopping or alcohol. We live in a 24/7 world where everything is available, all the time. Without the natural breaks in the world around us (like blizzards and the seasons I wrote about recently), it is all too easy to stay swept up in the energy and movement of the world, never stopping to ask, “how did that go? What am I grateful for? What did I gain? Where was I weak?” and committing to improve in the next go-around.

So, along with a small sector of the internet, I want to participate in a quarterly reflection considering what I learned in the past season. I share it with you and invite you to share your list with others. This winter, I learned…

How to say, “I miss you” at the grave of my stillborn child.

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To ask that person to coffee.

I met at a woman who is a former broadcast journalist. After recalling the coaching from a “Real Simple” magazine feature years back, I sent an email asking her for coffee. There I learned her tips and recommendations to help me improve interviewing.

A voice recorder is an amazing interview asset.

Rather than stare at the screen of my phone to find the voice recorder application, I purchased a recorder (life is better with buttons). Using it, I relaxed and felt able to fully listen and hear the story of the interviewee. Too much energy had been spent worrying if I would remember the facts. Knowing they were safe, I loosened up and focused on meeting the person. Amazingly enough, when the recorder malfunctioned, I lost the interview but still remembered everything I needed to…except the names! Paper and pen will still accompany me.

Post-holiday blues exist.

During Advent, I threw myself so heavily into to crafts and the buzz of the holiday season. When it passed, I saw how empty I’d become. Things were so good, I had forgotten to pray, to seek silence, to slow down, sit a while and read to my children.

My first-vocation comes first.

In the fervor of a new career, the career of my dreams, I dived deeper and deeper, letting writing work seep into every still moment of the day. Then I missed the moments with my children, and their behavior reflected that. I stepped back, edited my schedule and stopped spending so many evenings out.

The glory of morning chores is real.

We practiced consistent discipline, used catchphrases to remind them what good behavior means, and implemented morning, afternoon and evening chores, on a list for each child. We knew what to ask of them and they anticipate what will be asked of them. When my son and I hit the road to San Francisco for a brief hospitalization things were okay at the Casey House.

Use Turbotax to file self-employment taxes.

Remind myself to be patient.

Little moments of impatience took hold without me realizing it. It is much more peaceful to be a patient person (or to pretend to be a patient person).

If another layer of my support system is peeled back, I will be okay.

We learn the tools for coping, of often through the help of another person. When that person is gone, we still have the tools, we just need to remember to use them

Take relationships at face value, believe people who say they care.

There is baggage around that one. Often, recognizing the pattern is the first step.

If you decide to list a handful of things you learned this season, feel free to share it with me at Writer@kathrynannecasey.com. I’d love to hear from you.

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What did I learn this year?

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Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash
  1. A good book clears the head. Not so much the introspective books. They have their place, but an old novel with characters who have stood the test of time, been put on screen in a way that pleases no one because the depth of character is too difficult to grasp. At the end of my year, I gave my heart to the characters of Middlemarch and Little Women, though I have the wildness of Kristin Lavarnsdatter for getting me back to binge-reading, aka deep reading.
  2. When I ask myself, “how do I want my day to look?” I realize it does not involve social media. I still check Facebook a ridiculous number of times each day, but I rarely post or comment now. Scrolling is a sign of something wrong in my life, not right. And even though I know an online presence will one day be important to my path to getting a book published, I rather hope it takes long enough that likes, clicks and my email list will not determine the potential of my work in the eyes of a publisher, not that I’m saying I will wait that long.
  3. Exercise is essential. I feel like garbage otherwise. I might think I look like garbage and though I try to avoid self-deprecating comments I cannot own that I have not had self-deprecating thoughts. But more than looks, it helps my back not hurt so bad (by using the muscles) and energizes me all around.
  4. I actually do need alone time. I am a flaming extrovert so it comes as a surprise to me and my uber-introverted husband that after a long day at home with the kids, I want to be in the bedroom with the door shut to, ahem, clear my head and read a book.
  5. Writing has become the sign that everything is right in my world. If I am not writing, I am not being introspective. If I am not writing, I am not engaging in the world of beauty and word-craft that, as my counselor says, make my spirit sing. I have the great joy of being a published columnist and newspaperwoman (regular pay!). When I run away from writing, I have found I am running away from myself.
  6. When I get used to a good thing, it is easy to forget to savor it. After four months at home, the blessed moments with my children began to pass me by. Whether I was exhausted and retreating to online articles and podcasts or whether I was energetic and Christmas decorating, I need to stop and savor my time with my children…and hot chocolate.
  7. Artists inspire artists. Whether it is a matter of hearing that other artists bear similar burdens or inspiring each other in our craft, it has been good to meet with other artists and grow.
  8. It is okay to be a sad person, as long as I can still be a kind person. I believe in manners so much more now. Maybe it was the sadness that made me more deliberate in my speech. Maybe the sadness just made me appreciate people more. Whatever it is, I find my relationships are fuller and better now. Acts of kindness fill my heart and I am deeply grateful for the people who perform them. I try to be gracious and kind in return, and even when no specific act is rendered.
  9. Sunshine and candlelight do a lot for improving my mood. I always believed environment was important, that in between decorating has a world of value even it does not fulfill the final plan. Cabinets you hate are a lot to look at for years. Beauty is life-giving. God is the superlative beauty. Exposure to beauty opens up Heaven and God’s glory to me in the small way that beautiful created things reflect their Creator. And when that happens, I am closer than ever to my daughter.
  10. I know what I need to cope whether at home or far from home…and it doesn’t involve alcohol. The trick is in recognizing when the moment is one that calls for coping, instead of allowing the moment to wash me away. The ingredients are the same: reading, writing, exercise, art or craft, quiet and, at other times, friendship. I can now say I have habits built around home and away, created through crisis, which I can access when I no longer have what it takes to handle the day.

What I Learned: Summer edition

Inspired by Emily P. Freeman’s,  “Let’s Share What We Learned This Summer” I present my simple list.

What did you learn this summer?

Consider joining in by going to her link.

What I learned

  1. Calligraphy
  2. How to watercolor and use a palate by watching a demonstration at Arch Supplies in San Francisco. It was free and so helpful!
  3. How to apply snaps to clothing (and I figured out how to use them prevent a wide neck collar from falling off my shoulder).
  4. I do not like sewing clothing: tedious business, good for people who want to be detail oriented.
  5. Machines exist that can bypass the system that puts oxygen in blood.
  6. A DIC response might just be part of my son’s condition, but like most things, he never looks as bad as the numbers indicate. We walk in mystery.
  7. 70% of time spent writing a project is editing.
  8. Why Mormons believe a righteous person might theoretically rule a planet one day (clue: they don’t phrase it like that). It is so great to talk with people of other religions (or who have been other religions) to get a sense of what it is like in the other person’s shoes. We may wildly disagree on some points, but it is so worth it to ask.
  9. Windows look amazing when they’re clean.
  10. If I write long enough, I max out and feel satisfied the rest of the day.
  11. Having community is the key to everything, the founders of the Four Friends Market met at their church.

What I learned this Spring

 

As a matter of reflection, today I am participating in What We Learned with Emily P. Freeman. To read what Emily and others learned this Spring, click here.

1. I learned what is on the other side of the death of my child.

She was born and died on March 2nd. Leading up to her birth, I wondered what it would be like on the other side, what I would be like. I think the world is a different place. I am more afraid. I am seeking healing. I need art and beauty in my life like never before.

2. I learned PTSD symptoms can accompany stillbirth.

I chose not to read too much about things leading up to her birth. There have been some very personal triggers that take me back to when she was born. I am working on rewriting her story, to remember how beautiful and grace-filled some of those moments were.

3. I learned my son’s stomach will always feel hard when he cries because all the muscles are engaged.

Thought I knew everything, but I don’t.

4. I learned box cushions are hard to sew!

My goodness! This was not a quick and easy project. It was worth it though, for emotional healing through a project and the beauty of sitting outside on a comfortable couch.

5. I learned colorful elastic works better than ribbon for covering the handle of an Easter basket.

It grips as no ribbon can.

6. I learned the art glass vases I like are from the 1960’s, often made by Viking.

And they are so beautiful! I finally bought one, a flaming bright orange vase.

7. I learned I can not become a therapist in California because my degree does not meet California’s requirements.

Learning this set me free from the burden of wondering and launched me in a new direction that brings me so much joy.

8. I learned outdoor furniture should be put away in wet weather or it could mold.

Learned the hard way…

9. I learned my son is not stable enough for me to work outside the home.

A blessing in disguise.

10. I learned I can be successful as a writer.

Articles sold! Joy experienced.

11. I learned the meaning of Shabbat.

I love the people I meet at UCSF.

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