Saturday, December 31, 2011

new year

It's been a strange year. Revelatory and trying. Restless and spiritual. I have more adjectives in me, but I am sitting upright, and they are lying down descriptives. Hold on. My stomach is settling. A low rumbling belch is working its way up.


Right, and that too.

I wrote an awful lot and had an awful lot of it rejected. Not the same stuff, but still, there is some kind of cosmic balance of shit rejected to shit written. So much so that I didn't rightly have one acceptance letter, though I did publish some art here and there, and wrote stuff east and west, and felt accepted.  And that felt good. I kept blogging. And painting, and parenting, and staying sober. When the equation for poetry didn't quite add up to proper algebra (one rejection too many over work output divided by too many other projects subtracting passion for it from the whole thing), I decided to publish my own book. That felt an awful lot like giving up. Hell, it was giving up, or surrender, or acceptance. Giving up wasn't the most terrible thing I have ever done. It feels an awful lot like peace. I wanted an end to my poetry years--years marked by toiling at submissions and manuscripts and competitions simply to tear up rejection letters. I wanted the poems to go through their last edit--the interaction between the reader and the poem.  So, I put them out there. And now I have a wee little book with some of my poetry in it. I hadn't examined it too much when I decided to self-publish them, but once the proof came in the mail, and I held it, and read it, and smelled it, I knew it was the right and proper thing I did. It felt an awful lot like closure.

My goal for writing about Lucy's death was never to heal. It was not to be over it. I think my only goal, if there was a goal, was to integrate Lucia into our family and into my life, and I have. This space gave me the time and space to explore and examine my grief. You loved me when I couldn't love myself. You helped me more than I can ever repay. It is part of the reason I have continued to write about grief here, because when my milk came in, and I found blogs and this community, people who were three years out from the death of their child, were writing about their grief with such clarity and insight, I felt like they were looking into my soul. They had the distance to remember, make beautiful words, help me make sense.

I have been thinking a lot about this blog and the rest of my thousand projects. How busy I feel all the time. How unzenlike my day is mostly running, writing, driving, shopping, cleaning, mopping, sweeping and worrying.

I have a book in me.

It is stuck in all the worrying and sweeping, mopping and cleaning, shopping and driving, writing and running. It is lodged in the tread of my tires, smeared across the driveway. I hide it underneath blogs, and mix it up with some paint, drag it across the canvas. I stare at my day, draw it out on paper as a flow chart with arrows and question marks and what can give here and what can't. It all works. I am happy. Yet it is clunky and complicated. It is kinetic and unbalanced. And though I am happy, I am not complete. There are parts of my day missing, like the stretching and lifting weights part. And the sitting still with my children and husband part. I have three blogs, for example, as though I am three people. I tried to integrate everything once, but it was too soon, and I worried about my readers, and what they would think if I crafted here, or talked about parenting. Except that I am no longer tending to different parts of my life in different ways. I am just Angie, the grieving, artsy, craftsy, writery stretchmark bellied sneech.

What I am trying to say is that my passion is writing. I always wanted to be a writer, from the earliest memories of wanting to be something. I would want to be a doctor, so that I could write about doctoring. I wanted to be an architect, so I could paint houses. I wanted to be a cowboy because cowboys spin yarns around a campfire. I just want to spin a yarn or two. I can't write a book, and do all the other stuff I do. I can't work out without giving something up, because I have every little minute accounted for in my day.

I am thinking of maintaining one space. This one. still life with circles. Here I would publish a few times a week, and I would publish crafts, art and things I publish on my still life everyday blog, as well as talk about mindful parenting, buddhism, religion, recovery and of course, grief. I am handing over still life 365 to another editor, since that space has gone dormant because of my inability to give it the proper attention it deserves. It will be something like a one year sabbatical. (Baby steps.) I thought about focusing all my energy there, turning it into a book, making it monthly, or quarterly or yearly, but I want to write, and it keeps me from writing the book in me. The one I have to scrape off the bottom of my Docs.

I am giving up my Kenna Twins shop on Etsy, even though I love painting. It doesn't feel right anymore to paint in that way. Rather once, perhaps twice a year, I will ask for names here and on Facebook. I will sit in tonglen and paint mizuko jizos in a large session, like I did last year for the Kindness Project. That felt right to me. (So, buy on Kenna Twins now, before I close shop forever.)

I need to find that physical part of me--the one that chops wood for hours, and has a physical, brutish, fleshy understanding of the world. The person who picks it up, smells it, throws it. I feel disconnected from my body. I want to integrate me into me again. I am hoping that shedding some of my projects, focusing on writing in one space and then writing the books scattered all over my life, will help focus me. Last year, I wanted to make peace with my body. I quit drinking. It is all I focused on--quitting drinking. Now, I am bringing my body back to life, reminding it who it was, igniting the cellular memory of sweating. And I am writing a book, dammit.

What are you doing for the new year? Not resolutions as such, but do you have goals? A word to sum it all up?

Sunday, December 25, 2011


No one in this house dresses on Christmas. I don't cook. We play with our toys in front of the fire. Nap. Watch the movies Santa brought (Kung-Fu Panda I & II). We listen to the last of the Christmas music. We read the books once wrapped in red and green paper while under blankets (this year, the kids got the Last Wild Witch, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Conejito). I drink coffee. We eat leftovers and large clunky candy canes from Hammonds. I don't want to go anywhere. That is the last of the grief rituals we have. Prepare for a bad day. Hunker down. Make a weep-friendly zone. Play when you can.

My children were Santa-happy this year. Santa this and Santa that. Beezus told me this morning she heard Rudolph's nose when the reindeer were on our roof. You know, the noise his nose makes when it is blinking on the 1964 TV special. I thought I saw the Easter Bunny when I was a kid. Standing in my living room. I was four. And the Easter Bunny looked like the one from Hess' Department Store. He filled our baskets. The crazy thing is that my sister has the same exact memory. So, yeah, the Rudolph thing, I get it. I also completely support that delusion, because it might buy me a year or so before she notices me and Santa have the same exact taste in toys.

This year, Beezus wanted robotic animals. Perhaps in Japanese Astrology, 2011 was the year of the Robot Kitty. Specifically, she wanted a white cat that meows and purrs and walks, and a dog too, with a leash. A robot dog. I remind her that she has a real dog and his name is Jack and she is welcome to walk him any dang minute of the day. She rolls her eyes and sighs. This robot doggie is white and has a leash. It is small and fluffy and has a pink bow and is named GoGo, she explains. I roll my eyes and sigh. The robot kitty cat has been meowing for weeks in the basement. It drives me insane. I would hear it and say something like, "I think I just got a text message."

This year I received some glass blown straws, and silver Mexican earrings, and socks I wrapped for myself. I love everything. Particularly watching Thor open one gift at a time and just play, even though more gifts sit there wrapped. Beezus tells me repeatedly that Thor still has gifts to open and should she help him? "I have a new matchbox car," he seems to say like a little monk, "Why do I need more?"

Something has been nagging at me all season. It is this thing I haven't quite articulated yet. And I'm not sure how to explain why it is so difficult. So I will just explain it. Beezus and Thor are almost exactly three years apart. His birthday falls five days before hers, but essentially, they hit the same milestones at the same time of the year.

You know what I am saying?

So, Thor is exactly the same age Beezus was when Lucy died.

I don't remember Christmas 2008. Lucia was dead four days. After the funeral home picked up her body on Christmas Eve, the funeral director was at our house asking what kind of urn we wanted. On Christmas Eve. Christmas morning, I was three days post-partum. Beezus received a play kitchen that year. I only know that because I saw a picture of her playing with the kitchen Christmas morning. There was a bow on it.

See, I don't remember much of Beezus at this age. I have been told I was a good mother to her, that I seemed completely absorbed in whatever she was doing right at that moment. I remember reading my journals and blogs around that time that being with Beezus made me very present. That I felt moments of happiness because her spirit is this large happy Buddha spirit and I could turn off some of the refrain: "Lucy is dead. I can't believe Lucy is dead." But that Christmas, I wailed most of the day. I have snippets, like a dream vignette in a movie. I remember wondering how I was going to live this life. I remember wondering if you can die from obsessive thinking and heartbreak. I remember being so afraid of Beezus dying, and wanting to hold her and not let her out. I wondered if every Christmas would be so fucking terrible and gut-wrenching. I didn't think I would ever like the holidays again. I wondered if I would have a stocking for Lucy or not the next year, because I had already filled her stocking when she died. (Incidentally, we don't hang a stocking for her, but we do hang all the ornaments with her name sent to us on her first birthday.) In 2008, we ate carrots for Christmas, because we simply couldn't function enough to cook anything else. We didn't even peel the carrots, we ate those little silly carrots that are made little by some machine.

Thor is still so little. I can't believe it. It keeps catching me off-guard. He doesn't quite talk, nor does he not talk. He communicates through a series of half-words, grunts, hand gestures, real words, and emotional responses like kicking shit and throwing himself on the ground. This week, he began grabbing a pillow, putting it down, and then throwing himself on it to have a tantrum. I admire his dedication to comfort. He likes cars, and making roads for his cars. He likes making off-road terrain for his cars, like my belly or my head. He kisses and draws and paints and sings songs. So many songs. So many heartbreaking songs.


There are so many layers to her death, so much that changed that day. I remember one thing specifically about Christmas 2008. I sat with a heating pad on my belly, uterus still contracting, on the couch. My milk came in that day, so my breasts formed hard painful pulsing lumps of grief. I tucked cabbage into my bra, and ice packs. Milk ran down my belly. Beezus wanted mostly nothing to do with me. The baby was dead. And I was sad. On Christmas, she came near me and crawled on my lap. It had been the first time nearly in two days that she wanted comfort from me. Sam left the room. I had begun to cry because her distance was so hard for me after Lucy's death. I couldn't bear it. Beezus rested her head on my breast, and I said, "Do you understand what is happening, Beezus?'

She shook her head no.

And I said, "Remember the baby in Mama's belly?" And she touched my belly.

"The baby died. Something happened. Lucy died. She is never coming to live with us. That is why Mami and Daddy are crying and sad. We will not always cry this much, but right now, we are so sad." And she stared at me. I had no idea if she understood what I was saying, but I cried and she kept hugging me.

That is what I remember about Christmas 2008. And I guess, stupidly, I thought Beezus understood that Lucy was dead. I thought that conversation gave her a kind of compassion and understanding. I see Thor now, and I can't believe how little he is. He is 20 months old. And I don't know if he gets that he has a sister that died either. After I post this, I am going to lie on the floor in front of the fire and drink a cafe au lait. I warm the milk in the microwave and use the little frother and pour in Kenya AA. It is a respite and a comfort to drink coffee that way. That is something Lucy's death taught me, to enjoy a moment of peace even if it is couched with a thousand torturous moments of grief.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


It is too warm to be her birthday. The sun didn't rise and set the sky into otherworldly pinks and oranges. It didn't humble me at God's grace. It was just suddenly bright grey at 7:17 am.

We didn't light candles, or tell stories, or feast last night as I had imagined. No one but me wanted to remember her in that way. Everyone seemed worn down and emotional. I don't want to force grief rituals on the kids, or my husband. That is what I want our grief to be--a rhythm we follow as a family. Every year is different. Rather than candles and solstice, Bea climbed on my lap and asked me to tell her the story of when she was born. And then I told her the story of Lucy's birth and death, and then Thor's birth. My husband cried gently as I told them the stories of our family.

After they went to sleep, I wrapped gifts for five hours. Everyone's gifts, even my own. I wrapped gifts from everyone--us, Santa, my mother, my father, my husband's family. I just wrapped and wrapped until it was her birthday. Then I cleaned up my workspace, and walked outside.

The clouds covered most of the sky, but there was one star I noticed. Maybe it was Lyra's star. It was so bright. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I sat on the steps and tried to meditate, but I kept thinking about how much of a failure I have been at this grief thing. How exacting it was. Someone told me that that is what being an alcoholic is about, and now that I am not drinking, I will heal from her death. I thought about how someone I loved told me that I disturbed them with my grief, that I had made her death a cottage industry. I thought about how much I failed at that friendship, and how much that friendship failed me.*  I try to accept that sometimes people don't like me, and I fail at things. Like I failed at bringing her into the world. And civilians think grief is something you heal from, like it is the goal of my life, or a comfort to think I am ailing now with something temporary.  I thought about all the lovely words everyone said to us on Facebook, in emails, on my Glow post. That warmed me. Then I felt like a failure for focusing on all the negative emotions, rather than just that. What is wrong with me that I can't just focus on all I have? Why can I not be filled with gratitude? Communing with my daughter wasn't exactly working. I was thinking of everything but her.

I didn't even want to sit there in nature, in the dark, and think about her. I just wanted to run out of my skin, away from those words, and that feeling of shame and guilt and failure. The feelings of not being gracious enough, or thankful enough. Someone said to me yesterday that my kids needed me, and I needed to hug the ones that were here. I do hug them. Every day. Lucy gets this one moment these days where the grief is hers, where I am wholly hers.

She never belonged to me. But I always belonged to her and Beezus and Thor. Lucia belonged to the sky and the fire and the wind. I don't know her. I never knew her. I miss everything I didn't know about her. I miss everything I did know about her. I hear her in the chimes in the Spring, feel her warmth in the wood fire that heats our house, smell her in the nag champa that we light to remember her.

I prayed a small thank you for the sky and went inside. Then I prayed to feel her, or have a dream of her.

Please, God, I just want to feel her again. Not in the wind, or the trees, but her. The weight of her in my arms. I want her to nuzzle, to open her eyes. I want to see her live.

I woke up four hours later. Unrested. Sad. The children were awake and wanting to play. I had no dreams. I just shuffled my way downstairs, poured coffee. The kids and I painted in the studio. We watched the sky turn brighter. No sunrise, just brighter.

I haven't cried about her death in a long time. This space is where I come to grieve, like a small sitting room in the gigantic hypothetical farmhouse where we can afford rooms to dedicate to a single emotion. The joy room. The meditation room. The grief room. That room has with a shrine to her, a large leather chair with a broken-in quilt. There is a table with enough room for a book and a cup of coffee, maybe my reading glasses. A box of tissue. The light is soft and a picture window with a seat facing east, overlooking trees and a lake, mountains in the background. That is where the sun rises. There is a sketch pad there. A zafu, a Buddha and a jizo. Windchimes that move indiscriminately. A fireplace.

I don't think we ever heal from our children's death. I will always be sad that Lucia died. That seems more normal than trying to heal. Healing is not even my fucking goal. I just want to have a day like I am having, I suppose. Solemn with pockets of joy and sadness and a feeling of her, or the feeling of a lack of her, all around me.

Thank you for being present with the anniversary of our daughter's death, and her birthday. Thank you for the notes, emails, wall posts, comments. I don't have to space to express the full depth of my gratitude. Your love warms me, holds me, makes me feel loved. Thank you.

* I am not sharing these things because I want you to tell me how good I am, or how wrong anyone else is. I don't think any of this is an abnormal part of grief. This is grief for me. It is guilt and shame and fear and nonacceptance and anger and sadness and restlessness. All the emotions and obsessions from feeling the weight of her death, they are all little emotional avoidances. Maybe you can relate to that too. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Beezus talks about death these days. She understands what it means to lose a three year old sister. Newborn to two was intangible. But three is something. Beezus remembers what it is like to be three, back when she was little. Three talks. Three runs. Three skips. Three has ponytails and smart alecky comebacks. Three likes the color purple. Three throws tantrums.

I throw tantrums sometimes too. I stomp around and smash the plates I always hated and wanted to break anyway.  I want her back. RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW. I just want to see her face again. It was perfect, wasn't it? It was perfect. I throw myself on the ground. Kick. It isn't fair. I am going to hold my breath until she comes back or until I turn blue.

I am blue.
Sooooo blue.
I sing the blues.
I sound like a dying creature. I feel like a dying creature.

The saxophone kicks up as I sweep up the plate. I am the mother. I clean up the mess. I pull it together. I get zen about justice and fairness and how it never has been in the history of the world. I channel my father: Who ever said life was fair? Stomp. Stomp. Sweep. Sweep. I keep maniacally busy. It is the holidays. It is easy to be maniacal. Must. Keep. Moving. Or. I. Will. Cry.

It's hard to explain how happy she makes me when it comes out it in such gut wrenching grief. The tears flow if I let them. I don't let them. That is the difference between now and then. I couldn't stop the grief in the early days. It came in waves over me, over my children, over my husband. It flooded my house. The water level rose marked the wall, marked our hearts. We tread water until it receded enough to find a mop. Then we worked on the water, one bucketful at a time. Now, I can will myself silent. It looks like a holy stance, but it is a kind of torment.

She died.
Did I mention that?

It seems like her defining feature, but it isn't. She is everything and in everything. And she is nothing and in nothing. Somewhere in there lies the truth, just as the truth sometimes lies. Like the truth is she is dead and always alive. She will always be a baby and the most wise being I know for she holds the secret of life and death. A tree, perhaps. Maybe she is an old staid tree in our yard.

When I edge on her day, I sit in the anger. Anger at everything else but her death. Or maybe I am just angry at her death. It is all conflated into a restlessness. This dialogue of resentment and sadness and anger replaces the mantra: This too shall pass. I want to DO something when I am angry. Sitting is the last fucking thing I want to do. Sweep. Mop. Cry. Anything.

Everything about my life changed after she died. Everything about me. And I feel attached to all those things I once was, like grape vines winding around all my character defects, my arrogance, my lightness of being. I cut the shoots and they grow back. I'm not sure I am a better person because of her death. I just want to be a better person. I want to have found my center. I want to have come out the other side of something. I want to have rekindled my life. Villages of friends are gone. I walk into the ghost town and sidle up to the bar. There is nothing left. I am not part of their tribe any longer. It makes me angry. It makes me angry that my daughter died and then I kept losing more and more and more until it was just us in this flood prone house.


I can see her sandwiched between Thor and Beezus, playing restaurant and wrestling and fitting into the bath. It makes me calm and happy to see them play. This week Thor wants to wear Lucy's butterfly towel. It is pink and has little antennae. I bought it for her a week before she died, and washed it and hung it next to Beezus' towel. Then she died, and I couldn't bear to move it. He points and stomps until I wrap him in it. This week, the week of her death and birth. He looks like her. My God, he looks like her. I tell him he is a beautiful butterfly, and Beezus sings Lucy's song.

Fly Butterfly Fly. 
Fly Butterfly Fly. 

Maybe I am doing a couple of things right in my life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

waning gibbous

It is a waning gibbous moon.

I am a waning gibbous woman. A humpbacked thing half of what I could be. The moon hangs over the tree line, bright and sure of itself. I am floating somewhere else, to the north, cold and unsure. It is day and you can still see me, even though I am a creature of the night these days. Don't let the list of things I do fool you.

I am on autopilot.

Bake cookies. Drive children. Drink coffee. Sweep floor. Make craft. Cuddle children. Wrap gifts. Send Christmas Cards. Chit chat with parents. Pick up girl. Answer email. Go to the market. Send text. Watch Miracle of 34th Street.

I pencil in crying.

Schedule a meltdown. Between pediatrician well-visit and lunch.

I don't know how to feel anymore.

It is the sad truth of my life that I can't quite figure it out these days. I feel happy and like a liar. I am in awe of nature. This morning, I walked out as the sun rose over the CVS at the end of our street. It is the most photographed strip mall sunrise in New Jersey. And the strange lighting, the still illuminated bright waning gibbous moon over the trees, make me feel silly for being all up in my deformed head, pointy and shadowed. See how I am a liar?

I want a mountain top.
Legs crossed.
Palms up and open.
Watching my breath drift out of my nose and my mouth.
I would soak in the sky until my belly puffed out with clouds and nothingness.
I eat the moon, and the solstice and the sky.


There is something pulsing behind my eyes. It is blood and love and moonlight. It is cold outside, but not December cold. The cold pushes against my eyes too. The unseasonable warmth pushes back. It has the feel of the first warm day of Spring. It is confusing my grief hormones.

I lie on the ground, my arms outstretched. The ground is wet and dry, and the points that touch the ground grow cold. Carrying three children within me marked my body, changed my person. I have crow's feet and side saddles, and large sagging breasts. My stomach muscles tore. I carry my weight like I am still carrying a child. My knees ache. My back spasms. My boob leaks milk. My skin's dull and pocked. My hair falls out.

 My friend photographed my family last weekend.

My husband asked me how I like them. "They are all so gorgeous except for the ones with me. I look fat and scabby and sickly." There is nothing more attractive than self-loathing. His eyes go all glassy and he thinks that I am the most charming woman he has ever met.

"You are beautiful, mama." I turn and the girl is standing in the doorway. I am ashamed of my lack of confidence and constant focus on how ugly I am. I want something different for her.

Thank you, my angel.

She watches everything. She listens to everything. She soaks me in like the moonlight. Even if I am a waning gibbous moon, I am still bright to her. Sometimes I think my body beautiful in its transformation into the soft warm pile of mother earth flesh that folds on itself. She sees me differently than every other person in the world. And she makes me beautiful.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

the knot of a tree

It is morning. The sky is pink.

It is mourning. My sky is black. My arms grow like grape vines, winding around all I love, weaving into the tree we planted for her, in the hair of my boy and his sister. I feel something more than grief, something like a chasm of hurt in me. Every piece of my life falls into it. Every hurt goes in there, screaming and grasping for ground.

I pour the coffee. It is morning. The lights slices through the clouds like a ladder. Oranges and pinks and weeping and hunger. Sometimes I believe in heaven simply by dint of the beauty above. Something besides the cold and emptiness that science insists are the only thing residing there, something like the beautiful essence of our collective conscience, should control that light and live there.

Beezus asks me if her sister is big now or if she is still little. She gestures with her arms, open and then brings her hands together in the size of a newborn. And I say that she is neither. She is just ash and bone. She is dead and not growing anymore. I tell her we can look at the ruins of her sister. Lucy is in a jar on the shelf.  We could pour her out on an earthenware plate, and see if she is still there, in the white of who she once was.

It feels inappropriate to say this to a child, but I want her to know that her spirit isn't in the jar, just the shell of her is. She is somewhere else, somewhere within us and outside of us. She is the wind and the breath and the whispers and the phone falling off the wall. She is the ladybug and the hummingbird and the moss in our terrariums. Some people believe that babies who die turn into angels, but in God's world, angels were never human, they were warriors. I ask her what she thinks.

She tells me very matter of factly that she thinks when people die, they go into the trees.

"That is why it is very important to hug trees."

God speaks through other people, maybe God speaks through you. Maybe God speaks through Beezus. Maybe God was speaking through the people who have told me that I am a horrible person. Or the ones that insinuate that grief is something different than love.


I know I have said this before, but I am grateful.

Not that she died. But that I had somewhere to go when she died. I am grateful for the ones who can hear her name, and bear witness to our struggles without judgment. I am grateful to my friends who love my children, all of them. I am grateful there are trees to house our children, and children to tell the story of the earth to us.

She died.

Almost three years ago now. It feels like I can count my grief in rings. The years of famine and grief and withering mark me, gnarled and grey. I looked dead once, but I am green again. I have a knot in the middle of me that small rodents crawl into and make a home. The knot feels like a hole, but it is a home. I must remember it. I cry again and know that the tears carve something like a chasm of love. They formed the knot and the hole and the gulf between before and after and everything falling inside of it.


You are all winners in my opinion, but here are the people receiving the giveaways from the last post.

Susan won the chapbook.
Jill A. won the 12" x 24" painting.
Kate won the 5"x 7" painting.

Please get in touch with me, lovely women, and email me your addresses and thank you to everyone who entered and who read in this space.

Friday, December 9, 2011

25 Days of Giveaways--Day 10

Welcome, Auckland, New Zealand!

And all the rest of the world. It is midnight on Day Ten in Auckland, even though it is 18 hours earlier in my neck of the woods. Tonight is also the Long Nights Moon, which is the full moon of December. It is an auspicious time for a giveaway, me thinks. I am so grateful for Tina at Living without Sophia and Ellie for hosting the 25 Days of Giveaways every year. I have been participating in this for the last few years, and always think it is an incredible way to bolster spirits and bring our community together. Plus, I just love giving shit away. I am opening this at midnight in Auckland and posting winners on Sunday. That gives you the 10th in your time zone to put in a comment to win.

This year, I am offering three giveaways. The first two are finished, original mizuko jizo bodhisattva paintings in acrylic. Both paintings were created specifically for this giveaway. I have been working more in acrylic this year and experimenting with some other media. The first painting is a joyous mizuko jizo painting in acrylic and oil crayon. The canvas is 12" x 24".

 The second painting giveaway was donated by someone who won one of my paintings in another giveaway on Creme de La Creme. She wanted to remain anonymous, but you all love and know her. She already has a painting of mine and wanted to use this opportunity to share my work with another person. And so, the second painting is also joyous mizuko jizo bodhisattva. It is significantly smaller, and the photograph crappier because I could only photograph it tonight. It is 5" x 7". Purple background. The purple is much gentler than the picture makes it appear. Both of these paintings are on canvas.

I am also going to use this post to tell you about some upcoming events. In the month of January, the Mulberry Art Studio in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, will host the art exhibit five. Stephanie Paige Cole, author of Still. and the founder of the Sweet Pea Project, is exhibiting the breathtaking and aching work that emerged after the her daughter Madeline was stillborn as well as some more recent work. In addition to Stephanie, I will be showing my recent acrylic paintings and reading my poetry at the artists' reception on January 15th from 1p to 4p. Other artists and poets in the show are Kara Jones, Joanne Cacciatore, Sherokee Ilse, Laura Seftel, Catherine Bayly, Carly Dudley, Janel Atlas and more. At the reception, I will be selling prints and postcards of the work featured in the show.

In addition, (Breathe deeply. Don't puke.) I will be selling copies of my newly pressed, self-published chapbook called Of This, We Will Not Speak. I am finally releasing these words and these works into the world after getting some published here and there, and trying to get others published for much too long. Half of the chapbook is my grief poetry and the other half is work written before that time. It also make a very reasonably priced Christmas gift at $9.95. It is only 27 pages of poetry. And so, because of this newly printed piece, I am offering a third giveaway. You can win a copy of my chapbook.

If you are interested in purchasing postcards, prints or chapbooks at the art reception on January 15th, twenty percent of the proceeds from the reception sales will be donated to the Sweet Pea Project. If you are in the area, please come by the show (and let me know in the comments below.) I would love to connect with each of you in person and if not there, then somewheres else, peoples.

This giveaway is open to anyone--babylost or not. The only way to enter is to leave a comment. Every year I ask people to choose which prize they want to receive, and this year is no different. In the comment section of this post, tell me which prize you would like to win. If you want to be in the running for more than one, that is totally cool. Leave a second comment with that prize too. I am going to cut up the comments, put them in different hats and choose them. I usually ask people to tell me something else about them, so I can get to know people. 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. And for the personal aspect part of the comment, tell me one of three things: 1. what you feel your greatest strength is, 2. tell me the secret dream life you would have liked to live or are trying to live (spy, rock star, famous knitter) or 3. what book has been the most influential book of your life. If you are entering for more than one, you must answer a different question.

I am posting this today, which means you get thirty-six hours or something to leave a comment on this post.   Please remember that you can always purchase my work on my Etsy site. Or email me directly and we can work on something together. And my new poetry chapbook can be ordered on Amazon or on Create Space.

Monday, December 5, 2011


I have finally reached the point where I had to wean Thor. He would not stop nursing on his own and he only liked to nurse in the middle of the night. I was the human binky, sticky and abused. I curl around his body, breast exposed to the night creatures. He paws and grabs and bites and sometimes screams at me for not being right where he wants me just when he wants me to be. In daylight hours, he looks so small to me, so very little. Something to protect. At night, when he stumbles into our room, the digits on the clock all vertical, 1:11, he imposes on our bed, stretches across the vast ocean of mattress that separates the continents of Sam and Angie. He is the ruler. Where his legs want to be, no one will lie in his way. King Thor, Tyrant of the Ta-Tas.

I haven't slept in five years.

It's not an excuse. I have had a random night here or there, but mostly I just haven't slept. Pregnancy. Grief. Writing. Art. Death. Insomnia. Nursing on-demand. I cobble seven hours together some nights, maybe in three hour increments, but mostly, I am just so tired. So last week, I just said, "No mas, mijo. Basta ya." I am ready to come into my body again. I am ready for my body back.

I am a woman who once had a form besides boob holder. I had cleavage without snaps, and shirts without inside secret holes. I wore dresses and heels and long yellow earrings made of gold. I had a stud through that nipple, and one through my tongue. And another that sat in the cleft on my nose. Last night, I fell into a half-sleep and dreamed that all the places of me that once touched jewelry puffed into a purple, angry welts. Soothing them with aloe, I looked like a shiny grotesque caricature of me. The beauty is wrong here, it screamed. I am built wrong. I reject the beauty.

There is the muscle memory of grief in me. It resides in my breast. Just one. I could only ever feed from one side, and she weeps. Last night, in the shower, the other breast wept too. The sympathetic boob. The week after Lucia died, the sheer pain and ache in my breasts would make me want to crawl out of my body, unzip my skin, walk out. My inner core is flat-chested and asexual. It wears no adornment. I would stare at the skin of me, lumped on the floor, breasts hard and stiff against the rug. I am not the shell of me, and neither is she.

I swirl in a kind of grief, hormone panic. She is dead. He is alive. He is growing. She is not. That is why my breasts weep. That is why I am not feeding, because he is 20 months now and he eats two sausages for dinner. I want my body back. I have to remind myself that I chose this path, because everything is exactly as it should be. But all this engorgement reminds me that there was once a baby who did not feed.

I cut a cabbage in half, place it in the freezer. I brew sage tea. These are the ritual of early grief for me. And yet it is almost three years later, she didn't just die, but the ache reminds me of her death, like a thousand things throughout my day. I try to unzip myself from my body and lounge in front of the fire, soothe the welts of beauty, drain the breast. But this body made those babies, it is inextricably part of the core, even if it is the shell of me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

the doves

Her tree stretches up and out. I hung a small bell patina-ed green. Her tree is still small, but taller than my husband. When it dropped its leaves this year, they blushed from red to yellow to green, top to bottom, like the rainbow. I kissed Lucy's tree when I was stacking wood beside it. It caught me off guard. I thought of it and kissed it and then thought myself crazy.

We search the nooks of our postage stamp backyard, looking for gnome homes.

I am crazy, possibly silly.

Beatrice hears an owl. "Mama, mama, I hear an owl saying, 'whooo, whooo.'"
"That is the sound of the mourning dove, my angel."
"Because it is morning?"
"No, because it is in mourning, grieving."

Like us, I think. Are we still mourning? No, we are something else. We are just doves, cooing and sounding sad, rooting for coffee in the rocks. They still call us the mourning ones. We lost our baby once. She flew from the womb and out the door and into another bird nest. It rested above a bell that chimed every time she sang.

The mourning doves bleat. Or coo. Or weep. Or keen in the sunlight, nesting in the river rocks that circle our house like a moat. I watch them scurry, like rodents, when I approach. They protect their nest, or mourn their nest. Their song makes them mysterious, but I cannot help but think them ridiculous when I see them waddle away into the driveway.

Their grief makes them sound like owls, like night hunters, like something other than defenseless, featherbrained doves.

Whoooooo can save me? 

They sing their dirge.

Whooooo will sit with me? 

It is a eulogy.

Whooooo will accompany me to the underworld, save her soul? 

The doves bring compassion and absurdity, like a comedic Greek Chorus.

Whooooo are you? Really? When the daughter dies, whoooo do you become? Whoooo do you mourn? She whoooo never breathed. She whoooo only slightly came into being. Whooooo was she even?

Whooo are you even?

It never gets easier to write her name amongst the dead. I do it every year. I write their names every month, on the top of my blog, but when it is her name, it catches me up. I hiccup in sadness. It sounds like the croak of a dove, mournful but silly.