Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make sure I do all of the things that I know put me in a good mood. Aimless painting is one of those things. I grab a piece of paper, and just paint whatever I see or am thinking about.

kaizen3I appear to think about clothes a lot. And flowers.

I have to confess that I’m not loving the Mon-Wed-Fri blog schedule. It’s throwing me off and I don’t know why. I used to get a tingly, energized feeling every day as I pondered, “what will I write/draw/sew/photograph for tomorrow?” The daily schedule (with a little breathing room on the weekends) kept me on my toes, forcing me to think of variety. I thought that by reducing the days, I would focus on quality versus quantity and free up much needed time, but I feel like I’m becoming too predictable and rote. I’m having difficulty describing it — I love routine, and clearly don’t mind doing the same thing over and over, but I don’t like things to feel stale and stuck. Sometimes when I’m writing my posts, I pause and wonder, “Wait, have I written this before?” Is this what a rut is?


Recently I found out about this Japanese word, kaizen. I must have been listening to a podcast, or maybe I read an article online. It translates to “good change” but is more about incremental improvements. Baby steps. Slow and steady progress. It’s a bit like beginner’s mind but with a sense of purpose to continually improve. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the word, and realized that I’ve been standing still mentally — worse, I’ve been a hamster running on an ever-dizzying circular treadmill, going nowhere. Not that it should always be about striving and goal-setting and achievements, but what I thrive on is learning new skills, being okay with mistakes and just plodding along reveling in the process, chortling to myself at my ridiculousness the whole time.

This second book I’m working on is hard for me. Not in the way it’s hard to go to yoga or eat a salad instead of pizza — something you know that if you do it, you’ll be better off. Hard in a Oh-God-I’m-totally-sucking-at-this-and-feel-like-I’m-rehashing-blog-content-and-they’re-going-to-ask-for-my-advance-back-except-I’ve-already-spent-it-on-my-supplies-and-summer-camps-and-maybe-I-should-use-a-pseudonym sort of way. Every time I hint that this whole book business isn’t all kumbaya, I feel horrible and that I ought to be extolling how lucky I am and how great it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dream actualized, but I’ve done and am doing a few things I don’t recommend for anyone else.

For one, I agreed to produce something in a timeframe that I knew was super tight, ignoring that I’m not twenty anymore when I could churn out 50-page papers without sleeping for days. Starting in the summer was also a terrible move – camps aren’t cheap. Then my perfectionist self started to weasel itself into everything I did, and the joy of creating steadily leaked out, leaving an engulfing sense of ennui. I began comparing myself to everyone who’s ever written a book, and let me tell you, that’s a buzz kill in every way. I was riddled with this need to prove myself and then my brain would shut down from feeling inadequate. Basically, I’m taking myself way too seriously. And that’s never a good idea.

Luckily, my editor seems to have telepathic powers and offered me an extension on my first major deadline and a little extra time in general. I was so grateful as I was panicking that I was going to turn in something I wasn’t at all proud of, and that would have sent me over the edge. I glommed onto this gift of time and decided I needed a major shift. I had to get back into my kaizen mode again, which is what made blogging and sewing and everything else so fun and gratifying. The thing is, when I’m disgruntled while making something, I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be fit for no one.


So I’ve been enjoying the last days of summer with my family and friends, hanging out in coffee shops writing, painting/drawing, reading, exercising, sewing and organizing. This little reference sheet is something I’ve been yearning to do for months. I cut out the little labels that the watercolor pans come wrapped in, stuck them on cold press paper and added little painted splotches so I can match up the colors with their names. It pleases me that it’s a little wonky and uneven, but it’s functional and (I think) beautiful. The set itself is gorgeous. The watercolor half pans come in a wooden case with a ceramic mixing dish. I feel extra fancy when painting with this set filled with a whopping 70 colors.


After neglecting my tolerations list for several months, I finally tackled quite a few items this week: fully rearranged and streamlined the master bedroom closet; K and I finished painting the living room trim that I left half-undone 12 months (!!) ago. Ticking these items off of my list makes me breathe easier, inches life forward in small measured improvements.

I’m working on the book too, and not just cavorting in the sunlight or busying myself with freewheeling and unessential projects, but I can tell that pairing the book-making with tried-n-true activities that add a dose of kaizen is helping me slowly but surely regain the enthusiasm that was waning. I heard this quote by Brené  Brown the other day: “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just be yourself”. It’s her mantra, and I just might have to steal it. I was trying to puff up in trying to act as though I know what I’m doing with this behemoth book project (or at least it feels that way to me), then I shrunk into a puddle of excessive self-doubt, but all I can do is be myself and hold onto what I know to be worthwhile.

Why is that so hard to remember?

In lieu of a haiku, here’s a poem K wrote for me this week. It just about sums everything up:


Our minds are as wide as the universe

Our thoughts will come and go. The sun may rise
The wind may whisper but love is deeper than the ocean below.
The song of heaven the angels sing.  good Things
The future will bring. I feel Love. My heart is touched
I have a person Loved.*

*I took the liberty of editing it just a touch.

P.S. I’ll continue with the M-W-F schedule just a little longer, but you just might see me back here daily again soon…



14 thoughts on “Happy Friday + Randomness

  1. I really appreciated your realness in today’s post- thank you! Are you familiar with Wendell Berry’s poem The Real Work? I find it to be a comfort when I’m going through times like you describe.

    1. I absolutely love that poem and it’s been a few years since I’ve reflected on it — thank you for the reminder, Kris! I also read “Fidelity” by him a long time ago and relished it. Simple and wise and brilliantly constructed. Sigh.

  2. I love your organized color sheet! how nice is to see this explosion of color, I bet your fingers itch to paint every time you have a look at it.. You are so talented and those books are going to be fantastic! although I can imagine that “hamster” state, you just have to get out of the wheel and have some nuts :P…I mean just to change the sate of mind 🙂 Happy weekend Sanae!

    1. I do get itchy to paint every day! I leave it out on my work table and it makes me smile every time I pass by. Thank you for your encouragement, Maria! You’re so right…gotta stop for those nuts! 😉

  3. I think I know how you feel with your books. You know, the first… yes I can do it if I am well organgized. Then yes, I’m all fired up and ready to go. Then this is hard, I don’t know why I am doing this. Then what am I trying to do? Then, just make a start. Come on just work until coffee break. Then, I think I am going to be ok.

    I go through things like that. And It is not so hard. Those feelings just kind of come and go, and they really are ok.

    You are doing great with your book! Just keep on doing it. Cause you are going to finish it and you will be happy with it.

    1. The crux is “Then, just make a start”, don’t you think? Once I do, I forget the anxious thoughts, but it’s the in-between, the just-before and just-after that get hairy…Thank you for the wise words, Max!

  4. Encouraging you from afar in your quest to find the balance you are seeking. Knowing that despite your doubts, your book will be amazing simply because you do nothing less. That’s not to put pressure on you (sorry if it feels that way), but a fact of reality – you have such high standards and keen design eye that it will be a delight to behold and read. Be gentle with yourself. Sending you love and hugs:)

    1. Thank you, Lucinda! I so appreciate the support 🙂 I’m not sure I have high standards, but I do seem to create impossible standards much of the time if I let myself. “Be gentle with yourself” is an excellent mantra! xo

    1. Isn’t the poem wonderful? M and I marvel at K’s talent. We’re biased obviously since I’m sure all 8-year-olds are just as insightful and creative, but it’s such a treat to watch her explore with words and art supplies and music!

  5. Your little one is wise beyond her age… The poem made me a bit teary eyed. It was good for me, too, to hear that just now. Thank you for sharing and thank you K!
    I believe the process you are going through is quite “normal”. Wouldn´t it be strange not to experience self-doubt and anxiety? And you seem to have found a good solution. Feed that source of happiness and well-being inside you and from there everything else will flow! And, even though on another level, I think what works for you and your blog will also work for your book. The way you are writing your blog, finding projects to post and things to write about seems to be a tried and true process for you. I think you can learn from yourself! You don´t have to invent something new. Also I hope, that your book will be an extension of your blog, this is what I love and woud like to see much more of! I don´t think you have to worry about rehashing blog content. Seeing your desings and paintings and words in a book will be so much more than your “digital self”. Oh, the power of books! Have great weekend. Hugs!

    1. Thanks so much, Ute – your words feel like comforting hugs! I’ve been given specific instructions not to talk in-depth about the content of my book by my publisher, but since I’m a one-trick pony, I’m assuming that no one will be surprised by how the book turns out. Fingers crossed that it will pass muster!

      And yes, my K is like Yoda!

  6. That is a neat word. Hang in there! I’m struggling to find the balance in life as well. Your posts always bring me a bit of peace and loveliness if that makes you feel better. Keep up the good work!

    1. That does make me feel better, Em! Thank you so much!! Cheers to figuring out priorities and a kind of “balance” that works!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *