End of summer!!!

Even though it's always summer in Hawaii, this year was Chinami's first "summer vacation" since she finished her first year of Kindergarten in May. I was lucky enough to be able to enroll her in our local Parks and Rec Summer Fun program which was right within our budget and filled her days with lots of new experiences, friends, and memories.
She turned 6 and had an amazing party during the week (that had a quick burst of drama when our property manager accidentally forgot my reservation for the BBQ area the afternoon of!) followed by a Chuck E Cheese outing with Summer Fun on the actual day of, an outdoor festival seeing her favorite Tongan Sisters singing group and local ukulele players, and then a big mermaid/cosplay/geek meet at the beach to round out the weekend!
This Wednesday, she starts 1st grade. and starting the Monday after that, she will be attending Japanese school on top of her regular school. She's only just turned 6, but she is facing a lot of new challenges and adventures, and growing up so fast.
For the past few months, Chinami has been asking about getting her hair cut. She has not had it cut a single time since she was born--it has just been growing wild all the way down her back! So I made sure that she was serious and secure in her decision, we looked at different hair styles together, and I had her discuss it with her Auntie who happens to own a salon and is extremely talented. We thought about it and decided to cut it in a style that suits her cuteness and her wildness. And since she loves the color purple and has had colored extensions before, I asked her if she wanted a couple purple highlights and she loved the idea. So this past Sunday, we celebrated the milestone-Chinami's first hair cut. I now have 12 inches of beautiful straight brown hair to donate to charity, and Chinami has a layered chin length asymmetrical bob with a bright purple streak framing her face. She looks even more confident and stylish if that's possible. I'm so proud of what a smart, strong and cool girl she has become.
So all the shopping, all the paperwork, all the checks, everything is all done and lined up for the new school year.
And while this has been going on, we've had another plan in the works. Since Kairu was born, and then we got life insurance as well, we've been playing catch-up with finances a little bit, and haven't been able to save up much, but we decided that it was time to stop putting it off indefinitely and take our next family trip--this time to my side of the world, Pennsylvania..with a couple days in NYC for some family fun. It has been almost 7 years since I was there last, and I would really like to see some of my family (mainly my grandparents, who aren't getting any younger..) and friends again, and give my children their first glimpses of some of the scenery and cultures I grew up with.
As for my parents...well, I've waited 6 years now for them to reach out in a positive, empathetic way. They could have contacted me via a public forum, taken me up on one of my many suggestions of family therapy, personal therapy, a diagnostic visit for their peace of mind, etc. They could have shown concern or empathy towards me instead of judgement and hostility. I am always willing to give someone a second chance. However, their silence has told me exactly what they really feel about me and about my whole family. I don't feel any anger towards them anymore. Just sadness and disappointment. And a bit of pity for them, they won't get to meet my amazingly cool daughter and my adorable charming son. Their loss!
So this month I will be securing our lodging for the week, Broadway tickets to see Anastasia (the star just so happens to be someone I went to high school with....) and thinking of all the yummy things I'm gonna eat :D


3 month probation...

As I wrote in my last entry, I started my new job almost three months ago. And it's been so refreshing and rejuvenating! I get along well with everyone, I can improve my Japanese skills, and it really feels like my college degree, experience in Japan, experience here, and life experience in general is really coming in handy.  I also get to have some time to myself, sometimes at night after I put the kids to sleep, sometimes during the day when they are at school, and it's been really great to reconnect with myself. Self-care is so important after spending so many hours of my day tending to others. An hour here or there to watch some TV, drink some wine, eat some chocolate, is such a blessing! 
I was worried about the bicycle ride. It only took me 15 minutes at the most to get to Waikiki. Getting across town seemed impossible! However, thanks to our city's bike lanes, it actually takes me less than 40 minutes. And if I put on some music, it's a pretty enjoyable half hour of solid cardio. So not only do I get higher pay, a more challenging work environment, and room to learn and expand my workload in the future, I get 180 minutes of moderate cardio/week! 
I was worried about staying up for overnight shifts. But the human body is an amazing thing, and if you take the time to make sure it is in good shape, it will reward you by helping you achieve whatever you need to.

After the horrible experience I had renting my room to someone I knew, I have been extra cautious when welcoming new guests into the home, but luckily our family has been blessed with some amazing new connections over the past few months. A wonderful teacher from Switzerland, a young student from Japan who we took in after she was being abused by her homestay hosts, both short visits but their presence had really enriched our home and reaffirmed that having roommates can be a good thing. 

The bad experiences and ups and downs I've been having from last year really showed me that everything happens for a reason. Cleaning up a destroyed guest room was revolting but showed me how bad things can be when you neglect your own physical and mental health. Dealing with the real possibility of losing my job and my family's health insurance forced me to take chances I wouldn't have otherwise thought about, and I came out with a better job. 

I'm glad I finally sat down and typed something out, but I should probably get to sleep. Tomorrow is a busy day. There is a festival at Shirokiya that will be held on every last Sunday, which one of my college friends was instrumental in organizing, that I feel will open some interesting opportunities for me. After that, in my neighborhood there is a party for the Blue Zones Project, a movement dedicated to helping everyone in our city live long, healthy lives by promoting the ideas of fitness, plant-heavy diet, and community. And then after that, we welcome another new roommate who is moving to Hawaii for a year-long work assignment. I hope she enjoys being here, as we will enjoy having her. And of course, since it's a Sunday...that means after everyone is settled in and the kids are asleep...I'm off to work! 


Goodbye, ASAICHI life.

Today, March 24th, was my last day at my job.

Way back when Chinami was born, we were a struggling low income household just trying to make it in Hawaii. I was doing babysitting and freelance translations and transcriptions while being a stay at home mom to Chinami. After she turned 1, I made the decision to start putting her in a preschool and working part-time. However the schedule and cost of preschool was prohibitive to any jobs I could find.
I found a job that made it work. A part-time position at a well known "elite" Japanese travel company. I would start at 4am and finish by noon, and be on a full-time schedule. My title was "ASAICHI", or "morning no. 1!" and my duties were to safely guide our guests to the airport, make sure they boarded their planes to the neighbor islands, and then go back to the office and do office work for a few hours.
My airport duties were very simple and the customers were usually very kind. The office work was a bit more challenging but I enjoyed the mixed Japanese/local environment and got along well with everyone. However my job duties changed after a while, and I was being sent out to "help out" with customer service departments. I felt redundant and not challenged. It was around this time I found out I was pregnant with my son, so I took this as a sign and I reduced my hours to part-time, and concentrated on only doing the airport runs as I would be able to continue these no matter how everyone else's schedules changed.
And I continued with my schedule after Chinami started kindergarten and Kairu started part-time preschool. Yasushi and I coordinated our schedules and for the most part, things went smoothly. I joked that I would probably be doing this job forever.
However, the writing was on the wall. The number of passengers in the bus every day were very gradually getting less, and the cost of the staff and transport was getting to be disproportionate to the amount of profits. My company did what made the most sense, even if it was a difficult decision for us. They contracted my job (and my 3 co-workers' jobs as well) out to a different local company, to combine transport, cut costs, and maximize savings for the customers and profits for the company. And I fully agreed with their decision.
They gave us this news in January. The new contracts would begin April 1st. They also gave us a variety of options so we could decide to stay within the company if we wished, or we could try and find a job somewhere else and they would support us with unemployment papers, etc.
At first, I looked through the job list and shook my head. Mostly 9-5 office jobs. Impossible with kids in school and a chef husband.
I looked elsewhere. There were a lot of jobs I was interested in, such as companions for the elderly, house cleaning, night auditor, overnight security guard, overnight concierge, ESL teaching, but there was always some reason I gave up. I don't have experience, I don't have a driver's license, they never answered my inquiries, etc. Strangely enough at this time, people I had hardly talked to started getting in touch with me again with job opportunities. One fell through almost immediately, and one stayed in limbo for a long time until I was called in for an interview....this was a Japanese teaching position in a private high school. I made it until a final interview with the head director of the school, but in the end the position was offered to one of the other candidates, possibly because I didn't have specific high school Japanese teaching experience. At this point, it was March. I started to get anxious.
If everything else failed and I was desperate.....well there was always the supermarket and the fast food places down the road to put in overnight shifts.
I looked at the job list the HR rep had given to me. There was one position that sounded intriguing. A call center. With overnight shifts. But native level Japanese ability was required. It sounded pretty difficult, but maybe possible.
I started getting super stressed over the possibility of losing our family's insurance even temporarily. If I become unemployed or underemployed, we would be without insurance, ineligible for Medicare but still struggling, and the only choice would be for Yasushi to take a pay cut to get insurance through his job.
I went to the interview, and got the job offer 2 days later. And they offered me an hourly pay that was higher than my current job, and higher than many of the other jobs I had been considering.
So yes, it was a very rough couple of months and it was not helping my anxiety and depression, but I pressed on and I never gave up on myself, the job search or my mental and physical health. Just like most of the difficult experiences I've had, I can learn from it and keep building and growing.
And now I feel like I am free from that lifestyle I was living for the past 4 years. Every day, I had to make sure I slept before 9PM at the latest, or else I would be extremely anxious about my ability to wake up for work. Because unlike a normal wake-up routine, I also had to take care to wake up as quietly as possible as not to disturb my family. Even on my days off, I had to take care to keep a similar sleep schedule, or else it would mess up my body's rhythm. I rarely went out after dark, even for kid-friendly events. And not being home in the mornings, even on holidays, meant I had to say "no" to a few school and social obligations as well. So even though I'm sure the next 3 months of probation/new job training will be pretty hectic, and the start of my overnight shifts as well, plus a 4 mile commute by bike will be pretty exhausting as well, but I will have a lot more freedom in my schedule with this new job.
I'll miss my 3 co-workers, the rest of the office, and all the drivers and staff at Hawaiian Airlines, Airport Security, TSA, etc. etc. Everyone was so friendly!
My first day is tomorrow, an 11 hour shift! I think I will go to bed a little later than usual tonight. And then I will wake up a little later. I think I'll enjoy that.


Missle Scare

On the morning of Saturday, January 13th 2018, just as I was getting back to the office from another day of airport send-offs at my job, my phone went off.


I paused. Looked at my phone. Two of the office workers were chattering on the phone worriedly, I showed them my phone and they nodded, continuing to call around and try and decide what they, our other office workers, and our customers should do next.

I fiddled with my phone and opened my radio app, turning on 105 KINE. Then our local NPR station. Both were playing music as usual.

My husband called me. He asked me what was happening. I explained that the warning told us to take shelter, but there was no way to get a live update. He told me KHON was not doing any live newscast. We agreed that in any event, being together was most important so I prepared to hurry home.

However, the lack of live updates struck me as odd in such an immediate emergency situation.  I quickly set up our little analog FM radio I had at my desk and spun my way through all the stations that would come in, only hearing music and commercials. It was now maybe 5 minutes since the initial alert message.

I walked out of the building and before unlocking my bike, decided that if I was gonna go, might as well have my last words be something nice. So I tweeted.

"If this is my last tweet let it be known I love my family and ohana 🚀😭🌈"

Then I saw Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's announcement that it was a false alarm.

I called my husband to let him know and was able to breathe easily and ride home normally.

Updates from our local news media, TV, radios, etc and the follow up alert to our phones did not come still for another 15, 20, even 30 minutes after the initial alert.
Even though I am grateful that it was a false alarm, I feel that this kind of response is unacceptable. We can do better. People were panicking, speeding on roads, putting children in manholes, calling loved ones, etc.

I was brought up in the '90's, when Internet was a new thing. For someone my age, common sense dictates that in an emergency you should be listening for further updates and instructions from your local news or radio. The actual instructions after the monthly tests also state this.

Yesterday we were let down by our media. Shame on our TV stations and our radio DJs who just continued with the car lot commercials and slack key guitar hits while people panicked.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard proved herself as a competent politician, leader, reporter to the people, and decent human being when she went on Twitter to quickly send out the confirmation that it was a false alarm as soon as she knew about it, citing her sources. I hope she runs for President someday, she's got my vote. However she now has a substantial burden on her shoulders now should we ever get a similar alert in the future, because I am not the only one who realized that in an emergency, our local TV and radio stations will most likely let us down, while real reporters take to Twitter and social media to convey the latest information.

I guess times are changing.


Happy New Year!!

Time flies by so fast! It feels like I just barely rung in 2017, now 2018 is already here.

It was a hectic year, but we had some good times.

Chinami turned 5 in July, and started Kindergarten at a charter school which is a short walk from our home. She has had a great first semester, breezing through her lessons (her reading level was already high from the start), making new friends and strengthening friendships with old friends, and being a good student. Her ukulele playing has also taken off, and she can play from tabs and by watching videos and other players.

Kyle turned 1 in March, and he has been growing so fast! Chinami has always been more outgoing and friendly even as an infant, and Kyle always seemed more shy and withdrawn, but over this year he has really opened up and gained some confidence! We go to Japanese playgroup on Mondays, he goes to preschool by himself on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Fridays sometimes I take him out to the park or library. Until Chinami went to kindergarten he kind of followed behind her, but now that it’s just him and me, he has adjusted and shines all by himself now.

This year in June, Yasushi had the honor of serving a private course dinner to a very special guest--our former president Barack Obama and his family. He was under intense pressure but Mr. Obama and guests were all very pleased with the meal, and the President himself had a second helping of the dessert Yasushi had prepared--a matcha mousse with bean paste, strawberries, and ice cream. The press from Mr. Obama’s visit made for some very busy days for him since.

We also have a new roommate for our second bedroom and she is really clean, courteous and friendly, just a really great change for us and I'm happy to have her in our home.

As for me, I have been doing my best to keep myself and the household up and running. I still work part-time at JTB just early in the mornings, and I have been doing freelance translations and phone interpreting when I can, and recently I have started doing private English and Japanese tutoring as well.  I'm planning a new project to launch in early 2018 and I am so excited. The timing is perfect, with the 10th anniversary of me graduating from UH Manoa having passed this month, our 10th wedding anniversary coming soon, and my daughter in kindergarten and my son turning 2, I'm ready to start something new!

I hope 2018 is a great year for everyone!


Inspiration!! ......motivation.....

Inspiration After Chinami was born, my parents estranged themselves from me, plus my husband and any kids I had. and would have.

It was unfortunate but ultimately the best decision. Chinami is 5 now, and Kairu is almost 2.

I feel like if they really wanted to make things right they would have at least tried once by now.

My mother obviously has the means to get my contact info as she demonstrated by threatening us,

and I also did leave the door open with suggestions of therapy and or mediation for us if they are

willing. No contact from them until this point tells me that we are likely not worth enough to them

and they really don't have the capacity to love unconditionally. It's a shame but it's something I am

coming to accept and move on from. Lots of good healthy habits, positivity, and making a good

environment for myself has helped.

After Kairu was born, I've been feeling something else. A desire to rediscover myself. A desire to sharpen and hone my skills and put them to honest use. I feel like I've put a lot on hold to raise my kids. But what exactly? In Japan, I was an English teacher. I also made YouTube videos. I also drank and partied and occasionally rode the back of a motorcycle. I didn't exactly establish a career or even a specific skill set. And now I'm 31. What do I want to do? All I've been doing for the past 5 years is breastfeeding, changing diapers, cooking, cleaning, working part time taking Japanese tourists to the airport while using impeccable Keigo, and I feel like not much else. People tell me I'm doing an amazing job but I feel so useless. Social media has been a blessing and a curse. I've become more engaged but more distant at the same time. I started working on efforts to bring more Japanese TV into our home for free or low-cost, and at the moment we've settled on watching Japanese Hulu using a VPN. My kids enjoy watching shows like Anpanman, Shimajirou, etc. and they are getting some Japanese input instead of just English from Netflix. However, I had a thought the other day while I was in the office doing some mundane highlighting/folding/stapling tasks. My kids are born and raised in Hawaii. All of the Japanese TV shows are for Japanese kids raisedn Japan. My kids and kids in general seem to get excited when they see something on TV that

corresponds to them in their real life. It's one of the reasons Pokemon Sun and Moon is so exciting

for us. But all of these Japanese kids shows generally show a lot of things that you would find in

Japan, but not Hawaii. Bullet trains, cherry blossoms, fall leaves, etc are all things that don't even

exist here in Hawaii but in Japan they're a pretty common subject in the media. So I had an idea...

If I successfully carry out this project, I will be able to use my Youtube knowledge, social media savvy,

my Japanese, my experience working with and raising kids, my music, my costume designs, my art,

and even my kids can help out if they are able to!

(I already asked Chinami to write me a song on the ukulele, we'll see how that goes) I plan on having

Chinami play a part but she will be wearing a mask to protect her privacy. And if I am successful it will really give validation to these years I've spent kind of neither here nor

there. It will really help me come full circle. But it is a big if. Since I had the inspiration I've been totally motivated, writing out plans and planning

the accounts and coordination, working on names, logos, structure, etc. But it only took one tiny little

thing yesterday to bring it crashing down. I think I will be fighting for this. But I think it will be worth tfight.

Coming soon, hopefully 2018!


My worst roommate experience ever (Chapter 3)

Chapter 1

Chapter 2


Chapter 3 - The Clean-up

We opened the door and were immediately overpowered by the stench, dust, and what we later found was mold. Yasushi could only be in the room for maybe a minute before he was coughing and sneezing, much like CM had been but worse since he wasn't used to it. I didn't last much longer than him and we both felt sick for the rest of the night. 

What we saw upon walking in was a full trash can, trash and debris on the floor, every surface covered in thick dust, stains all over the floors and walls, and the room filled with miscellaneous objects that we never asked for nor needed. The fan and shelves he "gave" us were completely covered in dirt and dust. Warning: the pictures are kind of disgusting.