Creativity, Fiction, Life, Poetry, Self-Care, WIPpets

July update: High aspirations

Greetings, readers. I have several projects underway to share with you all.

One of them is a lofty goal I set, despite of my crazy busy life as a nurse and mother and grad student.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. 

Stephen King

I feel fortunate to be connected to several strong, productive online communities that help me to improve my writing process and stay accountable. Some of us made a commitment to write 100,000 words during the month of July.

It’s July 5th; I’ve accomplished 5% of the goal, with a little more than 5,000 words written thus far.

I’m well below the daily average I need to come anywhere close to achieving 100,000 words this month. But I’m still thrilled to have written 5,000 words that otherwise may not have been written. I am also finding new ways to write in order to better utilize my time–for instance, dictating into the voice recorder of my phone and uploading it to transcription software.

One of the projects that has been percolating in my brain for at least a year is a series of books for middle-schoolers centering around animals, especially with my 9 year old daughter in mind. I finally decided to apply myself to this project in a more intentional way.

Her enthusiasm is infectious; she has fallen in love with the characters and is constantly hounding me to find out what happens next. I suspect these books will be around 20,000-30,000 words each; I could feasibly finish drafts of three of these in a month. The first one is called Dolphins in the Driftwood.

I suspect there may be purists out there reading this who question whether a word count goal is beneficial to the creative process, and feel it somehow takes away from the creative power and purpose of writing.

But I’m learning so much. For instance:

  1. Fiction is my weakest writing style; by writing more of it, I improve. I know I am improving, as I am finding the process and the output to be more enjoyable to create and read. The only way that will continue to happen is to produce more of it.
  2. Planning the work is vital and good. In the past, I have minimally planned my fiction because it struck me as boring and unnecessarily time-consuming to outline something intended to be creative. Consequently, my fiction was boring, without any real plot or intentional sequence of events to move it along. To meet a daily writing goal of a high quantity, especially for someone like me with such a weak creative imagination, I have found that I have to plan. And when I plan, the writing happens quickly and easily.
  3. A first draft is only that: a first draft. So a high quantity of output is destined to be largely a diamond in the rough (if that…maybe just an ugly piece of coal), with a few glimmers of excellence. Regardless, it has to be created first before it can be refined

Another writing goal I set for this month is to write a poem a day. And guess what? I’ve already failed at this goal as well, but I still have three new poems thus far in July that otherwise might not exist. This September, I’m excited to release The Latent Tale of Conception, my first volume of poetry. A second volume is planned for release in 2018 entitled The Discovery & Consumption of Fruit.

tapestry

The poetic brain at work…pure joy in this process…a sense of being wholly present, seated in the fullness of an experience.

I’m scared to death about this series for middle-schoolers. I always envisioned, in all my writerly arrogance (thankfully confined largely to my twenties), that I’d someday publish a novel of epic proportions that fiercely impacts the reader or at least goes down as a great read posthumously.

In the meantime, I’m writing about dolphins and shipwrecks and hoping I don’t get laughed offstage by the grown-ups in the room. I confess that, while secretly hoping my heart still harbors a childlike place that can compellingly connect with that age group.

I have it on good authority that a certain 9-year-old loves the story, so my audience of one is pleased. Win!

Take care, everyone. Please share this blog with people you know who may be interested.

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Life, Parenting, Poetry

Apology (a poem)

Reluctant baby

I’m sorry to motherhood
for all the doting
I can’t find energy
to accomplish
you grueling taskmaster
spilling out
screaming and yawning creatures
from between my legs
asking a continuous effort
of excellent nurture,
diet, education, and activity,
my abdominal skin
rippling and shifting
like the record
of a tossed stone
stretching and breaking
then sinking
into dark and watery
obscurity
my body
utilized and exited
then poked and grasped
and slapped
and kissed.

 

Copyright 2017 Mindy Goorchenko All Rights Reserved

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Life, Parenting, Self-Care, Self-Medicating

Gratitude is the thought-zapper

Lately, I’ve fantasized about mental flypaper…some sticky substance to grab the ever-present thoughts that pervade my peace, to gather them in one place and keep them under control.

flypaper

Unfortunately for my inner peace, each one of these little thoughts is precious to me somehow. They are fleeting illusions, little what-ifs and I-long-fors and why-nots, tiny tortures. Each and every one. I let them fly about as though anything other than chaos has resulted.

I have an impossible time gathering them up. The swarm settles down and I almost lose sight of them for awhile, but they still dwell in the midst of it all. I’m so comfortable with them now that I can’t imagine life without them, even though they are each tiny exercises in futility.

After bemoaning this to my friend…again…I realized how tiring I’ve become to myself (and probably her, as she is the lucky recipient of all my gut-spillage and has graciously listened to me for hours). I mused about a circuit board of sorts. Have you ever wished your brain had a switchboard, so you could just flip a switch and…zap. Zap, zap, zap. Go away, thoughts. Would I use this if I could?

While cleaning dishes this evening, I reflected upon the blessings of the day. I sacked out on my bed for a few minutes before tackling the next ginormous stack of tasks, and my 13-year-old daughter plopped down next to me, wielding a glue stick (have I mentioned this was on my bed?) and finishing up a school project.

I lay there savoring this ordinary moment. This is life, these are my people. I experienced gratitude and watched my circuit breaker zap my thoughts of that other world into oblivion.

Gratitude is the thought-zapper:

~my four year old son, with his very damaged brain, spending most of his days laughing at everyone and everything;

~my 3 year old daughter, surreptitiously taking an alcohol swab from our drawer and keeping it with her throughout an entire bath (I kid you not–that one little swab afforded her at least an hour of entertainment for her and she was adorable);

~my very saucy 2&1/2 year old pushing me, spitting bubbles at me, biting me, kissing me, flinging herself into my arms, and just generally being the most passionate person in the house;

~a rather outstanding night away in Portland this month with my husband, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Trombone Shorty, and Jack Irons, a much-needed, uplifting, energizing time filled with all sorts of goodness. We even flew back on the same plane as John Cleese, and the flight attendant passed him my thank you note for all the years of laughter and entertainment.

~our upcoming road trip! We are planning to take the big kids on a grand adventure and they can’t stop talking about it. Even just planning a road trip proffers a delicious sense of freedom.

Zap. Gratitude is the thought-zapper. Gratitude is the key to staying in the present, where I absolutely need to stay. There is no other option; it is, frankly, a matter of survival at this point. The swarm is powerful. My will is weak. Zap. Zap, zap, zap.

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Adoption, Life, Nonfiction, Parenting

A sweet dream of repose

Last night afforded a lovely consolation. I dreamed of our little boy Gabriel. (Gabriel, if you don’t already know from previous posts, is our child who passed away last month.)

In real life, Gabriel became very ill very quickly. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it through the night, I gathered him up in my arms.

Considering I’m a nurse, I’ve been around remarkably few dead bodies. Hardly any. I’ve been around dying people, mostly when I worked in the jail. Some of those experiences were beautiful and others were horrifying.

But I’ve never been there at the very moment when a life left a body, such as what happened with my little boy.

When we knew his heart was going to fail–the doctors were clear with me, as it sped away wildly in septic shock, that a sudden drop would indicate the beginning of the end of its functioning–we took off his g-tube and oximeter probe and other things attached to him but I wanted to keep the heart monitor on him…to know the exact moment when it happened. That’s the nurse in me.

And sure enough, his heart rate, which had been speeding away in the 180s, dropped suddenly into the 80s. I knew he was dying. I gathered him up and held him and loved him and said goodbye to him. I cried all over his sweet little self. I felt very privileged to be there with him.

The heart monitor flat-lined…for real. Like in the movies. A flat purple line on the black screen. Intellectually, I knew that would happen, but to see it was wild.

I didn’t know what to expect but what truly amazed me was how quickly his color changed. All the vitality, the energy, the electricity which had emanated from his little living self was gone.

For the longest time, I looked at my vibrant, pink hand on his grey, ashen face. All of my aliveness next to all of his death. But his skin stayed supple and soft. How quickly would his little body become rigid? I’m sure I learned that in the textbooks forever ago in nursing school but it wasn’t a typical encounter for me in my work life so I really didn’t know.

I held him for hours…probably six or seven hours, off and on. My shoulders and back reminded me the next day. He died at 2 in the morning and I wanted my husband and other children to have the chance to see him before he was picked up and taken to the mortuary.

We were visited by a dear priest friend and then one of my closest friends Anastasia, who wrote about her experience here. Aside from the cool temperature of his skin, I lost track at times that he was dead during those special hours because he never moved much at all when he was alive. His brain injury had significantly hindered him; he rarely moved intentionally.

It was a sacred time. I’m very grateful to have had it with him.

So back to my dream. I was holding my sweet Gabriel once again. He was already gone, but in my arms in that same supple, soft, peaceful repose as he had been for so many hours in the early morning.

In my dream, my husband was there, and I knew I should give him a turn to hold our little boy but I didn’t want to give up this chance. And then the dream would occasionally transport me to a well, the kind with a water pump that needs to be cranked up and down. And I’d crank the handle up and down and cup my hands in the spurt of water that would occasionally flow.

I woke up today, grateful for that little living memory of our guy. To be able to feel him physically like that again. Dreams aren’t often pleasant experiences for me, but this one I am cherishing.

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Creativity, Life, Nonfiction, Poetry, Self-Care, Self-Medicating

Winter and her metaphors, part 2

icicles-and-moon

The moon behind icicles

Greetings, readers. I wanted to share another piece with you all, continuing with the theme of winter, along with a few paragraphs scrawled recently about loss.
~~

Arctic Circle

I think I’ll fly to Barrow.
No one there throws anything away.

I try not to email you about this,
As nothing tangible has ever stemmed
From our occasionally thawed surface.

Do you even understand
As I think you must understand
Why I need to translate
The Arctic Ocean into poems?

Aurora borealis
Does the same quiet dance like us
Through sixty-seven continuous days of darkness.
~~

The village of Barrow has a new name but my poem does not know that…my apologies to Utqiaġvik.

~~

 

Wanting Winter

In Alaska, we are obsessed with weather. We talk about it all the time because it is endlessly interesting. There is always something to say. It is never small talk. I love that about us.

By August, even those of us with a great fondness for sun begin to weary and long for the deep reflection of January. Snow falls with silent abandon. And you have done that. You have become snow, the silent, absorbent purity which traipses and intrudes over everything. Every surface exposed to the fresh cold has lost its identity in this blanket; you can only be moved by an active effort. And then, I have to bring you inside, I gather you in my buckets and warm you by the fire and drink you and bathe in you and wash with you.

Your face intrudes like snow, upon everything. I can’t go anywhere until I patiently push you out of the way. I shuffle to my car (which is life, you see) and the wipers are sealed to the glass and the mirrors are covered, because there you are. Back into the cold you take me, and I lightly drag my brush over everywhere, watching you fall away and reveal the color again (vehicle, life…try to keep up with me).

I miss you. I miss you so much. It is easy to say this from January. The winter has no end. The cold you are is harsh, there is snow all around. Some days, I sail so easily in the dank grey, feeling pleased with myself for continuing on with life in a meaningful way. Then a thought starts to override it all and I’m utterly consumed with the thoughts of you. They hide in the form of physical tension, tight shoulders, a constricted chest. I begin to swell with anger and pain and it’s not clear to me at first until I open my inner eye and realize you are right there.

A figment of my imagination, a little brain piece that won’t shut down…though I need for it to atrophy…become small and useless, even countermanding. I’m still choosing to buy into this idea that the brain has physical cells which each hold something. It gives me hope that the cell or two containing your memory can be spliced away with a laser or enough intention. But if the brain is actually holographic, I am doomed.

A soup fog yesterday, leaving behind an appearance of candy on the trees. Chunky wraps which appear solid but easily shake away with a jutting finger. Or maybe they appear like corral, as though we are encountering an ancient reef and yet we give a shake and the entire edifice crumbles, its existence as fleeting as petals on a rose. And you want to take a picture to share this beauty with anyone, but a picture cannot capture its delicacy, and anyone who’s not from here will ever understand why this moment matters. There are a thousand brief moments in winter which cry out for capture but doing so is impossible, it simply must be savored in the moment and then let go. You see, there’s a metaphor here for everything. You are winter. I am the trees.

In another rotation around the sun, I suspect I will be well over you. At New Years, I opted to hibernate. I wished them well, I blessed them on their way. They can celebrate freely, I will never drag them down into my cave. I am the mama bear in every way right now, I want sleep, I want quiet, I want the dark. I want growth but will have to waste away for a while, and then wake up renewed and anxiously looking around in the very space that I am for food. I will feast on what is freely given, I will forage among the growth and the life around me, rather than sniffing among the dead.

There is nothing in the past for me. You have chosen to rot like the carcasses of salmon, and I can’t eat that, apparently. The wisdom of my foremothers grabs my chin with her pervasive hand, slaps me on the face, blinds me to the past. Let it go, let it go, she whispers in her wisdom. I beg her to let me sleep in my cave with these thoughts. She gives me a few moments and then tosses me back out into the daily hunt for peace.

~~~

© 2017 Mindy Goorchenko All rights reserved

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Adoption, Foster Care, Life, Parenting

A rare and unexpected time

I am exhaling, looking around, crying occasionally.

The purpose of this blog is not to guilt you into action, or inundate you with personal details about myself, my family.

I write this blog to share about writing, the creative process, the endeavors undertaken to bring that needed outlet and expression into my life–professionally, a life which focuses on child trauma.

However, my home life has also had its share of encounters with child trauma, as my husband and I have been foster parents for several years.

And two years ago this week, we brought home a little boy who was otherwise living in the hospital after undergoing horrendous trauma. (I cannot escape entirely from attempting to guilt you into action as there are actual living and breathing children staying at a hospital near you, waiting for someone to engage with and commit to their needs.)

Our state’s child welfare agency agreed to place him in our crazy home. Our family hoped that he would have peace, safety, and comfort. His long-term prognosis was somewhat unknown but not expected to be anywhere near the same as a healthy child. His brain had been gravely injured and he couldn’t do anything a typical child can do.

For two years, he was treated like a prince. We plopped his adorable, fat, 1-year-old self into a living space right in the center of our home so that he wouldn’t be stuck in a bedroom, waiting for attention.

After 15 months, we were blessed to adopt him, an urgent priority because kids like him need actual, legal parents who are invested in their lives and have the authority to make medical decisions. (He didn’t have any.) The process felt like pushing oatmeal up a hill. It took a lot of pressure to finally get all the parts talking to one another so that this could happen sooner rather than later.

He was the regular recipient of drive-by kisses and snuggles. He received nursing care on a daily basis. One nurse, particularly intrepid, took him out daily to the library, local coffee houses, and walks on the trails.

He developed a veritable entourage of folks who would spend time talking to him and appreciating his adorable self. He was deemed “the best listener,” no doubt because he couldn’t interrupt. 😉 I thought about starting a Facebook page to give folks a chance to document his whereabouts because I’d get texts from friends regularly that there had been a sighting of our guy out in the community. I loved getting those because it meant he wasn’t stuck in a hospital or living in a bed.

In short, this little man was loved to the end.

After having remarkably stable health for two years in our home, he woke up one morning extremely ill. His heart rate was high, his oxygen saturation was low, and he was struggling to breathe in a way we had never seen.

And within 18 hours of waking up that morning, our angel had passed away.

His physical decline was rapid and absolute. He thankfully did not suffer for long, and his passing happened peacefully and calmly in my arms while I poured tears over him and caressed his precious face.

So the last two weeks have been the rare kind that happen unexpectedly, even while known to be inevitable sometimes. Middle of the night phone calls. Breaking it to the children. Funeral-planning. Grieving, laughing, remembering. Being at the receiving end of intensely generous love, support, and outreach of our wonderful community.

And yesterday, cleaning. Packing. So many medical supplies, his wheelchair, his personal items and our many memories. We did all that yesterday.

And we would do it again, if it means a child will not live in a hospital or die without a real and actual family.

In fact, we will do it again, someday, when our other adopted son reaches the end of his brave journey, a reality brought into sharp focus in a way that I often blissfully choose to forget.

Rest in peace, our sweet Gabriel. You are dearly missed, although I know with certainty you are living the life right now in a way you never could here on earth.

…they shall shine and dart about as sparks through stubble. ~Wisdom 3:7

 

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Life, Self-Care

Stupid ice in stupid Alaska

crutches

So I earned myself a pair of these yesterday when I took a reverse swan dive onto my rear end in a parking lot. Thankfully, I didn’t then get run over by automobiles sliding on aforementioned ice, and I hobbled my way to a meeting.

Then the time came to actually stand and move after sitting in the meeting, which didn’t go so well.

Of all the times to do such a thing to one’s self, it makes sense to have this happen at a hospital with an ER conveniently therein. Even better when the meeting has lots of medical types, one of whom is among the kindest on the planet, who stayed with me to make sure I was able to get home.

Things in the ER went well, other than my general loss of dignity accompanying the disrobing process and having to sit around in an ugly gown.

I couldn’t have asked for a more thorough doctor, and he got me through the process rather quickly.

The good news is, my pelvis is not broken per the x-rays (yay!), but that does not mean I can use it yet. So I am hanging out in bed.

Wah.

But yeah, it totally could be worse. I’m very grateful it’s NOT worse…I received the world’s best nursing care last night by my older daughters who were trying to outdo each other in nurturing awesomeness, and my husband is ordering me Thai food. The house is quiet. And there’s plenty to do right here in my bed such as drink coffee and read books and write blogs and stuff.

I really should do more of this relaxation stuff, minus the ER.

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Life, Nonfiction

In the wake of Christmas

Weeping at the beauty of this.

Today, I take inventory of Christmas.

My husband and I had a conversation about this song—how he prefers this version while I will forever remain a fan of the original. And I send condolences to Leonard Cohen, who may be turning in his grave to hear this more neatly Christian version of his offering.

Regardless, I tend to experience Christmas in a state of regret. I have incredibly fond memories of the experience, which consisted of two doting parents at one house, faithfully preserving traditions year after year while showering me, the only child, with presents. And then, later that day, a visit to my other doting parents, who would also shower me with presents. I had a stepbrother in that house, a pesky detail that I didn’t let detract from the ultimate focus on yours truly.

This was all a completely secular and utterly wonderful experience. However, akin to how my brain was already primed to pray the rosary from so many Los Angeles encounters with beads swinging from rear view mirrors and tattooed images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was spending a month of every year immersed in the lyrics of Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful and other traditional carols. They were everywhere: the radio, my bedside music box, our school’s Christmas presentation. While my family never claimed to be Christian and did not attend church (on Christmas, Easter, or any other day) I feel certain the spiritual underpinnings of Christmas were communicated nonetheless.

Fast forward a few decades and here we are with our own children and all the build-up. The focus paid to a single child in a home is impossible when there are 8 times that many, and a 9th one living on his own for the first year. My husband and I spent the month of December with me working more than usual due to the demands of my academic program, trusting blindly that my husband will pull off Christmas the way he usually does, and him sending me texted pictures from this or that store while he does his usual Santa magic.

In the last dying hours, I feel certain the point of it all has been lost.

Our traditions manage to persist. We gather each night for dinner, lighting the candles of our Advent wreath and singing “O Come Emmanuel.” My faith sputters currently like how the matches are lit so tentatively by the children.

Then we come together on Christmas morning (read that: the parents stumble down the stairs, the children bound excitedly). Bleary-eyed from Midnight Mass, we marvel year after year at how our children will wake up at 6:30 a.m., regardless of having stayed up until 2 in the morning. Every single year I know for certain they will sleep in this time. It never, ever happens.

But one moment from Christmas morning stands out. I have a little video clip of it, to prove we are not breeding a bunch of self-centered minions. The toddlers have just pulled off the final shreds of the wrapping paper around the huge box that holds their new, toddler-sized slide. And then my older kids start handing presents around and arguing playfully about which of them will open the next gift. And yet, they are not advocating for themselves—they are arguing for the other.

“It’s your turn now.” “No, it’s your turn!”

All is not lost.

hello-everybody

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