Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! A couple of days ago, I attended an event called “Young Author’s Day” at K’s school. It’s a big deal — the entire school participates and all the students are shuffled into groups of about 10 kids from various grades. Each student takes a turn reading a story he/she had written, and my favorite part is listening to the “About the Author” section. They all invariably include information about their family, a hobby and a totally random factoid like how they like to eat cereal for dinner or are completely opposed to school uniforms.

K’s group was exceptional. The fifth graders blew me away with their poetry (their haikus made me want to delete all of mine from here), and K recounted how M and I got engaged, which the teacher found hilarious. There was one girl who read a story about finding a lizard in the middle of the street and how she ended up keeping it as a pet (a true story).

The first grader who went last stole my heart, though. I saw how her hands trembled as she clutched her book with the green construction paper cover. Her cheeks blossomed into the color of the brightest of pink peonies, and her voice was so soft, barely a whisper, that all the kids tipped to their sides, cocking their ears to catch the small gasps of quickly strung together words. I remember being that little girl. The one who refused to go until there was no choice, the one who hoped that reading the story super fast would make it less frightening. I couldn’t quite hear the story in its entirety, but I saw her carefully drawn illustrations of a fox and clouds, and a little girl that looked very much like her. She beamed with relief and pride as the group enveloped her in applause and hands shot up to praise her efforts. What a beautiful, beautiful thing.

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Have a delightful weekend, my friends! I am going to RELAX. So, so, so, so excited about this.

At Mockingbird Books
I’ll be doing a reading
I feel like that girl*

I’ll be doing a storytime reading of Little Kunoichi at one of our lovely local bookstore this weekend – there might be a little bit of trembling involved…

Giveaway: She Wears the Pants

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A long time ago, when this blog was just a gleam in my eye, I had coffee with a writer friend who was an expert in the blogging world (at least more of an expert than I was or am). I confided in her that I used to maintain a blog that had petered out, but I loved it and wanted to maybe-sort-of-kind-of begin another one. I bounced around some ideas with her (“Sewing? That sounds like too much work,” she declared). After much hemming and hawing, I was no closer to figuring out what sort of blog felt right, but she told me this: “Whatever you decide to do, eventually you’ll start getting free stuff.” I slapped her knee lightly, snorted and said pshaw.

Well, here we are three years later, and she was right. The lovely folks at Tuttle sent me not one, but TWO copies of this rather hipster book of sewing patterns to give away. It’s called She Wears the Pants. I’m not sure how I feel about the title, but I do know that I’m definitely going to sew up a bevy of outfits from this when I eke out valuable moments for myself in the next few weeks.

Compared to most Japanese sewing books, this one is dark and moody and dramatic, but I like it despite my penchant for light and airy. The photography is simple as always, and the light is beautiful. I usually try to have an accompanying sewn project to share with my book giveaways so I can provide a more rounded out review of instructions and such, but I’m going to have to just show you my fave spreads this time:

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The Oval coat is oh-so-chic, and must become part of my Fall wardrobe!

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I love the shape of the mini dress on the right so much…

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Again, I’m a sucker for the boxy shape on the right.

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This outfit that’s also on the cover looks so comfy. I need to add another striped shirt to my collection of three dozen striped shirts, no?

There are a few quirky projects too, like this one called the belt stole:

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It’s fun, right?

To win a copy of this book, I have a question that requires some thought. What’s something that people are surprised to find out about you? For some reason, folks are often taken by surprise that I’m from Los Angeles. So many people think I’m from Hawaii. I also have absolutely no sense of direction and this seems to throw people off too. Before smart phones, I used to build in at least an hour to get anywhere new because I would inevitably get lost. It’s part of the reason I’m constantly early to events, meetings, etc.

I love finding out unexpected hobbies/characteristics/origins about people. Like Rosey Grier’s passion for needlepoint. Or K’s skateboarding interest. Or the fact that M used to work for a big corporation by day and lived in a hostel by night for a few years (this was by choice – he said the people were way more interesting).

So. What’s surprising about you?

The giveaway will be open until next Thursday, May 28th, and I’ll announce the TWO winners the next day! Enter away, international folks. Good luck!

P.S. In case you were wondering, the winners of the Little Kunoichi giveaway were Kristi A., Maki, Sophie, Karen and Anne.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I’m rapidly approaching the finish line for book #2 on the heels of launching book #1, and I have to confess, I haven’t been exhausted like this in a very, very long time. Luckily, I’m surrounded by energizing forces like the gorgeous blooms above, and I get emails with “poems for book?” in the subject line from my sweet girl:

Mama,

Choose between these.

                        sewing, the loud rumble rumble it makes that is very distracting
                                                 but it’s worth it cause soon,
                        sitting in your closet or on your bed is a brand knew outfit
                                      or pillow in the shape of a heart or a moon
or
                                      writing a book is a challenging thing
                                you don’t now what kind of feelings it will bring
                                    and it might not make any cha ching
                                                             but…
                                               it’s a very very happy
                                      and you might start feeling snappy
                                              or even slaphappy or sappy
i hope you put one of these in your book!!!!
p.s. if you don’t like ether one i have more way more!!!!
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Yes, email. M set K up with her own email account recently and she uses one of my old laptops to send me short digital missives from her room upstairs while I work in the living room. Heart emoji.
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As always, when I push myself a touch too hard, my health starts to get wonky, so I’m going to take Monday off to catch my breath and find my footing. I’ll be back on Wednesday with a giveaway – it’s a good one! Have a lovely weekend, friends!
I like poem 2,
but poem 1 is great too
which one do you like?

Little Kunoichi Launch Party Recap

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Whoo-boy! I’m still recovering from the excitement of Mother’s Day/Launch party festivities but thought it might be fun to show you some photos from the event (well, that first photo up there was styled in my house post-event because in the flurry of all that was going on, most of my pix were blurry).

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Look at all those copies of Little K! We had almost 100 people at the party (though not all at once), and the credit for the success of the launch really goes to my editor and dear friend, Tegan. We had a blast scheming all the details, and she’s a party-planning genius.

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We had some fun decor with ninja-themed chopsticks and napkins; origami activities kept quite a few kids busy (Sasquatch Books, my publisher, printed up Little Kunoichi origami paper with the end paper designs! Love!). I made that origami ninja star, and I’m quite proud, even if it is a little smooshed and uneven.

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We had lots of goodies, of course. Tegan ordered that amazing sushi spread that was gone in a lickety-split. I provided the Japanese sweet treats and the brownies, along with the little hand-painted toppers.

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I received so many lovely flowers and gifts…these beauties were from the fabulous Sasquatch publicist, Haley. I feel like I don’t mention the publisher and staff enough. I am so lucky to have stumbled upon this cozy and welcoming group. They have literally changed my life.

The event included a short reading, and K was a rock star because she helped me by holding up the book while I read and by providing insightful answers during the ensuing Q & A. I signed many, many books and my handwriting became increasingly illegible, but I did my best to include a short message on each copy.

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But this! This pink dragon piñata stole the show and was the main attraction. Tegan ordered it online, but alas, it was decidedly not pink so she painstakingly glued crepe paper to transform the entire thing. I love this woman, she is a much-treasured combo of kindness + super smarts + a killer sense of humor.

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Here I am, pretending to be licked by la dragon. And last, but not least, Haley sent me this video that she took of K, and it’s all kinds of awesome (note the ninja costume that she’s wearing and that’s Tegan in the purple top):

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She’s using a bamboo sword called shinai that martial artists traditionally practice sword-fighting with. We also had cute little plastic samurai swords that kids took home with them. Somehow everyone was unscathed despite the multitudes of weaponry we had up on offer.

I’m still overwhelmed and realize that I’m just listing off things here, quite matter-of-fact. But my brain was exploding from the surreal effect of the whole event with so many family and friends, old and new, and I am filled, as always, with gratitude. Thank you for letting me share this once-in-a-lifetime moment with you.

P.S. I will send out emails for the giveaway winners from last week by the end of this week!

P.P.S. I’m unofficially participating in Me-Made-May — that’s a dress I made that I’ve never posted about.

Joie de Vivre

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Just a quick “Joie de Vivre” image today. It felt like I was continually on the go this past weekend and haven’t had much time to process Mother’s Day or the launch party or the author signing event I did at K’s school on Friday. I am wiped out, but joyful.

I’ll be back with updates on Wednesday. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

Happy Friday + Randomness

She asked, “Why do you love me?”

I said, “Because I do.”

She asked, “But why? How can you love me?”

I said, “I just do. I love you because you’re you.”

It took a long time for me to shape those words to answer those questions. My daughter and I…it has been a season of stilted talks between us, weeks of bickerings and posturings and righteous lectures and easily trampled emotions. Not always, of course, but enough times to make me question my ability to parent. I tend to assume she knows intrinsically that I love her unequivocally and unconditionally, and I forget to say the words out loud and focus too much on being right. My little girl is not so little anymore and I watch as a fledgling woman-to-be unfurls her slender neck, gazing uncertainly from her precarious vantage point, fighting to become who she intuits she ought to be.

I worry that she will think my love is subject to performance because the phrases that spill out of my mouth command action and tangible results: put-away-your-shoes-don’t-eat-with-your-mouth-open-have-you-done-your-homework-and-fed-your-frogs-hurry-hurry-hurry. When she was a baby, it was so easy to wrap her up in my unfettered affections, kissing her toes and fingers and cooing at her because she simply existed. It is a fact: I don’t know what I’m doing with this enormous responsibility I’ve been given to raise a human being and I’m swashbuckling haphazardly…

Being a mother is about having my deepest fears and my severest shortcomings reflected back at me.

It is about heartbreak and helplessness.

It is about trying to find the balance between letting go and holding tight, between trusting and guiding.

It is about hoping the biggest hope that the world will be kind and gentle to my baby, my raw and still unformed child.

Being a mother is about surrendering so fully to joy, my heart composes operatic arias of forgiveness

It is about finding courage and facing truths in my weakest moments of doubts

It is about offering up wisdom I didn’t know I possessed, alerted by unbidden instincts

It is about a love so voluminous and vast and boundless, I might soar out of my skin, crack wide open, only to be enveloped whole again.

I didn’t know any of this until I became a mother.

In gratitude to all mothers, would-be-mothers, surrogate mothers, and everyone in a mothering role.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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On a vaguely similar note but not really, I was interviewed by Nick of Picturebooking and you can listen to the podcast here. I must admit that I’ve been too scared to listen to it since I’m sure I said things that will be misconstrued or ridiculed, but it’s always good to do things outside of our comfort zone, right? That’s what I’ve been telling myself at least. I talk about my mom and K, and Little Kunoichi, who I consider my second baby, so it seemed appropriate for a mother’s day post.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

 

Little Kunoichi: LAUNCHED!! + Giveaway [CLOSED]

 

Taiko drum roll please…..

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Little Kunoichi is large and in charge! Today is THE day, and I am doing imaginary backflips and round-offs of excitement!! The build-up has been so long, I thought I would be all blasé and casual and “Oh, is it the launch date today?”, but no no no. It’s a big deal. A huge deal. I am planning on visiting as many bookstores as I can today to surreptitiously snap photos of my book on shelves because this will never, ever, ever happen again: my first published book! (though I hope I will get to work on many, many more books)

I’m jumping up and down and full of nervous energy so I’m keeping this short. I thought I would show you my favorite parts of the book today:

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You’ve seen the island map before, but I just love it to pieces.

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And then there’s the secret ninja girls’ school, of which Little Kunoichi is a pupil.

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And then….my pride and joy, the island festival page. I’ve hidden Little K and her new friend Chibi Samurai and the page is chock-full of Japanese references that are too numerous to list here, but if it’s of interest, I’d be happy to go into it another time.

Oh…this is so unreal. I am counting my blessings and trying to bottle this surreal feeling of a dream come true. Infinite thanks to my amazing editor Tegan and to the whole crew at Sasquatch Books that made this such a lovely expedition. And thank you, for the cheering on, the don’t-give-ups and for welcoming Little Kunoichi into your homes.

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I have the impression that many of you have already gotten a copy of the book, but if anyone out there would like to win a copy, I’ve got some to offer up. Or, if you’ve already got Little K in your hands (or a copy is on its way), I would also love to give away prints of my favorite pages that you see above. The island print is 8″ x 8″, and the ninja school and island prints are about 6″ x 11″, all printed on high quality, archival paper. I’ll select five winners and you have the choice of the book or one of the prints.

M made a comment that made me laugh so hard, I have to share: he said that if I made $100,000 with the book, he would immediately go out and get a Little Kunoichi tattoo. This, I have to see. Neither of us has a tattoo so this is a significant thing — we shook on it! So please tell everyone about my book! It might take several decades to get to that amount, but he’ll be a rockin’ senior citizen with a cute ninja tattoo. To enter the giveaway, any comment will do, but maybe you have a suggestion for where the tattoo should go? I’m still trying to decide…

I’ll keep the give away open until this Friday, May 8th. Good luck!

P.S. I’m skipping tomorrow as I prepare for the launch party on Sunday and wrap up some work for book #2. Would love to meet you if you’re local! And see you back here on Friday!

P.P.S. Just in case I confused people, which I am known to do, I’m considering today Little Kunoichi’s official day of birth…hence, she’s saying “it’s my birthday” up there.

 

Happy Friday + Call for Pattern Testers [CLOSED]

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The house: a disaster. The food: completely reliant on Trader Joe’s frozen food section. The “studio” (aka my bedroom where I sew): unspeakable.

And in an effort to walk my talk, I’m calling uncle and reaching out for help: is anyone out there willing to pattern test for book #2? I’ve already roped in a few wonderful folks, but I definitely need more testers as the sewing book I’m currently working on has over 20 projects. If interested, please email me: sanaeishida13[AT]gmail.com. These are super simple (I hope), beginner-friendly projects and I want to make sure I’m not writing up gobbledygook!

[Update: Oh my goodness!! The response has been overwhelming, and I’m beyond grateful. I have more than enough at this point and will contact you individually over the next few days. THANK YOU!]

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Okay, I feel better after typing that. Some housekeeping: Furoku membership sign ups will close at the end of today, and I’m so so so close to getting it done but I’ll need just a few more days for furoku #2.

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I was giving K a synopsis of The Age of Miracles (such a great book!), about how each day keeps getting longer and longer.

She said, “Maybe the sun had too much caffeine.”

Love that.

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Happy Friday, and have a lovely weekend!!

I’m behind behind
Not trying to humble brag
Thanks for being kind* 

*I’ve had to ask way too many people for favors (for babysitting, for extensions on deadlines, for moral support, for a hug) and I feel lucky to be surrounded by kind souls. That includes you, my friends.

P.S. I’ll be posting on Tuesday of next week instead of Monday to celebrate the official launch of Little Kunoichi!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ack!!

Here and Now

 

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I am dying. Dying of excitement for my book launch, of course, but also in the literal sense. Three years ago, when my thyroid condition — aptly named Graves Disease — was at its most acute, my mortality was a daily reminder since my immune system kept shutting down. Compared to that period, I feel practically invincible these days. I eat a lot more vegetables and I rarely get sick, but it still doesn’t change the fact that I am schlepping toward my demise, albeit slowly, every day. We all are. It’s the one certainty in life: we have an expiration date.

I took the bus to a meeting in downtown Seattle yesterday and observed my fellow passengers. The vast majority sat or stood with head bent, earphones blaring, transported elsewhere via their tiny screens. Except for two people. A lovely young woman wearing a striped shirt plunked herself next to me and pulled out a thick, hardback book from her designer bag. I cast sidelong glances as her aqua-painted nails flipped each page as she read. Flip, pause, pause, flip. She was a fast reader. And directly across from me, a man with an unruly tuft of beard sprouting from his chin (sans mustache) rested an obviously brand new copy of Remains of the Day on his rounded belly. I watched as he sank deeply into the chapter, occasionally turning the pages back to double-check on something. Maybe he’d forgotten a detail? Maybe he was verifying continuity?

At any rate, these two stood out in the sea of digitally-immersed passengers. Books can be distractions too, but I’ve always connected more deeply to myself when I read. Perhaps that’s just me.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about presence. The here and now, if you’ll allow me.

M said the other day, “When we have some money saved, we’ll go on a nice vacation.” Something fun to look forward to, to be sure, but then I wondered if that statement is actually saying “We’ll be happier/better when we have some money saved and we can go on a nice vacation.” It’s how most of my thoughts seem to be structured.

“I’ll feel content when I look more fit and this funky cyst on my cheek is gone.”

“I’ll be better when I have a regular income.”

“I’ll be happier when I finally get the house organized.”

I know that I’ve been annoyingly bringing up how I have so many deadlines, and last night I was furiously typing away while half-focused on cooking dinner, trying to meet an upcoming deadline. Then my neighbor texted me, inviting us to have an impromptu picnic dinner out on our shared front yard. “It’s so beautiful,” she declared, “we need to be outside.” The evening was glorious and balmy, borrowing summer weather for a night. I abandoned the laptop and my barely done soup, and she fed us chicken and green beans and crock-pot pinto beans. I contributed roasted potatoes, watermelon cubes and Sardinian crackers from Trader Joe’s. We sat on batik blankets, kids and parents clustered tightly together, chatting easily the way people who have lived in stone’s throw proximity for years can seamlessly discuss memories and future plans. But we were present, in the here and now (or is it “there and then” since I’m referring to the past?).

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A diagnosis for a debilitating illness is like a clarion call, a sudden honing of the psyche to bring to fore what really matters. When my endocrinologist told me how serious my condition was, I recalled the astonishing clarity I gained when I first inserted my contacts after squinting at everything for months because I was too embarrassed to wear my clunky glasses in middle school. I felt ridiculous that I’d been walking around blind for so long. Three years ago, I may have looked and felt like a hospice patient, but it forced me to take stock of priorities: Health. People. Truly meaningful activities. Everything else felt inconsequential.

It’s funny how remission and the passage of time will slough off the sharp edges of focus. Nowadays, I’m just as digitally-immersed and paradoxically disconnected as all those people on the bus seemed. I obviously need to learn the same lessons over and over and over.

I don’t know how much time I have left and though I’m certain that I’ve been able to push back my expiration date a good chunk by changing my lifestyle, I’d like to be better at pausing and being nowhere else but here, in that elusive moment. Not my forté, I admit. I’m a natural born planner and a worrier and a get-caught-up-er. But I want to be able to have spur-of-the-moment al fresco dinners, and leisurely read books that connect me to myself, and snuggle with my loves. I’m not aiming to shirk responsibilities or to go off the grid to meditate with a swami. I just want to stop chronically prefacing every idea with “I’ll be happier/better/more content when…” and be okay with what I’ve already got going on. I want to squeeze the good stuff out of the months, days, hours, minutes, seconds…like an industrial strength juicer to get all the vitamins and electrolytes and energy-boosters. And I also want to face the less-than-good stuff — the hurts, the frustrations, the disappointments and anger — without flinching and without falling into a self-imposed tunnel of gloom. A challenge of the highest order, don’t you think?

I’m just thinking as I write, as usual.

P.S. The topmost graphic is actually Japanese calligraphy from a book by Mistuo Aida that a friend gifted me almost twenty years ago. It translates to “Here and Now”.

P.P.S. The other drawings are by K, which I keep in my journal. They make me happy and seemed to go well with the calligraphy.

A Tiny Little Nani Iro Dress

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Good morning! This weekend I stitched up a teeny tiny dress for a friend’s employer’s daughter (it’s a long story), and I was flooded by memories of when I first started sewing for K. Oh, how I struggled back then! I couldn’t figure out how to attach a bodice lining; I remember being stumped by which function to select on my sewing machine to create button holes.

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And although things have gotten much easier and a whole lot less stressful in terms of sewing, I’ve become quite accustomed to whipping up t-shirts for K so I was surprised by how long this itty bitty sundress took to construct. Of course, because it’s a gift, I was extra careful with my stitching (not so with things I create for K) and didn’t rush anything.

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The fabric is a luscious Nani Iro double-gauze with metallic polka dots from Miss Matatabi. I lined the bodice with a cream cotton lawn from my stash, which should feel nice and smooth against the very chic recipient’s skin. I was happy to bust out my oldie but goodie pattern book, which K has long outgrown. Such a good book! I’m going to have to find more little ones to sew for because I just love the super small sizes.

I mean look at the difference between 90cm and 130cm, which is K’s current size:

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I actually made the same square-necked dress in size 120cm for K here, but I didn’t have a good comparison photo, so plopped this geometric one there instead. K was about 3 years old when she wore 90cm. I just can’t believe how much my girl’s grown in the last five years…

Anyway, the polka dotted sweet frock is on its way to California — bon voyage!

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