Category Archives: Life

Upper Limit Problem

june-flora4

“Earth laughs in flowers,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson — the earth is guffawing uncontrollably around town and I can’t stop taking photos of the blooms during my daily walks. I find the pink varieties particularly arresting, but I’ll always pause to capture an image of white flowers too. I’ve also been wandering down memory lane and contemplating, as I’m wont to do when I celebrate a birthday. The actual celebration was quiet and understated with my favorite people, just the way I like it. I don’t enjoy big parties and I prefer not to be the center of attention.

I’m solidly in the middle-age zone, though I feel younger than when I was in my teens, more playful. Part of it may have to do with having a child, and part of it might be because I had to grow up so quickly with immigrant parents who needed a lot of language assistance and now that I no longer carry that weight of responsibility, maybe I’m making up for lost youth? Mostly, as I grow older, I don’t care about how I should act as much. A few weeks ago, I was at a cafe as usual, and got up to get a cup of water. Something felt odd, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. As I adjusted my skirt to sit back down, I realized that part of the skirt hem was tucked into the waist of my tights — an unsightly view to be sure of my exposed derriere for the people sitting behind me as I poured myself water. Note to self: double-check after going to the bathroom. Oddly, I wasn’t all that embarrassed and even chortled to myself. The tights were opaque, but I’m now well aware that no one pays any attention to me. When I was younger, I would have packed my bags and immediately rushed out of there, completely mortified. Aging is a liberating thing.

june-flora

A while back, I mentioned my genius brother, and for a very long time, I cared greatly about how I should act and noticed how — for all of my life, really — I’ve been surrounded by insanely high achievers and elite performers. My high school friends went to Good Schools. A disproportionate number attended Ivy leagues, and at every turn, I seem to loiter into groups that appear to have an unstated pre-requisite of extreme accomplishment and pedigrees.

I played the overachiever game for many years. I’m Asian after all, and that’s what we’re programmed to do. The problem with the overachiever game is that the competition is ulcerously fierce and the need to disguise any effort to achieve is even fiercer. The Mt. Olympus climb to attain God-like, societally defined success is taxing enough, yet you’re supposed to get there without breaking a sweat. The internet has, of course, magnified this age old problem to the umpteenth degree. I’m making my stoic Japanese ancestors weep in their graves and am terrible at hiding my efforts, and it was only through undignified and blatantly obvious sweat, blood and tears that I’ve garnered whatever I was able to. It’s funny, when I had the book presentation at K’s school, she later came up to me and said, “Mama, you were so sweaty! You turned bright red and tried to hide behind your book every time you wiped your forehead.” Case in point. I’m no smooth operator and I found 100 kids to be nerve-wracking.

june-flora2

I cockily thought that with all my lifestyle changes and life lessons borne out of severe illness, I left all of that overachiever nonsense behind me, blowing on my nails in a symbolic gesture of “whateverrrrr,” as K would say in a tween-y, bored voice. Not so. No, not at all.

I’ve been experiencing mixed emotions with the Little Kunoichi launch and can sense my old dual neuroses of overachievement and sabotaging tendencies furiously straining to come out, like a two-headed dog ready to tear everything in sight to pieces. On the one hand, I want my books to do well. Really well. Slight problem: I hate promoting. Just hate it. But spurred by my inner straight-A-student and a compelling need to make a living, my business un-savvy brain has been trying to come up with ways to market it, imploring bookstores around the city to carry copies, asking people to leave Amazon reviews, reaching out to online media and other publications, attempting to get martial arts studios interested (quite a few fails on all counts). These things are incredibly hard for me. At the same time, I paradoxically get scared that my hackneyed promotions might pay off and that the book might actually exceed expectations. I’ve heard this latter fear called the upper limit problem. I Googled “Fear of success.” Then I felt so presumptuous and silly, I quickly closed the browser.

june-flora5

The unfortunate side effect of constant comparison with a genius brother is that I assumed that I wasn’t as smart or talented or [insert desirable quality here] as my sibling, so my default is to always assume I’m lesser in every situation. In recent years, however, in my introspective, psychobabble way, I’ve been suspecting that it wouldn’t have mattered if my brother hadn’t been Einsteinian. I would probably still find a way to create false upper limits by comparing myself to someone else. Some people get motivated by upward comparison, and I, too, become motivated, but I also convince myself that I could never reach such exalted heights. Yet it doesn’t stop me from trying, all the while feeling like it’s a fruitless attempt. Confusing? Why, yes.

june-flora3

The solution is, of course, to stop with the comparison and to not think of the end result at all and enjoy the journey as all the platitudes assure me. And then there’s the whole business of defining success. I was actually doing great on this enjoy-the-journey front and ambling toward my own definition of success until the book launched. When this amorphous and previously unlikely concept of becoming a published author/illustrator turned into reality, words like “New York Times Bestseller” and “Caldecott” started whispering in my ear, teasing me and seducing me with the status boost they would give me. The overachiever in me pants with delight. This is embarrassing to admit, but I stood in front of the Bestseller shelf at Barnes & Noble the other day and considered moving the copies of Little Kunoichi next to Dragons Love Tacos, just to see how it would look. To pretend, you know? What’s interesting is that I would never move it to the #1 slot — maybe somewhere around #8 or #9. What does that mean? That I’m deluded, surely, but also that I can’t imagine myself at the top for even a purely hypothetical exercise. I’ll allow myself to dream of hitting the bestseller list, but I won’t allow myself to dream too big. That’s just way too scary. My saboteur will then come up with five trillion highly logical reasons I will be humiliated for even voicing this dream. It’s an upper limit problem that is also a spectacularly first world problem.

It’s difficult to talk about this with people, and I’m having a bear of a time figuring out this deluge of conflicting, jumbled emotions. I’m happy, yet terrified. I’m humbled, yet yearning for validation. I’m buoyed by confidence, yet painfully vulnerable. As we used to say when K was a toddler, I’m having big feelings. I think I need to go eat chocolate. A hedgehog-shaped chocolate, to be specific.

hedgehog-choco

What about you? Do you ever find yourself creating arbitrary upper limits, thinking “I can’t possibly do that“?

Happy Friday + Randomness

samurai-hat-origami

Happy Friday! I had such a lovely time yesterday at the University Book Store storytime. The staff was warm and welcoming, and a sweet group of toddlers and adults gathered around a circular kids’ table as I read aloud Little Kunoichi. We followed up with a simple origami craft (samurai hats!) and I also created a little coloring sheet to go with the origami activity. This whole putting-a-book-out-in-the-world process continues to be surreal, and one of my favorite parts has been the charming, funny, and downright amazing stories people have shared with me. At the reading, a woman named Erin asked if I would sign the Little Kunoichi copies she’d brought from home, and as I scrawled away, she recounted her daughter’s reaction to the book and I was — as per usual — in tears (the daughter’s reaction was positive, thank goodness, and the tears were grateful ones). I was so moved that a real-life little girl struggling with school felt a kinship with the book and was encouraged to keep trying. Erin had serendipitously just written about it here. Thank you, Erin, I am deeply humbled.

*************************************************************

Perhaps you have a little one that might enjoy a coloring sheet? Feel free to download it from here. And if you’re interested in making an origami samurai hat as well, instructions can be found here.

coloring-sheet-origami-web

*************************************************************

It’s been quite a week! Between the flurry of school activities that fill the end of the academic year and book shenanigans, I’m zipping to and fro, trying to keep up — I’m looking forward to a calm weekend. I hope yours is calm and fun.

Oh, it’s happening
One year older tomorrow*
I’m a June baby

*Each year seems to go faster and my birthdays are piling up. I can’t help but visualize calendar pages fluttering like a flip book. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idiom “in the fullness of time.” It used to be a common repartee, the equivalent of “whenever it’s ready”. I’m fond of that phrase. Despite the surface sense of rapidity, I feel like life events have been unfolding in the fullness of time…

Serendipity

serendipity1

I’m a sucker for serendipity. I asked about coincidences for a giveaway a while ago, and delighted in the comments. And to date, this one is still the best serendipitous moment I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I’m about to go into major photo shoot mode for book #2, and for the past few months, I’ve been doing some prop scouring. I knew I wanted some vintage-looking ephemera — particularly a film camera — so I’ve been casually browsing through thrift stores and flea markets whenever I could.

I wasn’t having much luck in finding what I had in mind, and one day when I was taking a walk around the neighborhood, I noticed that a bookstore near my house was having a close-out sale. Although I’m a huge aficionado of book shops, this one was dedicated to all things nautical (not my particular interest), and always appeared closed so I had never been inside. I’d sort of suspected it was a front for nefarious activities (given the maritime theme, modern-day pirates, perhaps?). Curious about the sale, I walked in.

They’d already cleared out the books and all that remained were shelves upon shelves and odds and ends that seemed out of place. A baby carriage, for example. The shop had been around for more than a decade, apparently, and the owners loved to collect paraphernalia. But now they were moving out of state, and wanted none of it.  And then I saw it: the vintage camera.

serendipity2

As I beelined for the camera, I also spotted wooden spools and awesomely distressed wooden crates. I was smitten with the “Happy Home Brand” crate and snatched it up without hesitation. It pleases me immensely that the box used to contain figs from Seattle (I like to paint figs. In fact, I happened to be doodling some a couple of days ago, which you can see below). The Schwabacher Brothers were enterprising Bavarian-born Jewish merchants that dabbled in various businesses, and in one of their stores, they “sold everything from a needle to an anchor.” My kind of guys.

figs

 

I’m excited to include my new-to-me camera (and the crate and spools) in the upcoming photo shoots. Right now, it’s resting on the most current draft of my book — 230 pages! I need to finish editing (and cutting a lot out) by next week, and when I look at all those pages, it feels a bit daunting. We’ll see if that sewing I had been looking forward to will actually happen.

serendipity3

But the point is this: you never know where you’ll find the treasures you seek. I certainly didn’t expect to find them in a mysterious bookstore, but that seems appropriate, yes?

 

Limiting Beliefs + Monthly Income Report + Furoku Membership Sign-up

moon-cage

The husband tells me that I have a Teflon shield of hope and optimism. He says that this is both my greatest strength and my Achilles’ heel. “You’re too optimistic,” he advises, “you need to be more realistic.”

What does that mean, being “realistic”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. In many ways, it seems to me to be another word for limiting beliefs. Or a way to make sure you hold your hopes in check to avoid disappointment. To remain caged, as it were.

***********************************

Over the weekend, I had two presentations for Little Kunoichi. I mentioned the one about the bookstore, but I also had another one the day before at K’s school. The contrast between the two presentations was striking.

Presentation 1 at K’s school: 100+ kids, a slew of teachers, riotous Q & A with endless questions from the audience, a better-than-expected sales, and many lovely words of encouragement up on offer.

Presentation 2 at the bookstore: 2 kids and 2 moms. 7 people, counting the awesome employee Jessie, K and her friend, who sat in the audience to make the space look less empty. Actually, it was really only 1 child and his mom that showed up for the reading, and the other mother-daughter pair was roped in because they happened to be in the store at the time. I messed up reading my own book (accidentally skipped some pages), no questions were asked, and I led a disastrous origami demonstration. One book sold.

I loved both.

I learned a lot from the presentations (never ask 100 kids to look for a hidden bunny in the middle of a reading, and make sure to know how to make the origami project before teaching it). In both cases, I couldn’t believe I was physically sharing a book that was just a blip of an idea two years ago. I told the gaggle of kids during presentation #1, “I’ve wanted to write and illustrate books since I was your age. It took a long time for it to happen, but it did.” Small faces nodded up at me in what felt like solidarity. I told the one kid who was old enough to speak at the bookstore, “Thanks for coming to the reading!” He stared at me for a moment and said, “I’m hungry.”

***********************************

Back to being realistic. The odds of “making it” as a book author and/or illustrator are stacked against me. My editor for book #2 told me that the vast majority of authors have day jobs, and I don’t have the courage to research how many books are actually sold on average despite the backing of an established publisher. If I looked at the numbers, I would toss my current manuscript out the window and would never have proceeded with Little Kunoichi. I would go find myself a nice office job in downtown Seattle with a 401K plan and call it a day.

Then I think: If I were realistic, I wouldn’t have gotten married. What would be the point when half of marriages dissolve?

If my mother had been realistic, she wouldn’t have left Japan to go to Germany when she was nineteen — she didn’t speak a lick of Deutsch. Which led her to go to NY, where she met my father. If she hadn’t been so unrealistic, I would not exist. That would make me sad, even though I wouldn’t exist to be sad.

If all people upheld realistic as the universal measure, our human history would be as bland and as uninspired as overcooked rice porridge (something my mother would give me to soothe stomach aches). No inventions. No scientific discoveries. No art or music or literature. No internet. I mean, can you imagine how unrealistic the internet must have sounded fifty years ago? I’m obviously not of the same caliber as the great artists and discoverers, but I’d like to lean more in that direction.

I don’t mind trying things that may not work out. Because how can you know without trying? And even if they don’t work out, I’m annoyingly good at finding lessons in adverse situations. It’s a curse and a gift (it’s a curse because people want me to stop making everything a teaching moment – this reminds me of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid illustration where Greg, the main character, gets scratched by a cat, and his mom is kneeling beside him saying something like, “Okay, spell it with me: C-A-T”.)

I’m prepared to be hugely disappointed or devastated by the failures. The problem begins when I use “being realistic” to stop me from trying what I truly want to do — I’ve become certain of this. The word is often used as a crutch or interchangeably with responsibility and it urges me to focus on a paycheck or some socially acceptable mode of behavior or activity, and this too makes me wary and weary. As I grow older, I see how wise my mother is. I told a friend once that my mom could eke out food from concrete, as resourceful and creative as she is. She defines life with possibility and inventiveness, not with brand names, a business card or a false sense of security.

shield

I believe there’s a difference between foolhardiness and this so-called shield of hope and optimism that I seem to possess. I can always go get the job with the 401K — of this, I have no doubt — but how often will I get the chance to create books? To blog about things that matter to me? To forge an as-yet-undefined-but-potentially-wonderful community through the Furoku membership? Sure, I could put these things off for later, tomorrow, next year, but when that time comes, will I actually do it? I doubt it. I’ve already spent way too many years putting off things I really want to do.

I have a lot of realistic, limiting beliefs, of course. I’m also starting to get criticism and this only feeds into my natural tendency to doubt myself. The thing is, I’m training myself to turn a deaf ear to them unless it’s helpful somehow. To shore up an underused belief in myself to combat these thoughts. I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s pretty hard.

My book readings may have audiences of zero or bazillions (goodness, I hope not. The stage fright!). My Furoku membership may grow or not. I may not be able to make anything resembling a “real” income doing the things I love, because, as my little painting shows below, my target amount of $20,000 (the moon) is still far, far away and the year is almost half over and blah-blah-blah. Sometimes I have really high moments of “Yes!! I can do this!!” and other times…well, that’s me on the ladder, and to date, my total income is $864.44, of which $486.63 was from last month (thank you, Janome Gnome, for suggesting that I illustrate my income monthly reports).

climbing-to-the-moon

But that’s okay. I’m just going to keep trying my best, and maybe, just maybe, it will work. And if I go splat and have to sheepishly admit defeat? Well, I’m always full of optimistic ideas and hey, I still have 7 more months to go.

In the end it doesn’t matter because right now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in spite of the doubts that try to take over, and that, my friends, trumps being realistic.

******************************

P.S. I’m keeping sign-ups for the membership open until the end of this week, May 31st. Furoku #3 is in development!! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the full story.


Email address (to get furoku):
Full Name


furoku-member

P.P.S. The unrealistic bet for Little K to make $100,000 is still on — If I win, M will get a Little Kunoichi tattoo. I loved all of the tattoo placement suggestions! If you feel up for it and truly liked the book, please leave reviews on Amazon or any other bookseller sites – this will help promote Little Kunoichi!

P.P.P.S. I think I will finally be able to share some sewing later this week. I miss sewing for fun!!!!!

P.P.P.P.S. I’ve been remiss and didn’t honor Memorial Day to acknowledge the men and women who serve and have served our country. Many, many thanks.

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

young-authors-day

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.

*************************

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…

Happy Friday + Randomness

white-peony

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!!!!
*******
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.
*******
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?

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.

**********************************************

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!

 

Happy Friday + Call for Pattern Testers [CLOSED]

in-progress

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!]

*******************************

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.

*******************************

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.

*******************************

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

 

ima-koko

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.

k-dog

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?).

k-creature

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.

Happy Friday + Randomness

seattle-mag-lk1

Happy Friday! Hey, Little K’s in a magazine! The book got a nice write-up in the May issue of Seattle Magazine, available on stands now. I loved that the fact checker asked if the islands and body of water shown in the first spread actually exist. The answer is no, and in fact, I forgot all about it until now, but I made it so that the islands form the Japanese character for “people” or “hito“. I don’t know, I thought that would be fun. I showed you the progression from sketch to final here. The other two books featured — Arrow to Alaska and Elliot the Otter — are also Spring titles from Sasquatch, so I’m in great company!

I’ve been burning the midnight oil behind the scenes on various book-related projects, and thanks to all the great productivity tips I got from you, I accomplished an enormous amount this week and I tell you, the timer trick is the way to go. I’m prone to procrastination and am an incorrigible over-planner so it can be a deadly combination.

******************************

The winner of the pullover giveaway is Melinda, congrats!

******************************

Thank you so so much
Love that furoku members
are growing slowly*

*I’ve never expected nor wanted a ginormous response, and for me, this gradual and steady pace feels just right. There are no guarantees, of course, but it’s starting to feel like I’m actually going to achieve my end-of-the-year goal!

 

Post Navigation