Tuesday, July 31, 2012


My friend Jess  wrote these lines over three years ago:

I’ve spent a year re-telling the same sad story. It’s so short too. How many ways can I write ‘My baby died, I never knew her, I wish I did.'

I think about those lines often, when I write, when I talk of her...Lucia died. I never knew her, I wish I did. It's true, you know. That is what all my work boils down to. Jess has a gift for cutting through the bullshit and writing the line that sums it all up.

I never knew her, I wish I did. So instead of not-knowing her and wishing I did, I write and paint and do other yummy, delicious stuff. I wear raven feathers and dance barefoot in my studio to pagan music. I meditate in suffering until it fills my chest. I breathe it in like unwelcome water. Searing pain and dull ache and the feeling of death. My lungs burst, a flood pocked with drowned moths and buzzards erupts from the hole left behind. I light wooden-wicked candles that smell of campfires and crackle like a language. I eat hundreds of life savers, but I am still lost.

There are people all over the world whose babies just died. They feel completely alone, like I did. I remember. I remember thinking, "I will always be that woman whose baby died." Because it used to matter to me which woman I was. I told a friend that, and she thought I was lying. Who would think that? It sounds like literary license, but it isn't. It is what went through my head. This will define me. I knew that this thing that just happened--being told my baby was dead in me--rewired my pathway. That I would have to tell this story over and over again just to make sense of it.

I bemoaned and wailed and called and keened and prayed and clucked and sighed. And then I conjured a community. They were conjuring me. Leaning over cauldrons. Adding eye of nice and aroma of clever. Chanting, "Let these people be babylost and not overly angel-y and maybe a little punk rock too. Let them be artists and magicians and conjurers. Buddhists and pagans and Christians and Jews and Zoroastrians. And full of compassion and patience and support."

There is a community of people whose babies died. Sometimes I write here for them. Sometimes I write here for me. But I am here. Over and over again. I have asked myself if it is healthy. If it is okay. If it is weird.  I asked psychics too and tarot readers and mediums and women that talk to angels. I asked them if it is healthy, but in me I know that I have to give back to this community who saved my life. I know that I need to keep writing here, painting here, talking about grief and daughter-death. I counted on someone three years out, ten years out, seven years out to tell me that what I was feeling was normal and that I was going to be okay. Not back to the way it was before, but something better even. Those people showed me a way to integrate this storyline into my life. Jess happened to write about this today at Glow. Even though I was writing a little bit about it too over here a quarter of the world away. I take writing about Lucia and telling this sad story seriously, because my story has changed. I can say with confidence and love that my daughter Lucia gave me the most amazing gifts. She taught me so many truths, so much beauty, so much compassion. She taught me about my weaknesses and strengths, and I have allowed her death to become the way to connect to thousands of people, because at first, I only allowed her death to cut me off from everyone.

We all grieve. If we don't now, we will one day. If you can find nothing to like about someone, nothing to feel empathetic about, use that as a starting point to grow compassion. Every person has lost someone. Every person will lose someone. Every person will be someone's grief.

Last Friday was the MISS Foundation's International Kindness Day project. For it, I offered to paint mizuko jizo for parents, friends, family, anyone who wanted one. I meant to do it in silence, but after an hour and a half of sitting through the massive tonglen session, then one painting group, it felt too isolating. Plus, the kids popped in, and I talked without thinking. I am human, and besides, it is enough to do thirty-five paintings. I wanted to listen to my music, the rain, sing, dance. I need to also be kind to me. Here is a video I made after Kindness Day. It explains about me and why I do this.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

kindness day

The yoga was amazing in its ordinariness. I didn't cry. I didn't fall on the floor in a puddle, or talk about Lucia incessantly, or lash out in anger at all of yoginis. I just took the effin' class and it was lovely. It was very gentle, so I also felt fit enough for it, which was a bonus. The instructor never said the word grief, which felt odd for a class with the title Grief and Healing through Yoga, but you know, I liked what she had to say. She said we live in the negative programming of the story line. If we can be curious and feel it, it will change the grief. I liked that. It reminded me of that discussion on self-compassion I heard a few months ago.

She said the word heal and I didn't cringe or grow hot with anger. Heal. It feels okay to sit cross-legged with the concept of healing. I went back to another class on Wednesday. I didn't want to break the momentum and it was lovely. Grateful to this community for the love and support, and just the general acceptance at anything that troubles us. You are just there abiding, supporting, encouraging. Thank you.

Tomorrow is the MISS Foundation's Kindness Project Day. The idea of the day is to do something kind for someone in your baby's name as a way to carry his or her legacy. (Go visit the website to print out cards to leave at the scene of the kindness, and also RSVP on Facebook, if you can. These kindnesses are beautiful to read about.) Last year, I painted 4" x 6" mizuko jizo altar paintings for anyone who asked for one.

I think I did about 28. I am doing that again this year. You can comment on this post to request one, or on my Etsy shop's FB page (you can just become a fan), or on my personal FB page, or just shoot me an email at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. Just make sure you say something like, "I would like a painting in honor of my baby."* If you leave the baby's name, I am doing a crystal blessing grid in honor of all the babies I am painting for this year. Kicking off the day with a ritual in honor of grieving parents, then a tonglen meditation during which I will paint in silent meditation. I am also cutting off all email, phone and technology for the day. I am going to try to do a day of silent meditation and fasting this year. This is an exercise I have never tried and I am going to be in my house, so with babies and husband, it might not succeed. I think it is important, though. I will be painting on Saturday, July 28, in case you are trying to reach me, or trying to play Draw Something.

I have an idea of how many paintings I can handle, so I might close down these comments if it is too overwhelming. But for now, you can request one. You also need to send me your address, obviously, if I do not have it already.

Here is the listing  for a mizuko jizo painting from my Etsy site. I usually sell them for $25/painting, so I am including shipping, and a description of mizuko jizo. The first time I wrote about mizuko jizo was 2009 when I began painting them as part of my daily remembrance ritual for Lucia. It now comes up on the third listing for mizuko jizo on Google. That is amazing to me. I connected with so many women and men with my mizuko kuyo. It is humbling and amazing. I know that this life I live now, surrounded by meditation and healing is the life I was meant to live. Beyond giving me a place to direct my grief energy, painting mizuko jizo has become a way for me to honor all the suffering in this community and all the babies I now mourn.

I will probably write a bunch of overwrought posts about my experience, but until then, much love to you all. xo

*If you have one, you can still request another. Just know that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

grief yoga

I don't think you understand how much you can hate your body until a child dies inside of it. I thought I understood self-loathing and cellulite-focused anger in my twenties. Then she died, and everything I thought I had come to accept about this body was destroyed with her. Burned in a fire. I raise my four arms like Kali. One holds my daughter. One holds my body. One holds peace. One holds forgiveness, and I turn them into the flames. I didn't get the ashes from that one. I didn't want them. They were a dark energy.

It is strange for me, someone once so aware of her body. I used to love these knotty old muscles, lifting babies over my head, challenging my body further than I thought possible, throwing softballs, and tumbling across my college green after a few drinks. I felt betrayed by this mass of cells. I held nothing like who I felt inside anymore. The betrayal kept coming. She died. I developed thyroid disease. It caused depression and anxiety. I had a hard pregnancy with Thor. Addiction. Miscarriage. Biopsies. Aches. Pains. Extra weight that won't come off with liquid diets and bike riding, and I stopped thinking of myself as strong, but someone diseased and frumpy. The goddess of destruction, my cells like little blue goddesses, tongues extended. "You are old, Mama," they taunt. "You are nothing like the athlete, mother, friends, lover, citizen, yogi you once thought. You are just black energy."

My last yoga class was a prenatal class with Lucia in my belly. I felt amazing doing yoga pregnant. And it was our time--Lulu and Mama's time. I talked to her as I rode my bike there. I said prayers to her. I saw her--gypsy curls of black and barefeet. She runs like a fairy through the backyard and wears long skirts and I tuck her into my arm and kiss her. This is what I saw when I stretched and meditated and lied in shavasana. I felt grounded and earthy. I felt beautiful. Truly beautiful. I was about to lose all of that, and had no idea. I would have grasped onto the grass, dug my toes into the soil and sprouted roots. I would have kept swaying, back and forth, in the wind. My grief might have sat less in anger and more in forgiveness if I stayed with yoga. If I could have been more of something that ineffable spiritual quality that I wanted yoga to be. But I couldn't.

I had bought it all. The balance and love and surrounded by golden light. I bought the yoga environment and the teachers acting like gurus and mentors and people interested in my pregnancy and baby. I believed they had a piece of wisdom that I wanted. And then she died, and the teacher and my prenatal massage therapist said nothing. No sorries. No condolences. And then I confronted them, they said what everyone else said, "I didn't know what to say. I wanted to give you the space to grieve." It was like seeing the man behind in the curtain in Oz.

Why, these are just normal people!

It seemed so impossible. I felt so angry against this hypocritical institution of yoga. One that spoke in words that sounded like spirituality and acceptance, but couldn't face the possibility that babies died, and that mine died.  And that love and wholeness I felt about yoga died with her. I resented yoga and all those lithe bodies that stretched and bowed in namasteI read once that namaste means "I honor the sacred in you." Death was in me. I felt dishonored by that silence, as though no one was bowing to me anymore. Death is the most sacred of acts. We all do it. We don't know where or when. We don't know how, but we will die. It connects us to all the worlds. And yet I felt shunned by yoga. It was a self-shunning. I exiled myself out of the new age community, because I couldn't see myself fitting anywhere other than a cautionary tale.

There is a local yoga studio where Beezus is taking little kid yoga now. It is lovely. It is not the same place I went to practice with Lucia, so maybe it feels different because of that. I keep thinking that I will go back to yoga. Every year I think I have come to a place of acceptance and readiness to face that first class and then it seems too much. I'm too fat, I think. Too damaged.

I am fairly positive that I will cry through my first yoga class, remembering her, honoring her and our connection there. It has been a long time since I cried. And it has been three plus years now since I practiced yoga in a studio. I have been using these two unaware people as an excuse. I have forgiven them. I have forgiven myself for reacting so judgmentally towards them. Just because you practice something beautiful, or strive for that balance, doesn't mean you achieve that in every moment of every day. And we aren't even supposed to be holy every moment of every day. We strive for grace, and forgive ourselves for not coming close to it.

Forgiveness is not something I do easily. Forgiveness has been a journey for me, not a suddenly landing. These women are just people. Young people. I might have been the first grieving mother they encountered, I don't know. Clearly, they had no idea what to say when something so foreign to their world experience happened. They meant well, I know now. They just didn't know. I'm not sure anyone quite knows how much a condolence means unless you have lost someone close. Three simple words--I am sorry. It means the world. It is an acknowledgement that she lived and I lost. I forgive myself for lashing out at them, because I did end up lashing out at both of them. It was not my best self either. I blamed them for a long time for destroying my love of yoga. I blamed them. My response was much worse than their action, I think now. But I still forgive myself for that, even as a cringe at my grief. I was Kali, goddess of destruction. I destroyed everything I cared about after she died. And it didn't bring her back.

Anyway, this yoga studio is having a workshop today and next week called Grief and Yoga, and it is a way to release grief through movement. I already paid for the class so I feel obligated to go. I want to go. I am ready to move past this. I am ready to have my body back, reclaim it from the dead. I thought maybe this would be a good way to cry through a class. To come to a place of peace with yoga. Combining the thing that took me out with the thing I once loved. Facing that fear, though, maybe that is the most important thing to do right now. My old body needs the truce. And so does my soul.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

amazing grace

Having a two year old is exhausting and wonderful. It is sad to admit that I have almost no recollection of Beatrice's two. I was four months into grief when we celebrated two with sushi and pizzi. I remember delighting in her, asking her how she lived so easily. I remember cuddling with her for hours, watching movies. I remember painting with her. I remember having long conversations with her, and reading her long, intricate folktales of Inuit peoples and Mexican Indians.

I have no recollection if she was interested in using the potty. I don't remember how many words she had, or if her molars came in (they must have, they are here.) I don't know when she said "I love you" for the first time, or if she sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as much as Thor does. I missed Lucia and appreciated Beezus with every ounce of me, but I couldn't commit either of them to memory. They were like sand. Every moment gone before it came.

Thor is severely speech delayed. I had no idea he was delayed, because I had no idea what to expect. I don't remember how many words Beezus had. I only realized because when I hung out with other two year olds, he didn't speak and they did.

He is slowly learning words, and talking. The speech therapist tells me that he is incredibly smart, above or at all his milestones, perhaps just a little lazy with his mouth movements. He'd rather say every word with a D. It is a very common speech delay for little bros. He gets so excited when his teacher is coming over, and he sits in front of her playing games with her. I hear him say Chicken perfectly. Pig. Cow. Boy. He raises his hand like he is in school, even though she is always calling on him and he is the only one answering. I like his teacher, she is kind and smiles at his little flirts and idiosyncrasies.

I feel like we are just starting summer. Guests and trips, then appointments and dentists and biopsies and food shopping and maybe we will never sit still again, wondering what to do. I think about making a schedule for us, but with what time? Every day is another appointment. Beezus keeps asking me, "Do you have my schedule yet?" She is a child run by routine. I am a mother run by routine, but I still can't construct anything schedule-y.

The yard is dry and our tomatoes seem to have some strange scorched disease. This summer has been brutal, and we spend more time inside than out right now. I hung my spider plant on the deck with my wind chimes that play the first notes of Amazing Grace. When the wind blows, it sometimes sounds like a song I once heard, and other times, divinely, I hear the beginning of Amazing Grace. Just a few notes, but like a prayer I whisper the words.

Amazing Grace. 
How sweet the sound,
 that saved a wretch like me. 
I once was lost, but now, I'm found.

I still feel lost some days. The psychic told me that someone cursed me, and I feel like that was the curse. Wandering the halls of my brain, slamming doors and blowing out candles, haunting myself, pushing my own hand up to drop the groceries I just bought. Someone tells me to lay my necklaces and crystals outside to soak up the sun and the moon energy, and they will shine brighter. Protect me more. I keep buying protection jewelry. Big golden shields to wear over my heart. Angel wings with turquoise. Black tourmaline and labradorite and clear crystals. I feel exposed and vulnerable. Drained by something.  I washed my home with protection oils while wearing all white. I walked around chanting with sage and cedar and incense and I don't feel the least bit self-conscious telling you that I am buying stones to grid my home. 

I don't even know what I believe anymore. All of those things seem ridiculous to some part of me. I have these dreams that I am battling against horned men. Their horns curl around their ears and my only defense is sending someone else in there against them. I don't even believe in the devil, and yet he appears to me. And I always win, but I don't know what the metaphor is anymore. I sit with it and seek answers from oracles and psychics and astrologers and they always tell me that my heart knows what the answer is. 

I have everything I ever dreamed. My daughter died, and I still say that. I appreciate that she was here at all, teaching me about the depths of my darkness and grief. I was a broken person, but I was not smashed. I was able to be found. I am back together. I easily remember all those days

I meditate on the blessings of these days--two year old Thor, five year old Beezus. They play together, and cling to each other, and tell me stories and bark like puppies and ask me questions about the moons and spells and sisters dying and butterflies. I love watching them draw people, and stories. I love learning about which books are their favorite, and not one moment in the day that I don't find something absolutely charming about them. I remember this time, like Beezus will too. That is the grace I walk into every morning. It is easy to imagine I am in control of something like curses and removals and my fate, but I control nothing. I never did. Clinging to that illusion is what is the curse, I think. My heart is telling me that. I must walk through each bloody hot wretched day and grid myself with their love. I am these people's mother. My job is to teach them what it is to be human. That is the sacred place of definitely-not-cursed. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I haven't had a drink in eighteen months.

Last night, someone reminded me that I had eighteen months sober. It is funny to be reminded. I wrote on TracyOC's blog that in the past, my periods of sobriety I marked off my calendar with a big black sharpie, like I was in prison. I counted days like I was dying of sober. So to be reminded tonight of how long I haven't drank tasted delicious.

It seems like yesterday that I was wondering if I had a problem with drinking while simultaneously trying to figure out how to stop drinking, (which should have been an answer to the first question) and then later, if I should write about all these shameful revelations here. Being an alcoholic is not shameful to me anymore. I protect myself in my daily life from earth people finding out about sobriety, because many many people still believe that alcoholism is a moral failing. I happen to believe it is a disease, and don't blame myself anymore than I would blame someone for their asthma. 

On a day-to-day basis, sobriety is the most important aspect of my life. More than anything. It is ironic how little I write about recovery here, considering I am constantly speaking about it, talking in front of groups of people about my drinking, writing about it in other places. Oh, it is hidden in the words, woven into my narratives constantly. But I don't frequently write about sobriety as a way of life.

Last week, I visited my mother's house and found pictures of my sister and I as children. In every picture of my dad, we played spot the beer and cigarette. It made us laugh, and then I thought about that later in the night, and it wasn't so funny. I don't remember a day of my childhood in which my father did not drink. I no longer think of his drinking as a moral issue, or act like he had much choice in the matter. It just reminded me how important it is to not drink. If I can remain sober, my children won't know what it is like to live with a drunk. That keeps me going some days.

Someone said to me that I would never have gotten sober if Lucy hadn't died. I believe that. Lucy's death was the storyline of my drinking. Before that, my father's drinking and subsequent disease was the storyline, and in between there, cheating boyfriends and work and good times and bad times and there was always a storyline that had nothing to do with me liking the feeling of having all my emotions completely obliterated.

I said a prayer today. It was the most simple, most beautiful prayer.

Help me please. Thank you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


There is no flower bush worth a grudge. Still, away for a week, I could easily call up the memory of my anger. As I pulled up to our house, war bubbled beneath the still, brackish surface of me--all tears and green muck. I was away from my husband for a week, not because of the flowers, but just because.

I am easily stirred up, prone to hurt, but I let it go today. It was easier than I thought it would be. I crawl on nature like a lifeboat. Cling to it. Attach myself to things dead by the next season even as I practice non-attachment to people. Nature reminds me of impermanence, and because of it, I attach and mourn and attach again. All the nature I coax into wilderness reminds me of somewhere else. And that is what I feel like--Of Somewhere Else. A wildling, or a wild thing, or prey of wild things. Something with w-ings.

I trust language as far as I can throw it. I hurl it across the table, and it lands where it is supposed to. No one wants anything to do with that kind of communication. And I don't understand how something loving in my head comes out as venom. Unintentional and naive as I am. Clearly, I am not Earth People. I mean your people no harm. I am of somewhere else, like I said.

I was away for a week visiting my mother and stepfather. My sister was there too. I felt otherworldly, at the same time, in my tribe. While I was there, I saw the psychic that my mother and my grandmother consulted. She is 93 and told me that the spirits think I should eat before I drive home, and that a small nasal polyp that has plagued me on and off for the last decade or so was caused by a practitioner of voodoo who visited my home. She cast the polyp just to annoy me. It is representative of all the little things that annoy me. All the little curses cast by this person. And apparently, she just likes to annoy me. I thought it was because I did cocaine in the nineties, so that seemed like a positive part of the reading. She told me to take a pine oil bath and light some brown candles. That should take care of it, she said.

When I went to buy some brown candles, an astrologer at the shop told me I am pure Plutonian. I am attracting otherworldly people and readings right now, and so he drafted my astrological chart. I sat comfortably next to a turkey feather and a statue of Kali. The astrologer looked to be about thirty, but told me he is almost fifty. He sketched out all my troublesome aspects. "Your Pluto is personalized," he said. "Mine is too. I understand how hard it is for you, but you will look as young as me when you are almost fifty."

He went on, staring deeply into my eyes. "It is difficult for you. This life, this place, the relationships. For this lifetime, you chose a path of accelerated spiritual growth. It is so accelerated; in fact, it is almost all pain, struggle, drama, and anger. Your Mars and your Aries make love and fight and make love again. You will have many rebirths, many different phases of your life with different people and places."

That is true," I tell him.

"With your Venus where it is, you are fun in bed," he winks. "But it is a struggle for you to have any emotional connection in sex. Everything is a struggle. Embrace that, and  you will be content. You should be proud of all the growth you have accomplished with all that Pluto energy. You will never quite fit in, except with your husband. Cling to that connection, don't let it sour. And that you don't fit in is okay, if you are okay with it. It is allowing that abusive voice to have power that will hurt you. You are prone to self-hatred. Remember that the voices of self-hatred will never tell you the truth."

"But those voices always know so much about me."

"They are lies. A Plutonian's journey is a cyclical journey to the underworld and back again. The dark and the light. Don't believe the self-hatred part. That was not put there by Pluto, that was put there in your childhood and it is a lie. Find a career where you embrace the dark. I think it is something with healing. You would be a gifted healer."

"Like write about grief and anger and resentment and drunkness and lose friends because of it, but keep writing?"

"Exactly. That is the perfect way to use your Plutonian nature. It is for the greater good that you embrace your darkness."

"I don't seem to have a choice."

"I must tell you this about embracing the darkness and losing friends and being who you are with your Mars and your Aries fucking all the time."


"No one can hurt you unless you give them permission."

I laugh. That quote is written on a small piece of paper in my wallet. I show it to him. Someone gave it to me at a meeting, I tell him. My friend gave it to me totally at random while someone else was speaking, and then he left the room.

"Nothing is at random."


"The interesting thing about Capricorn Plutonians is that they are born old souls, they work hard. They grow up too fast, but as they age, their burdens lessen. You get more childlike, more light, less burdened. It will get easier. That is what I can promise."

I burned the brown candles tonight with Frankincense while scalding myself in the pine oil bath. It felt satisfying to know that, astrologically, I am not supposed to feel at ease around earth people. It felt good to hear that I am someone who connects people even when I feel disconnected. That perhaps there is a reason that I start out from a place of love and somehow it all goes to shit and that is how it is for Plutonian people like me. Like the Plutonian tribe has the large medallion of a foot in the mouth. I meditate in the heat, sweating and breathing the deep musk of the herbs and smells of purgation and ritual. I remember the sweat lodges of Tucson and the vision quests I have been on. It smells pungent and earthy and sacred, and nothing like healing. I am okay not being healed. I refuse to become a seeker of cures.


by Adrienne Rich


I refuse to become a seeker for cures. 
Everything that has ever 
helped me has come through what already 
lay stored in me. Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie strong 
across my heart. 
This is from where 
my strength comes, even when I miss my strength, 
even when it turns on me 
like a violent master.