2017年12月13日水曜日

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 raised in 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 the fight.

Coming soon, hopefully 2018!



2017年12月6日水曜日

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 gray and black dust. 

I put the rest under a "jump" because the pictures are kind of disgusting.

My worst roommate experience ever (Chapter 2 of 3)


Chapter 2 - Ten Years Later

So here I was, with an open room for rent, having a baby soon, and really needing someone who could be trustworthy and maybe even helpful in the coming year. CM was in a dangerous place and needed a safe place to stay, but didn't have much money for a deposit.

I told him he could move in and pay the deposit in installments, and that I would be able to discount the rent if he helped out around the house to balance it out. And he needed to keep things clean this time. At first he seemed ready to actually put forward some effort. He always washed pots and dishes as he used them. He also was saying he wanted to go to a gym, he wanted to save money and move to the mainland with his new long distance BF, etc. He was working full time in the next city but now there were plenty of similar jobs to be had within 15 minutes of his front door. Things seemed to be looking up for him.


Unfortunately, he didn't keep that momentum.


He never "helped out."

For the first six months he lived with us, I know for certain that he never touched the vacuum or other cleaning supplies I had provided for his use. I reminded him that he needed to clean regularly and asked him to help keep the common areas clean, and renewed his lease at the same rent.

For the next six months, he still refused to lift a finger.
Just a couple of weeks after Kairu was born, Yasushi was sick with pneumonia. I was recovering from birth, taking care of a newborn, a 4 year old, and my sick husband. He knew and just avoided us and ignored us, and never even offered to help cook or clean.

I became unable to keep up with regular cleaning for a few months and when I finally did get time to clean the kitchen and bathroom again, I noticed the areas where he was keeping his things had obviously not been cleaned since before he moved in. His side of the bathroom counter was covered in thick black dust. When I asked him to keep his side of the bathroom counter clean, he wiped it -once- with a washcloth and bleach and left the dirty wet cloth right there on the counter for me to find later, and proceeded to not do it again for the rest of the time he was there.

The toilet was also a constant struggle to keep clean, as he was the only one in the house who seemed to have explosive, loose bowel movements several times a day and left evidence all over the shared toilet. In a house with two small children. I asked him several times and even texted him photos, but still I found myself cleaning up splattered feces from the toilet seat almost daily. Yasushi revealed to me later that he had been cleaning it sometimes as well.  






And then there was the smell. Every day, CM would come home from work in desperate need of a shower. And then just...not shower. Within a year the bedroom, namely the mattress, had started to take on a distinct odor. I asked him a few times to clean and deodorize the room. His response was to complain that he had already thrown out all of his food and taken out the trash and done the laundry so he didn't know what the smell was. But the smell was just getting worse.

The next lease period, I raised the rent appropriately to bring it back up to average market value and to cover my time and labor cleaning up after him. I gave him a warning to take care of his hygiene or I would have to ask him to leave.


There was no improvement. Eventually, the smell had gotten so bad I had to put one of these door draft thing under the door to keep that nasty odor form permeating the entire home. It worked pretty well, until he started complaining that he needed air circulation because it was too hot and leaving his door open on his days off. The smell was unbearable. I was putting odor absorbers outside his door and spraying Febreze whenever he walked through a room because the smell followed him and stayed in the air after he left. I was constantly running the kitchen fan, propping the front door and lanai doors open, and generally putting in a lot of effort to keep my house smelling not disgusting.

At some point, CM decided that spraying half a can of drugstore "axe man spice smell" deodorant/body spray on him every morning was a great solution to his body odor problems. Even though he was spraying it in the closed bathroom (which the can specifically says not to do), the fumes would fill the whole house and anyone in the living room or bedroom, especially my not even 1 year old son, would start coughing uncontrollably and need to go to the lanai for fresh air. When I confronted him about the fact that he was bringing harm to me and my children, he made some excuse about other ways of controlling body odor being "too expensive" (even though water is free and unlimited here) and complied for a few months or so before doing it again.

At this point, I started to seriously consider ending the lease or converting to a month to month and searching for a new roommate. I warned CM of this as well. Yasushi convinced me to renew the lease one more time with the argument "At least he keeps to himself, doesn't make trouble and he pays every month." I reluctantly gave him one last chance. I rewrote the lease with very clear, specific instructions and warnings on where to put his personal items and his obligation to not create a health hazard for our family.

And then in September, he didn't pay the rent until the 4th week of the month. He was usually late on the rent every month, always had some excuse, never tried to budget or change jobs or get a 2nd job despite how many opportunities there were right in front of him, but usually he paid sometime during the 2nd week of the month. But now for some reason he seemed to think not paying for almost an entire month would be acceptable. 

When I finally received the rent, I told him I would not be renewing the lease, and wrote up a set of move-out guidelines that clearly explained and outlined how to clean the room upon move out. As always, the guidelines were fair, reasonable and a bit generous. I simply asked that the room be free of all trash, personal belongings, and the surfaces wiped/sweeped/deodorized, which is considered standard for any rental property. I even gave him a grace period to have everything moved out and clean by November 3rd, remembering how he had overstayed previously. 

He moved about half of his things out on October 30th and went to stay there that night, and told me he would be coming back on the 1st with a truck for the larger items, leaving a pile of large boxes and things in our entrance before he left. Since he wasn't coming back for 2 days and I needed to use the front door daily, I had to move them back to his room.

He came back for the rest of his furniture and things on November 1st. He gave Yasushi the key and practically ran out the door while I was bathing the kids, mumbling something about giving us shelves and a fan to use. 

We approached the closed door with dread.

Even though it was in my full legal capacity to do so, I never did mid-lease/between lease inspections of the room. We had not seen the actual state of the room save for a glimpse or two when he opened the door. Whenever we did get a glance, we only saw that the room was filled with furniture, boxes, trash bags, piles of clothes, and so much clutter that you could not see the floor. And the overpowering smell gave us a pretty clear warning that the room had been very poorly maintained.

Another clue as to the state of the room was the state of CM himself. Over the two years he stayed here, he was in increasingly poor health. He could barely walk. His legs were always swollen, red and blotchy and he had to wear compression bandages for some kind of vascular issues he had. If he was standing up in the kitchen for a few minutes, he would already be out of breath. After walking the 5 minutes (10-15 minutes for him) from the nearest bus stop after work, he would come in gasping for breath like he had just been running for miles. He could barely carry even small, light packages and bags, and seemed unable to bend down or squat. He barely slept between his loud choking snoring and getting up multiple times at night to use the bathroom, and always seemed tired and grumpy. And when he was in his room, he always seemed to be constantly coughing and sneezing.

Some say I should have been a bit more proactive in trying to help him improve his lifestyle and health, but any suggestion I made was taken as an attack, and I was "fat shaming" or "job shaming" or "poor shaming", no kind of advice or constructive criticism, and no matter how far down he went, nothing seemed to make him want to improve his situation. He even seemed resentful of me and my family and our healthy, active lifestyles. When he came out of his room and I was stretching/doing squats before my morning bike ride, cleaning the floor, eating a healthy meal with the kids, coming home with my son on my back and carrying 10-15lbs of groceries, etc., even just watching a TV show I like that happens to feature healthy food or exercise, he always would look away frowning or sigh and pout. 

I was just keeping a small hope that since he is in his 30's now, maybe he would start taking responsibility for his life and start working on his physical and mental health, but in the end it seems like he chose to stay on his downward spiral. 

What we saw in the room was not just shocking and disgusting, but also pretty sad.

(To be continued....)


2017年12月2日土曜日

My worst roommate experience ever. (Chapter 1 of 3)

November is the month of fall harvests and Thanksgiving. It also has been a month of transition for us a few times now. Our first roommates moved in around November. And our second one as well, and now our third one.

In Hawaii, especially Honolulu, there are lots of people coming and going. Many people move here to enjoy the climate and culture, however living spaces are shrinking in size and growing in price. So it's not surprising that extended ohana living and room/house sharing are even more common here than in similar urban areas. We are lucky enough to own our home, but because of the high demand and the financial, social, and emotional benefits that having another adult in the home can bring, we rent out our 2nd bedroom.

Unfortunately, sometimes this arrangement can bring more hardships than benefits. And it really drove home the lesson I learned with my parents; if someone is consistently bringing negative energy into your life and cannot treat your family with basic respect, they need to go.

Our housemate this past 2 years was someone I had
already lived with once so one could argue that I should have seen this coming. However I tend to be an optimist and I believe everyone deserves one second chance. But as sad as it is, some people refuse to improve no matter how many chances are handed to them.



This cautionary tale is over ten years in the making.



Chapter 1- The beginning.


When I first started attending UH Manoa to study Japanese in 2003, I was a blond haired boy-crazy hard partying 17 year old "otaku." I joined the campus's Japanese Culture Club and Anime Club and made many friends. One of these friends is the main character of the tale, I'll call him "CM" as those are his initials and they also stand for "Coffee Master" "Crusty Mattress", etc. there are many descriptions that could work here.

CM was working towards a double degree in English and Japanese, and was already pretty far along in it when I met him. He lived in the dorms that year, and the following year he was commuting from his family's house a few cities away. I spent a year in Japan, and we agreed that when I came back we would look for a place off-campus to rent with a couple of other people, and split the cost 4 ways. Our 2 other roommates would be: CG for Cool Guy or Cheese Guy (he's from Wisconsin), another soon graduating Japanese major, and CM's long-distance boyfriend (CMBF) who would be moving to Hawaii and living with us as well.

We found a place, put about 1/3 of the deposit each (CG and I actually put down a bit more since CM didn't have enough money.) and CG and I moved in with our suitcases and we were set. Being in college and living here and there has a tendency to make you a pretty light traveler. CMBF also came with a couple of suitcases and was set up pretty quickly.

CM, however, was still not moved in. He called us and a bunch of our friends from the college to the home to help him move. His stepfather was driving a truckload over from the house. We had to wait for him until very late since he was several hours later than promised, and after we all helped him unload a dozen or two boxes of books and DVDs that he "needed" plus his desk, his bed, etc. he offered us nothing for our help. Well, at least he was all moved in now.

Or so we thought. A few days or weeks later, we started getting deliveries. A brand new couch, a huge pots and pans set, dining table and chairs, etc. Apparently, having thousands of dollars in student loan debt, owing over a thousand dollars to CG and me already for our portions of the deposit we paid for him and the first month's rent he was short wasn't enough. He needed to get a credit card and rack up thousands of dollars in debt there as well.

CG had gotten him a part-time job at the Starbucks he worked at, and the pay was minimum wage. CM earned about $700/month. He only took two classes per semester at that point. Yet for the year we lived there, he never went to class, never got a second job, and was constantly short on the rent. He ended up failing the same two classes three separate times each. He signed up, paid (well, FAFSA did) proceeded to not even bother to show up, didn't drop, got a failing grade, and repeated the same process another two times, which was pretty much equivalent to throwing his GPA and transcripts in the toilet and flushing.

There were multiple reasons for this. One was his new pursuit of being a "Starbucks Coffee Master". They had a program where if you studied and took a test, you would get a black apron, and no pay raise. So logically he spent large amounts of his own money on bags of Starbucks coffee plus various fruits, cheeses, snacks etc for "pairing" and doing "tastings" by himself and studying for this. I don't know if he ever got the black apron, but it doesn't seem like it would be worth throwing away 6+ years of a college education for.

Another was his boyfriend, who refused to get even a part-time job for the whole year he was living there despite there being multiple places within walking distance desperately hiring. CM simply wanted to stay in all day playing video games and watching TV instead of working or studying.
Or cleaning.

CG and I generally kept our clutter minimal. We lived out of suitcases, had a bowl or two to our names we washed right away after we used, and mostly lived off of leftovers from our jobs. CM thought that because he bingewatched Food Network that he was a gourmet chef, and he would use an entire set of pots and pans, plus several obscure ingredients he would buy full size and use a teaspoon of, to create whatever dish he saw on the TV that day. And then all the dishes and pots would usually stay in the sink for days, weeks, or months. At some point I gave up on using the kitchen and used the outside laundry sink to wash up my things. The living room was a constant pigsty except for the area around CG's couch, the dining area was littered with fast food wrappers and chicken bones, and the bathroom and CM's bedroom was disgusting as well. We had roaches and mice. CM regularly complained that no one cleaned. CMBF complained that people expected him to clean up after himself because he usually stayed inside all day literally doing nothing.

So to bring this chapter to a close, CG and I went our separate ways after the lease ended. We took our belongings, cleaned our areas, and got the hell out of there. CMBF went back to the Mainland. CM ended up overstaying for over a week, and was served with a bill for over $1000 in addition to not getting a cent of the deposit back.

I'm not sure what he ended up doing or where he lived after that or if he ever paid the landlord (because I know he never paid me or CG back). I heard here and there that he had attempted to go back to school but FAFSA blocked him again after another couple years for "Failure to make Progress" as he was just taking random classes like Food Science, Italian, Art, etc and not actually working towards any kind of profession.

As for me, I lived in a cheap sketchy room downtown for just my last semester, graduated, got married, moved to Japan, taught English, we saved up enough money for a downpayment, moved back to Hawaii, had a kid, bought a condo, you know how it goes.
When I moved back to HI, CM was a college dropout working retail minimum wage, and didn't seem to be able to hold down a job or stay in one place for very long (but it was never his fault, it was always them cutting his hours or the landlord being unfaaairrrrr). He was in a bad place, and I was looking for someone trustworthy to rent out our room to after our previous roommates moved back to the Mainland.



So I extended an offer.



(to be continued...)







2017年11月23日木曜日

World Prematurity Day, Suicide Survivor Day, and Thanksgiving.

As I was browsing on Twitter a few days ago, I noticed that November 17th is World Prematurity Day, and November 18th is Suicide Survivor Day.
Both of these days are important. Everyone should be able to have adequate and accessible prenatal and infant care, as well as mental health care and suicide prevention services.

But for me, having these days one after the other struck me as an odd coincidence.

My mother had minor complications when pregnant and birthing my brother, and then major complications with her pregnancy with me, I needed intrauterine blood transfusions and was born 6 weeks premature. After a lengthy NICU stay, I went home in doll clothes as I was still not big enough for newborn clothes. Also, needed to be constantly monitored because I was at high risk for SIDS.

And while I'm fortunate to not have lost a loved one to suicide, I am a survivor of multiple attempts by myself. The most notable attempt was almost 8 years ago now. Roughly two decades of physical and verbal violence and emotional abuse and neglect from my parents had resulted in a worsening battle with low self esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm compulsions, and panic attacks. On a particularly bad day, I wrote a letter to my husband and parents, took a large amount of pills, and passed out sometime after the paramedics came, waking up a couple days later in the hospital.

How ironic and plainly twisted that when I was touching the line between life and death as an infant, my parents were devastated, but when I approached the same line as an adult, they were indifferent to my struggles. Not even indifferent, they seemed to enjoy escalating my pain and tearing me apart over my teen and adult years.

31 years since I was born and overcame that first hurdle.
8 years since I almost took my own life.
5 years since I made the decision to cut toxic people from my life.

Now in 2017, I am healthy and strong. I am managing my demons and taking everything one day at a time. I strive to take care of my physical health and mental health. It has taken a lot of work and healing to get this far but I am thankful for every day now.

World Prematurity Day, Suicide Survivor Day, and Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

2017年10月20日金曜日

#ThrowbackThursday October 2007

This month 10 years ago, I was in a very different living situation.

I was a senior at University of Hawaii, living in one bedroom of a 4 bedroom unit in a complex in a very sketchy neighborhood for $500/month.

I worked at least 3 jobs on top of a full time senior course load. I was looking forward to graduating with a BA just two months later, and getting married and moving to Japan within six months.

Every day I woke up early, took the bus into town, went to class, went to work, ate my homemade wheat/veggie/egg sandwiches, drank my v8, and after going home I usually fell asleep on top of my computer or school work before being woken up by long distance calls from my fiance in Japan.

One morning, I woke up with a sharp pain in my lower left abdomen. I couldn't walk it off, sleep it off, I could barely stand up straight. I called my boss to let her know I wouldn't be able to come in, and she recommended I go straight to the hospital. I took a taxi to the closest ER where they found an 11cm cyst on my left ovary. I was immediately ordered to not exert myself physically until they could remove it surgically.

In October 2007, I had the surgery. It was a same-day laproscopic surgery, they kept me overnight because of my low blood pressure. I went back to my room, ate frozen TV dinners I had bought myself in preparation, and since I had the surgery on a Friday, I went back to class and work on Monday.

I was on fire. Nothing could keep me down, not even a medical condition and surgery. I had my goals right in front of me so close--graduation, marriage, and life in Japan with the most important person to me.


10 years later. 2017.

I graduated, I got married, I lived in Japan and worked 3 jobs there teaching English in preschools, cafes, homes, by telephone, and I got to do some other stuff too. We saved up and in just 4 years we were able to move back to Hawaii and buy a condo. I have two amazing children. I currently work one part-time job early in the morning to accommodate the hours I have to put in as a mother and housewife, and freelance as a translator/interpreter.

My growing issues with depression and anxiety were finally starting to slow me down. I was becoming unable to hide it or hide from it anymore. My children need me, so I became more proactive in seeking the help I needed. I cut toxic people from my life and kept moving forward. I don't need people around me who don't respect me or my family. I also don't need people around me who don't respect themselves and make excuses as to why they can't reach their goals.

My sense of self and identity changed as I became a mother and in my 30s. I felt myself stagnate as I gave myself to my children as they needed me.
But I think I'm ready to take myself back. At least for now. I'm ready to light the fire again. I need to show my kids who their mom really is, and pass on that fire to them.

More weights are being tossed away, and more good things are coming.



2017年9月23日土曜日

Various musings - Home ownership and Health


May- Mother's Day....bittersweet since I have to see/hear about how great other people's moms are, but on the other hand I got to spend a day with my kids eating pizza and walking around a botanical garden. 

June- Chinami's Preschool Graduation - an important milestone! We had a small ceremony and party at the school, and even though her favorite Aunty got her flowers and  a lei, I made sure she had a couple leis from us because local tradition is to just drape em all on until the grad can't see anymore. I never got any leis at my UH graduation so I'm going to make up for it with them! 

July- Chinami's 5th Birthday and Kairu's preschool debut. We had our traditional BBQ in the courtyard with Yasushi's fresh sashimi boat, and I did a Moana themed cake, swimsuit for Chinami, favors, etc. Kairu is a lot more shy and withdrawn than Chinami was at his age but he tries super hard not to cry when I drop him off. Tries is the key word. After the initial shock he does enjoy all the toys and songs, I'm told. 

August- the 3rd anniversary of purchasing our home. For me, 3 years is kind of a long time to stay in one place. I've been moving from place to place ever since I was a small child. The longest stay I had in white picket fence bumfuck PA wasn't exactly the most amazing time of my life, and the years after that I was moving in and out of places as much as 3x/year. So recently I've become aware of the fact that if I don't clean things, they may never get cleaned. There is no cleaning service, no move in, move out, nothing like that anymore. So it's my responsibility to periodically deep clean random things I've never cleaned before. Behind the stove, the door jamb leading out to the balcony, taking off the toilet seat and reattaching, many places I've never cleaned in my life are getting looked at. And while I was raised in a household where I was violently beaten for not tidying my shoes properly, surprisingly enough I was never really taught practical, useful information about cleaning, laundry, etc. so recently I have been learning a lot of new things at home. 

September- my 31st birthday. We went to a tattoo shop to get a consult for my long-awaited second tattoo! My first tattoo(s) were done at age 18 and 21, 3 flowers on my left pelvis, and they are all stretched out and spread out so time for some new and exciting ink to celebrate....well, to celebrate me being myself finally! I had a few designs I was thinking of but the one I felt closest to at this stage in my life was a pinwheel. 5 sides/colors to represent the 5 elements, a common theme in nature based religions and some pop culture as well. The pinwheel itself is derived from the pinwheels used to promote awareness against child abuse. Altogether it's a symbol of my true spirituality and love towards my children. A tiny little detail is a semicolon on the stick holding the pinwheel up, representing my struggle with mental illness and my past suicide attempts. The sentence is definitely not over yet! 
On that note, Yasushi took the initiative to get the whole family life insurance policies. It was a race to get all the paperwork done before my birthday to lock in 30 year old rates. And as I did the physical exams I was so proud and grateful that we are both in great health, very likely because we eat a variety of whole foods and stay active. Especially now that we have kids, it's so important for us to live out our full potential and be there for them as long as we possibly can, and also to set them up with good diet and exercise habits. 

The past few months have been good, and for some reason I feel like October, November are going to be even better. We are getting rid of more toxins and pollution from our home and hopefully welcoming more health, positivity, and motivation to be our best selves.