Monday, November 29, 2010


It was the Bolivian dancers that did me in. I made it through the treacly holiday music and the adorable child-ballerinas marching along in their Nutcracker mouse costumes. Hell, I even made it through a 3-hour drive in the early morning darkness to get to the parade on time with my happy mood intact. But watching those teenage boys smiling and leaping, boots a-jangle, after the girls in their microscopic skirts left me fighting back the tears.

As they passed by C hopped around on the pavement imitating the dance steps, face aglow with envy at the ornate costumes. I caught a sudden glimpse of a teenage C cramming herself into something short and tight for a high school dance. Then I grew simultaneously sad that she's growing up and terrified that she won't get to grow up. And then I imagined the smiling dancers old and infirm. And then I thought about R in her urn, wrapped in a T-shirt, in the suitcase, in the car that we left in a parking deck 3 blocks away. And then some sniffling. And then the tears.

This is it. This is all there really is. Randy teenagers and impure thoughts. At least that's what I thought for those five minutes as I stood weeping on the curb in in Silver Spring's fabricated downtown.

So sad, isn't it? One day you're strutting your stuff down the parade route in a bedazzled mini-skirt, the next day you're a mom with three-year-old, a set of cremains, and a stack of worries. Then, you're a down-on-your-luck musician playing a mournful saxophone on a lonely rooftop in the heartless city while Time, that cruel bitch-master, cackles at you. Or something like that.

Thirty-five years go by in a flash but at least it's a good solid lifetime. Would I feel better if I knew C would get 35 years? Would that be enough? Would I be more content if R had gotten 35 days instead of 12? What about 5 days with no pain or illness?

I'd like to say that I had some great revelation while watching the parade or that I achieved some level of peace with whatever other challenges lie ahead. I'm afraid I don't have it in me to be wise or peaceful. I just have two simple requests...

Oh, great universe, if you're listening, please let my girl live long enough to dress inappropriately and be leered at by some pimply-faced boy full of adolescent arrogance and impure thoughts. And, please, even though I don't espouse any particular set of beliefs about heaven or the afterlife, let there be parades and spangly costumes for R too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

knit your own jizo figure (I'll help you)

It's getting on to Holiday Giveaway season out in blog-land. I haven't decided yet whether I have the crafting wherewithal to participate this year (given my current craftload) but, I want to show some sort of good will. So, here's a free pattern that I whipped up.

mommicked’s Mizuko Jizo knitting pattern

This pattern was inspired by Angie’s Jizo paintings. In the pattern I’ve used abbreviations and notations typically used at knitty. This is the first pattern I’ve ever created (and, true to my lazy blogger ways, I only spent an hour or so writing it up). If you find something you don’t understand in here (and I won’t be surprised if you do) or you need a clarification on the directions, just leave a comment and I’ll reply in the comments section.

Finished Size –
Height – 4-5 inches
Use smaller needles and lighter gauge yarn to size down.

Materials –
MC – Plymouth Encore Worsted (white)
CC1 – Loops and Threads Impeccable Worsted (Heather)
CC2 – Lion’s Brand “Vanna’s Choice” Worsted (Cranberry)

Note – I think you can use whatever worsted weight white, pink/tan/brown, and red yarn you happen to have or can acquire at your LYS or craft store.

10 yards MC
10 yards CC1
2-3 yards CC2
Extra of MC and CC1 for stuffing or you could use fiberfill
A small amount of grey or brown sock yarn or embroidery floss
Size 6 dpns (or whatever size gives you a fairly tight fabric—you want to knit this tightly so that the filling doesn’t show through)
Darning needle
Crochet Hook

Instructions –

Body and Head
Using MC, CO 9
Place 3 st each on needles 1, 2, & 3
Row 1 – kfb every stitch to end (18)
Row 2 – *k1, kfb* (27)
Row 3 – purl
Row 4 – *k8, kfb* (30)
Row 5-15 – knit
Row 16 - *k2, k2tog* (24)
Row 17 – knit
Row 18 - *k2, k2tog* (18)
Row 19 – knit
Row 20 – switch to CC1, knit
Row 21 - *k1, kfb* (24)
Row 22 - *k1, kfb* (36)
Row 23-28 – knit
Row 29 - *k4, k2tog* (27)
Row 30 - *k3, k2tog* (21)
Row 31 - *k2, k2tog* (16)
Row 32 - *k1, k2tog* (11)

Filling - Now is a good time to stuff the body and head with the filling of your choice. I like to use white yarn for the body and the skin-colored yarn for the head). If you want the Jizo to stand up easily, you could stuff something heavy like a bean bag down into the body. Make it as soft or as firm as you desire.

Note - When I make these, I typically take a few minutes to write a message to or about the baby I’m remembering on some slips of paper that are 1/8 in. wide by 2 in. long and I add them in with the filling. For my own daughter I asked for her to be protected and to have help finding her family and friends. I can’t write directions for this part. You just have to do what feels right.

Row 33 - *k2tog* (6)
Row 34 - *k2tog* 3 stitches left. Break yarn, leaving an 8-10 inch tail and run end through all 4 remaining stitches.

Using darning needle, push yarn tail into top of head and out through the figure’s neck. Weave the end around the neck of the figure in a running stitch and tighten slightly to differentiate head from body. Tie off and tuck end inside head.

With CC2, CO 5. Leave a 14-16 inch tail when you CO.
Row 1 – knit
Row 2 – purl
Row 3 – k1, kfb, k1, kfb, k1 (7)
Row 4 – purl
Row 5 – *k1, kfb* (10)
Row 6 – purl
Row 7 – k2, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k2 (8)
Row 8 – BO

Time to make a string for the bib. Take your crochet hook and make a 3 inch chain using the long end from your CO. Attach the loose end of the chain to the other side of the bib and put it over the figure’s head.

Sleeves – (make 2)
With MC, CO3
Row 1 – knit
Row 2 – purl
Row 3 – k1, kfb, k1 (4)
Row 4 – purl
Row 5 – knit
Row 6 – purl
Row 7 – k1, kfb, k to end (5)
Row 8 – purl
Row 9 – knit
Row 10 – purl
Row 11 – knit
Row 12 – k1, kfb to end
Row 13 – BO
Don’t weave in ends. Use ends to attach sleeves to body. You want to position the shoulders so that the wide ends of the sleeves where the hands will be end up about ½ in apart in front of the bib. Leave the ‘hand ends’ of the sleeves open.

With darning needle and CC1, make 5-6 loops attaching the upper front corner of the sleeves to each other. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You just want to give the suggestion of fingers laced together. I like to tuck the bib down behind the hands to hold it in place.

I keep it simple here, mostly because I can’t come up with a mouth that I like. I just loop the sock yarn around 2 stitches to make some closed eyelids. You can bring the yarn or embroidery floss up from the back of the head. Keep in mind that eyes are generally located about halfway down the head when you’re deciding where to put the stitches. You could probably draw some eyes and a mouth too if you’d prefer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Little Soul

Have you ever given yourself a headache contemplating the nature of existence? Just look around--thumbdrive, catalog, coaster, dog. What prehistoric butterfly flapped its wings at just the right speed, at just the right time, in just the right location to make all of this possible? Did a supreme being really come up with all of this in 6 days? Is it turtles all the way down? Is TracyOC actually 13-year-old who just smoked weed for the first time?

We all experience multiple iterations of reality and multiple associated epiphanies in our lifetimes. Just to be clear, I'm talking about these types of moments -

So, that's what makes my brother a boy!
Wait a minute, where does the stork come in?
Jesus! Darth Vader's his father?!

For me, each of these moments is immediately followed by a brief mental recap.

Why didn't I know this already?
Does everyone else know about this?
What else is lurking out there waiting to surprise me?

The earth rocks a bit and I float up out of myself for a moment before feeling that things are mostly the way I previously understood them to be. Reality has expanded a bit but I'm still more or less the same.

Some epiphanies are bigger than others.

I remember sitting by my father's bedside a couple of days before he died. This was at the beginning of his second week in the ICU after he'd ripped the central line from his neck and attempted to escape. He was heavily medicated and disoriented by the toxins that had built up in his body as his liver failed but we were alone for what might be the last time ever and I decided that I should probably say my good-byes. I told him that I would miss him and that it was ok to stop fighting. The image of him trying to get his eyes to open and focus on me is burned into my brain.

This is death.
This is life.
The world is not as I believed it to be but, it's ok because now I know.

The problem is that a lot of people don't know. The other problem is that the people who do know don't like to talk about it in front of those who don't know. I mean, jeez, are you trying to ruin their whole day or what?

Crazy that I still worry about ruining someone's day by sharing the experiences that shattered my entire life but, I do worry about it and I bet you do too.

This is life.

The big epiphanies tend to spawn after-epiphanies (and blogs).

I found myself joking about slow elevators with a complete stranger at work last week. My regional office only has 900-odd employees so I suppose there are no complete strangers but, I'd never met this guy before. I can't remember what I said but it made him laugh and we spent a few floors smiling and trading elevator stories.

I got off at my floor and I thought to myself, "See. You're still in there."

I actually thought that--in exactly those words. I smiled and nodded and congratulated myself on getting back in touch with my inner smartass.

The feeling of satisfaction lasted approximately 12 seconds. By the time I was back in my cube I was berating myself for daring to gripe about an elevator that still exists in a world without my daughter. R is dead and you have the nerve to complain about an elevator? Take the f*cking stairs if you don't like it.

If someone else said it to me I'd probably knock his teeth down his throat. I don't know why I'm letting myself get away with taking such an absurd position. After all, there's no prize for being the most miserable.

This is death.
This is life.

Clearly life will go on but I feel stuck in mid-air. I'm waiting for the next epiphany that will place me back on my feet, the one that tells me how a formerly unrepentant, irreverent smartass navigates the world as a half-bereaved mother.

I'm not really one for poetry but I came across this a few months ago when I decided that a responsible citizen ought to know a little bit about the poet laureate and it's been rolling around in my head since.

This is Merwin's interpretation of a poem written by the Roman emperor, Hadrian (I lifted it from here).

Little Soul


Little soul little stray
little drifter
now where will you stay
all pale and all alone
after the way
you used to make fun of things