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Fireside Chat

Updated: Jan 2


(a picture of our cabin, and my writing desk)




Hello dear friends,


I want to thank you for still being here, especially as Keith and I reconfigure our lives.

I found myself coming back to the drawing board, as it were, with our continuance of the website a few days ago.

I constructed Girl Named Outlaw in twenty-twenty while Olivia was alive, and here we are entering twenty-twenty four without her.

I cannot put to concise words the journey we've been on, nor the fathoms of hope & despair that accompany us on this road. I'm saving those particular intricacies for a book that I'm currently writing also titled, Girl Named Outlaw.

Within those pages you will find the untold story.


In the meantime, I've joined a platform of creatives called The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad.


During Olivia's disease progression, I sheltered myself within books of suffering and perseverance. One of those books was titled Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad.


I still find the authenticity of Suleika's battle with Leukemia a source of inspiration.


So, I find it now fitting to rediscover myself within a community that sees creativity as act of defiance toward suffering, isolation, and grief.


I'm finding writing prompts within The Isolation Journals that are helping me to find my voice, again.


I don't strive for the voice that once was,

but a new voice,

wisdom's voice,

a voice refined in suffering,

and ablaze with Hope.


I'd like to share my first writing prompt of 2024 and a newfound vulnerability here,

with you.



What, in the last year, are you proud of?


In this last year, I am proud of my husband and I.

At the dawn of 2023, the cloud of grief following our five-year old's death had just started to permeate around us. Olivia died on the fifth of September 2022 and the conclusion to that year had been a blur. In 2023, the pieces fell from their float, and they fell hard. Our intervals of mourning were met (very honestly, I tell you) alongside true battles of suicidal ideation. There were days that I thought my heart would stop. Some days, still...

I am proud that Keith and I are still here, still breathing, united in marriage, and closer than ever.


What did this year leave you yearning for?

Besides Olivia...


Heaven.

Not just in the way that one would imagine at the conclusion of this life, but rather I yearn for Heaven, here on earth. I yearn to be met with the presence of God every day, at every juncture, because isn't that a type of Heaven? A place in the perpetual presence of the Creator?


What's causing you anxiety?


The unknown. The mystery of it all.


I once had this dream of God as a massive body of water.

An ever-expanding ocean with no land in sight.

My physical body floated upon it buoyantly, but the fathoms below terrified me.

I took this dream to a pastor of mine who'd confided in me that he'd had the same imagery, accompanied by the same terror.

I asked what served to calm his anxiety and he told me with a kind smile...

"The Lord said to me, 'I am the ocean, and so (you see) you can never be lost."

Those words comfort me, still.


Also, I was clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (and panic disorder) at the age of thirty. Though my childhood was quilted together in love, it was also rife with trauma. I'd learned to cope in the chaos by acquiring dissociative techniques. This suppression manifested itself in other ways that in turn caused my nervous system to take a beating over the years. I was put on medication that first appointment, and I'd continue to cycle through SSRI's and anti-anxiety medications for years to come.


I disclose all this as to say...what doesn't cause me anxiety?

I've lived within the parameters of anxiety for as long as I can remember.



What resources, skills, and practices can you rely on in the coming year?


This last year, I've taken to healthier coping practices.

I play chess with my husband most afternoons.

We, two, engage in soul-enriching documentaries, and shows.

We read the Bible together daily, alongside other edifying books.

We hike.

We 'gym'.

I practice yin-yoga.

I've forgone alcohol completely (to which I have no desire).

I've found relief in marijuana, which has also allowed me more than a year off all anxiety, depression, and panic pharmaceuticals.

Not least of all, I intend to fully lean into writing as my primary form of astute expression.



What are your wildest, most hair-brained ideas and dreams?


To publish a book/books.

To make a living off my pen.

To bring to fruition a non-profit, in honor of Olivia,

predicated on the scripture found in Mathew 25:40,

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.'"



This concludes my introduction to 2024.


If you are new here, welcome. <3

I so appreciate you taking a loving interest to us.


If you've been here from the beginning,

you're like family...


Your presence is seen and recognized within this space.



All my love,

Shalamar




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What, in the past year, am I proud of? February 10th of 2023, we found out that my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer...4 tumors in his brain...inoperable. My dad was the most active 79 year old I know. We were stunned, in shock and disbelief at first; in the weeks and months following the tragic news my brothers and I took several trips out to see him, to work through a lifetime of hurt, questions, feelings, pictures, doctors appointments, and spend as much time as possible. With the help of many, we were able to process, grieve, and come together with all of our differences to have the most meaningful culmination of my dad's life. I'm proud…

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Darla,


This is so very powerful.

To put aside differences, to forgive, to choose LOVE.

That is what I like to call the ordinarily miraculous!


I’m proud of you, too.

Also, my condolences on your father, friend. I don’t think we ever get accustomed to losing a loved one. 💔


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Beautiful, honest and raw. We send our daily prayers and love to you and Keith. And we are also so very proud of you both. Hugs and love to you both. And I look forward to reading that book of yours when it is published.

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Rhonda.

We received your Christmas update.

🤍 It was lovely to read that the family is doing well! Thank you for the prayers, and for loving us.

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You are such a a gifted writer. I look forward to reading that book of yours!

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Thank you for the compliment, friend. I look forward to sharing the book (and Olivia) with you.

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Your words nourish my soul! Beautiful:)

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Thank you beautiful Darla. Your presence in my life has been likewise nourishing! 🤍

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