Monday, January 30, 2012

about my father

This month on Glow, the regular contributors have been writing about family. I have written about my father's illness a few times on this blog. I decided it might be a good time to revisit how I felt about Lucia's death, grief, expectations, and my father. So, today, I am over at Glow in the Woods writing about my father, unconditional love, forgiveness, and compassion. Whew.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

about my artwork.

Today, I am honored to be guest posting over at Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope for their January create. heal inspire. series on creativity and grief. January is International Creativity Month. I am also giving away a mizuko jizo painting over there. So go over there. Comment. Win something. Actually, check out the whole series, because it is beautifully done, like everything at FOL/FOH. Beryl has done an amazing job organizing this month of creative mamas.


Now, a few words about my art in general. A few weeks ago, I mentioned closing my Etsy Shop so I can focus on my writing. I said it in this general, oh-maybe-soon-I-will way. In lieu of a few requests and comments from people, I thought I would take a few weeks before closing shop to offer custom work to grieving people as well as sell the work I have around the studio. I will be open to do custom mizuko jizo paintings for the next two weeks. I am aiming to be done around Valentine's Day, but will stay open longer if I get a ton of requests. I am putting aside writing to offer this to the grieving parents that I love, because I noticed a few parents favorited my shop on Etsy and the custom listing, and I didn't want you to be surprised if you went back and the gypsy caravan has packed up and the carnival left town.

Mizuko jizos hanging across my studio
for Intl Kindness Project Day
I have explained what mizuko jizos are on this blog before, and tonglen meditation. My painting process is part of my spiritual practice, as many of you know. Tonglen mediation is a meditation where you connect with suffering--your own suffering and the suffering of others. You breathe in the suffering, and breath out relief, happiness, joy, compassion to the suffering. The idea is to carry the burden, lessen others suffering. It is slightly oppressive and uncomfortable to carry suffering, to feel pain of others' situations and grief, but also very healing. In the end, it helps you become comfortable around suffering and dissipate the fear of your own suffering. Because I lost a child, I tap into the early grief energy, the rawness of it, and touch that. When I do custom work, I focus on that individual family, or mother/father, and send a kind of grounding to the family. I also keep that child's name as a mantra in my mind, as well as Lucy's name. Then I paint, in a quiet studio, alone, with a candle for the babies and incense. When I do a large, general painting session, I meditate for grieving parents as a general group. And paint many paintings at the same time.

Greeting cards after a tonglen session..
I have been doing this type of meditation painting for three years now. Well, almost three years. After Lucia's death. Everything converged for me in the late spring after her death when I began painting mizuko jizo for my own Lucia's mizuko kuyo, or ritual for remembrance. Around the same time, I saw my Buddhist therapist who was helping me relearn meditation after her death. I was having trouble sitting still, and he gave me some amazing meditation techniques. It was during one of our meditation sessions that he taught me tonglen, and said that my connecting with other women on-line sounded like tonglen. I had never heard of it, and was intrigued. Helping others always helped me cope with suffering. I bought Pema Chodron's Good Medicine which is an explanation of tonglen.(Here is a quick article that explains it quite nicely.) In another session, the same therapist suggested that I think of painting as my daily meditation. He said that it is a strong legacy in Buddhist tradition to have artists who use painting as a type of working meditation.

My paintings have been integral to my daily life, just as meditation has been. To let it go feels scary and important. For me, the daily Etsy demand is very low. But when it comes, it requires me to drop my current deadlines and work, then focus on painting. Particularly because the payment is up front, so I feel I must meet the two day turnaround I promise. And yet, I have to say, painting for grieving parents and grandparents has opened up a new, beautiful, spiritual world to me, and gave me a spiritual grounding and center that felt like the missing link in my life for a long long time before Lucia's death. I am forever indebted to the parents who trust me with their babies, and allow me to paint for them.

Painting, before my studio.
With bangs and pregnant with Thor.
Fall, 2009.

AND so, for the next two to three weeks, I will focus on painting, as I close this chapter, FOR NOW. I know I will continue painting, and I may paint again on Etsy after that, but I just want to set it aside for now. So, I have some paintings (4"x6" watercolors, and 5"x7" watercolor greeting cards, perfect for babylost friends for birthdays, sympathy cards or anytime cards) in my studio that I am selling for $15 a piece. Custom pieces are priced differently, and we can discuss prices. If you are interested in a custom piece, or a meditating mama, or another painting, please do not hesitate to contact me at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. We can work on something together for you. I also will be selling my acrylic pieces that appeared in the show five. in Lancaster, PA, this month.

From five.

I have decided that on July 27th, as part of MISS Foundation's International Kindness Project, I will do a large meditation session and paint 4"x 6" mizuko jizos to give away to grieving families. Last year, I painted 28 jizos for grieving families. I offer that through the comment section of this blog, the comment section at MISS Foundation, and on my Facebook page. (Angie Kenna Yingst.) That won't happen until July, though.

Thank you all for the support and love you have given to my painting and work. It has meant the world.

Friday, January 20, 2012

mourning moon

I loved you before I knew to love you. I whispered your name on the wind.

Lucia. Lucia Paz. Where are you?

The only thing I hold of you now is the grief, like a cast around my heart. I signed your name on it so many times, it became part of the love I feel for everything. Someone once asked me if you wrote it yourself, I said yes until I believed it.

I miss you. I miss your little head. And your beautiful everything. It is strange to feel lonely without someone you met only once, but I suppose I never met you, not really. I only knew you dead. That is just not the same.

The morning moon hung to the southeast this morning, perfect in its sliver. I felt the dawn inside of me. An awakening to something like solitude, not loneliness, but a learning to be alone. I am a hermit. An old soul. A crone. A holy woman, wild hair like a crown above my head. I cannot take in the flesh, and neither can I let the flesh go. I tear at it with my teeth, small bites for protein. I need strength to be alone. But it is a conflict. I let her flesh leave me. She was taken away to a room somewhere. Did they love her, the men that cut her open? Did they cry? Did they soothe her bruises? Did they pray? Did they know she was named Lucia?

I keep thinking I have written about her for the last time, but then I see the moon in the early morning. The way it winks as it wanes. The way it reminds me of time. And I write about her. Sometimes when I cannot escape myself, I find her. Kept secret behind the moon, playing hide and seek.

Find me, mama.

I am in the winter sky. I am in the early dawn. I am in your seclusion. I am not speaking through mediums and channels and charlatans. I am in the quiet. I am in the tears. I am etched in your skin. I am in the cough. I am the distance. I am the early morning. I am the birds. I am your baby. I am the forest through the trees. I am not here. I am everywhere.

You say you cannot find me, but you have been looking right at me. When you are on your knees, begging for peace, offering yourself to peace, that is where I am.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

hare krishna

It had been a long time since we listened to devotional ecstatic religious music--chanting and mantras and bouncing. We listen to Hare Krishna music, because there is a joy there. Children respond well to joy. The words are easy to say and they all mean God. So, we laugh and dance and bounce, and fall into a pile of us. I told Beezus last time we chanted that we should go to the Hare Krishna temple for devotion.

Chanting in a group feels electric, I tell her. Then we could eat vegetarian food and smile at people. There is a light in this scene I am painting. It was summer then. Our shoulders were bare. Our feet leathered and hot. It was humid. We soaked through our clothes. We burned incense. We put our hands in namaste position and bowed to each other laughing. Beezus loves namaste hands, she repeats the word like a mantra too. I don't tell her it means peace, because I like the way she says it quickly, in a very unpeaceful way.


Beezus asked me what a Hare Krishna is. And I tell her that Krishnas are people who believe they can be closer to God and achieve enlightenment by chanting and dancing together, and eating food for God. They devote their lives to this kind of joy. Her eyes perk up, and she says, "That is what I want to be when I grow up."

The wind has been terrible this week. We are wearing layers in our house. I light the fire. The wind blows it out. It rattles the upper floor windows, sending an icy draft over us. It pushes against the car when we are flying down the highway.

Box yourself into your metal machine. Crank up your Sigur Ros. Turn on the heat, but I will still blow you away, the wind howls.

I feel swept up in the winter now. My voice, nothing but a weak breathy deepness, lost in the sounds of our house. The only thing I have been chanting is ahem.  My heart pumps faster to do less. My nose drains, runs into rivulets and floods the arroyos, like snow caps melting. I don't have time to get sick. I don't have the wherewithal to battle the gales. I want to chant about God, but I feel an icy emptiness in me--a tundra that stretches from apathy to abandonment. I sit still. I sit with the children and walk through a meditation. It is a winter meditation about quiet and reverence. It feels so Nordic these practices. There is no Hare. No Krishna. The dark and cold seeps into our belief, settles into our God bone.

This morning, we rebel. After our coughing spells, following the warming of our tootsies in front of the fire, we strip down to barefeet and bounce.

Hare. Hare. Hare. Hare Krishna. We are happy. We are happy. Hare Krishna. We are family. Hare. Hare.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

pee run

I sometimes run to the bathroom, when it is morning and the pressure to pee comes on my like a fierce competitor, on my tiptoes, quickly, my arms flailing by my boobs like I'm an impotent, useless, miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex. It is a strange run. Silly and feminine. Yet I growl.

ROWR, get outta the way. I need to peeeeee...

When I talk to my children about Buddhism and compassion and connectedness, I never talk to them about the pee run we all have. That completely unself-conscious run we do when faced with a tiny tank. Desperation and pressure and fear of wetting oneself is the great equalizer, loves. When we hold our water, us humans run silly. We are all under the same great sun, crouching over the same dark hole in the ground.

I've decided that I don't have to write here anymore. You know, just when I feel like it. But I want to write here. I want to paint still, but I don't want the pressure to paint. I feel slightly lost, wandering the hallways, wrist bent slightly in mimic of the pee run. I feel like that--a kind of pressure to get somewhere, but I don't know where. I think in blog post length after years of this writing.

I have organized all my drawers in the last few weeks. My junk drawers dumped and sorted, my utensils decluttered. I took out every piece of food item in my pantry, wiped and organized and inventoried. I checked dates. I cleaned my art studio. I put craft and art supplies in bins according to their use. The kids have had their too small clothes weeded out. My desk drawer, my sock drawer, my bathroom shizzle. I am avoiding writing, you know, the big book. I asked a nun if I could sit and have coffee with her. My main character joins the convent at some point, after years of drug abuse and alcoholism, after she sees God in the desert.

The nun laughed.
"Sure. I'd love it. It is a crazy process to be a nun."
"Can I bring a tape recorder?"
"Sure, Angie. It'll be fun. Can I ask you about writing a novel?"
"It is a crazy process to write a novel. So crazy, I haven't done it yet."

I don't know what to ask. I just want to do something productive towards the end. I have this thing. It hangs out on the computer, and mocks me. "Don't you have something to go paint, lady? I'm not sure if you are disciplined enough to write a whole book. You are like a gnat with an espresso habit. You like shiny objects, and I am dull and I don't make any noises. I don't whirl, or growl, or run like a girl."

I am hard on myself. I have this internal voice that is much like a basketball coach, perhaps Bobby Knight. On a good day, it says, "You can do it, kid. You are money." When it is a bad day, I throw chairs at myself. It is abusive and harsh and reminds me that I am nothing if I don't work. Obsessively, and without pause. That can be both good and bad. I am working on the internal voice. It has gotten nicer since I have gotten sober, which is a cool bonus of not drinking. Still, when I sit here in blogger, rather than Word, I know that my inner Bobby Knight is going to rage.

It makes my bladder weak. And then I have to run.

I have been reading about writing lately. I highly recommend Ann Patchett's the Getaway Car. I find her extraordinary. Anyone else have any good writer-y writing you want to pass on? What have you been reading lately? Any good motivational advice for an itinerate, unmotivated writer? What are you procrastinating on?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Technically, I spent the weekend with my children and my mother. Sam left for Ohio to collect the honor of his father being inducted into his high school's football and basketball hall of fame. He left Thursday, drove home today.

Mama came and told me to make plans with people, and so I did. So technically, I spent the weekend with my kids and my mother, but I spent less time than normal. I had breakfast with the ladies after a meeting, then Sunday, I met one of my closest friends at the diner between our houses. I love having breakfast with her, drinking shitty coffee with that lovely, natural conversational pace you only get with old friends. We ate fast, then went to a flea market, which ended up being more of a swap meet. I bought a huge fake g-force watch for eight buck. My mother told me I should have paid five.

Later another friend C. picked me up and we drove to a place where a woman channels spirit guides and angels. I sat on the floor, and my friend K. rested her feet on my thigh. The room was filled with women, a few men I had never met, most of whom I consider my friends, my confidantes, the people I laugh with, have called crying, who know a little bit about every little nasty bit of me. I know them the same way. We share something in common.

We meditated together, then the channel went one by one staring into our eyes. Some women saw the face of their mother as she stared at them. She looked like a holy woman to me, a wild, beautiful shaman surrounded by a golden light. She transformed. She oozed good medicine. As she came around, I felt a jolt of electricity and something like fear. My heart raced, and I saw flashes of experiences, like a film of a life passing before my eyes. I looked up to the Buddha above her head.

I am not my fears. I am not my weakness.

"It is okay. You do not have to be afraid, I cannot read your thoughts."

Thank you. Please say her name. Lucia Paz. Please say she is here, and if she is not, can you tell me if I should even be writing this book? Will it get published? Will I ever get published?Am I a fraud? Should I stop writing? I want to keep writing. I want to write books that people love, like the books I love.

She was still staring into my eyes.

"What you wish for, you will get."


"Do you understand? Do you know what I am talking about?"

I nod, tears welling. I don't know why I am crying. Her eyes move to K. She begins talking about being a woman in this lifetime. And how fucking hard it is to be a woman. I remember her saying, "But you already know that." K. tears up.

I play with the words in my head. What you wish for, you will get. It sounds like a Chinese curse. She stared at me with such earnestness, such surety, though I know it is not. It humbled me. Was she simply daring me to be responsible with the power to have wishes come true? I stretch the words...what you wish for, you will get. I turn them inside out. It is a mobius strip, you will wish for what you have. Did I wish something? I did wish in the moment she stared at me. I wish for peace of mind most days, serenity, sobriety, for a connection to God, or the divine, or other people.  I wish to know my destiny. To know if I should keep pursuing writing, or leave it along the road for another person to pick up. Maybe the answer was yes. Or maybe I really don't want to write anymore. What you wish for, now that is the problem.

On my birthday, I rose at 3:30a. It was coincidental. This was days earlier. There was a meteor shower, (I mentioned it before). At 4p, I made the plan to sit out in the night, watching meteors shoot across the sky. A whole two hours of wishes for my thirty-eighth year. According to my weather app, outside was destined to be 12 degrees F at 3am, perhaps cloudy and snowy. I couldn't bear to wake up in death temperature to make a wish or fifty, yet communing with night sky usually trumps practical concerns. I decided to not set an alarm and leave it to fate. If I wake, I will watch the stars from my bed.

I rolled over and looked at my phone. It was 3:30 am, so I sat up in the dark of my room. Fate wants me to see a meteor. The boy was snoring, uncovered. Leg draped across my thigh. The clerestory windows face the east. I see the stars framed by the three. I put my glasses on, propped up some pillows and waited. The sky seemed clear, but I was drifting in and out of sleep. Then it happened, a streak across the night sky, like chalk being drug on a clean slate. Three of them quickly appeared  in the windows. I made a wish, then another, then another. I woke three hours later, in the early dawn light, with my glasses on and a kink in my neck not sure if it all was a dream. I made three wishes. I remembered that. I held them deep inside me.

What I wish for, I will get.

Last year, on this very day, I had different wishes. I wished I could sleep all night, not woken by nightmares, or shame, or a constant refrain of guilt and shame. I wished I didn't have thoughts of wanting to die. I never wished to kill myself, just to die a quick painless death in my sleep so I could stop having so much pain and stop causing so much pain. I wished for friends that didn't abandon me in my worst moment. I wished to understand why they abandoned me, what it was about me that pushed people away. I wished for energy. I wished to see my body as a source of strength rather than limit and weakness. I wished for love--to give it and receive it wholly. I wished I had an answer. I wished to laugh until my cheeks hurt. I wished I had a community in real life, not just virtual. I wished I could be a better mother and wife. I wished I wouldn't drink when I didn't want to drink. I wished that alcohol wasn't the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing I thought of at night. I wished for peace, serenity, and calm. I wished to be of some use in the world.

What I wished for, I got.

Today, I have one year of intentional sobriety, that includes weekends.  My mouth still waters when I say the word bourbon, when I romance the booze. Over ice. Undertones of vanilla and oblivion. I miss it some days. Those days are fewer than they were. The without-it part is too good. Sobriety suits me. I came to sobriety gutted, lost, broken, willing to do anything. All of those wishes I had last year have come true, the psychic had that right. And not always in the way I imagined they would be granted. It has been a fucking hard year, but the saying, "Suffering is inevitable, but misery is optional." I get that now. I get it.

Today, I am not my fears. I am not my disease. I am not my daughter's death. I am not my righteous indignation. I am not a victim. I am not a bundle of wishes. I am not fixed. I am just a girl trying to do the next right thing. That sounded like the perfect wish.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I feel old.

When I talk about myself, I realize I am describing myself as a 67 year old, rather than a 37 year old. I think of myself living ten more years, perhaps, rather than forty, fifty and beyond. I feel, like I have for the last three years, on the downward slope of life, like Sisyphus, chasing after a fucking boulder with my cane and bad attitude. Grief aged me.

Thirty-seven for one more day, that is. Tomorrow, as the meteors shoot across the night sky, I will turn 38 years old. It is my birthday. That is a meaty number, full of round contemplations and strength, but I feel weak and flat. Old and crumbly.

I have a friend who is 86. I talk to him every week. If I wasn't married, I'd ask him to wed me, to take me as his bride. Handsome and smarter than anyone I have ever known. He is also the lightest person I know--perpetually laughing with a revolution under his smile. He is serene and peaceful and ready to rumble. He pretends to punch younger men, and they flinch. He bounces up off his seat to hug me in a giant bear hug that makes me feel important and beautiful. He makes me feel 37, a number much older than 86. I listen when I am near him. I stop and hear. Take his words into me, swoosh them around inside the newness of my 37 years. I know nothing. I am just a kid.

He said to me, "Hell, I'm only 86. I have forty more years of this myself." He laughs a gigantic guffaw whose gravitation pulls us into his orbit. I want to learn. I want to talk to him. I want to shine in his night sky, and radiate off of him. He tells me of fighting institutions and challenging bishops and his vow of poverty twenty years earlier. I want to be young like him. I want to know when to fight, when to stop, when to listen, when to speak. I want to intuitively grasp something other than my own ass.

I condemn myself to senility, a bent-over life, a stick in my hand, searching for firm ground, a place to find footing. At 37, I sit and live. I need to run. Or walk, or change, I mean. My husband and I head out in forty degree weather toward the Appalachian Trail to walk. My mother has the children. We want to walk together, to say goodbye to 2011 in a way that is quiet, meditative, together. We are entering a new year in our marriage, we hope. Perhaps we will be cold, we say, perhaps we shouldn't go.

We will be cold for a moment, then that too shall pass.
We will be uncomfortable, and then that too shall pass.
We will find our rhythm, and then that too shall pass.
We will be happy, and then that too shall pass.
We will be 37, and then that too shall pass.

I set my alarm this morning for 3 am tomorrow. When the stars dance, meteors shooting across the sky, when I can make wishes all night. I will wish for that which I cannot speak--youth, revolution, strength, roundness of spirit. For my children to never feel old, for me to love right where I stand right when I am standing in it.

I bounce up, stand in horse position, the fighting stance. All fisticuffs to the sky:

Come on, Universe. Wanna fight? I only have another hundred years of this.