Donovan Alexander Niman

On September 25, 2021 my third grandchild, Donovan Alexander Niman, was silently born.

He was announced stillborn.

On October 6, 2021 we held his funeral.

It’s been a devastating and heartbreaking couple of weeks for the family, with quite a bit of beauty and happiness shining through. (More on that next time.) Today, I want to take a moment to celebrate the life that almost happened. Below, I’m posting the poem I wrote for Donovan and read (through torrents of tears…I’m not even sure anyone could understand me) at his funeral.

Donovan: A Tribute Poem by Cathy Marie Bown

All the dreams that we had for you

Now they never ever will come true.

All the things we wanted to teach,

Now they are forever out of reach.

All the sights we wanted you to see,

Now those wishes never will be.

All the plans that we all made

Add up to the price that we all paid.

As we make payment on the emotional cost

It feels like all hope is lost.

Gone too soon,

Lost in the womb.

The pain we feel

Is just too real.

So, as we say goodbye today

We have sent you Heaven’s way.

Donovan, to Heaven you flew,

Please remember, we all love you!

Sunflower Fields

Yesterday, amid all of the chaos of life, we took a few hours out to go to a local Sunflower field. It was a fantastic break from everything that has been going on.

I am in a capstone class for my History degree, in the midst of writing a thirty page research paper. Katarinah has been really sick for nearly a week, keeping me from getting much done.

Taking a much needed break, doing some shopping, and enjoying a few hours outside was refreshing, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Of course, taking the camera out was another added bonus. I’ve been so busy with school that I haven’t had time to take pictures or deal with the camera in weeks. I took a bunch of pictures on the fourth of July and still haven’t dealt with them. But the sunflower pictures, I simply couldn’t wait to share them with the world. The experience was so uplifting.

Jamie even took a few pictures that look photoshopped but aren’t! They are really neat!

We had a lot of fun. It was a great family outting, even if we didn’t have our whole family.

Almost Done with College

Time for new courses! The new term, which starts June 28, 2021, is going to be very exciting for me. I am taking His 338 Young America and HIS 460 History Research Seminar. This is my capstone course. Once this term is over, the following term is only one course and then I will be completely done with my double bachelor program!!!

This term is heavy on historical reading. The books above are all my textbooks for just these two classes. I’m excited for the content, though. I am most excited to dive into the Trail of Tears. For my Research seminar, I am writing my capstone paper on the Manhattan Project. I find the atomic bombs terribly interesting. WWII has been an area I have done much research on, and I am excited to spend eight weeks digging in to new sources.

I must say, though, I am eager to finish my history degree courses so I can move on to my masters program in writing. I haven’t done much creative writing lately, because of life and history homework. I miss the stories, the characters, the plots, and the unknown.

Our faces of Autism

Being a guardian and primary caretaker of a toddler with autism is hard. No matter what anyone says or does, it is hard. Some days are really easy. Some days are hard. And some days are impossible.

I love this little girl. She is absolutely amazing! Sometimes she is dramatic…

…Sometimes she is happy…

…Sometime she is playful…

…Sometimes she is too sleepy to continue to play…

…And then there is difiant and angry.

She has so many different moods and faces. Each day is a journey through nearly all of them. She doesn’t really talk much, but she tries. She’s learning sign language and she’s learning English. But some days, she refuses to use any of it. But she still communicates with us through her facial expressions.

She is participating in the Birth-to-Three program and has a therapist come to our home for weekly interventions. She just got accepted into the children’s long-term support waiver program. We are hopeful that early intervention will allow her to grow up and be a productive and fully functional part of society.

Commencement 2021

Coronavirus interfered with many things this last year. One of the most important accomplishments for me was pushed to the side and forgotten. In February 2020 I was awarded my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts.

While this may not seem like an important accomplishment to many, for me, it was a monumental stepping stone. In October of this year I will complete my double bachelor program. My plan after that is to move on to a master’s program.

In my family, I am the first to ever get a college degree, that I know of. When I graduated high school, I tested out a year early because I was pregnant and I wanted to finish school before my daughter arrived. I never got a chance to graduate with my classmates or walk a stage. There was no graduation party, no cards, no gifts, no warm congratulations. It was just another day and was quickly forgotten.

I have never forgotten how much I hurt because I missed out on an important right of passage.

I tried to go to college in 2004 but failed after a year and a half because of a domestic violence situation that resulted in destroyed textbooks and an inoperable computer. I spent years working to pay back the student loans so that one day I could try again. I knew I was capable. I was always a good student. I know I’m intelligent. But life got in the way. I didn’t get the chance to go back until 2016.

When I started my journey with SNHU, my intention was just to get a BA in English. Along the way my advisor and I realized I had completed nearly all of the requirements for an associate’s degree as well. We took a slight detour on my planned path. I completed a couple extra courses I didn’t intend to take so that I could earn this degree. Once that was completed, I went back to the BA program.

After a few conversations with my advisor, I decided to be overly ambitious and add a second major to my program, expanding to include a BA in history. If I hadn’t done that, I would have already gotten my BA in English by now. By adding the second major and a minor in Art History, I added an extra year and a half to my undergraduate experience.

I do not regret that decision. It may be taking me longer, but I am proving to myself that I can do this.

I didn’t get to walk the stage in high school and I didn’t get to walk the stage for my associate’s degree. I attended the virtual commencement this morning, and virtually walked the stage.

I am determined as ever to physically walk the stage next year for my bachelor’s degrees.

I am wearing the honor cords for National Society of Leadership and Success and Sigma Tau Delta. I wasn’t able to get the honor cords for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in time for the pictures. I will have them in my BA pictures 🙂 Additionally, I graduated with Highest Honors and a 4.0 GPA!

Fun with Fruit

Today I’d like to show off a few pieces I photographed for Still Life week.

Creating still life setups was interesting. I’m not usually the kind of person who can slow down and just relax. When working with fruit for this activity, I had to spend a bit of time positioning, getting the lighting right, playing with settings on the camera, and capturing the image. Still life photography is not a quick process.

Reflecting upon my work, there are many flaws in these images and they are very basic. But I think they are a good representation of beginning skills. The more I look at them, the more I can pick out things that should have been done differently. And that is one way that I can affirm that I learned quite a bit from my photography class. These pictures were taken in the third week. I was still very new to the camera and arranging material for pictures. Now that I have completed the course, I am confident I could do a much better job.

I will continue to take pictures now because I want to, not because I have to. I may even look into some additional photography courses to really expand on the skills I have already learned.

Cathy

Playing with Flowers

In my photography course, one of the lessons was how to manipulate photos to create new images and to change the way we see things. For my project, I took some flowers I bought over Easter weekend and played around with arrangements, seperating individual flowers, destroying petals, and flattening the buds to find different views that I don’t normally see when they are sitting in a vase. Below I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

Just a Pink Flower
Just a Blue Flower
Deconstructed Pink Flower
Close up of Flowers
Flattened Blue Flower
Yellow and Green Flowers

This assignment forced me to look at things deeper than the surface. Together, the flowers are beautiful. I love brightly colored flowers, even though they are dyed that way. Bright colors make me feel happy. In a chaotic world where I don’t always understand my purpose, the little things make all the difference.

Individually, the flowers were beautiful but also flawed. As I deconstructed the setup, petals fell off, colors bled, and the white paper background became stained. When I began pulling the flowers apart and manipulating them, they resisted.

When you force something to become something that it isn’t by nature, it resists or relents. Through this experience and my current reflection of that experience, these flowers taught me a valuable lesson I often overlook in my overwhelming life. When you do what comes naturally, when you are what you were born to be, the struggle is so much easier to bear than when you try to be something you are not.

Many of my own struggles are because I try to be someone I am not. I want to please everyone while leaving myself to the back. I often lose myself in the day-to-day mundane tasks of life with children. Because I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a caregiver of an autistic toddler. But I am so much more than that.

I often forget the journey I have been on so far in life. I often forget that I have overcome some of the most difficult hurdles, I have survived things that I shouldn’t have, and I have always gotten back up. I am just a few months away from a double bachelors degree and I have held a 4.0 for four years of college. I was the first in my family to get a college degree in February 2020 when I got my Associate’s.

Lately, I’ve been feeling defeated. I’ve been in an existential spiral of doubt and doom with no end in sight. I wanted to tap out, to be done with everything. But a chance reconnection from my childhood helped me realize I can do this. I can handle this. If she can walk through the fires of Hell that she is enduring in life right now, and still take time to talk me down from the ledge, I can absolutely handle what life has given me.

I only hope she reads this and knows how much her time has meant to me and how much my heart breaks for her and her family.

Learning Digital Photography Skill

Little Girl in a pretty dress

Recently I took a class at SNHU on digital photography. I learned a lot about photography, including how to operate a camera and customize all of the controls. In my sixth week, I took a pleathera of black and white pictures, which I find striking and powerful. I wanted to share a couple of those here.

Happy
Happy Little Girl

I will add more in the future. I think I’m going to keep taking pictures. I have fallen in love with capturing true human emotions and moments that seem mundane.

My first FICTION publication is live!

It’s official! My first short story “Down the Country Road” has been published!

You can read it here: https://penmenreview.com/down-the-country-road/

I’ve been waiting for this for over a month now. I was informed it would be published in early March, and have been patiently (impatiently) waiting for the story to go live before sharing the news here, just in case they changed their minds.

I hope you all have a lovely day! Mine will be fantastic after this!

My First Nonfiction Publication is Live!

My first creative non-fiction collaboration has been published! My team won the W.R.I.T.E. Challenge this year!

You can read the article at: https://penmenreview.com/writing-resources/6-dos-and-donts-for-starting-a-new-writing-career/

I am super proud of my group for pulling this article off! Due to COVID-19 complications, my involvement was more limited than I intended, however I did pick out the author and conduct the interview portion. For the author interview, I chose Adrienne Kisner, whom I first encountered as an instructor at Southern New Hampshire University. If you want to learn more about her, you can access her website here http://www.adriennekisner.com/.

I’m so excited to finally have a publication under my belt. It’s twice as exciting since the Penmen Review will be publishing one of my short stories in a couple of days. I will write more on that on Thursday! I’ve known for a month, but waited to share until I got an official publication date!

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