Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 31--Your Questions Answered

It is ironic that today on Day 31, posting everyday for a month, I have also hit 300 posts on this blog. Woweee, that is a lot of blah blah blahing. Thank you for all for reading along on this self-indulgent meme month. Actually, I guess the whole point of a blog is kind of self-indulgent, so thank you for reading along at the Department of Redundancy Department. Thank you all for your comments, questions, love and playing along this month. It was really exhausting to post every day, but also good for me. I have been neglecting this blog with all the work on still life 365, and my still life everyday blog and writing at Glow and stuff. I admit that some days, it all felt a bit silly. Other days, it felt like a really good writing prompt. But I do think it was really effective in showing how every. single. aspect. of your life changes when you lose a child, even how you listen to music, or fill out a meme. I have loved learning more about all of you, especially as I have seen your comments for months, and not had time to follow your links. And reading others who filled this out in this blog's comments (Dani, I loved that you did most of them too, right here.) This month I have added a ton new blogs to my reader, and am grateful to be reading all your words and experiences, and learning about your babies. I am always up for answering questions, so shoot them to me anytime. Happy Halloween. And now, onto the questions people asked me in comments.

I have a question for you... This would have been Aiden's first Christmas. Other than decorating his burial site with a tree, my husband and I will pretty much be skipping this holiday season. After Lucy died, how did you do it? It's still only October and I can't even think of November and December without crying (granted it has only been a little over 2 months since Aiden died). We're planning on donating to pregnancy &; infant loss charities in lieu of presents this year and are asking others to do the same for us. I know our situations are a bit different because you had B, but what were your holiday's like? Thanks Ang

Dear Angie,

It is a good question, and one I kept asking before hitting my first holidays too. But I guess I asked it when hitting everything, "How do I go through my first baby shower? Or Christmas? Or Thanksgiving? Or New Years? Or question about my children?" The first year is so fucking hard. If the entire year was full of perfect days, 70 degrees, all the green lights on the way to your favorite places with no holidays, it would still be the worst year of your life. Or at the very least, one of the worst years.

When it pisses down rain, and jackasses are cutting you off and the market bagging girl asks you when you are due and then says, "Oh" and then flashes the checkout girl a knowing, annoyed look at your honesty and obvious buzz-killing when you tell her your baby just died and you are only there to buy canned pumpkin to make a pie for Thanksgiving with the cousins who couldn't even muster an "I'm sorry" and are also pregnant with their third child, well, the holidays can suck.

The first year is just hard. Everyday living is just hard. Holidays, anniversaries, the same day of the week your child died and everything else out of the routine feels downright absurd. Hitting everything the first time is impossibly tender, and you also have no precedent on how it is going to be. You have no prior experience of Christmas grief, so you spend months of build up wondering what the event/holiday/baby shower/birthday/party is actually going to be like. The anticipation of horribleness is almost as hard, if not harder, than the day. Fear of the unknown has always been a particularly hard thing for me to face. I don't think I am alone in that.

Two months out is so raw. I know it feels like you have been grieving for a very long time. And you have. Two months might well be two years. Everyone says this, and I hated hearing it when I was two months out, but grief changes. I'm not saying it gets better. I'm not saying you will heal. But it changes, and so though this Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's might be completely awash in very raw, aching, horrible grief, it might not be that way every year. I don't know if that is comforting or annoying to hear, but I am only saying it, because one thing that helped me was knowing that maybe I wouldn't always be angry, or difficult or find Christmas unbearable. The moments when grief captures me, beats me up, drives me into the ground, keeps me housebound for days, are the moments I was least expecting. In that way, holidays are times I expect my grief to appear. I worried over it. Toiled even. So I wove time around grief, and it generally ended up being better than I expected.

Lucy died three days before Christmas, so actually last Christmas we were hitting her first birthday, and it was technically our second Christmas without Lucy. My first Christmas without her, 2008, I woke to my milk coming in, being horribly engorged and aching. And the funeral director called to tell us he cremated Lucy the night before. I had wrapped Christmas presents for her weeks earlier, anticipating her birth around the holidays. I had a stocking with some little toys I bought for her. That was terrible, opening them, integrating them into Beezus' toys. Everything about that day was terrible. I think having an older child made it easier to compartmentalize grief for a few hours while gifts were being opened and Santa yarns were being spun. I didn't want to ruin Christmas for her, but after two hours of not crying, grief exploded on me like a tsunami, and all of the sudden I was inconsolable despite myself. I basically stayed under the covers and took boiling hot bath after bath after bath. I was tender. Very tender.

Last year, my internet friends got together and sent me a little rosemary Christmas tree and each person handmade, or bought, an ornament for Lucy's tree. I cannot even tell you what that meant to me. It overwhelmed me and made me feel very loved. Some days it was actually too overwhelming and I wouldn't look at the mail. Other days, we were so excited to have another remembrance of her. I actually made a video, you can watch here. This year, I am going to hang all those ornaments on our big tree, which we decorate mostly with ornaments that I made. Having Lucia be part of our holidays feels right and important. We also celebrate Santa Lucia's day, which is a week before her death day and solstice. We integrate a lot of rituals into our lives in association with grief. That works for our family.

What I did do last year, and will do this year, and will probably do for the rest of my life, is budget grief into my schedule of the holidays. I have told everyone in my family that Christmas is just for us to grieve. No grandparents. No aunt and uncles. No second cousins twice removed. We get together with them, instead on Christmas Eve, and somehow that is doable. The atmosphere is more adult somehow. It is nighttime, so we have wine and make stromboli and exchange presents with my family. Then everyone goes home by 8p. We can curl up together on Christmas morning. We don't ignore grief in our family unit. We cry and grieve in front of our children and talk about Lucy, death, depression, grief and sadness very openly. Just having that normal talking about grief relieves us from always having to explain what this grief is when it rears its ugly head. We often just look at the other person and know they are having a Lucy moment. Anyway, we take our time opening presents. We stay in our pajamas all day. That worked really well for us last year. Sam likes making a big breakfast, so he did that. We watched documentaries all day and ate nothing but carrots and hummus for dinner. We cried here and there, and looked at pictures of her. All in all, the week of her birthday and Christmas was a week both filled with lots of joy, cathartic crying and lots of grief. I have no idea what this Christmas will be, but I feel good right now about it, excited about Christmas music and baking and all the smells of the season. And strangely, I am even looking forward to touching grief's tender spots in me. I don't deluge cry much anymore, and I know I will then.

From what I know of you, Angie, I do know that you are generous and loving, and that channeling your grief by donating presents and doing something sounds like an amazingly compassionate way to deal with grief. Last year, I read about Doing Good in Her Name. I read Kristin's blog and saw that she was collecting specific items for newborns. I went to Babies R Us and took the list, and just bought all kinds of things. Far from being sad, it was really cathartic. I came home having spent WAY more than I wanted and told my husband that this was his and Beatrice's Christmas present to me, and in that way, I sat on Christmas morning imagining those things being used for a family with their own child. I'm not sure we have the financial means to do the same thing this year. I might be forgoing presents just so Beezus and Thor get some, but it is a great cause.

Also, don't be afraid to ask your friends, internet friends, family and yourself to do something that would lift you. Like an ornament exchange, art swap or a little gift exchange with other babylost ornaments. One thing you might want to do is make ornaments with your babylost friends baby's names, and they make ones with Aiden's name, and you create a tree for him. The only advice I would suggest is budget in grief and say no to things. There is no right way to do this. Get through in whatever way feels comforting.

Just know that there are those of us out here--I am very much that person--who will sit with your grief, if you are feeling alone. I will listen. Just email me anytime. This goes for any one of you reading along who needs a friend this holiday, or just wants to talk to someone who gets it when the going gets rough. Email me and I will send you my phone number even.

If I think of a better one, I will ask it later. But for now, what size shirts are your kids currently wearing? And what are they going to be for Halloween?-Here We Go AJen

Dear Jen,

Beezus is in 4-5T or small in big girl clothes. And Thor is currently in 18 months. Yes, he is about to turn seven months. And for Halloween. Thor is going to be a little skeleton, and Beezus is going to be a witchy witch, or Supergirl, or a kitty cat, again. She is currently wearing her witchy costume, so I am going with that.

I am cheating on the one question- one link, but more than one question. -Danielle


I actually love James Lipton and the Actor's Studio in all his melodramatic glory. And I love these questions.

1. What is your favorite word? I really like the word Twig.
2. What is your least favorite word? Horny. It is so 70s porn. It grosses me out.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Humility, humor and capability.
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Defensiveness and unwarranted arrogance.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Rain.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Metal scraping ice.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Cock.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Advice Columnist.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Lawyer.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Sorry about all that down there. You were right. About it all. Come on in. Here is your bourbon.”

For my question, I would like to hear more about your 18 month old arch nemesis. -Here We Go AJen
yes... Who is this evil 18 month old? -Angie
I, too, am very curious about this 18-month-old Moriarty. -erica

If I called an eighteen month old an asshole, I'm pretty sure the internet would turn against me. I actually always call squirrels assholes, and here is why. When I grow tomatoes in my backyard, the squirrels pick them one by one, take a bite, then discard the WHOLE FUCKING TOMATO on the ground. Then they sit on the fence and watch me lose my mind. I mean, come on. That is a total asshole move. Just eat the fucking tomato. I mean, if the squirrel ate the tomato, I would simply call him a greedy bastard. But just taking one bite...geesh. In many ways, the eighteen-month old pulls a squirrel move every Music Class.

He is tottering genius who is pretending not to be able to talk or listen to adults while conspiring to give my children continual viruses. He actually isn't "evil". He is cunning, uh, I mean, smart, rambunctuous, curious, active...this is the thing. Just because you are a toddler, say, eighteen months (or possibly younger) you get no outs in Electric Angie Land. If you are acting like a jackass, I will tell you, (in my head) that you are acting like a jackass. And Little Sir, you are a jackass.

I generally am not a germaphobe. But the kid has a perpetually runny nose and a nasty, croup-y cough, and has taken to being fascinated with everything that belongs to Thor. Rattles. Baby gnome. Toys. His shoes. His grandmother/nanny (I can't figure out which she really is) does nothing to prevent him from coming over to our stuff, grabbing it, sucking on it, licking it, humping it, and then stuffing it right into Thor's face before I can stop him. Everyone goes "Aaaawwwww, he likes the baby" while he is handing the "baby his toys". "So sweet" they coo after him, but what I see is a germy, disgusting toy pre-sucked by a kid with a horribly nasty cough stuffed into the mouth of my six month old. I really don't want to discipline another person's kid. I don't want to have to watch after him always. I don't want to use my nice, inside June Cleaver voice to say, "No, no, Genius Child, don't put that in the baby's face." I want to enjoy music class with my children without wondering where Patient X is and what is the next virus he is handing out to our household. And I really really really don't want to cart my anti-bacterial crap to the circle, because then who looks like the asshole? Yes. Me.

Here is the point where he crossed being a little annoying snotty kid to being my arch nemesis. One morning, when I was happily enraptured in singing, "Hey Lolly Lolly Lolly" , I turn around and this kid is pulling everything out of my diaper bag, and sucking on Beezus' juice. Blaaargh!! Were you raised by gypsies, Shortie? He effectively licked everything we own before I realized it. And cloth things. Anyway, yeah, so since it seems like he is basically trying to drive me type A insane, he has become my arch nemesis spreading ebola to my children. Did I mention I have been sick with a hacking horrible virus all week? Yeah. Totally the wee Arch Nemesis. I need a good Arch Nemesis name for him. This week, he somehow managed to break the circulating fan, draw blood from the music teacher, and send a huge cardboard poster of Noah's Ark into the middle of my back.

I have a bruise.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 30 - a dream for the future

Day 30 - a dream for the future 

The wind chimes blow gently. The fall air makes our house feel special on an ordinary weekend. "Git out from underfoot," I scold the dog as the big pot of paella stews on the stovetop. My children are home for the weekend. I hit the back of my son's hand as he picks scallops out of the pot. "You ruin it by opening the pot. You know that." They both laugh at me and pretend to be afraid of me. 

Sam pours me a glass of wine as they chop veggies for me. I cook and add spices and little details that remind them of home. They tell me stories--wild, insane stories of university and their friends. The laughter with the aroma of sofrito fills our kitchen. Sam keeps coming behind me to smooch the back of my neck and put his arms around me. He buries his face in my hair. I know what he is thinking. Our children are happy. We have done good. 

I will stop, as they tease each other, close my eyes and say a prayer of thanks for my amazing fortune. A candle will flicker our sideboard, next to a pillar or small stones and a small black jizo. It is still a prayer of thanks when I notice the candle. Still a prayer of infinite gratitude.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 29 - hopes, dreams, and plans for the next 365 days

Day 29 - hopes, dreams, and plans for the next 365 days

Geesh. Well, I hope to remain as driven creatively. Keep writing short stories and finish a damned novel one of these damned days. I hope to figure out a way to blend my passions for art and writing into a career which makes money because my time limit for being a stay at home mom is coming to an end, I think. In some ways, I feel like I am at a crossroads in my life with my writing, my career, my passions. I can touch the life I have always imagined for myself, and I hope to really visualize it and pursue it clearly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 28 - what's in your handbag/purse

Day 28 - what's in your handbag/purse

Well, technically it is a diaper bag. If I carry a purse and go out without children, I usually put my keys, my wallet, a pack of Extra Peppermint gum, lipgloss and sometimes an I-pod. If I carry my diaper bag, it is the aforementioned items along with Thor diapers, wipes, a nursing cover, snacks for Beezus (a Clif Bar), food for Thor, gnomes, diaper duck, crayons and some paper. I am kind of a minimalist.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 27 - your worst habit since your child's death.

Day 27 - your worst habit since your child's death.

I drink bourbon alone at night and write.

I don't have anything else to add to that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 26 - your week, in great detail

Day 26 - your week, in great detail

My husband has a changing schedule every week, so my week changes too. Life is different when he is around, but most weeks are like this:

Sunday is Family Day. No television. No cell phone. We do family-oriented activities. That also means no writing except during naptime.

Monday: I usually see my father who lives in a nursing facility. He has Advanced Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. He is paralyzed on one side of his body and cannot walk, so he is wheelchair bound. This year, he has been in and out of the hospital a few times with infections, which scares the shizzle out of me, but he has been sick for a very long time. Anyway, he is very particular about his way of being, so my sister or I have to do his laundry every week. He won't let strangers touch his clothing. Anyway, we go to see him, take him lunch, shoot the shit make sure he has money/toothpaste and all that jazz. He lives about an hour and fifteen minutes away, so I leave about 9:30a and get home around 3p. My kids have been going to see him since they were about a month old each, and I hope it gives them the compassion to sit with someone who is very ill. They talk to all the guys there and I love that wheelchairs are not gape-magnets. They always see wheelchairs. They are comfortable with sick and old people. We talk about those things quite a bit, and about death. And we teach them to respect and be kind to all the people, so they are favorites around those halls. My father has an electric wheel chair and the girls always take turns riding on his lap, or on the back. It is very cute. My father has been sick for a very long time. I miss my dad, to be honest, I have grieved him for a very very long time.

Tuesday: We usually stay home, or hit the library. Sometimes we go to my sister's house to play with my niece and nephew, or go for a hike.

Wednesday: Music Together Class, which is seven kinds of fun, except for the fact that my arch nemesis is in the class. And yes, he is 18 months.

Thursday: GYMNASTICS. I studied gymnastics, and signed Beezus up this year, because I thought she should learn how to fall properly. She loves gymnastics. I think she doesn't stop smiling from the time she goes in there until she leaves.

Friday: Market/Target day. Yeah, we shop for stuff and run errands. Sometimes we meet my sister to shop at the market, which is basically chaotic and insane and I am pretty sure people loathe us, but it does make it a lot more fun.

Saturday: Work day. Sam takes the kids and goes out for three-five hours while I write, work on still life 365 or paint. Then they come home, I feed Thomas and he takes them for a nap and I keep working.

That wasn't in great detail, but overview of our week.

I have blogged everyday this month. But October has 31 days. So, if anyone is interested in asking me a question, I will answer them on October 31st. You can pose questions here in the comment section, or email me at You can ask about anything. Dead baby related or not. You can even ask anonymously, if you want to ask me something mean-spirited. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 25 - your day, in great detail

Day 25 - your day, in great detail

Yeah, so I suppose everyone who reads here knows that I am a stay at home mother. I have to say that being a stay at home mother was a strange fit for me. I consider myself a feminist. I had a successful, interesting and profitable career. I bought our house. I had always been the sole provider in our relationship until giving birth, and in fact, before leaving on maternity leave, I had never been in a relationship where my partner made more money than me.

When I decided to stay home, it wasn't made in haste or taken lightly. In fact, it was kind of like Princess Bride, when Westley describes being captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, "Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning. " Every morning I would wake up and think, "Oh, wow, that was hard, interesting and fun. I'll probably go back to work next week."

I didn't really want my identity completely tied up in my child. I didn't really want to lose my career. I didn't really want to be defined in relation to other people--husband and kids. I didn't want to learn songs and signing and have a Dora-splosion house. I didn't want to be the caretaker or play house, or do any of those things. I really didn't want to clean stinky things, or talk about diapering options with complete strangers. To be frank, I wanted to be selfish about my identity and who I thought I was.

In Theory.

Except that when I was home with Beezus, it fit. Better than I ever imagined. I loved it. I loved it all. I found it fulfilling and interesting. And the first time someone called me the caregiver and Sam the breadwinner, I lost my ego-laden marbles. When the neighbor called me a housewife, I walked in my house and punched our couch out of rage and stewed, and thought up a lot of great retorts which basically boiled down to, "No I'm not." The word hausfrau bounced around in my skull for weeks after that, and I would grow red again. And what I realized is that my ego, my reputation, was preventing me from pursuing this beautiful life. I was letting other people's idea of what a stay at home mother was influence what a stay at home mother was for me. Would I go back to work simply because people are seeing me as the kind of woman I didn't want to be seen as? It was ridiculous. It was a good lesson for me. And being the kind of stay at home mother that I am has become a real exploration in balancing my ego and my true path.

It still stings when people say, "I don't know how you do it." That is probably the most frequently said thing to me by other adults. "How do you stay home all day? I couldn't do it." Or "My kids are soooo annoying/difficult/mind numbingly boring/uninterested in anything cool. I would shoot myself if I was home all day." In general, then, I think that is a good thing to know about yourself.  But if staying home isn't boring to me, are you saying I am dim? Or just easily amused? Or just without discipline?

So, anyway, why am I talking about this? Because my day is intrinsically tied to being a stay at home mother, and it is something I don't talk about very much.

After Lucy died, my mothering was kind of more of like a cocoon-ing. We watched a lot of television. Curled under blankets. Only went to the playground when I was certain others were not there. We walked around the alleys of our neighborhood, if you can call them alleys. We snarled at people. We painted for hours and hours and hours a day. Or cooked. Or cleaned together. Sometimes we took three baths. I don't know. Beatrice and I talked a lot. Read books and talked, or told stories, or stared at the ceiling. Yes she could barely form a sentence, but that was comforting to me. All my emotions needed to be summed up in succinct sentences that a two year old could understand. It helped uncomplicate my head. "Mommy is sad because Lucy died." Can't get much more straightforward and true than that.

This fall I decided to be more intentional with my parenting and teaching. I ordered a number of homeschooling books, and wonderful books about incorporating nature and ritual into your daily lives. All in all, it has been transformative for both of us--spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. We love what we are doing now, so here is our day:

I usually wake up at 6:00 am, shuffle downstairs. I set my coffee up the night before and have it on a timer, so it wakes me with the aroma. I pour myself coffee, take my thyroid medication. I let the dog out, shuffle to the computer, and read blogs/answer emails. (I am pretending that this is a perfect, normal day of the week day where my husband has already left for work. And that we are home all day, but mostly, we have something every day.) He leaves around 6a, so sometimes I get a quick snuggle and smooch in before he is off. The kids usually wake up around 6:30 or 7:00 am, so I get a few minutes checking My Face, and Twitter and all that. When they wake, I have to go get Thor. Beezus will come downstairs. I set up her orange juice the night before, so if she does wake before me, she can get her own juice and hang out until I wake up. When the kids come downstairs, I change diaper for Thor. I nag Beezus to use the potty about a thousand times before she actually will grab her crotch and scream that she has to use the potty. RIGHT NOW. And she runs off to potty. Sometimes I let television be on for a half hour or an hour, if I am feeling particularly bleary-eyed. During that time, Thor is in his bounce-y thing, and I usually do the crossword while she watches her morning stories. I always call my sister at this time and we talk for a few minutes. Every. Morning. If I am needing to talk to my mother, I call her too.

We turn the television off pretty quickly in the morning. Bea and I play with Thor. We always play the three of us for some amount of time. Then we all get up and feed. I get Beezus some granola or yogurt and honey. Thor eats his cereal. I eat granola, or drink a smoothie. We wash dishes, and head upstairs. It is usually around 8 or 8:30a. We get dressed, brush teeth. I shower. I am a showering freak, so I take a shower in the morning and bath in the evening most days come hell or high water. The kids don't usually bother me. They play in their room.

After we are dressed and showered, around 9a, we come back downstairs to start our day, which is to look outside at the weather, and change our day of the week/weather/season sign. Then we do something vaguely school-y, like science cards, or learning about time, or practices colors or writing names.  Something from a workbook or whatever. If we run an errand, it is during this time. Thor then takes a nap somewhere between 9a and 10a. Beatrice plays while I put him down. Then I come downstairs again and we paint, craft or draw for an hour or two. Sometimes we get out of the house earlier, and I wear Thor for his nap, and we walk to the playground or play outside instead of school. Every day is different, so this is a hard exercise.

Thor wakes around 11-11:30. I usually make lunch. Cheese sandwich and carrots with milk. Yes, pretty much the same thing every day. Sometimes Bea has peanut butter and honey, but mostly cheese sandwich, and I eat hummus. Thor eats too. We play gnomes or something at this time. Or clean up our morning mess, or finish laundry if it is laundry day. We sometimes do puzzles. Somehow it is 1p before I know it, which is the kids naptime again. Thor and Beezus both sleep this time. I read three books to both of them. Nurse Thor. They usually sleep from 1:30 to 4:00p. This is magic mama time. I sleep some days. Or write. Sometimes I keep Thor with me, and he naps on my lap, so he doesn't wake Beez, and I watch the L-Word or whatever else happens to be the show I watch On-Demand. When the kids wake up, I usually let Bea watch a half hour to transition to awake time. She usually has a Newman O or two and some juice. Then we go outside for a walk. We go to the playground. We walk around on a nature hike in pursuit of something, or just around the neighborhood. If it is too cold or raining, we do music class. Actually, we somehow do music class almost every day. We listen to music and play instruments, or I play guitar and we sing together. Afternoons are usually nice mixed in with bouts of post-nap emotional tenderness.

When Sam gets home, I start dinner and he takes the kids. I usually make something vegetarian for me and Beezus, and a piece of meat for my husband, because I am just that kind. We always sit to eat together at the table, and most nights we light the candles on the table and Lucy's candles. We eat. Clean. I give the kids a bath most nights, and climb into the tub with them. If I don't, I go into the office and work/email. After bath, Bea is allowed to watch television for a half an hour or so, and I take Thor up to bed around 7p. Beezus goes to bed around 8-8:30 p. Sam and I usually go up to bed at that time too, and read and talk in bed. Lately, though, I have been staying up later and writing, since my schedule hasn't been giving me much time during the day to write. That is my day. If there is an average one.

I have blogged everyday this month, and whew, that was friggin' hard. But this thirty days thing is sort of weird, in that, October has 31 days. So, if anyone is interested in asking me a question, I will answer them on October 31st. You can pose questions here in the comment section, or email me at You can ask about anything. Dead baby related or not. You can even ask anonymously, if you want to ask me something mean-spirited.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 24 - where you live

Day 24 - where you live

I live in a small town in New Jersey across the bridge, almost literally, from Philadelphia. I guess it used to be something other than what it has become within the last ten year, which is a small artsy town that has a large gay population and an incredible BYOB scene. I love it. I live a block from a lake. Five blocks from the train station which is a twelve minute ride into Philly. We have one of the best Farmer's Markets in the state, and tons of street fairs. We have cafes. Art galleries. Brunch places. A cute downtown and a bunch of yoga studios. I can't complain. I really love it here. Our house is small, but ours. Our neighbors are mostly people who keep to themselves, but are kind and friendly, and never ask you about what church you belong to, or what politician you are voting for. All in all, I love where we live. I only wish I had more land and less noise.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ten Questions

How does your religion, either of just childhood or adulthood or both, honor death? How was your loss honored?

Many years ago, when I was taking the class Death and Dying for my degree in religion, I had to interview someone I knew about death, or an aspect of death. I chose my mother, and I interviewed her about her father's death.  I was quite young when he died, and all I can remember is her leaving us for a few weeks with my father. I remember my father being unable to do my long long braids in the morning before school and one of the teachers feeling pity upon me and redoing my Pippi Longstocking-like braids.

My mother came to the United States when she was eighteen or nineteen, and has lived here since then. Her sister was living here with her husband and her five kids. She married my father a few years later and a few more, she had us. She was 23. One pregnancy. Two children.

I don't know what that is like. To be separated from ten of your siblings and your parents and most of your nieces and nephews. To live in a culture that is so wholly different than your own and your language and your everything. And to marry a man that speaks your second language, and be surrounded by his family and rituals, and not have any interest whatsoever in adopting your culture and rituals. They were both Catholic. Being Latino Catholic and Irish Catholic has some overlapping similarities, but mostly, they probably felt very different to my early twenties mother.

When my mother spoke of her childhood or her family, she was possessive. Her family. Her mother. Her country. She didn't share those things with us very readily as children. She kept us at arm's length in that way. She never inclusively said, "Let me tell you about your grandmother. She would say, 'My mother does this.'" And in that way, I felt like all those rituals and her culture were things she was sharing with me. But those things were hers. Always hers. Even her food, she would say, "This is the food of my country." Never, here is our food. Or food from our family.

When I interviewed my mother about her father's death, she explained the death and funeral rituals of Panama, and what she experienced as an adult going back into the culture she only remembered as a child. I had just come back from living in the Sonoran desert in Arizona, immersed in Mexican culture. My ex-husband is Mexican, and his culture was so similar to the one I was surrounded by on weekends as a child, that my memories juxtaposed, fell in a heap and became all part of who I am. Even my Spanish took a Mexican accent at times, despite myself, and sometimes, even today, I call myself a Chicana before I remember that technically I am not Mexican. Still, from my mother's description of her father's death, and returning the following year of Dia de los Muertos, I felt like I could incorporate that holiday into my year not simply because of Arizona, but also because of Panama.

So, when it is Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, I make my own rituals from the years of living on the Mexican border in Arizona, from the Buddhist monasteries I have visited, from my Irish-Catholic father, from midnight masses I have attended around the world. It seems fitting that I who bridge so many cultures and never quite fit into any one properly should make a ritual for just me. And so, as an adult, I think that is what I do all the time, make my own ritual and culture, as I have done again and again.

On Día de los Muertos, I will eat pan dulces, sweet breads, and remember Lucia with marigolds and bright colored flags of skulls. I will meditate and paint jizos. I will tend to Lucia's ofrenda, offering altar, by placing her picture there with skulls and flowers so I can cry from the missing.  Maybe I will sip a Jameson's on the rocks to lubricate the smiles and honor my Irish ancestors. I will honor the part of my heritage that brings the dead out into society for a day of the year by painting my face white and decorating it with the black marks of the calavera, or the skull. I will wear long flowing skirts, and flowers in my hair. I will paint myself dead to honor those who have gone before. I will paint myself dead to remember what we are underneath it all. I will paint myself dead to connect with the ancient part of who I am. I will paint my face like a calavera, to commune with my ancestors, to be part of my daughter's world. Her death. Her underworld. Her afterlife.

Day 23 - a youtube video that makes you laugh.

Day 23 - a youtube video that makes you laugh.

The first time I saw Leslie and the Ly's video Gem Sweater, I couldn't breathe. Oy, vey, this woman goes for it. Anyway, she has this one, which never fails to crack me up. My first instinct was to link to How to Be Alone, because if this was a favorite You Tube video period that would be it. I'm sure there are a ton of You Tube videos that make me laugh, but this was the first one I thought of.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 22 - a website that has been meaningful since your loss.

Day 22 - a website that has been meaningful since your loss.

Bejeebus, Meebus. Yeah. Have you got fifteen hours?

I would say the first and most meaningful was Glow in the Woods. It was the first time there was language about babyloss, mothering and grief  that resonated with me.

When I lost my child, I felt like I had this new identity as a grieving mother, and with it came all this baggage. Mother. Sad Mother. Grieving Mother. If Stay At Home Mother was a moniker I had to get used to, Grieving Stay At Home Mother was a moniker I really really had to get used to. There was this swirling, tentative feeling I had of being vaguely uncomfortable with the language of loss and mothering and grief, especially as I had first gotten on-line and intersected with certain pregnancy-type forums. There was a lot of God talk, angel talk and bashing women who make other choices in their life. Criticisms of how to grieve and how to parent. I just didn't fit there. It is how I felt when I became a SAHM. I have a whole post brewing about what it was like for a caffeine-addled workaholic feminist to become caffeine-addled workaholic stay at home mother.When I found Glow in the Woods, it was like I found this tribe of women that were mothers without talking specifically about their kids and their choices all the time. Or their grief without focusing on getting better and healing all the time. Here everyone sat with each other's grief and demons and anger and sadness.

So, that is why Glow became meaningful to me. I followed every regular contributor's blogs and bookmarked them, and then the ones I felt particularly drawn to, I bookmarked their bookmarks. And the trail exploded until I found Mel, and she really changed my life. I became a clicker (though I don't do that regularly anymore with all my other blogs and projects), and read a ton of other women's blogs with other different types of experiences and losses. I believe in everything Lost and Found Connections Abound (LFCA) stands for and what Mel does.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 21 - a recipe.

Day 21 - a recipe.

I actually never use recipes. I wing it. It annoys Sam that we never have the same meal twice, even with some standards dishes I make, I always improvise based on what is fresh and looks good in the market.

My relationship with food and eating and cooking has taken a seriously dysfunctional turn since Lucy died and I got fat and was diagnosed with a thyroid condition. I basically don't eat very much anymore. At all. I cook for sustenance for my family, and I pick, if I eat anything. It is terribly sad, because cooking is something I love to do. Same with eating. I used to love eating, but my fatness prevents me from enjoying any meals, really.

The other morning I woke with the worst kind of fat girl anxiety dream. I dreamed that it was morning, and I woke up and ate half of a chocolate torte, and cookies, and candies, and all kinds of things I tend to deny myself. Stuff I really don't much crave to begin with. I mentally tallied the calories the entire dream and ate 2200 calories before breakfast. And kept thinking, "Now what do I do? I can't eat for two days. For three days..." I guess I woke up panting, and Sam asked me what happened, and I said, "I think I had an eating disorder nightmare."

 Me judging Pie Day
Anyway, so not the point of the recipe post, but I will play along and try to write out a recipe. I don't bake very much. All this being said, I actually signed up for an apple pie baking contest with my sister this Saturday. At my job before deciding to stay home with Beezus, we had a yearly holiday in the office called Pie Day. It is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and people sign up to bring in a pie. No one can duplicate pies, and we used to split everything up into categories and have elaborate judgings and contests, and giveaways and stuff. It was a hoot, and as my personality pretty much shows, I became a Pie Day judge and organizer for the time I worked there. We even had pie poetry contests, Pie-ku and other such goofiness that I fucking adore. The punnier the better. I think there usually would be about fifty pies in total, and I always always brought my signature pie, which is Ginger Pear.

Pear is a strange fruit. I love it, personally. My family had two pear trees when we were growing up and my mother now has four pear trees, so I grew up eating pear pie like it was apple pie, though we also had a few apple trees, so I guess I also ate apple pie. ANYWAY, people that love pear, really love pear, but most people, when deciding between fifty some pies, go for things with chocolate or liquor in it. That is what I discovered is the secret to winning a Pie Day contest, so one year I made Bourbon Pear and I won an Honorable Mention.

I am not going to write out a crust recipe, but here is the innards of the ginger pear pie and the crumb topping.

-5 or 6 pears
-an inch of ginger, peeled and grated
-a stick of butter
-half and half

I never really measure anything, except for the crumbs. Crumbs are really easy and follow this simple formula: I cup of Flour, half cup of sugar and a quarter cup of butter. Use the butter cold. Out of the fridge. And mash it with the flour and sugar. What I do is use a stick, cut it in half for the crumbs. Make the crumbs. Then use the rest of it for pats inside the pie. Anyway, making the crumbs is easiest done by hand, first, of course, using the fork to smoosh it a little, then squeezing it in your hands and mixing it up with the flour and sugar until you have little ball-like crumbs. You can put it aside, or in the fridge. The butter will melt. Oh, I forgot, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

ANYWAY, then you slice up your pears. You can peel them. I don't. Just try to make sure they are uniform in size. Ripe is good. Just remember that. Ripe will give it a brilliant taste. Anyway, after slicing them (I usually cut them lengthwise in half, core it, then put the flat side down and slice them that way, just do they are uniform sizes.) First I do one layer of pears, then sprinkle some sugar on top, then I use my half a stick of butter and put some pats on top. I then put some of my ginger in and a dash (small dash, really small) of cinnamon. If you are feeling like you have some hard, not tasty pears, you can slice them and put them in a bowl with the sugar and the ginger, and mix it up and let it set for a while. It will draw the juice out of them, and the flavor. Anyway, with the layering, you repeat until I am at the top of the pie pan. When I am at the top of the pie pan, I add a dash or two of cream. Then I put the crumbs on top in the middle. You bake it for 40 minutes. Check it at 30 minutes, and see that the top is browning, and the liquid is boiling around the edges. That is when it is done.

Makes me want to bake on right now. They smell so delicious.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 20 - a hobby of yours and how it changed since your loss.

Day 20 - a hobby of yours and how it changed since your loss.

Geesh, this thirty days of posting is actually quite hard and time consuming and this question in particular could take an entire blog in and of itself. Oh, wait. It did.

My relationship with art has been the most amazing change since Lucy's death. From a very young age, I loved art. My sister found her things very early on in our lives, which was classical ballet and dance, softball and other things, like tap and jazz hands, and whatever else it is she did that involved wearing sequins and listening to show tunes on endless repeat. I went through the ringer finding a hobby. My mother sent me to tap and ballet, and I liked it fine, I guess. But every time I did a plié, you know knee bend, which they actually do quite a lot in ballet, my knees would crack. At first, it echoed and everyone looked at me. And then it kept happening, all the time, echoing around this little studio. And the mean ballet teacher said, "Maybe I should turn up the music, Kenna." The only reason my mother got me into ballet to begin with was by telling me football players take ballet to work on grace in running the ball. I realize now that was bullshit, but at the time, I could only imagine Refrigerator Perry in a tutu.  It wasn't really my thing. I went to gymnastics around this time too. I actually broke my rib the first class and took that to mean I should not perhaps be a gymnast. Ironically, I went back to Parkettes a few years later, and took to it like a fish to water, but before that point, I felt like I was unaffiliated. So my mother sent me to art school at the local art museum. And that was my passion. At least, for a few years, until I found gymnastics again.

My parents were extracurricular activity pushers, so I did gymnastics, softball, basketball, know, lots. Art school was my favorite, but a little too expensive to keep up with, so I only did two years. I always loved painting and sketching and continued to work on my own through my life. I went to film school first, then dropped out of college for seven years, then majored in religion. Anyway, all that being said, rediscovering art after Lucy died changed my life. It was the first moment of peace I felt. I have written about it a ton here and there. Suffice to say, everything changed after Lucy died, art was her gift to me. And one I can never repay.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 19 - a talent of yours

Day 19 - a talent of yours.

I have no discernible talent.

I guess that is not entirely true. I like to draw and paint, as you know. And craft little things. I like to make up stories. I very much enjoy playing guitar, and I used to be a fairly decent gymnast and cyclist. But what I like to do and inherent talent are two entirely different animals.

When I think about "talent,"I can only think of the word "super power." What is my superpower? I do have super smell. I can smell a moldy anything from across the house. And definitely puke or poop, depending on the child. I guess I can't quite list supersmelling on my resume. I am a smart ass. That is a natural ability.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 18 - my wedding/future wedding/past wedding

Day 18 - my wedding/future wedding/past wedding

Yeah. I am pretty sure I talked about this before, but I will again, if anyone is interested. Sam and I got engaged in February, and were planning an October wedding, though, to be frank, I had no desire to plan a wedding. I kind of think they are silly. And yet, when I attend a wedding, the joy is palpable and it is fun, and I get it. But I am a bit too practical in the money department to freak out about wedding stuff. I was excited to marry Sam, but unsure how I wanted to marry him. I wanted to plan a foreign wedding somewhere exotic. Or just elope. Sam wanted his family there, because he never sees his family, he was in graduate school at the time, so we were broke and he was always busy and wanted to see them and celebrate. We would go back and forth with me saying, "If you want a family reunion, have a family reunion. This day is supposed to be our day and I think we should buy a house." 

My closest friend can be a bit of a scheduler and kept asking me when, how, what, etc. She was stressing me out. And eventually started getting a bit harsher with her words. She really really wanted to know, and the wedding wouldn't plan itself and you have to start thinking about it and it is important know the things people say when they want to light a fire under your ass. So, in two weeks, I planned a wedding. I bought a dress from J. Crew, which was simple and stunning, and I loved it, and got a minister at the local punk rock Unitarian Church. I asked at our favorite Cuban restaurant if they cater or do weddings, and they actually have a whole, very reasonably priced, wedding floor, which overlooks a great street. I booked it. I bought plane tickets to Sayulita, Mexico, and booked a villa for a week. Done and done. Flowers was my last bit. I designed and printed my own wedding invites, and had them addressed and stamped and sitting by the front door when I woke up puking and moody.

We canceled everything. I lost no money on the planning, actually, everyone was super cool about canceling the wedding. We planned to elope two weeks later on the Friday before Labor Day. I woke up that morning bleeding bright red blood. Convinced I was miscarrying, I called the midwives. I was maybe five weeks pregnant at the time and still hadn't seen a midwife or checked the baby. We had a three o'clock wedding time set. The midwives agreed to see me at one pm, and I scheduled a hair appointment at 10:30a. I was so scared, firstly about the bleed, and then about the insanely tight schedule for the day. (see Day OCD).

Sam and I went to the midwife, and told her we were getting married that day, and she was delighted, and laughing. I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage. I wasn't miscarrying. Incidentally, I had the same thing with Thor, but not Lucy. Strange that. Still, I cried a lot that day, and when I thought I was losing the baby, I kept thinking that this is what marriage is all about. Whatever comes your way, you face it together. We literally left the hospital, took a cab to the chapel, married, and then walked in the rain. Crying.

We bought our house a month later, and went on our honeymoon. We came home scared at all that we were facing and overwhelmed with the ways our lives changed in three months, but our wedding day was a beautiful day for us. Beatrice was okay. We were okay. Little did we know then what we would face as a couple. Losing Lucy at 38 weeks rocked our marriage, not always in a good way. We lost my grandfather, and grandmother. Sam's father died. Our daughter. We are strong now. He is truly my best friend and soul mate. I don't use that word lightly. He is an incredible husband, except for how he leaves his socks everywhere, including on the kitchen table, for some fucked up reason. But besides that, he is amazing, funny, sexy and really cute. He also reaches the top shelf and juggles and rides a unicycle at the same time, which I know, is dangerously close to clown-like behaviour, but still a very cool skill to possess. He also hunts and likes talking about RVs and guns, which is not really my thing, but still, I think it will be useful in the apocalypse.But he loves our children with the ferocity of ten hundred active volcanoes, and he makes me feels like the most beautiful girl in the world, every day. And the luckiest.

Beatrice was born a year and nine months after we met. In every wedding picture, Beatrice points to my belly and says, "There I am. I loved your wedding, Mama."

Yep. There you are. I loved my wedding too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 17 - an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc) that moves you.

Day 17 - an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc) that moves you.



All of them. Can I say that two days in a row? I made a whole website devoted to art because it has become such a huge part of my grief. I did write about an art piece that moved me a great deal very early in my grief. That post is here, and so maybe I will just let it speak for itself.

Angie Weeping.
The follow-up post is about art too. A Museum of Flowers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 16- a song that makes you cry, or nearly.

Day 16 - a song that makes you cry (or nearly).

All of them. Music is so fucking heartbreaking these days. My friend Kenny sent me a song that makes me cry everytime. It is about the stillbirth of his daughter Roxy Jean. It is coming out on his next album, which I will link here when it does. His band is called Gentleman Caller. The song is called Suit and Tie. If your child was stillborn, you absolutely would hear it in his words. His voice is stunning and sad, and you can hear his third child in the background. Christ, it guts me, yet some days, I can't stop listening to it. It has the most amazing line, "Sometimes love is all you get." Come to think another of his other songs Unbreak Your Heart also makes me tear up. His daughter and my daughter--second children--died in the same way--stillborn at 38 weeks for no found reason. Maybe it is just that I can hear his heartbreak and know his story. I feel like I know Roxy Jean. I don't know. I just think he is an amazing musician and writer, so there is that too. Anyway, wish I could share with you, but you will have to wait.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 15--what you like about your house.

Day 13 - a fictional book that is meaningful to you since your loss.
Day 14 - a non-fictional book that is meaningful to you since your loss.
Day 15 - what you like about your house.

So, yeah, I am a dumbass. I took from the first list, and not the second, which is ironic because I MADE UP THE SECOND LIST to correspond with Pregnancy Loss and Awareness month. And today is the day. I am holding my breath today waiting to hear the list of baby names read by Jess. Last night, I revisited her post asking for names, and just started reading the comment section. Each person she responded to, with loving compassion and kindness, and repeated their baby's name. I was weeping for us all. For each of us. That was powerful. I have had it all on the surface this week. So close to the surface. I feel raw and tender and that feels important somehow. Anyway, this list of name feels like a moment I have craved since finding this community.

So anyhow, a fictional book meaningful since my loss and a non-fiction. Fiction would have to be the Harry Potter series, because they delivered. They got me out of my own crappy universe and into one of magic and intrigue and were so well-written I am in awe of J.K.Rowling. She makes young adult literature look like adult literature without under or over estimating your ability to understand. I loved growing more fearful and more mature as I read it, which is stupid because I am 36, but I felt that way. Non-fiction book, I would have to say that I am constantly going back to Pema Chodron's book the Wisdom of No Escape and When Things Fall Apart for grief counsel. I actually got the latter book when my grandfather was dying and it was amazingly grounding. She is a force and a Bodhisattva, and just probably the closest thing I get to a spiritual guru. For grief books, I found Finding Hope When a Child Dies interesting. There is nothing a book can teach you about grief. Sometimes I think the people who should read grief books are all the other people in our lives, but that was a fascinating look at other cultures. I can't rightly remember much of it now, but I read it three months out on a train ride to NYC, and I remember thinking it was fascinating.

Alright, today's topic before I keep talking about books, again and again and again...

What I like about my house.

Pretty much everything, even though it is in New Jersey.

I live in a smallish house compared to some, but it is the perfect size for us. It is an arts and crafts bungalow. We bought it when my husband was in graduate school and I was the sole bread winner, and we found out we were pregnant with Beez. We walked in and knew immediately that this was the house we wanted. Our house is known in the neighborhood as the architect's house, because it was owned by an architect for thirty years. He raised the attic to form a kind of loft for the bedrooms. All the ceilings are knotty pine, and the floors are heart pine, and the rafters in the dining room are exposed to the upstairs.

It actually surprises people when they walk into our home because the ceilings in the dining room looks up into our bedroom, and the roofline of our house. There are ceiling windows in my bedroom out of which I can see the full moon rise, and the trees sway against the brightness of the moon. My children share a bedroom, which I love. I somehow managed to make it both boy and girl. And all of us share one itty bitty bathroom connected by two doors, one into our bedroom, and one into theirs. There are lots of little pockets to hide in and cubbies to sneak about. Lots of interesting lines in our house. It is all modern design, despite the arts and crafts roots.

The week after we found out we were pregnant with Lucy, we took down three walls, and gutted the entire kitchen, opening it up to the rest of the house. The kitchen was the only room untouched by the architect, I think, or maybe it was touched, but not bettered. Cooking is such an important ritual for us, and we sit together and talk and cook. We really wanted a social space. Sam builds furniture as a hobby and woodworks, and so he built all our cabinetry, and we worked tirelessly for months designing and redesigning it on graph paper, saving up, budgeting. So, when we finally took the weekend to knock down walls, we had a working, albeit still in shambles, but running water, fridge, stove, within three days of the first hammer to plaster. So, yeah, the kitchen is exactly what we want. We picked every little thing of it. The sink, as you noted in comments, is one of my favorite parts. We bought it on craigslist. It was dropped in the installation by the previous owner, and we repaired it. It cost us about a sixth of what it was bought for.

Anyway, we have a list of projects, but one that we really wanted was a woodstove, which was installed today. My husband tiled the area with slate and built the stacked stone hearth behind it. We sort of have a list of things to make this house just what we want it to be. The thing I love best about my home is how warm and comforting it is, and how people say it has an good vibe. Every year we fall more in love with our home. The very small town we live in is actually incredibly diverse, and we live a block from a lake, five blocks from a train into Philadelphia (ten minute ride) and six blocks to a really cool small artsy town's downtown. So, yeah, I kind of dig everything.

The kids room. Thor's crib, and Sam's grandmother's chair, and the open door to the bathroom. This was taken a few months ago, but Thor is in his crib, and there is half of Beezus.

All of Beezus. And her bed in a little nook with a princess thing. Next to the light, there is a little cubby that only she fits into. She plays in there as her clubhouse. The only addition since this photo was taken is that we got a replica of the solar system which hangs over the room.

Our brand new woodstove and my husband and girl sitting in front of the fire about ten minutes ago.

After I photographed them, I turned around and snapped this shot of our dining room and kitchen at night. We light candles a lot.

This is the ceiling of our dining room looking into the upstairs. It is hard to see up there, but you can see the original floor beams for the attic.

And my kitchen sink, which I love, and my little ledge of crap, which has a gnome sent by Tracey, mini-Easter Island heads, a buddha, two terrariums, and a pair of dancing ladybugs. We also took off the ceilings to replace them and ended up leaving them open, because we loved the loft-y look of it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 14--a Non-Fiction Book

Yeah, I love non-fiction almost as much as fiction. Some days, more, which I know is a lot like saying, I like everything in the whole world. But I kind of do. Non-fiction umbrellas about a thousand genres I love--poetry, memoir, history, science, religion, philosophy and sociology...and on and on and on.

I admit I am a huge memoir fanatic. I will basically read anyone's memoir, at any time, and certainly have an opinion about what makes a good memoir and what makes a crappy one. I read a ton of non-fiction that I have loved. But some of my favorite books are ones that are probably least predictable, but amongst my favorite favorite non-fiction books of all time is Salvation of Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington, which kind of bridges a bunch of different genres within non-fiction--memoir, history, religion, crime. Part of why I love(d) studying religion is that it was so interdisciplinary and this book is no exception.

I remember exactly where I was when I read this book--in a studio apartment in South Philly. The windows were open all day, and I drank an entire pot of coffee, then drank herbal tea for the rest of the day. I started it around 9am. It was a Sunday and I had no where to be. It was probably October 1999, or 1998, I can't rightly remember. I never dressed. I did, however, take the book on the toilet, in the bath (only to put my sweats right back on afterwards), while I picked at something to eat. I just started reading it, and then it was night. I was given this book by my friend Max who said it was the best damned book he ever read on snake handling. And it is, indeed, the best damned book ever on snake handling. It is told in the first person by a journalist whose roots are in Appalachia. He is covering a trial of a snake handling minister accused of trying to kill his wife with rattlesnakes. He searches for answers about what draws people to this sort of ecstatic religion, and his own history with it. It is incredible. I feel like if I talk more about it, I will tell you the entire book, so just suffice to say, I loved it.

And with that, I could tell you hundreds of more books like that that I loved and moved me. I could list off all the memoirs I love. Mary Carr is everything I love in a writer and memoirist. I love culinary memoir, so I loved Anthony Bourdain's books, and his essays, Michael Ruhlman's culinary books, Ruth Reichl's books, I really loved Jacques Pepin's book the Apprentice. I also love books about fucked up childhoods. And fucked up adulthoods. I love books about grace and compassion. I love learning about people and what makes them tick. And yet, I feel so remiss mentioning certain people and not others. Danielle was right, I had to add to my post this morning, because I couldn't just leave one book up there. Because there is never just one book that I love.

I love the poetry of e.e.cummings, so I would count his collected poems amongst one of my favorite books, and Federico Garcia Lorca. And fuck, I am out of control. Right now, I have no book, because I'm writing every night before bed for the next day, which means that I go up to bed when the light is out and I can only do crosswords on my blackberry until I pass out.

My last book, finished last week, was Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw. It was okay. He always manages to make me laugh. I need a new book. Now that you know everything about what I love to read, I will take suggestions. Has anyone read Jonathan Franzen's new book? I was mixed on The Corrections.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Music Class

My daughter twirls like the world's top, spun up and released. I am in awe of her strength and beauty and happiness. I don't own her. I forget sometimes when I call her my daughter. She whirls away from me, very much her own being, yet so much like me, it overwhelms me to remember being a child. It makes me forgive myself and be kind to those parts of me I have punished for much too long.

Dancing Queen is a fine song. Goofy and fun. It reminds me of my family's weekend get togethers as a child. Music blaring. The smell of frying patacones and peppered squid. And a cousin or aunt taken suddenly by a song, scream-singing out of tune and dancing until we were all dancing. Yes, Dancing Queen is perfectly acceptable, non-emotional music. I never would have imagined myself blinking back tears, suddenly overcome by it in the basement of a Presbyterian Church on Route 70. I danced, Thor in my arms, smelling his sweet head, Beezus spinning around us. We take a Music Together class, where we sing and play instruments and dance, sometimes we march, in a room full of other toddlers, babies and their mamas or grandmas.

Kid things are always twinged with heartbreak for me. At some point, every class, I am reminded that this exact moment is over before it began. They are only here for a moment, then onto the next stage. And I can sometimes see the teenager in the baby, or the middle aged man, or the beautiful woman being born into adulthood. And so, if I drift, even for a moment, into thoughts larger than singing the Earth is our Mother, I can easily find myself grieving all these children.

Our wacky awesome teacher goes for it. Always. Exactly what you want from a teacher of a music class, she sings loudly, and cheers the kids on. She remembers every name, and delights in something about each one of them, even the most unlovable among them. She never uses, or seems to even think, the word naughty. She sees adventurous, rambunctous, curious, brave, daring, fearless. Every class there is one song, not a sanctioned Music Together song, but a song to dance to in whatever way you choose. Her self-interpretative dance song is always some wildly inappropriately 70s disco music, and the kids couldn't love it more. I love it too.  I do the hustle with a kid on each hip, or spin my girl around and around and around until she falls to the ground. I was part of the action today, and then, though I was still dancing, I felt like an observer seeing myself in the third person. Far removed from ABBA, or Beezus, or the other mothers, I watched them dance, unself-consciously with their children. The kids running in circles, or bouncing from foot to foot. And despite myself, I began tearing up, and trying to stare at the ceiling, hiding my tears.

My daughter is dead. She will be two in December.

I felt like collapsing. I wanted to scream her name and pull at my hair.  She is dead. Fuck. My beautiful daughter is dead.

 "Please excuse my tears," I felt like explaining, "but joy reminds me of grief."

Day 13-A Fictional Book

Geesh, another book one. I pretty much covered all fictional books in the favorite book category earlier this month. (Can you believe it is the middle of October already?)I love reading fiction. I used to think my favorite book was Independent People by Halldor Laxness, which is set in Iceland and is very Icelandic. And the reason I loved it is that the long Nordic names almost lost me, and the pages of talking about sheep parasites almost lost me, and yet it never lost me. I felt part of this Icelandic sheep farming world. When she drank coffee with heavy cream after describing the severe cold and suffering, I also wanted coffee with heavy cream, and actually bought cream and decaf coffee, so that at night I could drink it while I was reading. I don't know. It somehow epitomizes everything I love about books. I transported me into another time and place, and made me nostalgic and feel at home all at once, even as what he was describing is about as far from any of my experiences of the world and childhood. And he taught me a bit about Iceland and its culture and folklore, and also about the hardships of being a poor Icelandic farmer. It is also funny. And weird. And makes me wish that I could have been born Icelandic, instead of mutt American.

Now, I don't know. I don't know if any are my favorites. They are all my favorites. Sometimes at night, I think about the book The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, which seems like a typically heartbreaking, bitter little book about a break up. The breakup is between the narrator, a writer in WWII era London, and his married lover. He talks about their affair and great love. But in the end, that is the most religious beautiful book I have ever read, or one of them. I think about it often, just laying there making deals with God.

I also love the book Of Love and other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Maybe not a favorite of the critics, but definitely one of my favorites. It is so Catholic and creepy and just became part of what is me when I read it. Basically, I love Catholic books, books that wrestle with larger questions. I also really love W. Somerset Maugham's Painted Veil for that reason. Real spiritual transformation. Anyway, I miss reading. I have been on a bit of crossword bender at night, so no book right now, and it is making me feel a bit, I dunno, bereft.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 12--Something you are OCD about

I am just going to preface this by saying, I hate the phrase being "OCD about something," because it is an actual disorder and people with obsessive-compulsive disorder have an actual disease. Life is difficult enough without making light of something that can be debilitating and sad. And I'm not just saying that because after reading this post you may or may not arm chair diagnose me as one.

Let's put it this way, here is my take on all words that are dodgy in the insulting/abuse category. If a person would not willingly use it on themselves, then it is insulting. For example, there are probably NO religious groups in the country who would say, "Yeah, I belong to this cult." NO. They say, "I belong to this religious sect." Because cult is a term of abuse. Period. Which is why I decided to just keep this as is, because the people I know with OCD say, "Yeah, I am OCD about this thing, and so are you sometimes." And so I figure it is not like the word cult or the R-word, which grates on me, angers and upsets me, then makes me stabby. STILL, I won't be semantic police, and just play along nicely.

I really am a chaotic organized person. I used to be accused of having the messiest desk in the office at my last job, but anytime someone needed something I knew exactly where it was. Because everything is alphabetized, even my piles. Or organized by dates, or color, or size, so it may look like random chaos and mess, but it really is organized.

So, I also am pretty methodical about keeping times and dates and so I have cross-referenced calendars all over my house. I have a family day planner, a dry erase board that is updated monthly, a calendar for still life 365's postings, including who is going, what they are posting and in what genre, then I have a perpetual calendar for all the babylost people I come in contact with and their child's death and birthdates (though sadly, not their living children) along with their blog name and the corresponding address, and then I have a perpetual calendar for family/friends birthdays and anniversaries. I hate being late. I hate when I forget a birthday. So, there is that. Pretty much I am everything un-fun in a person. If you follow astrology, I am a Capricorn with mostly all earth signs in every house or planet or whatever you call it. I was also born in the year of the OX, which isn't really one of those light-hearted, playful animals. Funnily, I think this being on-time, keeping track of things thing is just like walking around in the world with a gigantic red arrow over your head at all times with the word NERD on it, and I frequently lie, uh, I mean, play stupid when I arrive at events ten minutes early. "OH, I thought I was late. How nice to sit and rest." Because I generally cannot help myself, I must get somewhere early. I blame my mother for this, because she was eternally on Panamanian Standard Time which is apparently fifteen minutes later than the rest of the world.

Anyway, so there is that. I know I am late for the Day of the Dead swap, y'all. The prints are drying. I swear.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm over at Glow today talking about ghosts of babies passed.

Day 11--a picture of you now and how it makes you feel

Yeah. Uh. I hate pictures of me now. First of all, I am fat, as well as tired. I have dark circles under my eyes, and floppy, messy hair that is growing out from my nice sleek hair cut of last fall. So, yeah, part of the benefit of being the family photographer is that I can erase all the pictures of me. And I do. As I said, though, I fear for my children not having actual pictures of their mother with them, so I do consent here and there, and just never look at them.


I think there are politics around why someone like me can't stomach (no pun intended) seeing myself at a larger weight. I mean, people think I should not be seen in pictures or bathing suits or in public, and that I am probably not doing enough to lose weight. I try. I do, though like everyone I have weekends like this past one where there are incredible blogger friends and babylost mamas I meet up with and drink a couple glasses of wine and chow down on stinky cheese without nary a thought to calorie count. And that is okay. I try not to self-flagellate all the time in regards to my eating, but yeah, mostly, I do.

There are not just fears that my daughter won't have pictures of us together, but also that she will develop a self-loathing because of my self-loathing, so I try to let her photograph us. Truthfully, I also, in kind moments, think that a round mama is kind of nice too. A soft large bosom to rest a small head. I never ever wanted to be a milf, or something. I don't want to be an object of desire. I am the means to a meal for two kids and a husband. And that my husband thinks I am a wwhwltf is perfect for me. (Can you figure out that acronym?)

At any rate, the wrap-up of this post is that I feel shitty about pictures of myself. Still this afternoon I came home from the bloggy brunch and put on my new Faces of Loss shirt. I bought it last week because I wanted to come out of the closet in my real life, and also donate some money. I actually wish I had opted to put Lucy's name on the back, but it is really a cool shirt. I also really wanted to contribute to the merch in action page on their My Face page. I think Faces of Loss is incredible, and really happy to have shared my story there, and to help spread the love. I also sent in a picture of myself, despite my self-loathing, to the I am the Face project. They are still trying to reach 2,000 faces by October 15th and trying to get videos of people saying "I am the Face of Stillbirth" (or whatever you are), which is Pregnancy Loss and Awareness Day, or as I saw the My Face status update to amend--Baby Death and Grief Day. AT ANY RATE, I also want to mention in this paragraph of links that Jess over at After Iris is a gifted actor and writer and all around amazing artist. Stop by this post on Jess' blog and leave your child's name. She is reading the litany of baby names on October 15th. I know it will be breathtaking, because she has the most incredible voice. Ever. So full of emotion and heartbreak and strength. So go.

Anyway, these pictures, I took today of me with the shirt on. First one is me, and I didn't realize Beezus reading her watercolor book in the background. It is the camera on my computer, so you know, grainy, but still...the second one is of Beezus and me saying the word "Two" for no good reason and the last one is Thor in his monster towel after bath.

And for those of you wondering, I am the twin on top.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 10 - a photo taken over 10 years ago of you

This is a photo taken in 1993 (that's more than ten years, right?) when I lived at this place that my friends dubbed the "House of Bad Vibes".  It may have been a squat. I paid rent to someone and we had electricity. There was a parade of strange characters--hippies, punks, club kids, models, runaways, drug addicts and misfits who came through that place. So much insane stuff happened there. Really insane. I could write a whole novel on the House of Bad Vibes, but suffice to say, it was a good place to save money and make stories. I shared a bedroom with my very close friend Sidney who took this picture of me and my identical twin sister. My bed actually was on four milk crates and dry wall, which made for a very strange sleep.  And the flag was my father's flag and became my bed spread, which, in his mind, might make me a communist.

Anyway, I love pictures of my sister and I together, even though we have surprisingly few of them. She is so amazing. And though we look so much alike, I think this picture captures how different our personalities are. So, which one is me? Top or Bottom?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 9- A photo you took since your loss

I'm not much of a photographer, but every so often I try to play with my point and shoot autofocus crap camera for the hell of it. In a deliberate, photographic way, rather than a journalistic way of capturing my family's daily goings on. Every picture in our family is pretty much taken by me, even the ones of me. My husband rarely remembers to photograph us, and when he does, it is because I have been nagging him to take a picture of me with the kids, so that they know that I was in fact in their lives as children. I actually worry about that--dying and my children not having an photographs of me. It is weird.

Anyway, I am writing a piece right this second involving my little peg family, which I painted when pregnant with Thor. I made a little peg person of each person in our family and Beezus plays with them. They always travel with us in our little gnome pocket, which is a felt bag full of little gnomes and peg people. Anyway, I took this photo, while taking a break from writing, and for some reason, I like it. Lucy is the fallen peg baby and the rest of us are in the background. As peg people. Alright, it sounds stupid in blog form.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 8- a photo that makes you angry or sad

Day 8- a photo that makes you angry or sad

Tears are streaming down my face as I start this, because I went through my picture files. Whew. Breathe, Ang. First I checked old ex-boyfriend pictures. Sure, there are a few that piss me off, but it is more of a forced passion of anger. I don't have a picture that makes me angry, but I do have some that make me sad. Of course, I would be remiss to ignore the pictures of my Lucy's birth. I have never shared pictures of my daughter, Lucia. My husband is triggered by seeing them, and so we don't have any in our home, nor have I shared them really. That is out of respect for him and his feelings about it. Sometimes I truly understand the impulse not to take pictures, because the memory of her is so much more clean and idealized than the pictures of her skin peeling. Well, I did share them once with a friend, and it didn't feel safe. It felt downright like being punched in the face. I can't say I don't want to share them. I absolutely do. But I just don't. She looks very dead. I cleaned them up as much as possible in Photoshop, thinking my husband would be okay putting one up if she looked less bruised, but she still looks dead. And he said, "Can't you make her lips less red?" And I had to say, "I already did."

Actually, those aren't even the saddest pictures I have. No. The saddest pictures I have are pictures taken two days before her death, when her movement slowed, I guess. They are pictures of my daughter Beatrice listening to my belly with a stethoscope. I am smiling and my huge stretch-mark scarred belly is being prodded by my 20 month old. If I  had gone to the hospital then, when I first feared her movement, maybe she would be here. But after sitting for a while, Lucy shifted or kicked, and I felt relieved. Two days later she was dead and my life was forever steeped in a strong blackness.

Those are the saddest pictures I have ever seen. And I would share them, but maybe it is better if you just imagine it in your head, because the real pictures are a thousand times worse than that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 7 - a photo that makes you happy.

Day 7 - a photo that makes you happy.

I actually had a really hard time with this one. Not that I couldn't find one, just that I love pictures of my children together, and well, sometimes seeing pictures of my kids together also makes me incredibly sad, because I see a huge Lucy-sized hole there when everyone else sees just some very cute kids. And I debated if I should even post a picture of my children, because sometimes kid pictures are just a little too, well, kid-pictures. Other things are happy inducing and not so obvious, like this one (Yes, that is Sean Connery), or this photo I once took of my husband when he wasn't looking with a special candy bar I found. It makes me happy because we were young, I do stupid stuff like that all the time and it makes me giddy.

Right now, though, if I think about a photo that makes me smile in spite of whatever awful mood has taken up residence in me, I have to pick this one I took of my kids in the sink having a bath. We were having a hard, long night of whining and complaining, and Sam's flight was delayed five hours, or some crap, and I was finding myself growing more and more impatient, and I picked out the wrong plate for Beezus. ("Not thhhhat one, thhhhhhat one.") Finally, I just hit the cutting board. "That's it. EVERYONE IN THE SINK!" And we had so much fun.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 6 - twenty things that calm you.

Day 6 - twenty things that calm you. In no particular order.

1. A bath
2. Herbal tea
3. Painting
4. Writing
5. Listening to my daughter talk to herself 
6. Sketching
7. Smelling my children's hair
8. Day-long rains
9. Cleaning
10. Cooking
11. Pick-axing
12. Showers
13. Clay
14. Holding one of my sleeping children
15. Chopping vegetables
16. Doing dishes
17. Listening to windchimes
18. Coffee
19. Settling into bed, knowing I have a kick ass book to read.
20. Being held by my husband.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 5 - your favorite quote.

Day 5 - your favorite quote.

Funnily, my favorite quote came to me a long time ago when I was training for a Century ride, which is a one-hundred mile bike ride. I used to be a distance cyclist and used to look up cycling crap all the time.  Anyway, when I read it, I just felt like it applied to everything in my life, even though ostensibly it is about cycling. It is by Greg le Mond when he was asked if training gets easier the longer you do it. Since Lucy died, it seems absolutely applicable to grief, so it is still on my desk.

"It doesn't get easier, you just get faster"
Greg le Mond 

So remember, grief doesn't get easier, you just get better at dealing with it. Word, Greg leMond.