Happy Friday + Randomness



A few months ago, I went to the Folk Life festival for the first time. It’s a music and street food bonanza and a friend was performing so K and I braved the heavy traffic and navigated our way toward the Exhibition hall. A swish and a loud collective gasp from a crowd stopped us in our tracks, and there, standing in the middle, was a juggler.

Now, I’m no juggling expert, but this guy was something special. First of all, he was dressed like Hansel from Grimm’s Fairy Tale (or at least how I imagine Hansel would dress) and he was lobbing massive bowling pins into the air. This youthful man clad in old-timey garb kept a running monologue going throughout his performance, which included adding other objects into the airborne pins — the highlight addition was a child.

K and I stood mesmerized and when he passed around a receptacle for donations, I readily tossed in five bucks. It was worth it. I was also struck by how he emphasized how he’s been practicing for 20 years, starting with little bean bags and working his way up to bigger items. “This is how I make my living folks,” he announced proudly. I was impressed. My husband would probably say it’s B.S. but I believe the juggler — he’s that good.

If he can make a living throwing and catching objects, I can do the same with my various skills, I reasoned. I’m a bit of a juggler myself, what with all this sewing, writing, illustrating and book-making. Remembering the Folk Life incident bolstered me, and I have finally finally worked up the chutzpah to put my little Furoku sidebar button and an explanatory page (it’s somewhat long-winded — I’m working on editing it). It’s a gamble, folks. But I’m willing to keep practicing and evolving.


The giveaway responses are so fun! I especially love the party stories and so far the unbelted look for the dress is winning out.

Your Furoku Six
Will arrive late on Monday
My mojo’s returned

Happy Friday + Monthly Income(s)


Happy Friday! As promised, I am continuing with the monthly income reports. M, K and I are, as I type this, frantically packing up for a last-minute super budget camping trip (how is it that all our trips are last-minute?) so I’m keeping this short and to the point.

My income continues to be mainly through the Furoku membership though I’ve unexpectedly sold a couple of pinafore/bloomers patterns via email. I tend to give more nitty gritty details about book sales and behind the scenes information through the monthly Furoku deliveries.

So. My June 2015 income was: $508.86 and July 2015 income was $524.22. Are you seeing the slow but incrementally upward trend? This brings our grand total from March 2015 to 2,389.09. Although all bets are supposedly off in terms of trying to reach $20,000 by the end of the year, I’m holding onto the goal to have something concrete to work toward. My little money-making fish is swimming against the tide with determination. I keep reminding myself that I am still in the beginning stages and am juggling multiple projects that will bear more fruit down the line. I have to remind myself a lot.

OK, I’m being called to figure out how to cram in sleeping bags into the backpacks. I hope you all have a wonderful, wonderful weekend and if all goes well and I don’t get eaten by a bear, see you back here on Monday!

To Dororthy Lake
We go with trepidation
K’s first camping trip

P.S. I’m still working on figuring out the sidebar thing, but here’s the Furoku sign-up just in case there’s more interest out there:


Email address (to get furoku):
Full Name



Monthly Income + Furoku Update


I’m in a bit of a quandary.

In putting together the monthly income report, I scrutinized the number and a self-conscious part of me thought it might be better not to announce what may seem like a piddling sum, though this sum represents so much goodness to me.

The goal, if you recall, is to see if I can generate an income of at least $20,000 a year doing what I love. It doesn’t seem like an improbable financial goal, does it? I mean, if I became a Dick’s Drive-In employee (purportedly Bill Gates’ favorite fast food establishment here in Seattle), I could earn that amount working part-time. With paid insurance to boot. I would, I hope, be earning the shift manager wage of $16/hr as opposed to the base wage of $11/hr because I did go to graduate school — it’s the least that degree can do for me since all it’s done to date was increase my debt. Then again, that debt and getting out of it was a tremendous lesson. Anyway, it’s sobering to realize that I could make more money flipping burgers approximately 20 hours a week; so far, pouring my heart and soul into writing, painting, sewing and taking photos a minimum of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week is generating $491.57 per month, at least for May. That brings us up to $1,356.01 from March. So in the image below, the tree=$20,000, the sapling=$1356.01, and the seedling=$491.57.


Many of those hours are spent creating a book that won’t see the light of day until next spring. I’m also diligently promoting a book that’s been on the market for less than two months and though Little Kunoichi is doing pretty well from what I can tell — I have no access to exact sales information until August — I still have to earn back enough royalties to cover the advance payment of $5,000 first. Who knows how high my books may soar? (or plummet, but we won’t focus on that)

A few folks have commented on how there seems to be an all or nothing mentality with these targets instead of letting things grow organically. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain it well, but I’m all for organic growth and would love nothing more than a slow and steady upward trend in skills, opportunities and financial solvency. It’s the best way to grow and patience is a virtue and in many ways I’ve been on the tortoise path; yet I also know myself and am perfectly capable of languishing without any forward momentum, just mulling, mulling, mulling.

I do well with specificity and deadlines and structure. I started this blog with a self-imposed deadline of posting every weekday — I wasn’t going to punish myself for missed days, but the clearcut schedule was great for me and I had plenty of time back then. For the first two years, I created a post every weekday with very few exceptions. At a certain point, book projects picked up steam, so I scaled back to three days a week, which I didn’t like at first, but after a brief adjustment period, I started to enjoy the consistency and achievability of the new pace. When M proposed the deadline and dollar amount to see if I can make a go at this new, rather vague career in making things, I was game. I like measurable, tangible progress. And I was intensely curious to find out if I could actually make an income on my own terms. In my arrogance I thought, “How hard can it be?” Three years seemed like a long time, and though I knew that the book process would take a while, it seemed doable.

It’s turned out to be much harder than I expected, especially when I can’t pull all-nighters or work myself to the bones anymore with my persnickety health situation. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have clearly overestimated myself. I thought I could finish and promote one book, complete the second book, start some sort of “creative” business, and handily meet my goal. Hmmmmmm. All those business podcasts make it sound so easy.

M has been watching me flounder as I try to juggle the blog, the books, the Furoku membership, and general home and childcare duties. “Flummoxed” is a good word to describe my mental state. “Let’s forget the goal,” he says, “we’ll make it work somehow, and you’ll eventually get there”. But now I have this weird attachment to the idea of hitting the $20,000, if only to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m also partly abashed that I made such a dramatic declaration of stopping the blog, etc. etc. if I don’t meet these objectives by the end of the year. Those stipulations weren’t mine per se, but still, I agreed to them. When I look at how events have unfolded in the last three years, I’m convinced that I’m on the right course, but my rickety, uncertain ride is painfully slow. Quandary. Or maybe there is no quandary since I don’t know what will happen by the end of the year, and no matter what happens, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve had these incredible life-changing opportunities. Ugh, I’m going in circles.


And oh, the Furoku membership. This, too, has been a quandary. I’m not entirely sure what the Furoku is. I know that I’m still lacking direction and though I carve out time each month to think long and hard about how I can best add value to this small but mighty group that is propping me up with their support, I feel a little lost and out of my element. I was so excited and scared (in a good, stretching-my-limits kind of way) about the whole venture. I made plans, sketched out ideas, talked to a developer (hi Steph!), consulted the stars of the sewing world, got a business license, even! I was bubbling with enthusiasm until I received direct criticism via email for the first time. I remember M asking me a long time ago, “What are you going to do when people criticize you?” When you put your words and images out there for public consumption in any way, criticism is inevitable, particularly when money gets involved. And it’s finally happened. As I suspected, I was completely unprepared. In the three-plus years I’ve been blogging, I’ve had only supportive and encouraging feedback, which has made me even more thin-skinned, like a Japanese paper balloon. The criticism immediately deflated me, and I began strategizing on how to shut everything down, cancel the second book (which is intensely personal), disappear somehow — Should I change my name? I wondered. That’s silly, naturally, especially since so many people have offered up kind words about both the blog and membership, so I’ve tried my best to move beyond the temptation to hide away…but I would be lying to say I wasn’t affected. I have heard repeatedly that feedback is a reflection of the person giving the feedback, and not the recipient. I agree with this, but it still doesn’t lessen the impact.

I’m going to continue the Furoku. I’m glad I started it, and I’m grateful that members have stuck with me as I keep experimenting (there have been discounts to great online shops, original illustration downloads, an exclusive interview with the fabulous Miss Matatabi, sewing patterns, and more). In lieu of monthly sign-ups, I’m going to put up a button on the sidebar where it will live, but for anyone interested in signing up, please know that this is still in its fledgling stages. Not only do the fees help me run this blog, enable me to work on book #2, but they also give me that gentle mental cushion that allows me to explore and exercise my creative brain in a way that is difficult to do when I’m panicked about having zero income. And the best part is assembling a special digital gift each month, which I still love doing. Hence, my $400 to $500-ish a month income may not sound like a lot, but it’s amazing how huge the psychological benefit is on multiple levels. And even though it’s incremental, my monthly income is increasing.

I sense that I’m not inspiring a lot of confidence in what I’m doing with these rambling posts, but one of the things I promised myself was to be honest about the entire process. Sure, I could gloss over the financial aspects, I could pretend that I know what I’m doing, but really, I’m just making it all up as I go. And if that doesn’t fly with you, I can live with that. And hey, if it comes down to it, I don’t look so bad in orange (the burger joint’s uniform color — Orange is the New Black, right?), and I bet I’d be a rockstar deep fryer operator.


P.S. Furoku #4 will be going out soon!


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


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.


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).


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


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.



Monthly Income Report + Furoku Membership Sign-ups



Before I go into my monthly income report, I’ve received several emails from people wanting to join the Furoku membership, so as promised, I’m opening it up again! I find it mind-boggling and buoying and humbling that folks are willing to travel with me on this admittedly undefined and slapdash adventure of mine. To sum up what was part of last month’s furoku, I receive the loveliest of comments from Kay:

Dear Sanae,

I received my first furoku and am totally delighted! Frankly, I did not expect much — I really joined to help you out in your big adventure but your furoku is worth every bit of my investment. Love reading your story, love the mini cards and yes, I did print them up on cream colored cardstock and they turned out beautifully! This was my first time doing something like that and it was easy with your clear instructions. Your artwork is gorgeous and I am oddly quite proud to be the owner of these original cards and can’t wait to use them. Not sure I like cutting out the envelopes but they are charming and really, the cards do need made to order matching envelopes. I was also touched by your donation of part of the proceeds to a worthy cause. And thank you also for the discount for fabric! This furoku was a big hit with me and I can’t wait until next month!

p.s. Cutting out the envelopes took very little time and they are so well shaped that folding is intuitive as well as professional looking. Also viewed the video and enjoyed it immensely!


It is quite possibly the most validating and motivating comment ever — thank you, Kay!! I know that I won’t nail it every month (and I’m sure that I probably didn’t even come close to nailing it for some of the furoku members…I promise to do my best though), particularly while I’m still working on book #2, but I have to tell you: I have so many ideas! My idea cup overfloweth. I want to be able to customize the monthly furoku as much possible and my ultimate aim is to create a very collaborative space. And guess what? The collaboration has already started…Per Kay’s comment, I included downloadable mini cards, and you can get a peek of one of them up at the very top (that little French bulldog up there is actually modeled after one of the member’s pups).

Then unbeknownst to me, fabulous Greta utilized Spoonflower to create this one-of-a-kind fabric with my designs (I made them copyright free in the hopes people will do exactly something like this) and sewed a dress!!!!! She sent me these photos:


Blown. Away. The Spoonflower fabric is cotton poplin, the pattern is the Geranium by Made by Rae, the skirt fabric is Joel Dewberry. I was so moved and was crying so much, K thought I’d broken a bone or something. Oh, I love the piping and the cute little buttons. Greta, I have no adequate words.


And other collaborations are in the works!! I have most of Furoku #2 done (it’s very different from #1), and I think this one will be really fun. It all still sounds amorphous, I’m aware, but can you tell that creative energy is abrewing?


Okay, onto the monthly income report. Aside from the one week of spring break, I’ve been channeling the kind of focus reserved for surgeons and snipers on book #2 (thank you SO much for the productivity tips, they’ve been super helpful!) and considering that I launched all this at the end of March, I kept my expectations very low. The total came out to a little less than $400 — $377.81 to be exact — but I’m flabbergasted that I have anything to report. I’ll reserve the details for members, but I had a couple of income sources in March. It’s daunting, seeing the $20,000 column looming over the tiny sliver of March 2015…However, Little Kunoichi is about to spread her wings into the big wide world, I’m narrowing down which products to create/sell and who knows how things will shake out by December 2015?


My hope is that by July, I’ll be in full membership website development mode. If you’d like to join to have a major say in how the membership site will be crafted and get a unique digital gift every month, I hope you’ll sign up if you haven’t already:

[UPDATE: removed until next month!]

I’m still trying to figure out the whole tracking thing with subscriptions (technology is not my strong suit), so will keep the button up until the end of next week, and will re-open sign-ups mid-May-ish. A million thank yous for all the encouragement and support!! I am so very grateful.