October 31, 2010

and thirty-one


I started October with nothing to say, and ended up with a record number of posts. Thanks for following along with me on my 30 Days adventure. It was good for me, I think. But October has thirty-one days in it, you know... So I thought I better come up with one more idea.

While I would love to make and send Christmas gifts to all of my readers and BLM penpals, even I, Duchess of Taking-On-Too-Much, can see that that is just not realistic. But I still want to do something nice, so I decided for Day 31, I will have a giveaway instead.

There will be two different prizes:
1. A short story, written by me. The main character will be your child's namesake (or, if you are not a parent, the story will contain certain elements per your request.)
2. A lap quilt, handmade by me. Embroidered with one name (or word), per your request. You may also specify a color scheme.

There are three ways to enter:
1. Use one of the following words in a sentence: surreptitious,
valiant, ethereal, luscious, squalor, epitome, chagrin.

2. Tell me what kind of animal is most like you, and why.
3. Tell me one good thing that you will never forget.

Be sure to specify which prize you are interested in, and don't forget to include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. (Also if you are not one of my followers, please include a link to your blog so I can check it out!) I hope some of you lurkers out there will take this opportunity to introduce yourselves.

NOTE: In order to protect your privacy, I will not be publishing these
comments -- so please don't hesitate to enter! Feel free to spread the word around, and link back to this post. Winners will be chosen and announced a week from today, on Sunday, November 7th.

October 30, 2010


Day 30 - a dream for the future

I dream of letters of acceptance. I dream of a book with my name on the spine. I dream of people in my life who will say "Ailis" and "Noah" out loud. I dream of family meaning all I ever hoped it could. I dream of a husband, and of countless happy memories shared. I dream of children of our own. I dream of seeing as much of the geography and humanity of the world as I possibly can. I dream of a house that feels like home. I dream of true courage, strength, and hope.

October 29, 2010

backwards to go forward

Took a little time out this morning, to regroup, get my head back together. Sat in the B&N Starbucks with my notebook and a warm drink and let some of my fears out onto the page. I'm glad I got out today. I needed to go and do and be in the context of the outside world. Needed to add an experience to the too-short list of Things That Didn't Hurt Me that I carry in my short-term memory. I knew if I turned on the computer I wouldn't leave it till I had to go to work. It was tempting to hole up in my room again all day. But I didn't! Go me.

I've been feeling a little off track, a little (a lot) overwhelmed. I recognize this feeling all too well. It puts me right back to 2007. Which is probably why I've been freaking out, and no wonder. What a year to go back to. Ugh.

But the Big Dream is from that year, so it makes sense, I guess. It didn't work out, before. So I am terrified of failing again, even though I have a way better shot this time around. It's so hard to believe in anything, and harder still to forgive myself for not believing. I don't like to admit how awful everything was. It hurts too much. I want to trust... but trust what? Nothing springs to mind. How can I trust myself, trust "God," trust in anyone or anything, when the vast majority of what I've known of life so far has been betrayal, heartache, violence, pain? Too much. It's just too much. If this is what I am thinking, no wonder I've been eaten up with anxiety. No wonder I've felt so far away. I want to be far away; far from these feelings, far from my past.

In allowing this dream back into my heart, I am forced to face the fact that it has not come true yet, and the reason for it not coming true. The reason that it is beyond scary. The reason I stopped pursuing it, years ago.

Last time I dreamed this dream, I got raped.

[God. My blood pressure plummeted, and I almost just passed out, typing that. I'm sure I must be white as a sheet. Deep breaths.]

3 1/2 years ago, I was getting ready to take the first steps. I had been gathering information, and mustering up my courage in secret, and I was poised to leave my family of origin behind, find my own way, move to California, be a nanny (or a secretary), go to college. I had been doing research, in fact, at my grandparents' house that night. And then my fragile hopes were shattered by a random act of violence, three blocks from their front door and two blocks from mine.

I retreated immediately to the core of myself, and all of my emotions went into hibernation. The devestating message I gleaned from this experience was: You will never escape. How dare you dream? How dare you even try? You are garbage. You are a dumping ground for other people's shit. You have no other purpose but to move through life as a magnet for violence. You will die at the hands of those who wish you harm. You will never escape.

I had suspected as much, for many years. But here was the proof. And here was I, finally old enough to put coherent summation to my suspicions.

And then there was a baby... and then suddenly, there was no baby anymore.

Oh, Ailis! My heart aches for you. Thank you for coming, sweetheart. Thank you for being a spot of warmth and light in the cruel and colorless world I knew. I'm so sorry I am only able to see and express this in retrospect. You did not come from evil, but despite it. I will always hate what happened to me, but I will never regret your life.

I am trying to give myself grace. I have to forgive myself, for needing a different pace than other people. For being different from them in so many ways. I also need to make room inside myself for the idea that there might be a few people out there who can sit with me in my pain, and get it, even never having experienced anything like it themselves. That for every five people out there who have said the exact wrong thing to me, perhaps there is one who would say the exact right thing, given the chance. Maybe those people are out there too, and maybe I will find them someday.

This is the beginning of finding that space, I suppose. A small opening in my thinking, and in my heart.


Day 29 - hopes, dreams, and plans for the next 365 days

My dream for this year is actually a Big Dream from years ago that's been revived only recently. I hope to find a job -- either as a secretary in a respectable company or as a nanny in an upper class home -- in a big city near the water. Probably Oakland, for now. Work for one year, maybe two, and then go back to school and finish my English degree, preferably at UCLA. (You can make fun, or try to tell me that an English degree is worthless; but you will be wasting your breath. It is worth something to me.)

During this year I also want to finish my book, get the rest of my dental work done, pay cash for a used car, and travel to India with Laura in the fall. And I would not be averse to having a boyfriend again, as well...


In a little less than two months, I am going to Australia for a holiday. I hope that I can be fully present, and enjoy every moment of my time there. I hope that I can come back feeling refreshed and energized, ready to push forward and make new things happen in my life. Before then, I plan to join a nanny agency, and see if they are able to place me with a family starting in January or February. I will also be checking in with my contacts at KP, in case they are able to offer me a position in the new year. I would be open to either option really. It would be so nice if I didn't have to come back to my current job, but could begin a new adventure instead.

I hope that this coming year, frustrating as it is sure to be at times, will be one of exponential growth, and experiences I can be proud of.

October 28, 2010


Day 28 - what's in your handbag/purse

click to enlarge

This was a fun one, and a welcome reprieve from my heavy thoughts of late. Not sure what the contents of my handbag says about me, but, there it is.

October 27, 2010

walking away from the wreckage

She wanted to cry, but Emma knew that if she started crying now for everyone and everything she had lost, she would never be able to stop crying. So she dusted herself off instead, and started walking away down the beach to explore. I have no place of my own anymore, she thought, but maybe I can make one.

The storm hadn't taken everything she had, after all. It could never take away her brave heart, or her cleverness.

Kage Baker, The Hotel Under the Sand


Day 27 - your worst habit since your child's death

I really don't think any of my habits could be called bad. But perhaps the one that makes me feel the worst, that I never used to do before, is when I calculate how old my babies would be, and then compare them to the children that I see out and about. I think about what my kids would look like, how they would smell, what milestones they would be achieving. I think about what it would be like, if I had someone to be strong for, to stand up for. Someone to teach how to be human. Someone to pass on my delights to, and to discover what their own delights are in return. I think about how if they were here, even if I had to work, and I missed them desperately while I was there, at least at the end of the day I would get to come home to them again.

I spot one particular child in a crowd, and I remember, methodically, everything I'm missing.

October 26, 2010


Just wanted to share something pretty.


Day 26 - your week, in great detail

This past week was not very indicative of what things are usually like. My friend Laura was here, which was great. We spent a fun few days together. But after that, my week went careening downhill, and I had to go back to work anyway, and I spent five hours on the verge of tears every night for five nights, until yesterday, when I had a day off.


It was hard to say goodbye to Laura, to watch her go and know it will be months before I see her again, before I see anyone who really knows and understands me again. I am so lonely. I miss my friends and my remaining family so much. It makes sense, that I would be sad, but then it turned into this weird guilt complex. I felt bad that I couldn't just be happy that she was here, that she did come, even though she had to go back home again in the end. I felt bad that I couldn't make my good feelings last. I felt broken.

Suddenly, everything seemed like too much. Work was awful, a black hole sucking away my soul and my hope and any future opportunities. For some reason my parents were back in my thoughts, taunting me, their cruelty and neglect coloring everything I noticed about myself and the world around me. I've been feeling so much loss. So much hurt. I feel like if it's not better by now, it never will be.

I've fought so hard for my recovery. And now I'm at a place where I want to give up. Again. I've been here before, and I got through it. But it's hard to want to, this time. The people here love me, but they don't know me very well. They don't know how to encourage me without making me feel pressured. I would very much like to give up. I would like to go back to bed and pull the covers up over my head and just check out for the rest of the day, maybe the rest of the week. But I don't have that kind of luxury anymore, like I did last year. It's make-it-work time.

I just wish I had at least one person here, right here beside me, who I felt like I could count on, who I knew wasn't going to leave. I have never had that. Ever.


Things aren't usually this bad anymore. I was almost feeling strong, for awhile. But I know there are no simple solutions for what ails me, and I am doing the best I can.

bad idea

Note to Self: Do not eat sugar right before bed.
It makes you dream of the crocodile. STOP DOING THAT.

October 25, 2010


Day 25 - your day, in great detail

I wake up to sunlight streaming in my windows. A welcome sight, after three days of grey and rain. I stayed up too late, and neglected to remove my makeup, so my eyes are burning. I rub at them, even though it gives me twinges of guilt every time, knowing I am damaging the fragile skin and causing myself who-knows-how-many future wrinkles. Sorry, skin!

Still not fully awake. Trying to shake off the night's lingering dreams. It is Monday. No work today, thank goodness.

I think I will have a few bites of plain yogurt, and a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter for breakfast. Maybe some cocoa.

There is only chunky peanut butter in the cupboard, which I used to avoid because it would hurt my teeth. But I've had some dental work done, so now I can eat crunchy peanut butter again, and I decide that is reason enough for a moment or two of joy.

Turn on the computer. While waiting for it to wake up I notice, for the first time, that my tissue box has something written on it in French: de reves et d'inspirations. Something about inspiration? On a tissue box? Also, there are purple cartoon butterflies on it. (Not really my style, but I got it for $1 at Dollar Tree.)

Google translate. De reves et d'inspirations = Of dreams and inspiration. Good to know. Purple butterflies of dreams and inspiration? Sure. Why not, tissue box. Why not.

By the way, I added a splash of Toffee Nut creamer to my cocoa, and I think it is offically the best idea ever.

Login to Blogger. Type out a play-by-play of the morning so far. Try to decide if I should wait, and not publish until later tonight, or publish now and add to the post throughout the day.

Decide to publish now.

Facebook. (Meh.) Emails. (Only two new messages.) Election news. (Appalling!)

Try to put my feet up while I read; tip computer chair completely over instead. Ouch. Lie on floor for a moment, marveling at my own clumsiness, before getting up and righting the chair and sitting down again to tell you about what just happened.

Curl up like a cat in a puddle of sunshine on my unmade bed. My right shoulder hurts from my fall.


Wrapped in towels, I lie down again in the sunlight, watching its slow slide across the bed. I notice, absentmindedly, the tiny patch of hairs on my knee that I somehow miss every time I shave my legs. It is warm, and there are no urgent demands on my time, and I am content to float through this day and not think too deeply about anything.

Getting ready to go run a few errands.

Fashion emergency.

Finally dressed and made up and ready to go.

Driving through town almost on autopilot, I find myself slipping into sad thoughts. I fear that I am broken, irreparably. On the outside I look "normal." But I do not know how to be like everybody else.

At the library. (Whenever I move, one of the first things I do is find out where the nearest library is, and apply for my library card.) I love the library.

Get a call from AT&T, because my bill is overdue. I don't answer; I will pay it on Friday.

Code Brew for lunch. Settle in to read for awhile on the red leather couch with a turkey sandwich and a Chai latte.

"One day a storm came and swept away everything that Emma had, and everything that Emma knew. When it had done all that, it swept away Emma too. It might have been a storm with black winds, with thunder and lightning and rising waves. It might have been a storm with terrible anger and policemen coming to the door, and strangers, hospitals, courtrooms, and nightmares. It might have been a storm with soldiers, and fire, and hiding in cellars listening to shooting overhead. There are different kinds of storms. But Emma faced the storm that swept over her, and found a way to save herself." --Kage Baker, The Hotel Under the Sand

Ready to head home.

Catching up on blogs. This makes me laugh.

Inspired by the internet to do some self-portraits.

Quickly un-inspired by actual results. I need a new camera. Badly.

Back on the computer, exploring youtube. This makes me cry.

I'm formulating a plan, to be divulged at a later date. (It's a nice plan, not a dastardly one. Don't worry.)

Tear myself away from the computer. Realize I'm hungry, but don't feel like making dinner yet. Go find an apple.

Watch the latest SNL on-demand in the living room.

Still don't feel like cooking. Scrounge some leftover meat and peas for dinner. Thank you, Auntie!

Set up sewing table. Oren Lavie & Joshua Radin Radio playing on Pandora, to soothe me into the nighttime.

A final update. I sewed for three hours straight. My back hurts now, but I am oh-so-nearly finished with one of the Christmas gifts I needed to make, so that's good. I am eating a big gob of chocolate birthday cake (plus a little yogurt, instead of ice cream). Then I will brush my teeth and go to bed, read for a little while, go to sleep. I hope the cake doesn't give me bad dreams. I hope instead I do not dream at all.

That was probably more detail than anyone ever wanted; but I had fun with it.
Good night.

October 24, 2010


Day 24 - where you live

I live in California.

The people here are completely ridiculous. (I kind of love them for it, though. They are so unconsciously brash.) And I love the weather; it is everything I always dreamed. For now I live in a suburb, amongst strip malls and housing developments and gated communities, none of which I am very fond of. I hope that soon I can move into the city, and be part of a friendly neighborhood again. But for now this is where I am, so I am trying to find things about it to love.

nobody knows, nobody knows / she fights for her life as she puts on her coat

October 23, 2010


I wish I knew how to explain how I feel. Wish I believed there was someone who would understand me, if I could.


I look at the links I've gathered for the post below, and I know that on a good day I think they're sooo funny. I wish I could say they never fail to make me laugh, but it turns out that's not true. In all honesty, I am very overwhelmed today and don't know if I will be able to crack a smile for anyone. Or if I am able, I don't know that the smile won't dissolve swiftly into tears. I fear my behavior might be rather erratic today, that I might scare people, might scare myself. I feel so many dark emotions, rumbling right below the surface, looking for a faultline, creeping ever nearer to a weakened place that will crack me wide open. I have to go to work now. And I am afraid.


Day 23 - a youtube video that makes you laugh

I go on YouTube primarily for laughs, and I have several old faves to share with you today.

The Flying Hamster. "It's up to you now, Woody." *fling*
I always watch this one with my Sophie-girl. So it makes me smile, just like almost everything else about her.

Beached Whale. "That's deceptive."
This one may qualify as an inside joke. I don't know if it will be funny to you if you've never been to New Zealand or Australia... But it's worth a shot.

Charlie the Unicorn. "It's a MAGICAL leopluradon!"
Oh, Charlie. YouTube doesn't get any more quotable than this. It is incredibly annoying, and yet... I can't help loving it. Reminds me of my youth leader days, and the awesome kids in my small group, who first insisted that I watch it.

Powerthirst. "Made with lightning--REAL LIGHTNING!"
Warning: possibly offensive. But freakin hilarious.

The End of Ze World. "WTF, mate?"
Ruling out the icecaps melting, meteors becoming crashed into us, the ozone leaving, and the sun exploding -- we're definitely going to blow ourselves up. (This one reminds me of Laura, because she laughed the longest.)

Glee: Single Ladies. Touchdown.
Definitely one of my favorite Glee moments.

October 22, 2010

don't panic

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well...


Day 22 - a website that has been meaningful since your loss

I stumbled upon Glow in the Woods by accident. After following a bunny trail of links, I landed on Kate's gorgeous blog, Sweet | Salty, and that's where I saw the big button that caught my attention and led me to Glow.

And I'm so glad it did.

If you haven't been there, I encourage you to go and check it out. Raw and beautiful stories of grief and healing after babyloss are shared regularly on the main page, and there are open discussion boards and related articles as well.

It helped me so much, especially in the beginning, to read other parents' stories; to figure out that what I felt was normal and I was not, in fact, losing my mind -- as much as it seemed that way at times. It is good to offer support and kindness to others who are in the same or similar circumstances, and be supported in return. I am so thankful to the administrators for creating and maintaining such a safe and beautiful place to process our pain.

October 21, 2010


Time for some whinging. Feel free to tune out.


I hate my job.


Hate, hate, hatehatehate!

Normally, I would quickly add: "But I am thankful that I at least have a job.
I know I'm really lucky."

But do you want to know a secret?

I'm not thankful. I'm not thankful at all.

And I don't really think I'm lucky. (By what stretch of the imagination am I lucky?) I think my life sucks and it's never going to get any easier and why can't someone just take care of this shit for me? That's what I really think. I think I am always going to be poor and I'm never going to be able to pay back my loans or get my own apartment or travel or do anything fun, ever.

I am so tired of working in stupid stores selling stupid shit to stupid people who don't actually need any of it. I am tired of mean bitches talking to me like I'm an idiot, or some kind of lowly servant girl, or a subclass of human. I am tired of busting my ass for a measly $8-minus-taxes an hour, while my lazy coworkers hide in the breakroom or go outside to smoke or leave early without telling anyone. (M says I think I'm better than them -- but I don't think that. I know it.)

I am tired of being so goddam agreeable all the time.

I am tired all. the. time.

They keep telling me I need to smile more.
My first thought is always, unexpectedly, "Fuck you."


I fear that there is no justice in the world.

San Francisco

photos by Laura (unedited)

photos by me (unedited)


Day 21 - a recipe

Dutch Babies are one of my very favorite things to make. One reason is because they are super yummy, but the other reason is because the first person to make them for me (and keep on making them for me many times after that) was my friend Laura, who is both awesome and adorable as well as a pretty great cook.

Now that I think of it, a bonus reason why they're my favorite is because I have only ever eaten them with nice people who I really like. So.

Makes 2 to 4 servings:
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 teaspoons butter
Freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar

1. Place a large, heavy ovenproof frying pan or a cast-iron skillet inside the oven on the middle rack, and preheat to 450F. While pan and oven are heating, prepare your batter.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy; add milk, flour, vanilla, and cinnamon; beat for 5 minutes more. The batter will be thin and very smooth.
3. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven; add the butter, tilting the pan to melt the butter and coat the entire inside of the skillet. Pour the prepared batter into the hot skillet, all at once, and immediately return the skillet to the oven.
4. Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and the pancake is golden brown all over.
5. Remove from oven and serve immediately. For a classic German Pancake/Dutch Baby, sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and dust the top with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

October 20, 2010


Day 20 - a hobby of yours and how it changed since your loss

I used to do a lot of mixed media collage, particularly in my college years and early twenties. These days it has mostly translated to quilting and scrapbooking. (Which both strike me as rather maternal hobbies, now that I think of it. That's kind of awesome.)

Sewing has been very cathartic for me throughout the past year, especially when I was really struggling with PTSD. I've never used a pattern for a quilt. I just jump in and improvise. This has probably caused me a bit of unnecessary frustration, but in the end I am always pleased and proud of my results.

click on a photo to enlarge

I would show you the scrapbook I'm making for Noah, too, but the batteries are dead in my camera, so it will have to wait. Soon, though! I promise.

October 19, 2010


Day 19 - a talent of yours

There are a few things that I am very good at. But when I think about them, I just feel sad. Not proud. Rarely proud. They are the things I had to be good at, to survive. And I don't really want to talk about that right now.


But there are other, more innocuous talents that I could mention, I suppose. Talents that have nothing to do with survival.

I write pretty fairy tales, and poetry. I have excellent rhythm. I can swing dance -- Lindy Hop, East Coast, Charleston. People tell me I have a nice voice, and there are times when I might agree. I read aloud with feeling. I take good pictures; pictures that speak to people, when I need them to. I can french-braid my own hair. I have an eye for what kind of clothes would look good on you, and what you should stay away from -- but I won't get in your face about it. I'll only tell you if you ask.

I am protective of my talents, wary. I never felt appreciated, growing up. Anything I was good at was only exploited for the family's benefit. It was never about celebrating who I was, as a person. So I don't like to admit that I'm good at things. Which is probably why job interviews make me so miserable.

I'm not humble. I'm just onorously guarded. You ask me what I'm good at; immediately I wonder what you want from me.

October 18, 2010


Day 18 - your wedding/future wedding

My thoughts about this change pretty frequently. So much depends on who I marry, and what our budget turns out to be -- since my parents obviously aren't going to be pitching in. Not that I ever believed they were really planning on it in the first place.

By the way. I can't even tell you what a relief it was, when it finally dawned on me that I did not have to invite my parents to my wedding. With that realization, I could look forward to the future, for literally the first time, with only hope and joy. (Also, the knowledge that I did not have to let my mom be there when my children were born, that I did not have to ever take my babies to my parent's awful house...) Oh, my God. It may seem like a simple decision to you, I don't know. But for me it was a revelation. And I glory in it, still.

In fact, when I think of my wedding, the first thing I typically think is: Omg, I only need to invite the people that I actually want to be there! Hooray! I don't have to let anyone else come! And that, combined with the thought of marrying some who I'm totally in love with, who loves me back, is enough for me to know that it will be a perfect day no matter what.


I've known for several years that I don't really want a traditional ceremony. I still don't know if I'll even have a "wedding" or if I'll just go to the courthouse with my fiance, and then throw a big reception afterward. If I do have a ceremony, there will be no bridesmaids and no groomsmen (at least not in the traditional sense), and definitely no matchy-matchy outfits on fully grown adults. No offense to you, if you had them! I just do not understand it and you won't find them at mine.

It cracks me up when people say their wedding is going to be so original; weddings are not original. Weddings are about as common as you can get. So I won't say I'm going to be original. I just want to have a really great party, the biggest best party I've ever had, with all of the people I like most. As long as I'm married by the end of it, we'll have accomplished what we set out to do -- and I will be happy.

Here are my current thoughts on what I'd like to wear. Any other ideas I have are sitting patiently in the back of my mind, waiting for a certain boy and those four magic words.
Must have:
- a pretty headpiece from ban.do
- a pair of fierce shoes
- a short white dress (to show off my fierce shoes)
- some pretty jewelry and gems to wear
- and, of course, the ring...

BONUS: If money was no object.

October 17, 2010


Day 17 - an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc) that moves you

This is a detail, called Mother and Child, from the much larger painting The Three Ages of Woman, by Gustav Klimt. Klimt has been my favorite painter since college, and this particular painting has always struck a chord with me. Even moreso now, when my dreams of motherhood seem so far out of reach.

What I wouldn't give, for a moment like this one.

two's company

A good friend of mine is coming to visit. We have a lot of catching up and sight-seeing and shopping and coffee drinking and photo taking to do, so I probably won't be blogging much this week. But don't worry! I've scheduled some posts for the next few days, so that you won't miss me too terribly while I'm gone. :)

October 16, 2010


Day 16 - a song that makes you cry (or nearly).


Day 15 - your dreamhouse

My dream house is wherever I live with my husband and my babies. I don't much care what it looks like on the outside. I don't care what it cost. My dream house is any place that feels, for once in my life, like a home.

I'll know it when I find it. And I'll fill that house with books and light and colors and music and healthy food... and love. And nice people will always be welcome there.

October 15, 2010

wave of light

Remembering with you. Peace -- Vera


I wanted to put a quote here. A poem, a song. Something. I've been searching and searching. But nothing is working. And I find I am trying to describe something that I'm not sure can even be described in someone else's words, or maybe in any words at all:

I am trying to tell you what you mean to me

What it means that you were here

What it means that I'm your mother --
your mother

Not someone else's

Not anyone else's but yours


What I picture in my mind, as I'm thinking about this, is the ocean, the wild breakers of the South Pacific ocean, at night. And I see so many stars overhead, unfamiliar, and very bright, the moon a shining silver splinter, and the waves foaming right at my feet, washing beguilingly over my toes, and then sliding away again. The air is warm, and the water is cold, and I stand there for a long time, with my head back and my arms outstretched, as if I could embrace the whole world, or gather the essence of you back together between the palms of my two reaching hands, gather you back from where you have disappeared into the heart of the universe. I can feel the whole of the earth missing you with me. Wondering with me, where have you gone, where are you now? Every rock and tree and flower, all the sand beneath my feet, all the whales, and the lions, and the mice, and the bees. We notice, we remember, we pause.

We look up.

And this string of moments is like a string of perfect pearls, or like a string of notes in a perfect melody, our solemn, silent song of acknowledgement, and memory... for you are a part of this story, this poem, this Place. You are part of us, and it -- and me. And we remember you.


So this is it, baby. This is it.

If I had a picture of what I'm trying to say, this would be it.


Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Take a few minutes and click over to After Iris, where Jess has created a beautiful tribute to lost babies, in honor of her own sweet girl, gone too soon.

So many names. Utterly heartwrenching. I lay my head down on the desk and listened, wholly, purposefully. I cried. And it was painful; but it felt fruitful, too, somehow. It is what I can do, in this moment -- and I am willing.

October 14, 2010


I dreamed I was packing -- getting ready to move, as I often do -- and I was very depressed. I was depressed because a few months earlier, I'd had another baby that died.

So I'm packing, alone, and I lift up a box and come across these two photos, lying on the floor. One is of my baby, being born, from my own perspective. The other is of the same baby, and me; a self-portrait. And I start to cry, remembering what happened that day.

I remember I was all alone when my baby was born, in the same shabby house where I am in the dream. I delivered him myself. But he was dead, and there was no one else around, and so I took these two photos to remember him by, to prove to myself and everyone else that he was really here, that I wasn't crazy or faking it.

But the picture of us together is bizarre, and makes me feel very strange. I realize, as I'm looking at it, that the baby has a huge smile on his face; he is lying on my chest, wrapped in a blanket, grinning away. His tiny face is so sweet and vibrant, right there next to mine; and yet I look crushed and bedraggled and desperately sad. And I slowly realize how weird this is, how he's so happy and I'm so sad. And I begin to feel a little frightened.

Then a friend of mine walks in and sees me crying, and asks me what's wrong, so I show her the photos. She says, "Oh. Oh, honey; your baby didn't die. We came, and we tried to tell you, but you were so upset. You didn't understand. But she's fine, I promise. She's here, and she's beautiful, and her name is Havana."

And that just floors me, for so many reasons, and I sit and gape at my friend, and all I can think is, "WHAT?!" because I believed my baby was dead, and also that it was a boy, and how could I be so very wrong, and what else was I wrong about, and what might I have forgotten -- and why on earth was my daughter named after a city in Cuba?! And where was she anyway, because I needed to see her immediately, this miracle baby who'd been alive all along.


Day 14 - a non-fiction book that is meaningful to you since your loss

About What Was Lost: Twenty Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope edited by Jessica Berger Gross

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

There was a dearth of reading material available on the subject when I went looking for it, let alone good material. But I found these two books eventually, and both were of great comfort to me. They made me laugh and cry by turns, especially Elizabeth McCracken. Her bewilderment and grief are so gently and exquisitely expressed. It was exactly the voice I needed to hear, at exactly the right time.

October 13, 2010


Day 13 - a fiction book that is meaningful to you since your loss

The Hound Saga by Mette Ivie Harrison

"True" and "Deeply human" are the strongest best compliments I know how to give to a piece of writing, and I would give Mette Ivie Harrison's stories both of them. They made me want to never stop reading, made me want to wake up in her version of the world; even though it is no less dangerous than my own. These books got me through the roughest parts of my summer, and I'll never forget them.

I think I would have loved these stories, even years ago; but the underlying themes resonate with me now in a way that wouldn't have been possible before I came to grips with the harsh realities of my past.

October 12, 2010


Day 12 - something you are OCD about

I used to have literal OCD. It was not fun. I had to sit on a certain side of whatever car I was riding in (depending on the car; I would just know, from looking at it, which side I needed to sit on) and if I couldn't, I would have a panic attack, because I thought we were going to crash and die. Also, even numbers were "good" and odd numbers were... well, not bad exactly, but "less good." Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday were even days, so they were better than Monday or Wednesday or Friday, and less likely to have bad things happen on them. (There is no way I could explain to you what made those days even, it's just how it was.)

If I could stop the microwave countdown so that the number matched within one minute before or after the time on the clock, I would feel like I won a contest. Better yet was if I stopped it on the exact time. That made my day. If I got it wrong, however, I felt like a total failure. When I was anxious about something (like being a total failure) I would flex and press my pointer finger backward against my middle finger in an awkward and painful way, usually on both hands, and count to five over and over and over -- up to a hundred times.

There's more, but I've already scared myself a little, so I can't imagine what any of you must be thinking by now. I'm sane, really, I promise. I've had multiple assesments to prove it. Rest assured; I'm simply traumatized.


When I remember all the things I used to do, all the rules and the little contests I set for myself, I think it's really a miracle I ever achieved anything in school. With all the shit going down at home, all the ways I tried to distract myself from my scary thoughts throughout the day, how the hell did I get good grades? I was kind of amazing.

At the time, I needed to feel like I had some measure of control over something, anything in my life. But I don't do any of those things anymore. I realized as a teenager that it had gotten a little out of hand -- and made me too much like my mother. So I decided to put a stop to it.

I remember the first time I rode on the "wrong" side of a car. I did it on purpose; I let my friends walk in front of me, and then I took the leftover seat. My legs wobbled, and I almost couldn't open the door. I slid into the seat, my heart thumping loudly in my ears, my palms sweaty. I folded my hands tightly in my lap and stared out the window, pressing my forehead against the cold glass and telling myself: Probably you will not die. Probably you will not die. Probably you will not die...

I have no idea what everyone else talked about. I was stressed to the max, and didn't retain a word of conversation. But as you might have guessed, we made it safely to where we were going. I did not die.

Thus began the slow and often painful dissolution of my nervous habits and compulsions. And now I am, for the most part, free. Writing this out, I am truly impressed by what I was able to accomplish on my own, how much I was able to overcome, through sheer force of will. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very powerful thing. But I am more powerful, it turns out. That rocks!

Thanks, Day 12, for giving me a reason to remember my win.

October 11, 2010

cream and sugar

I miss my girl. I am wishing for an excuse to have a tea party, and I haven't got one. But it feels like a tea party kind of day, today.

I think I'll go put on a dress.

bereaved, bereft, deprived

Main Entry: bereave
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: deprive
Synonyms: dispossess, divest, leave, oust, rob, sadden, strip

Main Entry: bereft
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: lacking; missing
Synonyms: beggared, bereaved, cut off, deprived, destitute, devoid, dispossessed, divested, fleeced, impoverished, left without, minus, naked, parted from, robbed, shorn, stripped, wanting, without
Antonyms: full, happy

Main Entry: deprive
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: keep or take away something wanted, needed
Synonyms: bankrupt, bare, bereave, denude, despoil, disinherit, dismantle, dispossess, disrobe, divest, dock, expropriate, hold back, lose, oust, rob, seize, skim, stiff, strip, wrest


Day 11 - a photo of you taken recently

I wouldn't say I look exactly pretty in this shot, but there is something honest about it that arrests me. I am at McClarren Park on a day off, struggling with the upcoming anniversary of my son's death. I've brought a snack, a book, some paper and a pen; but I'm not hungry, I can't read, and I can't write.

I take a photo of the waning moon, stranded and lonely, pale with embarrassment in a daylit sky. Then I let the camera swing backward in my upraised hands, and capture a photo of myself as well; because in that moment, I understand that we are the same.

October 10, 2010


Day 10 - a photo of you, taken over 10 years ago

Obviously this is well over 10 years ago. But all I have on my computer are lots of recent pics and a few very old ones. So this is me, and my grandpa (rockin a grown out perm), and my newborn cousin B, circa 1986.

Oh, tiny girl, if you only knew how many times that boy would hurt you in the years to come, would you still want to hold him so badly?

*sigh* Yes... I suppose you probably would.

October 9, 2010

quote of the day

If you're asking yourself, "shouldn't she be over this by now?" you should promptly go fuck yourself. -- Jessica Culver

Omg. Sometimes there just isn't any other way to say it. And today... today this made me laugh. Thank you, J.


Day 9 - a photo you took since your loss

Because it's hard to remember, sometimes, when so few others
see you that way.


I suspect my body of a hysterical pregnancy. My belly is all poochy, I am super sensitive to smells, hungry all the time, need to use the bathroom constantly. I can't suck in my belly, even when I try. It. won't. suck. in. And last week I felt a tiny fluttering, deep inside, which reduced me immediately to a puddle of tears.

The last few days it's only gotten worse, and today at the grocery store, my cashier glanced meaningfully at my belly several times, and then insisted on helping me with my bags, because she thought I was pregnant. Oh, god. I didn't have the heart to tell her she was wrong. (I guess my cute little dress wasn't as slimming as I'd originally thought...)

My counselor doesn't like the word hysterical. She said I'm "half-pregnant," which makes me laugh. It's so hard, because I could enjoy these symptoms if their cause were not so heart-breaking. I think my body just wants to relive those experiences, the ones I wasn't fully present for the first time around. The ones it never got to complete. I would love to be pregnant right now. Love. Love to accept help gladly from a grocery store cashier who thought I looked tired and needed a hand -- in my condition. In my condition! I do need a hand, really, in my condition. The crazy feels a little out of control.

On a partially related note, here is a song I am really feeling right now.

PS: I think the writing prompts are working.

October 8, 2010


Day 8 - a photo that makes you angry/sad

I recently went through my files and deleted all of the photos that made me angry or sad. They were all photos that had one or both of my parents in them. And now they're gone.

All except this one:

That's my mom, in the background. I don't know why I kept this. But somehow I can't bear to throw it out.

It makes me so sad, looking at this photo. It makes me sad because it ought to make me happy. Oh, look! It's you and me, Mom, on my third birthday! How sweet. But no. It's not sweet. It's poisoned icing on a cake made of worms.

I was happy that day, it's true. I was happy because this was the one day a year, the day of my birthday party, when my needs were above either of theirs. I was happy to be riding a brand new tricycle; not the dirty old one that belonged to the neighbor boy. I was happy because with all these extra people in the house, I was not going to be slapped, berated, or molested.

I wanted the guests to stay and stay and stay. But eventually they all went home. Eventually, my trike got stored under the makeshift lean-to, and the pretty red paint and shiny chrome rusted to orange. Eventually, my fun "watch" with the maze game inside of it broke, and all the colorful beads fell out and were lost.

And not eventually, but instantly, I was not so important anymore, and whatever mommy needed or daddy needed was my responsibility again.


I can feel the edges of my sanity fluttering loose like a tent flap in the wind, and while I think I should probably peg them back down, and soon, there is a part of me that says, Let fly! Go ahead and cause the world a bit of discomfort, for once. Really, what is there left to lose?

October 7, 2010

the frightful symmetry of numbers

Ailis Evelyn, today it has been 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days since we said goodbye. Noah Griffin, it has been 1 year, 1 month, and 1 week since we said goodbye. It is my hope, however, that even though time is passing here, for you everything has been suspended, and when my turn comes to finally leave this life, we will walk into heaven together, in the space between one breath and another, as if we were never parted at all...

I don't know why I'm so sensitive to patterns and numbers. I don't know why on some days, the dead are simply dead, and life goes on, but on others... On others I look at the time ticking by or the calendar's date and I feel like I'm breathing glass, because this is all wrong; it is all so very wrong, the way I have so much free time during the week, and all my clothes are neat and unstained, and there are no crayon marks on the wall, no toys spread on the floor. All my laundry is just mine, and I swear out loud (especially when I'm tired), and if I want to eat ice cream for dinner I can. And this is all wrong, because I'm a mother of two, and that's not at all how things would be if my kids were here.


I feel like a bad mom sometimes, when I am able to focus on a project for hours at a time. When I say yes to extra shifts at work. I feel like I'm not paying enough attention to them. In the back of my mind, I feel guilty. But they're not here, to pay attention to. They're not here to change or grow, to be taught new things or marveled over. They don't need me anymore. And therein lies the problem, doesn't it?

I'm 26 years old. I have two beautiful children; they're just not here right now. They're never going to be here, so you needn't wait around to meet them. I'm not actually crazy, I swear! Or maybe I am, a little; just not dangerously so.

I can tell you one thing: This is not at all how I imagined my life would be.


Day 7 - a photo that makes you happy

Two gorgeous girlies, S and C. They bring color, beauty, and joy to my life. Not to mention love. I miss you so much! XOXO -- Vera

October 6, 2010

I always seem to forget /
How fragile are the very strong

Well, thanks to the awesome blog challenge I am participating in, I had a handy list of things I could do for self-care.  And today I really needed me some self-care.  Good timing, universe!  Thank you very much.

Today I : Had hot tea and toast for breakfast.  Asked A not to turn on the TV till I was done eating.  Wrote some posts for my blog.  Took extra care with my outfit and makeup (and received several compliments in return).  Hummed my Lissie's sweet little song all day.  Said "No" to an extra hour at work.  Tried on clothes after my shift.  Sat in Barnes & Noble with a soy Chai latte and read the first five chapters of Inkheart (which is also a pretty great movie, by the way).  Had a nice bath, with sparkly bubbles, when I got home. 

I wish the sea was not so far away; it would have been nice to lay on the sand and listen to the crashing waves for awhile.  Though I would trade even that beloved experience gladly for a hug.  A real life hug -- from anyone really, so long as they meant it.  (Nobody touches me, here; have I told you that before?  My skin is starving.  The most human contact I get these days is if my hand accidentally brushes a customer's while I'm giving them back their change.) 

I wish I had my Sophie and my Cissa.  I miss them so much; and they give the best snuggles.  I hope hope hope I will get to see them soon.


A bad night calls for hot tea and toast in the morning, and a good book to read.
If I could have all of the things on my "calming" list, perhaps this day could be salvaged...


One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter. --James Earl Jones

I've been having really awful dreams. Vile nightmares, about the disgusting rat bastard that was my father, and the things he used to do. In the dreams, I am also trying (and failing) to protect my sister from either knowing what is happening to me, or from being hurt herself. I wake up feeling dirty, frustrated, and ashamed, composing hate-mail in my mind.

My response is appropriate. Those feelings are normal and I was not allowed to feel them for many years. And if they are coming up now, it's because some part of me wants to process it and get it out. Some part of me thinks I'm ready. But the rest of me doesn't. The rest of me thinks I will never be ready because this stuff is the ugliest and most repulsive stuff on the planet and I'd rather just pretend it's not there, that it was never there. But I know that it is.

Perhaps I should give in. No one wants to be miserable, so this is a difficult decision to make. But. Right now, I don't have a lot of serious commitments. I work a shitty retail job where I am, as per usual, underappreciated. I'm not back in school yet. I'm not married. This is as good a time as any to fall apart for awhile. To be gentle with myself, not expect too much. Because. You know. After all.

I am so sick of this cycle, though. I always think I've made some progress, I feel good for a little while, and then... and then the dreams come back. I can only hope that the nightmares and the nausea and the helpless rage will become less and less frequent as time goes by, and I allow it to surface and leave me.


Day 6 - ten things that calm you

- the smell of books
- a strong embrace
- lying on warm sand
- reading
- ocean sounds
- hot tea and toast
- watching movies
- shopping/trying on clothes
- bubblebaths
- snuggle time with Soph or Ciss

October 5, 2010


Day 5 - your favorite quote since your loss

But love is born in life, and death cannot end it. --Mette Ivie Harrison.
For love is as strong as death. --Song of Solomon 8:6.

One or both of these quotes will probably be incorporated into my next tattoo (sans references). Only since losing my children have they stuck in my mind so fiercely. I need to believe that they can feel my love in some way, even now; that love really is as strong as death. Not stronger, I know. No matter how I love them, I cannot change what has happened. But as strong. And death is very, very strong. Death cannot be undone -- but then, neither can my love.

I also really like this quote, which I wrote in Noah's baby book:

October 4, 2010


Day 4 - your favorite book

Oh dear. In case you haven't noticed, I read a lot. I have probably forgotten about more books than many people have ever read in their lifetime. I started memorizing when I was two or three years old and learned to read, by osmosis, before kindgerten. My teacher used to set me up on a high stool in the afternoons and have me read aloud to the class while she checked our schoolwork.

Reading was the best escape I had from the nightmare that was my waking life. The library was my sanctuary, my safety; I knew that nothing bad could ever happen to me there. The library that my mother took me to was old and dim, the air dusty and stale. I would lay on the ancient carpet, alone for an hour or more, surrounded by stories and giddy with possibility. The smell of books still calms me instantly.

I really don't think I could ever choose one favorite book. So here are a few of my enduring faves. (You have no idea how long I agonized over this list! Ugh.) This is me, showing restraint...

Books I Have Loved for Over a Decade:
1. The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo
2. Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli
3. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood, by Meredith Ann Pierce
4. Spindle's End, by Robin McKinley
5. Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card

October 3, 2010

two & three

Day 2 - a movie that helped you get through the hard times

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is funny and moving and all set within a period of 24 hours and it is absolutely delicious. You should watch it. Really. As soon as possible.

Another fave is Stardust. (Though this trailer doesn't do it justice, I'm afraid.) The story is as gorgeous and humorous and real as a story can be, and I love it. I also recommend the book, by Neil Gaiman.

Day 3 - a television program that moves you

Glee is the one show on television that completely transports me. I enjoy The Office, Project Runway, and 30 Rock as well... But only for that one hour on Tuesday nights am I totally unaware of any of my problems or pain. I sit on the couch with a big silly smile on my face the whole time.

One reason is because it is delightful. It is ridiculous and melodramatic and crammed with song and dance numbers, and is over-the-top in a way that reminds me of theater productions, which I have always enjoyed so much. Another reason it has such an effect on me is that it was first introduced to me by my darling Pamela, who is awesome. She had come from Australia to visit for a couple of weeks, shortly after I lost Noah. She was so gentle with me, and somehow knew just the right balance of when to listen and when to distract. One of the very few things she insisted upon was that we make sure to watch this new show that was going to be on TV, because it was going to be soooo funny. And she was right. (Of course.) Watching that premiere with her was the first time I had genuinely laughed at anything for several dark and dreary weeks.

Thanks, Pammy! I still think of you every time it's on.

October 2, 2010

one (part i)

Day 1 - a song that reminds you of your child

Reminds me of Lissie:

I only discovered this song recently, but the first time I heard it I immediately thought of my little girl.

At the time (when I was pregnant), I felt so incredibly overwhelmed. I was so emotionally unhealthy, so battered and bruised. Yes, I do believe that I had it in me to be a good mother even then; but oh... it would have been so very hard on us both.

I remember one night, the only night I came out of my denial for long enough to have a vivid memory of doing so. I remember thinking, Oh baby, what are we going to do? I want to be good at this; I want to be able to be everything you need me to be, but I don't know if I can right now. Maybe you should just leave. Maybe you would be better off.

I cannot even describe the guilt I felt for thinking those thoughts, afterward. Even though I had absolutely no control over what happened, I still manage to tell myself all kinds of awful and untrue things. I know in my deepest heart that I only ever wanted what was best for her; and maybe this was it. But what I wouldn't give for an almost-three-year old, fast asleep in my house tonight.


When I would play my song / You used to sing along / I always seem to forget / How fragile are the very strong

I'm sorry I can't steal you / I'm sorry I can't stay / So I'll put bandaids on your knees / And watch you fly away

I'm sending you away tonight / I'll put you on a bird's strong wing / I'm saving you the best way I know how / I hope again one day to hear you sing

one (part ii)

Reminds me of No-No:

I think this music video must be the reason for the persistent notion I have that Noah died at Christmastime. Even though it was really late summer, I played this so many times that the light displays are permanently linked in my mind with his loss, and continue to make me feel vaguely melancholy whenever I see them.

The way she passes her hands over her stomach at the beginning guts me every single time.


Look down, the earth below is crumbling / Look up, the stars are all exploding / It's the last day on earth / In my dreams, in my dreams / It's the end of the world / And you've come back to me / In my dreams

Every time anybody speaks your name / I still feel the same / I ache, I ache, I ache inside / I ache, I ache, I ache inside / I ache, I ache, I ache inside / I ache, I ache, I ache inside

Reticence problem -- solved!

Borrowing an idea from Angie over at still life with circles, and hence will post for the next 30 days on predetermined subjects (which can be found in the Page Tabs above). I've been really frustrated with my inability to say exactly what I want to say lately, so I'm hoping a little writing exercise will help loosen me up until I can figure out what the problem is.

And so we begin.

October 1, 2010

a new month

October. How did that happen?
Wish I had something important or clever to say, but I don't...