Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year

I think I am psychologically banishing the last post. It makes me uncomfortable on many levels, but not least of which is that engaging in the kind of self-congratulatory crap one does when listing their accomplishments for the year makes my eyes bleed, or get angina, or you know, feel silly. It's not that I shouldn't acknowledge my goals met and challenges given and completed, but it is rather, well, I don't know, not very Buddhist. And, to be perfectly frank, it just feels like of ooky to me.

So, hey, look at this shiny thing over here! It's the internet and a story.

Yep, it is the end of the decade. I have had a crazy decade.

Ten years ago, 2001, I was starting my last semester at university. (Yes, it took me ten years to graduate. Shut up.) And it was post Y2K, does anyone even remember that? The turn from 1999 to 2000. I will never forget sitting with my friend who was raised a fundamentalist Christian. We always met at a bar aptly named Dirty Frank's, mainly because if he wasn't waiting tables, that is where he was. That year, in fact, he would receive what is known as the Golden Roach Award for Patron of the Year. Let's just say, it is not exactly a bar in which you want to be known as the King of the Drinkers. At any rate, it was December 1999, and me being a student in Religion, we used to just sit and drink heavily and argue Scripture.

I miss those days with hours at my disposal to formulate my ideas. Now, I just spout off the first offensive thing that comes into my little pea dinosaur brain. He was so well-versed and smart. This was the kicker. He is gay. And so he grew up with a kind of self-loathing that made me angry at Fundamentalists in general and his parents in particular. And so we would argue--me trying to convince him that he was not damned and he trying to convince me he was. It was a fool argument, and most people avoided joining in our shenanigans. So we were left for hours to talk. Those evenings are amongst my most coveted, I love him with the fierceness of 10,000 apocalyptic suns. And I just wanted him to see himself as God's son. To have him feel worthy of love.

As more and more y2k crap was obsessed about in the media, he became more and more convinced that it was really the end of times. It was the Rapture, he said. The signs are everywhere. And he wasn't sure if he was going to be saved, so in case God did not call him home, he was stockpiling good water in his studio apartment. He had cases, he said. And freeze-dried food.

We were drunk. And I was going through the Book of Daniel and Revelation and trying to convince him that it wasn't surely the time, based on Scripture. And he reached across the table, his beautiful eyes meeting mine, and he said, "Angie. I love you. God, you know, I love you. But I am not sharing my water with you. You are on your own."

I walked the streets New Year's Eve in a silver ball gown and Doc Martens. I watched an Eagles game with my friends earlier in the night, then went to my lovely friend Sid's place. I remember a kind of 3 am hush over the city, and wondering, if perhaps, 144,000 people were suddenly gone from the world, would we notice? And then I thought about my water situation. How I didn't have any. And I didn't know anyone who had water in the city who would share. I mean, I knew people who would knock on my door and ask for water, but those stockpiling it weren't sharing. I cried walking home, because my marriage dissolved a few years earlier, and I was hopelessly waterless without anyone interested in water either. Maybe that is all I wanted for the decade of 2000-2010, to find a people who would share their water with me.

Tonight, I made a salad of baby lettuce, fontinella cheese, walnuts, portabello mushrooms dressed with grapefruit balsamic vinegar and walnut oil. I had a glass of Pinot Grigio. Thomas Harry screamed in his high chair every time his peas ran out, and my daughter asked me what a parade is. Sam leaned back and savored his glass of red wine. It's an ordinary night here. I am on the computer. Sam is reading.

I have no moral here. No large reflection. It is just a moment. A million-gazillion moments of life strung together. And now, I have a people, Sam, and people, y'all, who would share their water with me, and more importantly, I have a people and people who I would share my water with. Thank you and happy new year.


On a few separate, but no less interesting notes for the New Year, I am going to be doing a reading Sunday, January 9th at the Newark Free Library (750 Library Ave Newark DE 19711). Janel Atlas, Nina Bennett and I will be reading from They Were Still Born from 2p until 3:30p. So, please consider joining us for the event. I will be selling copies of the book there for $30 a piece. The event itself is free, and here is the write-up about it.

Finding the Words
When faced with traumatic, devastating loss, many people turn to books for information and comfort. What happens when those books don't exist? Three authors will share not only their personal narratives of loss, but also how their book came to be. Janel Atlas, along with contributors Nina Bennett and Angie Yingst, will discuss their newly released collection of essays, They Were Still Born. Free.

I am also hosting a workshop on Exploring your Grief through the Creative Journal at the Grief and the Arts Workshop. No art experience needed. You simply come with an open mind and a desire to explore your grief creatively. I will be mixing creative prompts with journaling in my session. This is held Saturday, January 22, 2011, 3:00pm - 6:00pm at the Newark Arts Alliance, 276 East Main Street, Newark, DE 19711

It will be an afternoon of making and sharing art, both visual and literary. All who have been impacted by the death of a baby at any time during pregnancy or infancy are welcome. Participants will choose among several guided workshop sessions and get to take their creations home. There will be four workshops--two running concurrently. The other workshop leaders are authors and artists Janel Atlas, Nina Bennett, Angie Yingst, and Stephanie Paige Cole

Pre-register by January 12 and pay just $12, or pay $15 at the door; tickets cover materials and light refreshments. To register, e-mail or call 302.737.6088

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Wrap-up

It's easy for me to write rather than feel. I realize that

I have been taking stock of the last year and what ha

2010: WHAT A YEAR! 

I have no idea how to start this post really. I am all about reflection. That is all I do, reflect. When you cease action, you become the equal and opposite reaction of inaction, which is not action. Is that reflection? I don't know. I ponder my navel daily. On a bunch of blogs. In art. In writing. In status updates. Ironic really. I remember a time when I was younger when I just didn't really say no to an experience. I chalked it up to experience/writing fodder. I thought I would write when I get old and could no longer do.


Yeah. Then my daughter died. And I sat and wrote it. I sat and reflected it. I wrote the same thing again and again. I aged thirty years in the moment when I found out she was dead. I became an adult. A woman. A mother. The old crone. La Llorona. A writer. In the truest sense of the word, it was not part of me. The me that thinks. It was not conscious. I had a secondary birth of this writer.

I feel compelled to write now about this past year.  Last year at this same exact time, my last two friends were in the process of leaving our friendship. I mean the last two friends I wrote to, or had mostly regular contact with. I have friends from before Lucy's death. Well, two. Lots of Facebook friends, which is different, but no less important. When the last two friends left, I had to say. " I can no longer think that everyone abandoning me is about them--their personality defects. This is definitely about my personality defects." I guess me point is that at this exact point last year, I was at my grief bottom. No before-daughter-death friends left. Full of fear and anxiety. I vowed to focus on doing art and writing and surrounding myself with light and love.

My dear friend Jess tolerates my rants quite brilliantly. She reflects back. She listens. I was so upset in November about receiving a rather unpleasant email from a still life 365 person, making me feel unappreciated. I could go on and on about it, especially as the same person ended this year with rather unpleasant unpleasantness, but I won't. Anyway, Jess was wonderful about listening and wrote this:

I wonder if I can ask you to do something as a little experiment? If you're up for it, write a school report for yourself about this past year. What you've achieved, how you've behaved, what you did well and what you struggled with. Write it in the 3rd person, as in 'We are delighted with Angie's progress this year...' And after that give yourself some grades in whatever you like, but I would include a grade for effort somewhere in there.

I wrote the darkest, deepest, musty caves of my brain, the ones that say I fail at things, and I am not doing enough for anyone, and that I have failed everyone, including myself. But the truth is that is a fucking lie. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: Grief, Depression and Anger are fucking liars. They are like the Triumvirate of Liars.  Or the Axis of Lying Evils. And so, I think for my own sake, I need to make a list of the goals I set and accomplished for the year. Not in third person, or with grades, but it is a great idea. I'm so sad and down. This seems important.

Lose weight after the baby was born.
I lost 45 pounds. YES THE SAME 45 POUNDS AS BEFORE, but still, we are counting accomplishments. I am stymied on weight loss and frustrated beyond frustration, but whatever, maybe today I can just bask in the forty five pounds lost rather than the forty five pounds to go.

Publish a piece of art or poetry, craft or music, by a grieving parent or loved one, every day of the year.
I actually did that. On the blog still life 365. I actually worked every day come surgery, hell, new baby or high water. And I did it, mostly, while smiling. Hundreds of hours surrounded by art.

Get published.
Why, an essay I wrote came out in a book called They Were Still Born. You can order it and write a review if you are so inclined.

Be Creative Every Day.
I did something arty or writey every fucking day, son. Here is the blog that shows a pathetically small piece of that year.

Write a Novel in a Month.
What?! A novel in a month. Call me crazy. Crazy like a fox. I will post a snippet, I promise.Maybe on my birthday?

Make a painting every day for November for Art Every Day Month.
I even made a book and movie out of that project.

Be a good mother and wife.
I did my best, but I have pretty amazing children who laugh more than cry. Here is a picture of them wrestling on my bed with a cell phone (don't judge.)

Participate and complete the Sketchbook Project.
I also made a movie of that too.

Be kind and sometimes extraordinary.

I kind of feel like I am forgetting something...oh, right, I had a baby. My husband had surgery. My daughter somehow learned how to say please and thank you and write her name and remember the words to the Earth is Our Mother. I also read about a gazillion books, dressed up like Frida Kahlo, read out loud in front of people, cook a meal everyday and cried buckets of tears. Next year, my only goal is to be more loving towards myself and forgive my body.

Happy New Year, my dear beloved friends. You have made me a better person. Thank you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tattoos and sequins

In my real life, I stopped wanting to hear her name. It is like a sacred prayer mispronounced in broken Latin. She is mine. My moment of horror. My moment of meditation. My secret love. Only I know her. Only I whisper to her. Only I miss her.

I know that isn't true. Grief perverts the truth. It makes me see the notes not there instead of the ones there. It makes me see failures, instead of successes. I makes me feel lonely in a room of people. It makes me feel like I knew her, or that she was ever mine. She was not.

I wrote her name on my body. Or rather, I paid someone else to write her name on my body in my handwriting. It is all I ever gave her-a name. See, after she died, I didn't always paint and write. I sat at the table, head in the crook of my arm crying, writing her name over and over and over again in a notebook.

She existed. It says it right here, fifteen hundred times.

I spent all of my daughter's naptime some days, writing her name. It sounds crazy when I type it out, but I didn't know what to do with all this Lucia energy. If I were a runner, perhaps I would have ran for miles, each step I would have said her name, "Lucia. Lucia. Lucia. Lucia."  One day I wrote her name all over my arm, like she was my eighth grade crush. I thought maybe I would tattoo it on me. And I thought at two years if I still wanted it, I would do it. I still wanted it, so I did it.

It took ten minutes to write her name on my body.

I waited for over an hour for the artist to arrive. A girl stood and talked to me about what kind of tattoo she should get. I couldn't bear to tell her that I was tattooing my dead daughter's name on my wrist. She had scars across the eyebrows where studs once pierced through her skin. She asked me if I liked dragons, and I said yes, very much. I remembered this tattoo I once saw at a party of this green dragon, and it read, "I survived the Green Monster." Someone later told me that it meant he was a PCP addict. PCP is the Green Monster. I don't know what PCP is, really, except that I have heard urban folklore about PCP addicts doing insane things to escape the police. The girl said she had been a heroin addict for eight years. She told me she was 25 now, and had been saving for  tattoo. It looked like she was carrying all of her possessions with her. "I used to always be broke when I shot up. Or about to be." She said she has been clean for a year, but I could tell she wasn't quite clean yet. She went into the bathroom for fifteen minutes. I could hear her getting her rig ready, the smell of a lighter. I felt sad suddenly. It was Lucy's day. I didn't want anyone to slowly kill herself. She was someone's Lucy.

The tattoo artist remembered me. And then I told her that I wasn't who she remembered. She tattooed my identical twin sister six months ago. Philadelphia is the biggest small town in the world. She remembered the ladybug she included in Lucy's honor. That comforted me. She already tattooed Lucia on someone. It didn't hurt. I remember my other tattoo hurting, but this one just felt like she was writing my darkest secret on my skin.

We spent the afternoon napping. We decided to have sushi. The baby and Beatrice ate rice, edamame, miso soup and other little bits of yumminess. I used to joke that Beatrice ate once a month when we went out for Japanese food.Thomas is the same. Everyone was contented and in good spirits. I eavesdropped on the couple behind us. She came into the dark-nooked restaurant in a silver sequined dress. Her date said, "You are very sparkly." Beatrice couldn't keep her eyes off her. She asked me if I could buy her a dress like that, only smaller. I have bat hearing. I hear conversations all over the place. I overhear people talking about every sorst of thing, including me and my family. But what I overheard was that he was cheating on his wife with this woman. Broken people and a broken marriage. And it made me wonder if my secrets were just as visible as all these other people hiding their addictions and affairs under tattoos and sequins.

After we came home and put Thomas to bed, we lit Lucy's ring of Santka Lucia candles, and said one thing we missed about her at each of the twelve candles. There were not enough candles. Beatrice said, "I miss playing dress up." And I said, "I miss kissing her tootsies." And Sam said, "I miss her crying."

We have spent three days in ritual and remembrance. It felt right. It felt important. This year was filled with setting and achieving goals. Of explicating my grief in word and art, and not being present enough to feel it. I have realized that I have been running away in projects, escaping my grief in grief art. These three days I realized how easy it has been to pretend everything is normal. To put Lucy in this space that I have included as work space, or creative space, but not feeling space. I didn't feel her loss as much as it must seem. As my head rested on the pillow, feeding Thomas Harry before bed, the almost full moon sat in the window, illuminating his head. Tears ran off my nose onto his little head. She is dead. My baby girl died. I write her name.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter solstice

I miss her. I miss her like I knew her. It feels silly sometimes, but I just do. I miss her like she lived a whole life, and I don't have to clarify that I have a death certificate and no birth certificate. I miss her like she breathed and ran and was a little girl who kissed my neck and made me squirm.

I can't even really mentally process what two years looks like in the alternative universe where Lucy lives. I'm not clever enough to imagine it really, or maybe my brain just protects my heart in that way. One little darked-haired, red-cheeked girl running after her light-haired, red-cheeked older sister, like a couple of little whirling dervishes through my kitchen. All worship instincts in me ignite. But I don't know. Maybe it wouldn't have been like that.  Maybe it would have been harder than simply being appreciative of their presence, after all she doesn't die. I cannot take this knowledge into that universe.

I decided to fix a right and proper photo album for my children's lives today of all days. One through the years, so that if the photo hosting site I have used for the past five years suddenly crashes, we still have evidence that we existed too. And so I worked my way through the months of photos, clicking one after another into the cart. The void right there at December 2008 is palpable. We look so sad, so broken, so old. I found a picture of her in me still, all full moon belly, eclipsed by my embrace.

I have not cried today, right and proper. Just a few tears when my daughter stared into my eyes before naptime. And she was dropping tears too. I asked her why she was crying and she said, "She just missed."

I just miss too. I miss everything. I miss Lucy-girl. I miss a life I never knew.

A full moon lunar eclipse on winter solstice. It felt magical and important. So, I set my chimes for1:30am, I bundled up in a zero degree bag with some coffee. My sister came over in the middle of the night. I felt giddy. I lit a candle and watched the moon slowly become covered in a shadow, and then turn copper red. This process, slow and deliberate, felt like the ritual I had been searching for since her death. Not an invented thing, just apart of the world and its cycles. She died, like everything else dies. And we rose the next day, like everything else rises. It gets light and dark again in our world like everyone elses.

Thomas Harry woke sometime in the depth of winter solstice, and my husband bundled him up and added him to my bag. I laughed with my sister. We talked about Lucia's birth. And her death. And our lives now. Then I grew quiet. Everything felt magical and strange. How did this happen? How did I get from there to here? How did Lucy become a solstice goddess to me? When did she stop being a dead baby and become a worshipful thing? A transition, a gateway to hope and loss and sadness and winter?

As I sat in the dark of solstice night, I remembered this conversation in the car yesterday. Thor began crying apropos of nothing.
"Mama, Thomas Harry is crying because he misses Lucy." 
"Hmmmm, I know, baby. Do you miss Lucy too?"
"Yes, she died and I can't play with her when she gets bigger because she died." 
"I know. That makes me sad. I miss that about Lucy."
"But she is still in our family, though, because we love her soooo much."
"Yes, that's right. Did you know that Lucy's birthday is in two days?"

"We should bake her a cake and I will blow out her candles for her."
"We can do whatever you want to remember Lucy."
"Mama, I have dreams of Lucy, and we play together and I share my toys."
"You do?"
"I dream about her all night."

I have not had a dream of Lucy since she died, but I have winter solstice. It feels so presumptuous to take a whole seasonal transition. Though selfishly, I want more. I want more time with her. I want more everything with her. I want to take her for granted. I am sick of this life. I am sick of wondering who will remember and who won't and what I should say to my new friends, and what I shouldn't say to people who think we should be over this properly. I am so tired of this life being so fucking complicated.

I just miss her. I miss her like I knew her. It is as easy and complicated as that.

My husband and I are so moved by the cards, the messages on Facebook, Twitter, email and in our daily lives. Thank you for remembering our girl, for thinking of her during the solstice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I am at Glow today reflecting on my grief two years after my daughter died. (Her death and birthdays are actually December 21st and 22nd respectively, but you know, this was my day for posting this month.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I feel like prey.

I can feel the invisible eyes of Grief in the trees, and hiding behind the rocks as I walk through my day. Where are you? I search the usual spots--in my marriage, in my sleeplessness, in my anger. I know he is waiting to take me, but then he doesn't come. I maniacally keep busy by surrounding myself with people and things, but I know he is still there.

Grief is a motherfucker. And he is the most patient motherfucker I know. Grief is starting to feel abusive, like a long, intense game of chess at gunpoint. I feel stalked and beaten. I am worn down. Sure, Grief takes you when he wants you in the beginning, but if you somehow figure out ways to keep him at bay by surrounding yourself maniacally with people and things, he can wait until you are alone, or feeling lonely.

Grief seizes my back, and wrenches me into a pretzel. I feel like I cannot walk, and then I do. Slowly, but I walk. Grief whispers in my ear, "Maybe this isn't grief at all, maybe you are just too fat. Maybe no one misses Lucy anymore, except you." And I know he is fucking lying to me. I know it, but maybe it feels that way to me too every now and again.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I am still in a hotel room in Western Massachusetts. Thor is crawling around trying to find odd left-behinds of past hotel guests from which he can contract some exotic tropical disease suck on. Beezus is on strike from wearing clothing, hoping her silent non-violent protest will help her achieve her goal of checking out the swimming pool again. And I am typing here annoying my husband as he packs. I was so honored to be welcomed at the Empty Arms Western Mass meeting, and to share my essay Mothering Grief, and be part of the discussion that came up after my reading. What an incredible group and experience. I appreciate Jenni of Demeter's Feet for organizing this event and for everyone who showed up to hear me babble about my work, Lucia, art, writing and compassion, and what it is like to parent after loss.

As you have probably figured out, I asked you to choose a painting or book, because I am giving one of each away. I am pretty transparent, no? So, I split up each side--15 jizo requests and 20 book requests, then randomized each side, and here are the winners:

For a copy of They Were Still Born, the winner is...LAREINA! YAY!
And for the jizo painting, the winner is...BUTTERFLY MOM!! YAY!

I am actually so excited to do this painting for you, Mama. Pink and butterflies sounds amazing. I already have so many ideas for this painting, but please let me know which jizo you connect with, or if you want anything written on it. And Lareina and Butterfly Mom, please email me with your address.

I loved hosting this giveaway, and please do not hesitate to enter the still life 365 giveaway on the 17th of December. You never know, though, I might do it again soon.

And about readings, I would love love love to come to the West Coast for a reading. But the publishers are not organizing or sponsoring any book tours at this time. My trip to Western Mass was self-funded and because I believe in this book completely, and wanted to see Jenni too.  So, I am happy to come to your event/support group/book club/house. I generally will read and host a discussion for coffee and/or bourbon. And love connecting and talking to other mamas--babylost and otherwise. I live in Philadelphia, so you know, around that area is generally easier for me. And for the West Coasters who might want to organize a reading, mmmmmmmm, I could be convinced with a little arm twisting, and husband massaging, literally. Actually, I may be heading to the Midwest in the Spring (Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska), so if you want to talk to me about organizing something to coincide with my trip, email me.

In case anyone was wondering, They Were Still Born is a collection of stories by mothers, fathers and grandparents who have experienced stillbirth. Edited by Janel Atlas, the book contains essays written by some bloggers you may know, as well as grieving parents and grandparents from different walks of life. Also, one of my essays is included in this collection.

You can order the book, They Were Still Born, from the following sources:
Barnes and Noble.
Rowman and Littlefield.

Monday, December 6, 2010

25 Days of Giveaways--Early Bird Special

I do love me some giveaway. My day doesn't officially start until December 9th, but I am all about giving plenty of time to get comments in and participate.

I actually am writing today to talk about Tina's amazing holiday project and also some of my projects. I'm very excited to be involved in this project again this year and excited to visit other blogs and see what other people are giving away. I am participating in 25 days of giveaways, both on here and on still life 365 (December 17th). So visit both places for giveaways.

still life with circles' day is December 9th, actually, but I am leaving town the day before, and I kind of wanted to get the ball rolling on this one. I am giving away your choice of one of two things: ONE: a copy of They Were Still Born, the book in which my essay Mothering Grief appears in. There are a ton of other amazing babylost writers in this collection of essays, including Janis, Virginia, Kara L.C. Jones, aka Mother Henna, Monica, and Joanne Cacciatore. It is edited by Janel Atlas.  The collection itself is quite extraordinary. It is a collection about living after stillbirth and the ways in which loss affect us as mothers, fathers, grandparents and people. I have all the information about the book on my sidebar, if you are interested in ordering it and leaving some feedback on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and telling other people about it. You will also notice on there that I am doing some readings. (Gulp.)

Actually, I am looking forward to it very very much. So, this is the reason I am posting today, because I am traveling up to Massachusetts to participate in a discussion with Empty Arms. All are invited to attend. You can read more about the event here. This group is run by Carol of Happy Sad Mama and my dear lovely friend Jenni of Demeter's Feet and Glow in the Woods.

I also will be reading with Janel and Nina Bennett, another contributor of the book who is a grieving grandmother, on January 9th, which is a Sunday, at New Castle County Library in Newark, Delaware. For anyone interested in attending, I will post more information the closer we get to the event, or you can email me privately (uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com)

So, you can chose to receive a copy of the book, OR for those who already ordered it and are feeling left out or just want to buy it and want the other giveaway, I am giving away a mizuko jizo painting. I have a few styles, but I am painting it on-demand for the winner. You can read about my custom mizuko jizo paintings here. I do a few different styles, so you get to chose that and your choice of the size: 4"x6", which is a perfect altar size, or 6"x9", which is a great size to fit into a 5"x7" frame.Or if you are feeling really demanding, you can ask for a 5"x7" greeting card. (Just kidding about the demanding part.) But this might be a good option for someone who is not babylost who might be reading this blog who might want to pay the giveaway forward to a babylost mama. This giveaway is open to anyone--man, woman, child, dog, babylost and non-babylost.

Here are the rules for this giveaway. I am posting this today, which means you get quite a few days to leave a comment on this post saying which choice you want--Book or Painting. And if you want a painting, tell me what kind of painting you want, etc. And if you want the book, you don't have to tell me anything about that. I would love to hear something about you. Anything. And also, if you are a babylost mama or papa, tell me your child's birthday and/or loss day, so I can add it to my calendar. Please only one comment per person. I mean it. I will erase your second comment. And I will grumble while I am doing it. Also, if you are interested in trying to win again, you have another chance on December 17th, so don't be that person. This is really because I am not clever enough to figure out numbers with a disregarded comment. I will chose the winner on the close of business day on December 9th or maybe even December 10th, if I am feeling daffy.

Happy Give it Away December. Good luck.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Why, December, nice to see you again, you rat bastard.

I wish I had something wise to say as we enter December. My daughter died this month. I don't know the date so I just make it the 21st, Winter Solstice, the day I found out she was dead. It was the longest night of my life. So long, in fact, I feel like it is still going on and on and on and on. Her death created this wormhole in my life, continually and frequently teleporting me to whichever is the winteriest pole, where the cold, dark night and I  become one.

In this way, I understand and love this darkness and cold. The world grieves. That is what it feels like, the world is grieving with me. And I have come to love this time of year. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I have never stopped loving this time of year. It is sad and dark, and also, there is joy here, in the nooks and crannies of my life. Lucia was also born two years ago, and I kissed her nose. I lifted her eyelids, and loved her. Lucia's birth, despite her death, was beautiful. Kind and beautiful and holy. I touch that when I touch the grief and I touch this time. It feels like yesterday, or as the poem* says, "No, it feels like today."

My grief feels so strange right now. Not quite there and not quite gone, like an emotional ghost. I can see and feel it, but I don't always trust what it is. I haven't broken down yet this season, not yet crumpled, but I will. Grief's gutting feels like it left permanent visible scars. Remember when I almost cut my finger off? It healed. Well, kind of. It is always numb. And sometimes the nerve damages causes the neurons to misfire and sending shooting pains through the strange jagged bubbled scar. I can't use the finger for delicate work, like squeezing things, or pushing needles into felt, or scraping stickers off of things, but it is still there. And for the big work of cooking, typing and cleaning, the finger is like all the others. A bit clumsy and awkward, but there.

I see the ugly, angry scar, though. Maybe you wouldn't notice it. Not everyone does. Lucy's death feels like part of me was cut off and reattached, but doesn't quite work the same way. Maybe I will never be nice again. Maybe I have to stop blaming that on Lucia's death. Maybe I just have to accept that I am bitchy and bossy and grouchy and angry. I just miss normal. Not new normal. Not new Angie. The one that used to get your jokes and forgive you your weakness. The light one. And yet, I also like me now. And I am still like me. A kind of me. Or more me. I feel more authentic, maybe because I am now unapologetically bitchy and bossy and grouchy and grumpy and angry some moments, but most of the other ones, I am curious and creative and funny and silly and in love with life.

There is a freedom in this space of pure vulnerability. There is a quote my friend Fisher once said to me, "A warrior is not about invulnerability. He's about absolute vulnerability." I later realized this was from the Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which made me cringe a bit. But the wisdom is still there. This is it, people. This is what was behind the smile and the fear of rejection. Really, if this is the worst that I am, maybe that is okay. Maybe it is okay.


I had a very low-key Thanksgiving. Just my mom and stepfather, my cousin and her daughter. My husband and the kids. We ate and changed into stretchy pants to eat more. My rail of a thirteen year old niece apparently must eat every two hours, and so we had second and third dinner. And second and third dessert. She made off with my new netbook earlier in the' day and it was blaring pop music and she somehow designed her own MyFace search engine to show her friends on-line as well as simultaneously watch a video of a skinny little thing singing her heart out and watch You Tube videos of paranormal activity. There was so much going on it looked like the NORAD in WarGames, which I realize dates me to Pre-Mouse Times (PMT) since Matthew Broderick started a nuclear war with the arrow keys. No, really.

"How are you making my crappy little netbook do all of that?"
"No, really."
"Oooooh my GAWD, Aaaaangie. Seriously?"
"Who is that?"
"Are you serious? You aren't serious, right?" I look at her mother, my cousin.
"Who is that? Come on, Ani, raise my cool quotient here. Rescue me."
"Ooooooooh my Gawd it is Taylor Swift. Hello. Geeeesh, how could you not know who Taylor Swift is?"
"Because I am thiry-six."
"You have heard of her, right?" I look at my husband and mouth, "Help me." He opens another beer and shields our daughter's ears from the music.
"OMG, you can't be serious right now. Kayne West interrupted her at the Grammys. Hello?!?"

And so it goes. She asked me how I think of things to write, and then she said that that was really really cool, then followed it up by telling me that my painting was kind of lame. She told me she wants to be a doctor who doesn't have to see blood. "Sam," she screamed across the room, "Can I be a doctor that never sees blood?" We watched movie previews On-Demand, and actually agreed that Ashton Kutcher was the hottest male alive. (He really kind of is. Still, Johnny Depp, call me.) She kissed Thomas Harry and told him he was going to be a heartbreaker when he was in ninth grade, which made me feel like a mother. When she left the next morning, teenagers scared me a little less. And I looked at my kids and thought about how different it can be for them than it was for me. Teenage years don't have to be the same thing as it was for Sam and I--tragedy after tragedy, alienation, running away and sadness.And it also made me terribly sad to think about Lucia not being a teenager.

I finished up my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) novel and my Art EveryDay Month project, which felt good. I never thought about what the last day of the month was going to feel like. Isn't that odd? I never considered the end. I just kept writing and arting, and then it was done. I joined things in November out of fear, I think. Fear of December. Fear of my idle mind, and entering two years. It was much easier than I thought to write 1600 words a day when I was avoiding thinking about Lucia's death and how much I have lost in two years time. Since Lucy died, blogging has given me discipline with my writing and compelled me to keep exploring and writing, then creating art every day. It rarely feels like a chore. And so, the discipline is something I am good at, I guess, setting goals and accomplishing them. Plus, it is a story without grief. I wrote fifty thousand words that had nothing to do with daughter death or grief and that feels like a victory in and of itself. Maybe the manic doing helped me just not feel the impending birthday. I don't know. Now that December is here, I keep expecting it to floor me, gut me again, leave me half a person on the floor.  Maybe I shouldn't overanalyze it. I just wrote a novel, and painted an entire book of paintings. Those are good things.

During this last week of NaNoWriMo, my mother and husband watched and played with the children while I sat at my netbook and wrote and wrote and erased and fucked off, and wrote again. They let me run off to cafes to write. They cheered me on. My husband and I even managed to squeeze an afternoon date-type thing in where we visited an olive oil and balsamic vinegar taproom, which was one of those mind-blowing  experiences you never knew you wanted to have, and the Moravian Bookstore, which always manages to get me in the mood for Christmas whether I want to be or not, but let's be honest here, I was already in the mood for the holidays. I still like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I really do. I don't feel the grief because of the holiday. I feel the grief because my daughter died.

By all rights, I should boycott the hell of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Almost every person I have loved who has died has died between those two holidays: my grandfather, my only paternal aunt (in her 40s no less), my grandmother, my father-in-law and my daughter. My birthday is also very soon after Christmas and also happens to be Lucy's due date. Yes, Lucy and I shared a theoretical birthday for the nine months and two weeks before she died.

Still, I actually love the holidays despite the grief. Or maybe, as I said earlier, it is that winter feels like the world is grieving. Maybe it is just the fact that I have to surrender it up. I am not in control. Not that I ever thought I was, but I have just come to a place of acceptance that the days around the holidays are just days. They are just days like all the rest where people's kids die and their grandparents, and it ruins Christmases. But it hasn't traumatized the music/cookie/tree/present thing for me. I remember when my grandmother died, my grandfather kept all the Christmas stuff up in his house until the following Christmas. It was as though the whole house froze. Every year, he would put everything up a bit earlier than the year before. It was like he could feel her in the celebrating. Don't get me wrong  I had a terribly horrible Christmas in 2008 and felt like I would never love Christmas again. Last year, I cocooned, and this year I will as well. I can say that I just try to be present. It will be bad at times, no doubt, it will be traumatic, but until it is, I am going to sprinkle red and green bolitas on cookies, stock my daughter's advent calendar and enjoy the moments. Because right now, I just want to look at the month as a series of moments without judgment. Not good. Not bad. Just moments.

*After Labor Day
by Sydney Lea.

(This is just the first stanza .)

Your son is seven years dead.
"But it seems," I said, seeing your face
buckle in mid-conversation
as over the fields come winging the trebles
of children at holiday play -
I said, "But it seems like yesterday."

"No," you said,
"Like today."