Sunday, September 30, 2012


You are nothing without your integrity, I say to my daughter after the neighbor girl tells me that she lied about something meaningless.

She looks at me, confused. I say nothing but that.

She is five.

It feels brutal after it is out there. I don't want to be brutal to my daughter, nor do I want to be strict or shaming. And I think about the way that my writing has been brutal, strict, and shaming and in that way, perhaps, lacks integrity. I don't think brutal and honesty need to go together, but there is a reason they often do. I strive for honesty without the brutality, but I fail often. Honesty can sound brutal when it isn't your truth. And that is the thing. I believe in honesty, but I don't believe in truth.

It is true in my grief I expected people to be flawless while I tattooed my flaws on my body, or carved them into palo santo, written in sanskrit, burnt them with incense and Buddhist chants then wrote a post about it. I strive not to be brutal anymore, not to be exacting, but alone, I find myself falling into the habit of deep judgment, silently writing scathing biographies of people who hurt me years ago. I no longer write out that judgment in a public forum, true, but I catch myself nonetheless. Big changes happen slowly, I remind myself. Sometimes, it is as though my release of those habits was nothing more than an exercise in who I wish to be, rather than who I am. Other times, it feels permanent and enlightened. And maybe that is the secret of the universe, we must suffer through changing--one step forward, two steps back. We may like who we are becoming, but we cannot force that woman into existence before her time. Now, I turn the anger into a prayer for those people to have everything I want for myself.


It is the full moon. It is the time of releasing old patterns, opening doors to healing, banishing unwanted influences. And so I need to make amends to you, so I can stay sober and write comfortably and look you in the eye.

I have let many people down through my writing.

I think it is part of the reason I want to walk away from here, because it is so exhausting. I cannot make it right, and I cannot make it without writing. I get caught up in a story, I admit. I am prone to exaggerating, and following an analogy to the point of absurdity. I always assumed all my readers liked that about my writing. I have always thought that if I don't write about my truth, my world, my experience, I have nothing to write about. When I wrote of certain friendships where I was hurt and sad and felt absolutely brutalized, I generalized and exaggerated. I do that. I know I do. My feelings of isolation were exaggerated and not entirely true. I mean, it was true about those friendships, but not all my friendships. And that is just it. I wrote about my truth, not THE truth.

For example, when I wrote pieces like Ghost Town, it was not literally true that everyone left, but rather that I felt that way. I felt abandoned. I felt alone. I felt patronized by people. Those people are no longer in my life and hadn't been for a long time. I have friends. Old friends. Some friends I would talk to about that very experience, my sister for example. I talk to my sister at least once a day, more like two or three. So was I isolated? Truly isolated? Of course not. Talking to her is like talking to myself, I say to her. She nods and says she knows. And sometimes old, good friends are like that too. I apologize to S. for that, if she reads here even, and D. And others, all my babylost friends too. There were people there, and the people there felt abandoned when I wrote that I was abandoned. It was a cycle I started, not them. That has always been my fear.

What I fear, I become. I repeat to myself endlessly. I forgive myself, but I know other people's forgiveness is not so easily come by.

I cannot take back the hurt I caused people. I ultimately hurt me, probably more deeply than anyone. Those people could walk away from my brutality, but I can't walk away from me. I have tried through the years to mention it in posts, take responsibility for where I failed my friendships, not where they failed me. Certainly, that was the intention of Ghost Town, but I fear people just heard the latter.

I apologize if you felt beat up in my writing. If you were there, I remembered. If we argued, I know our conflicts were not black or white. That is how I saw the world after Lucia died, but I can see how misguided and unfair that is to everyone. I trusted and assumed that blog writing was given a free pass to explore my dark emotions. That wasn't fair either.

The truth is I felt isolated for a long time before Lucia died. I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Before going into recovery, I thought it was her death that pushed people away. I acted like a victim, because that is what I felt like--a victim of life. It is part of my disease. I no longer live my life that way. I can see now that I victimized people, rather than the other way around.

I wrote publicly about my friendships, and I need to apologize publicly. I didn't feel I could write here again if I didn't write that. I guess it is a pitiful amends to the world of people I hurt. Private apologies clearly are only heard by one people, when all the people judged with me. I appreciate the unconditional support my fellow babylost mothers and fathers have given me here throughout the years, despite how poorly I behaved, but I know it hurt people outside this community to read those comments at times.

I make the vow to first weigh my writing's effect on others, to squelch the tendency towards exaggeration, to talk to people in my life, directly, if their behavior has hurt my feelings, to write in a way that is both honest and with integrity. Public art needs to have a certain ego behind it. We believe in ourselves enough to put it out there regardless of reaction. I am spiritually working on balancing the ego and writing as best I can. Writing publicly has taken its toll on me emotionally, but that suffering is pushing me towards being a better woman, friend, artist, writer, wife, and mother. I have to believe it is.

I am writing here now about more than just grief. I have made that vow for a long time, and never quite followed through with it. My spiritual path has been impossible to ignore, my artwork can no longer live on another blog entirely. Everything is getting integrated into this space. I have been working on this growth and grief publicly for almost four years now. It has been painful and torturous to go through the brutality of writing about things that should have perhaps been kept private. I made those mistakes, and I can only move forward, changing the way I write and protect people in the future.

My daughter is five and she is learning about others through me. What would she learn through my writing in the last four years? What would she learn about how to treat friends and those suffering? That only I can suffer and be human, and make mistakes? That everyone else needs to be perfect, so I can misbehave? I have failed her in that way, and you too. And for that, I am sorry.

I have wrapped my arms around me, and whispered in my ear. It is a delicate kind sentence...If you don't have your integrity, Angie, you don't have anything.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I have no grief to give you anymore.

No, wait, maybe I do. Maybe it hides behind the confusion. It crouches behind the spaciness and flakiness and the general feeling of being overwhelmed with life. Or maybe that is grief itself, dressed up for work.

Lucy died.

I write about it here. There. Everywhere.

After the last baby died, I grieved for a little, then it was over. I cried only once. I didn't name her. And I wondered if this community had space for not-naming, or even not-grieving as much as it has space for grief in whatever form it arrives. I didn't want to exaggerate the experience. It was physically grueling, but I didn't feel sadness over the life she didn't get to lead. Life was over before it began. On the grand scheme of suffering, it was barely a blip. We get behind anger. We get behind indignation. We get behind sadness. But what about no-grief? What if I felt like I grieved the grief I needed to grieve in two weeks?

Grief is something I poured out of me onto the trees, the flowers, the internet, for three point five years. It flowed into every piece of art and writing I did. Grief isn't a controlled essence. It is not a tameable beast. I couldn't control when it was a torrent, and now as a single tear, I cannot will it into a keen. It drips into this post, of course, but it is a different grief. It is the grief of an inevitable ending.

I have replaced my addiction to bourbon for Wint-O-Mint life savers. I eat them like candy. I chomp them, and imagine the blue spark.

CHOMP. Blue Spark.
CHOMP. There is another.
NARFLE...not quite a spark, perhaps a faint ember, or a fizzle of aqua.

I want sparks in me. I want to feel a passion. I have one. It seeps into all the posts I write now. I don't know how to manage it quite yet. I don't even know what to call it. I would basically live in my studio if I didn't have to manage everyone else's life. There was a time I wept here constantly. That was a grief we all know. I cried about the death of my daughter and drank bourbon. I put the bottle on the floor by my feet, and thought about dying. Not suicide, but it was just that grieving and drinking while being me was torture. This room was a dark place.

But now, I would spend all my time here if I could. All this writing about grief and acceptance and living with her death transmuted that sadness and heaviness into something beautiful and healing. My hands are strong and muscled, and in the nooks and crannies of this room, there are letters from babylost friends, thank you cards, artwork about death. There are skeletons, and political poetry, old love letters, and a dictionary. There are milagros, and sins, if you look hard enough. There are baby spider plants in water, growing roots, ready to be put in soil. All my sacred objects are here, except Lucia.

I burn incense constantly. And when I write, I draw it in through my nose. It becomes part of me, part of my writing.  I write because writing is a compulsion. I don't understand why I feel the words in my fingers, and need to get them out. But I do. Words flow out of me like a faucet turned on, until I have to eat or sleep or tend to a child. I write now into a word document and sometimes post something that no one reads. It smells of sandalwood and sage. There is wax dripped on everything in my studio from the candles I burn to light the incense, and the children leave a trail of the sandbox on the floors. Sand and wax. Wax and sand. It all mixes up together with the smell of fresh, clean mint of Lifesavers. This is what I am now. Sand and wax and mint and incense all borne of grief, but not grief.

If this space becomes gypsy, or fortune teller, or recovery, or art, it isn't grief. And if it stays grief, it isn't me. It isn't my truth anymore. I struggle with it constantly, because this space never meant to be forever about grief. I have a post a month in me about grief, but not five, or even two. I want a space for that post, intermixed with all the others. I start to write about other things here, but it morphs somehow back to grief. I used to think it was because every suffering was a form of grief. Now, I think it is because I want so desperately to stay a part of this amazing community. This blog is like this old bourbon room I'm sitting in, it hasn't quite been changed into an art studio.

After six years in this studio, I rescreened my screen door. I open the glass door to hear the chimes, let the wind blow through the space. It changes the dynamic in here. The art hangs like prayer flags. The wind carries out the old bourbon smell, and the incense, and peppermint. And sandalwood. It carries out bits of artwork, and grief. The wind carries joy in too, and music created by the mourning doves, but no mosquitoes, or flies. I need to start writing about the things being blown into my life right now. I don't quite know how to do that yet. I think it involves new paint, and a different flavor of lifesaver. I hope you stay and read. But if not, I understand. Until then.

Friday, September 14, 2012

new moon.

The new moon quiets me, wrings me out, challenges me to be a better person in thought and deed. I want to bathe in salts with smelly herbs and burn incense on small charcoal rounds. And yet the children are underfoot, and a FB video of father-daughter wedding dances has me weeping in the afternoon, head in my hands, missing my father, even thought I see him every week. I miss the father he could have been. I miss dancing with him, even though he never danced, even when he could. I wonder if he regrets that.

I have a disease. I share it with my father, and crying in the afternoon after wedding videos makes me remember how important it is for me to care for it, treat it like a volatile thing. I underestimate it sometimes. That never does me any good. I respect it. Fear it, sometimes. Think I will be struck drunk, as my friend says, like bourbon will come into my home and pour itself down my throat. I make dream tea and herbal remedies instead. It wards off the sudden surprise drunk.

I found a photograph at my mother's house. It is of an old Indian woman. I used to think she was my grandmother, since my mother told me that my grandmother smoked a pipe and cussed like a sailor. But I learned later that my mother's friend is a photojournalist and took the photograph for some tourist brochures in the late 70s. The Indian is Panamian and covered in malas. Her nose is pierced in the middle and she is smoking a pipe. There is a parrot on her fence. I dream of her. And others. They come on horses, and take me deep into the desert. 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.

But it doesn't. The heart aches for what once was, some days, and we all know that is a crock of not-right. I was a drunk. I couldn't get out from under grief. Today, I am a free woman. I hang the picture above my computer, next to the sign that says, "EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK."

The baby keeps turning on his fire engine's siren. Whee--ooo, whee--ooo. I read tarot for my cousin and feel  like I should warn her, even though the cards are all positive and lovely and point to love. "I hear an alarm. The guides tell me there is going to be a fire." Love is a kind of fire, and I drift off in thought as I order herbs to make teas, oils to anoint, salts to draw out impurities. I listen to guided meditations and see nothing, but a huge indigo orb. The truth is the herbs and tarot and meditation is such a small part of my day, it is hardly worth noting. I do crafts, and clean-up, and make snacks, and scold the children for fighting. The hours sit on top of one another.This full school schedule makes writing almost an impossibility, yet here I am writing, mid-afternoon, as the children turn on sirens, and use meditation cushions as weapons.

I just needed to take some time to think, and write, and order herbs and print out my novel. I vow to work on it after nine months. To just read it again, perhaps. I wore out an ink cartridge halfway through, so I changed the font to purple and continued until there was no more colored ink. I secretly wish I would have chosen dragon's blood. Can you get that for a laser printer? I would run my hand through the top, and print it in some medieval font that is only used for fake certificates. It would be written on my body, written in magic, written in myth and religion. I fear that is all it would ever be. It is a novel about UFOs, and ancient Greeks, and being a halfie and war. It is mostly about war.

Jess and I went to a palmist last weekend. He gropes hands. Studies hair. Sensually grasps arms for information, reading something no one else can see. His fingers go over tattoos, taking it in with no fanfare. His personal mannerisms and lack of spiritual connection made me feel sorry for him. I asked him if he wanted my hair down. I unfurl it from the stick that holds it up. Mass of curls come around my face, making me look feral and exotic. I would have draped it over his neck, in his hair, anywhere for more information. But he takes it in his hair, turns it around. "Oh, see, now I am cheating," he jokes. "It is clearly written right here in this curl. Wait, no. Yes. Of course."

What do you see? Tell me more. Tell me what I can't see. Tell me what is next. I feel so lost. Tell me what to do.

He told me I had a weak uterine wall, and when I asked about a career, he said I would be a soccer mom. I cringe, and nod and wonder if he's right. It's probably the first psychic reading I have ever had that is just a series of mundane things, probably much more accurate than anything I have had before. To many people, that is all I am. Jess gets indignant after.


Oh but it does. I AM A SOCCER MOM! I drive an SUV! I buy clothes at TARGET! I watch my daughter play actual SOCCER! With SHIN GUARDS! I am a soccer mom! Albeit one that wears crystals, and gypsy clothes. I smudge my children before practice, and spray them with a reiki-charged spray to cleanse the aura. I commune with the angels, and hang onto dark crystals so I can tell your fortune. The local crystal shop asked me to interview for their tarot reading position. I stare into my fake crystal ball.

I see myself, draped in deep red fabric, nose pierced, smoking a pipe. There is a woman sitting across from me. She is wearing a high ponytail and a sweater-cardigan set. I kick the mini-soccer ball under my crystal ball. I sage her. She coughs a bit, and adjusts her Coach purse. I ask her if she wants to know everything, even if it says she is just a soccer mom. Then I ask her if she minds if I put my hair down.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Skulls line the far wall, and I suggest we start there. Each skull has a card with a name and ethnicity.

Unknown woman

Many of the skulls are gypsies and it reminds me of a conversation earlier in the day when we talked about cultural differences. Jess told me gypsy borders on offensive, unacceptably demeaning to traveling communities. The skulls of the gypsies tell a history we all seem to know, and ignore. I say a prayer for the unknown gypsy, touch the labradorite around my neck as a talisman.

I take babylost friends here now among the bones and flesh. I don't know why. I cannot think of anything more morbid and fascinating as the Mutter Museum. It is the home of the stillborn baby. Before I had a stillborn child, this is what I thought when I thought of the stillborn. Babies in formaldehyde and dissected. Perhaps mothers who have held dead babies don't want to see other dead babies in jars, or skeletons from every gestational period articulated into little standing skeletons. Little (two month gestation) to bigger (postpartum). I stare at the one that would have been the size of the miscarriage, if we could have found her body in the bloody mess that poured out of me.

She should have been big enough to find, I whisper.

Earlier in the day, a psychic tells me my miscarried baby was a girl. It is what I thought, I reply. And then I realize in all his readings, the children are girls, even after he is told they are not. Feminine energy. Feminine energy, he repeats.

We see the jars of the stillborn. There is a perfectly normal, beautiful baby with the note, 48 twists in an umbilical cord, the most ever recorded. The baby is still attached. Jess says she is quite jealous of the mother of this baby. She can come here anytime and see her child. Me too, I say. And I am quite jealous, even though this baby has long outlived her mother.

A man the size of my husband says to his wife as she beckons him into a room of body parts, "No. There is a limit to what I am willing to see." And I wonder what disgusts him after the giant colon, and the brains with cancer. The babies? Or the mummified penis, desiccated at the ball sack, darkened into a leather along the shaft? It stands disembodied, next to a vagina in liquid with little wisps of reddish brown hair, and I blush that I notice. What would she look like? Her vagina on display without a uterus even.

We head into the gift shop filled with morbid, clever little gifts, like stuffed microbes with eyes, or hand drawn skeletons. I buy a deck of cards labeled Portable Fortitude, days later, sitting in front of my computer, I pick the three of clubs--protection from narcissism, then I laugh and laugh and laugh until the tears fill a jar. I pluck a strand of grief and watch it settle to the bottom, eyes closed and mouth open slightly. It is like a baby in a jar, terribly beautiful only to those who know terrible grief.


When there is a new moon, I bleed. It falls out of me in a humiliating pool, and I hide it in the darkness of midnight. You know you have a good friend when you talk of menses and sex and you lack self-consciousness about wearing a bra. I am not wearing a bra right now.

We walk by a wall in the city that reads MEDUSA BAR inside a white arrow, and I point to it and ask if she recognizes the wall. I walk these streets with the babylost. I feel like a drink with grief. The Medusa Bar is boarded up with a condemned sign from the city. I pretend it isn't, and there is a secret knock, and a bird call, which opens the window from the inside.

You may enter.

We all have dead babies here, and I sip on a seltzer. The drink of the alcoholic, and I eye the bourbon. I miss grief drinking sometimes. It was so pathetic and grueling and horrible. So fucking bloody horrible. But it made sense. The jukebox plays no music. It is too hard to listen to music. We watch silent pictures from the 20s. A baby carriage rolls down the stairs, and I know the maggots are coming.

There is no secret bar of the babylost. I made that part up. It is a fantasy universe where we band together in a grief gypsy caravan traveling to the pilgrimages of the babylost. The statue of a grieving mother, the painting of a stillborn child from the 19th century, a museum devoted to medical oddity.In various large metropolitan areas, there are safe houses for people like us. They are marked Medusa Bar. 

Jess says to the tattoo artist. "I am here visiting Angie. We both have dead babies." And the painted lady stammers, I suppose, mutters an apology or condolence. It is not hard to see or talk about dead babies if you held a dead baby, or pushed one out of your vagina. It is what happened. Let us call things by their proper name. Lucia was not lost, or gone, or passed away. She was dead, and I wished for a jar to take her home. Every day, I would wake and wish her a "Good morning, darling," on the shelf while I made eggs and toast.

I pull another card. It is protection from divine indifference, and I smirk again.

heh heh heh.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


In the early months of our relationship, I used to whisper "I love you" into his deaf ear while he slept. He never stirred. Then one night, I said it before he slept, because I had gotten so used to saying it to him after he fell asleep. We dreamed a life together. Sitting around a campfire seven years ago, drinking beer and talking about children we haven't birthed yet, campers we haven't designed, houses we never bought, travels we hadn't packed for. We talked about religion and lack thereof. We talked about the whys and hows of our traumas and our loves, and our friends and family. He's a big white guy from the South, and I am a short brown girl from the East Coast, and yet we seemed so alike. I get him and he gets me. We didn't talk about how we would weather our relationship if our daughter dies three weeks after one of our parents. Or if one of us drinks too much. Or if our children end up in bed every night for five years. We just promised that we would weather it.

The dew covers my toes, and I walk in the grass with the babies, looking for grapes under the huge umbrella of leaves. The fruit flies scatter. The girl tells me that she misses her Daddy, and I tell her I miss her Daddy too. We spent the first five years of her life with oodles of time as a family. Sam working three days a week most weeks, an overnight and a few ten hour shifts that ended around five. When he was working, I savored those times with the kids. Little pockets of alone. When he was home, I used that time to paint and write and be alone in meditation and, also be together as a family hiking on a random Tuesday morning. When I write or art, he takes the children to the park, or swimming, or they just watch European football together while I work in the studio. Compared to other families, I knew those minutes were luxuries, and yet it never felt enough. Suddenly all that time, which felt so pinched and precious then, seems like huge open swaths of land with wildflowers and the women running like they are in douche commercials. My husband took a second job, and now, there is nothing left but waving in the evening as I leave and he enters, and the children clinging to legs and wailing Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

We left last weekend in spite of the fingernail sliver of time we have been around the kids as a family. It felt like a big deal to leave. We left for our anniversary, which is today, and stayed in a hotel and watched adult shows like Antique Roadshow and 48 Hours, and kissed and drank coffee at 6pm. We dressed up and went to see Dead Can Dance, and laughed about how everyone but us were dressed like gypsies or pirates, or gypsy pirates. There was a girl wearing antlers and a fur vest, and I whispered, "Hey, Puck, your deer horns are blocking the show."

And he whispered, You are the love of my life.

It was like the first time I heard it. And I teared up. "Even after all this time?" I ask. But what I am really asking is, "Even after our daughter died, and I got sober and behaved badly and cried and friends disliked me and I yelled about stupid things, and got fat? Even after all of that?"

Yes, even after all this time.

I have friends divorcing. I am at that age, I suppose, where friends have spent decades together and grow apart. And I think that it is natural to grow apart. I am amazed when people are together for decades and years and diamond anniversaries. Not because I don't strive for that, but I think people are hard to live with. I snap at him about his socks in the middle of the floor and why must he be so grumpy at me when I take a phone call from someone in need. I am a drunk and he abides the demands of recovery. And we had such terrible times of disconnect after Lucia died, when my friends seemed so distant, and I couldn't bear the heartbreak anymore. I couldn't bear to be close and disappointed so I didn't even let him close either. I just wanted to die then. I felt so alone, so alien, so diseased and wrong and wronged. I wouldn't make eye contact with him because I was so angry. I couldn't. He didn't grieve her the way I grieved her. He didn't have to grow babies inside him and have his bladder leak and gain weight and have people ask him if he is pregnant when he is not. And I hated how I grieved, so visceral, so emotive, so feminine, so drunk and angry and none of it felt like the life we were supposed to live. I hated who I had become. Our baby died, and I couldn't get over it. Not only that, I never wanted to get over it. It seemed the differences between us were suddenly monumental, even though we used to seem so alike. How could that be? It seemed impossible to be able to keep a marriage going after her death. How would we, really? How does anyone stay married? This grieving business is a solitary affair. No roses. No space within us that radiates love. It is just dark and endlessly solitary. It is the abyss and you never quite come back. It feels a little bit like hell.

And then, it changed again, our marriage. Counseling changed it. Sobriety changed it. I changed. And joy crept in, and so did he again. And now it feels new again with that ancient knowledge of each other and the darkness we now share. He claims he never felt helpless about our marriage, or scared for it, but I did. I feared everything. My first sponsor used to say that what we fear we become. And I feared becoming a monster.

For years now it is better. I don't take it for granted because of the years when our marriage was so hard. I don't say it much, because it is easy now. He is the easiest part of my life, even when it is hard. He is the person that strengthens me and makes me laugh and asks me to look at how I am integrating my philosophies into my real daily living. Really living. Not the explanation of living that I do here.

We have been married six years now, and we have three children and a hope that we miss all the same. We lost a parent, two grandparents and we built a sanctuary here. Our house smells like incense and campfires. We fill every pocket of it with sacred objects--fossils and found objects from our life together. In the morning, we wake and he says, "Good morning, my gorgeous wife." And I say, "Hello, handsome." And we change a diaper, kiss and boo boo, and thank God for each other.