My home altar | Personal

Not knowing when I would ever get to make my pilgrimage to Japan, I decided to get my own mizuko Jizō statue to keep at home. I found one when I wasn’t looking, in a gardening center. It’s a small statue made of cement, and I am pretty sure that it is the Chinese deity Guanyin and not actually Jizō. Still, it fit was I was after and has been my Jizō ever since.

With the move to Austin and my belongings not being able to enter the country until I got my paperwork, I had to wait a long time to get my Jizō back. Then, it was sort of thrown into a bookcase in the moving shuffle, awaiting proper organization of said bookcase.

Today, I figured that it was time to give Jizō the predominant place it deserves, and the space that I needed. I moved the bookcase, changed everything around, and set up a small altar for Jizō. It’s not much really, just a few stones that I love and a candle to light. I may add to it with time, but until then, I am happy that it has a dedicated space. I can now sit by it and meditate, and talk to my babies.

my home jizo altar

Do you have an altar in your home? What should I be adding to mine?

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We are not alone | Personal

This is going to be the most personal post as of yet. This isn’t easy. So why am I doing it? Not because I necessarily feel the need to share. No. I am doing this because people need to speak up. By staying silent, I feel that I am helping to keep a very painful, and very common, reality hidden. By not speaking up, I am helping to make women feel isolated in their grief. That is the last thing I want.

This is my story, our story.

Like many couples we wanted to have a family. Like many couples we tried to get pregnant. And like many couples, we had complications. I had two miscarriages, one at about 7.5 weeks and one at about 4 weeks.

When this happens to you, you learn a lot of things. Like that up to 55% of pregnancies end up in a miscarriage, at times with the woman not even realizing that she even ever was pregnant. That most miscarriages are due to chromosomal issues, and that it’s just nature’s way of sorting itself out. That most couples who keep trying end up successfully carrying a child to term. Does any of these facts make it better? Easier to accept? Absolutely not. Even the word miscarriage made me uncomfortable, like I had poorly carried my child and brought this onto myself.

Even though I had done nothing wrong, and had spent 6 months prior doing everything right to get myself to be as healthy as possible, I still felt guilt. Could have I done more? Was it because I didn’t want to get too excited before we reached the 2nd trimester? Was something wrong with me? Was God punishing me or testing me? And why us? What had we done to deserve this?

It has now been more than a year, and still, this is hard. I can’t read or watch something that reminds me of my miscarriages without wanting to cry, scream, or both. Sometimes I am fine and sometimes I feel like I am drowning in a sea of grief. And you know what? That is OK. Being angry and sad and whatever else you feel is perfectly fine, regardless of the circumstances of your loss.

What really marked me though throughout this whole ordeal is that as we shared the news with select friends and family, almost everyone we spoke to knew of someone who had experienced a miscarriage, if not themselves personally. How is it that miscarriage affects so many and yet we hear so little about it? Why is our grief so taboo, so hidden? Why does it feel wrong for us to mourn a life we never got to meet? To mourn an unknown amount of love and infinite possibilities?

Well, there is a place where mourning miscarried, stillborn, and aborted babies is engrained in the culture and publicly accepted. That place is Japan. I had learned about this on my first trip in Japan back in 2005, and this has stuck with me ever since.

After the miscarriages, I was really sad and upset and all I wanted was to do was to travel to Japan on a pilgrimage in order to mourn. Well, my awesome husband is making this happen for me. For my birthday, he offered me a return flight to Tokyo, so I may grieve, meditate, and hopefully, find some closure and heal.

This is the reason as to why I am writing this post: I want to extend some healing and closure to you. If you have lost a baby, be it for any reason, before or soon after birth, I am offering a little bit of help. On my pilgrimage to the temple in Nagano which has lovely Jizō statues (see photos bellow, plus the explanation about the tradition), I can also do the following, for you:
– Splash water on the Jizō statue (this part of the normal ritual for mizuko)
– Light incense
– Carry a letter or note (many parents leave letters for their children)
– Mediate / send loving thoughts / say a prayer on your behalf

I will be heading to Japan on the 8th of September 2014, and will be in Nagano starting on the 11th. If you are interested, simply drop me a line in the comment box (or using the “contact me” information). Just let me know what sort of offering you would like, and for how many children. You do not need to let me know how you lost your baby, if you do not want to.

I really hope this pilgrimage can help you, as I am sure it will help me. You, we, are not alone.

***

Bellow you will find more information about Jizō, mizuko, and some links that do a really good job about explaining the tradition and iconography.

Jizō (the Japanese name for Ksitigarbha) is the Buddhist guardian of children, but more specifically, children who died before their parents. In Japan, he is worshiped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, (lit.: water child) the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses. Some Jizō statues are dressed with red bibs and/or hats, and these statues are sometimes found by the hundreds in temples and cemeteries. Jizō is everywhere in Japan, and actively worshiped. The great thing about Jizō statues and temples is that it gives grieving parents a place to go to mourn, give offerings, and extend something tangible to something otherwise intangible. {Learn more about Ksitigarbha and about Jizō and his associated rituals/iconography/etc in Japan.}

Grieving parents in Japan can also have a memorial service for their unborn child. This is called mizuko kuyō. On top of a memorial service where parents make offerings to Jizō to ensure their child’s protection while in limbo and ensure eventual reincarnation, parents can also have their own Jizō statue, giving them a very personal place to mourn. These statues are visited like one would visit a grave: parents bring flowers, gifts, and wash the statue. Parents visit and pray. There is something tangible. Something real. Parents there have an outlet for their grief, an outlet that no one questions. {Read more about the ritual here, here, here, and here (PDF).}

Here are some example of Jizō statues and temples across Japan, taken on my previous trips.

In Nagano:

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In Miyajima:

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In Tokyo:

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May in photos | Home

More spring, and more of around town!

blue city
how do you get green grass in austin?
darn it
first pie of the year
cuddles
turtle in a stream
peacefulness
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County Line BBQ | Home

Travis took me to the County Line BBQ today as a surprise, since I had been craving BBQ. Did you know that every time I go running on the weekends, my running path smells of tasty, delicious BBQ? It’s torture!

There are a few locations around town, but we went to the “on the lake” one. The setting is absolutely gorgeous, right on the water. We waited quite a while to get a table outside (it is mother’s day, after all), but we got to watch children feed the bass and turtles to pass the time.

pretty view from the restaurants' terrace

Once seated, we proceeded to order 7 different kinds or cuts of meat: nearly all of the BBQ they have on offer! The food was pretty decent but I think the star is their turkey, which says a lot about their turkey.

7 kinds of meat

So, would we go back? I’m not sure. It was good, and the location is wonderful, but it wasn’t fantastic. Also, you can’t just order the meat: you have to order a platter, and I am not a big fan of traditional BBQ sides (beans, potato salad, coleslaw, etc). I guess it’s a toss up!

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April in photos | Home

All of these shots are from either around our house, or around Austin. More specifically, these are all within a 30 minute walk from our house. As you can see, spring is still going strong, with lots of different flowers blooming! Enjoy the long photo post 🙂

mimosa
the state capitol
sometimes it feels like we live in a tree house
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slowly getting used to water
prickly pears will be blooming soon
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date night
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put a bird on it
cactus in bloom in austin
there are thousands of these guys around
our new balcony buddy
easter kitch
happy shiso
jasmine growing wild
walls and walls of these around our house
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our view
sun bath
shiso in the sunshine
bougainvillea
found
yellow prickly pear
pink prickly pear
these smell the best!

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