2020年9月22日火曜日

COVID-19 part...??

I think when the pandemic emerged, a lot of us were in denial, myself included. "It's just a flu" "Oh, we'll lockdown for a bit then go back to normal, that massive Cinco de Memorial Independence Labor Day weekend party is gonna be lit!"

It's now mid-September and life as we know it has changed so very much in the past few months.

As we headed into June, our curve was flattened and people were looking forward to starting up tourism, and with it, most of our economy again. In July, it seemed like that light at the end of tunnel was so bright and close as we learned to social distance, wear our masks, and slowly resume our lives while keeping the pandemic in the back of our minds. Chinami wasn't able to have a birthday party, but we had a whole week where we surprised her every day with something special, and she was able to attend a social distanced Summer Fun program in the park the whole month of July as well. 
And then in August, as we looked forward to school starting with a hybrid schedule and the same social distancing measures that had been successfully implemented in the Summer Fun program, cases spiked and we went into a second lockdown which is currently projected to continue through October.  Non essential businesses, parks and beaches all closed down and school started via Zoom classes and Google classrooms. Chinami and her classmates and teachers have been really doing a great job with this new style of learning.  

Unemployment has hit more and more snags and it's been difficult to get benefits due to their lack of staffing (aka our leaders lack of preparation). Yasushi's restaurant is still busy, they have had to go back to bare-bones staff due to dine in having been restricted again, but all of the delivery apps have been bringing plenty of to go business. Even then, we are still grateful for every week that goes by with the restaurant still in business. 

I find myself struggling with being bored, while trying to remain strong and positive for the sake of my family. I try to keep myself out of the void of endless mindless scrolling and political/COVID bullshit, and try to focus my energy towards getting myself to exercise more, sew more, draw more, cook more, and just do more analog things in general. My hope is that my kids will see me enjoying simple, labor intensive, productive activities and follow suit...and for the most part it has been working that way. They always want to take my workout stuff, they love to draw and sew with me, and we have been enjoying some interesting meals lately as well. We did bon dance/natsumatsuris every Saturday in our living room from June-August, and after the summer season ended, we've been learning about a different country every Saturday through cuisine and language/culture videos on Youtube. 

I have found myself thinking about the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Our roommate leaves in October and finding a new one is going to be challenging. Halloween is definitely going to be a different experience this year. Maybe it's time to focus more on the "scary" aspect and have some haunted house fun at home. Watch a scary movie, etc. Thanksgiving will probably be pretty lonely with just 4 of us, and Christmas is going to take a little effort to conjure up all the cheer and joy with the harsh economic realities, the cancellation of all of the parades and city lights/santa events, but somehow we will make the best of it. 

It's really the only thing we can all do, just get through this with an open mind looking for ways to enjoy what we can during these times. 

2020年5月2日土曜日

COVID-19 part 2

A whole month has passed since the official stay at home/shelter in place orders, and it seemed to go by pretty quickly. Having a daily and weekly schedule to follow, and keeping busy with studies, exercise, and fun activities has really helped us stay healthy and strong through this difficult time. 
Here is what we generally do daily:
7am-10am Relax, eat breakfast (the kids...I do 16:8 5 days/week so I usually just drink water and coffee or tea) do some quiet activities such as reading, writing, drawing, yoga, etc. 
10am- Play, get ready for the day, etc 
11am- Go outside for a walk and to pick up lunch from the local school
12- Eat lunch, watch Bill Nye or other educational show
1-3 Homeschool study
3 small snack/tea time 
3:30-5:30 music/exercise/video games
5:30 Shower
6-7 Eat dinner, watch anime
7-8 Get ready for bed, relax in bed with books 
8 lights out! 
Sunday is Yasushi's day off so we generally run an errand or two if needed, go to the beach or the park for outdoor time and exercise, and eat a good meal or two.
Monday is #MaskMonday and #MusicMonday, we sew masks in the morning and have a jam session in the afternoon.
Tuesday is #TacoTuesday of course, and we also do a T-25 video for exercise.
Wednesday is Yasushi's day off so same as Sunday. Since my hours at work got cut, I don't work on this day anymore, so 
Thursday is the day I go into work and bring the kids, so from 10-2 they listen to Japanese radio, read, play quietly, eat lunch/snacks and write/color. We do more T-25
Friday is #FitnessFriday and #FridayFeeling!! Chinami usually has two different Zoom classes on this day which she loves. We also try to enjoy something fun, like dancing on this day. And I take a break from fasting from Friday night thru Saturday as well, so I usually have a drink, eat some snacks and relax at night. 
Saturday is #StayathomeSaturday and also a day where we try to do a little more Japanese focus in Chinami's studies. We have a couple Zoom Japanese classes with our local friends, and we try to do something at home that we would usually go out to do, like making our bedroom into a movie theater, or a karaoke box. 

I have been mostly focusing on my time with the kids, however, I have also been applying for jobs left and right, signing up on countless freelancer databases, with most of them leading to dead ends. However I still believe that I will find something that is right for me and my family, and so I am not giving up. Luckily, the unemployment I filed for, and the extra CARES act benefit, finally went through after over a month of waiting for a status update, and for at least the next few months, I will be receiving over twice my previous income, and since I've been organizing and checking up on our finances over the past couple of months, it looks like 2020 is going to be a good year for us after all despite the hurdles life has thrown at us. After the pandemic is over, I definitely look forward to planning more trips to see our families in Japan and maybe even Pennsylvania again over the next few years! 

2020年4月7日火曜日

COVID-19

When 2020 started, I was in high spirits...after two years of so much growth and good news, I was optimistic for another year.

In January, a high school friend's grandmother in Pennsylvania passed away suddenly due to an intestinal hernia. I wouldn't have even really known this grandmother if it weren't for a project her daughter (my high school friend's mom) started and reached out for my help with earlier last year. This dear grandmother was Kimiko, the star of the book "My Wacky Mom" that was published last year. I was asked to translate the book into Japanese for her to share with her family and friends in Japan. Through this book I was able to enjoy many laughs and make an amazing connection with Kimiko. At the end of the year, I sent her a New Year's card with some Japanese snacks and mementos I picked up at our local market. Chinami also enjoyed writing her a letter in English and Japanese. Kimiko lived a long and happy life until the ripe age of 90, but nevertheless I was still saddened to learn of her passing. 
A few weeks later, we lost another wise and fun-loving soul from this world. My dear Sensei, who was like a grandfather to me, passed away from pneumonia suddenly on February 14th. He was a teacher, mentor, and friend to many and kept the beautiful traditions of Japanese court music alive so that his children, and others in generations beyond, can carry on the wisdom and rich heritage. I feel so honored to have been able to learn from him and to have fond memories of him to look back on. We had a small memorial at the classroom at University of Hawaii the following Sunday. 
After this, news reports from other places in the world started to trickle in about our rough flu season and a new virus somewhere in China. Most of us tried to downplay it, as the virus itself was terribly similar to a flu, and was mostly contained in China....until it wasn't. 
Nearly a month later, there were talks of "self quarantining" and "social distancing". The kids were starting Spring Break on Monday March 16th, and there weren't any guidelines in place, just vague suggestions, as plane loads of tourists still arrived by the thousands every day. So on March 15th, we enjoyed one day of fun at our son's 4th birthday party, which was attended by a modest crowd of 20-30, spread out amongst a whole 80+ capacity restaurant we were lucky enough to be able to use for the party. 
From March 16th, we voluntarily stayed in, keeping distant from friends, only going to the supermarket sporadically for essentials, and going on walks or to quiet beaches where we didn't have to interact with others.
From March 23rd, our mayor issued a shelter in place order, and from there it progressively got more strict. On March 26th, they issued a 14 day quarantine order for any travelers to the islands, and Japan followed suit with their airline arrivals as well, which was the last nail in the coffin for the Japanese tourism industry here. Most of the hotels and travel agencies closed for business with most of the Waikiki and Ala Moana retail not far behind. And following even more regulations for social distancing from our Lt. Governor, most of the supermarkets and stores that are open require masks, and only let in a small amount of customers at a time.
Like all restaurants, Yasushi's workplace has closed their dining room and converted to takeout/delivery only. The wait staff and a portion of the kitchen staff was laid off. My job has suspended most of their contracts, but there are still a few partners who we take calls for, although the calls are few and far between. All of us from the answering service now work from home, on reduced hours. Of course, when I was first informed that my hours would be halved, I was a bit worried. And now that I go through my shifts with the phone not ringing even once, I'm still worried. However, the bright side is even though I only work 16 hours per week, I'm blessed with a high hourly wage. We have a company bonus in April which is not effected by the pandemic, and we have our tax refund, and the stimulus coming our way over the next month, so hopefully we won't be struggling as much as we thought we would. I'm also using the extra time at home to pick up more freelance work and explore more remote working opportunities around the whole homeschooling thing.
For the first couple of weeks, we just tried to enjoy Spring Break as usual, having movie nights, lots of living room jam sessions, some video games, and we did some Spring Cleaning as well and got the toys all reorganized and more personal storage for Chinami up by her loft bed. Since we live in a 2 bedroom condo, which we rent one bedroom of to a roommate, both our living room and bedroom have to serve lots of different needs. Our bedroom is a play room, a family bed, and Chinami's reading loft/personal library. Our living room is a work space, family/TV room, music space, play space, and a dining room.
From last week, I gradually started to introduce some homeschool curriculum for Chinami and get everyone on a loose schedule. Chinami is in no danger of falling behind in her regular schoolwork...over the last week she actually finished the 2nd grade math course and moved up to 3rd grade, and she has been reading novels from 3rd grade level and up since the beginning of this year. So she's using this time to get ahead, and to catch up on Japanese as well, starting to really learn to read and write kanji at the Japanese 1st grade level.
So now, we start our 4th week of isolation. Schools are closed until April 30th, and pretty much every event and festival that we were looking forward from early March until June or so has been postponed or cancelled. Libraries, museums, and even parks are completely shut down. Living in an urban environment means shared green spaces and social events are such an integral part of our livelihood, so having everything shut down and our daily routine changed so drastically was definitely a shock for us. But as always, we are trying our best to just adapt and make it our new normal, and take everything one day at a time. Even if we don't have community events and social interaction to look forward to every day, we can still make the most of this family time and use it as an opportunity to make ourselves stronger and gain some different skills. 

2019年12月13日金曜日

Family outings

Another year has gone by so fast. In the past few months, I started another regular job at the local Japanese radio station which means I pretty much work full time....however my son still only goes to preschool 2x/week, and Yasushi is still the head chef of a popular restaurant, and it's not like we have the grandparents around to help out, so there are a lot of things that always need to be done!

I work hard but I also make sure to care for myself and make lots of fun memories with my rapidly growing children. As I enjoy spending time with my family,  and celebrating various holidays and festivals , I can't help but be reminded of the lack of such memories I have from my own childhood, and the memories I do have instead. Being a parent after the kind of upbringing I had is a constant journey of healing and learning like that.

~~~

Ever since I was little, I have always had an interest in learning about all kinds of culture and especially music. However, going out with my parents rarely did much to fuel my creative fire. I have very few memories of us enjoying and sharing quality time and learning together, and more memories of my parents merely dragging me along to work related events, loud, dark , crowded concerts of music I didn't like, or boring dinners at some strangers house. Sometimes I would end up feeling sick from the loud noise or the beginning of CPTSD related anxiety. As I got older, other family members and friends would take me out to sports events, science museums, church, carnivals, farm festivals and other things that normal kids and families did. Even if I wasn't super interested in everything, I was never forced to do anything and I was usually able to find something interesting about the event and appreciate the kindness of those friends and family. They would also listen to me when I talked about my own hobbies and interests. It was something I really needed as my home environment became less and less supportive and encouraging of my individuality.

Being the child of musicians, its not surprising that I have a bit of musical ability and a strong affinity for all things music. I always loved to sing, but my parents idea of enjoying music at home was playing recordings of their favorite music very loudly while I was trying to concentrate on something else. If I sang to myself or listened to some music I liked, I was usually belittled and criticized. After a while of this, I started to feel intense shame when trying to enjoy music at home. However, due to that thing called passion, I never stopped trying to enjoy music and sing. I always joined the school chorus and musicals, even though I had no confidence in my singing, I always felt good when I sang.

So when I moved out on my own, I finally had freedom to enjoy the things I loved without judgement and criticism. I joined campus clubs, music ensembles, and volunteered and participated in many kinds of cultural events. My parents called me untalented and my hobbies stupid and childish, and told me that I would never make it out there in the real world if I didn't change myself into something that they saw as acceptable. However, now that I was living on my own, in the real world, I only formed a wide circle of all kinds of supportive friends of all ages who shared the same interests.

~~~~~

And now here I am, a mom of 2 bilingual, bicultural kids who are 7 and 3, and learning how it feels to enjoy things as a family and cultivate a healthy, supportive home for my children. I'm so grateful for all the time we can enjoy together doing various educational family-oriented activities. Even though we don't have a lot of money to spend on leisure activities, there are always plenty of things to enjoy for the whole family that are cheap or free. I take my kids to outdoor concerts by all kinds of local and international musicians of all genres, zoo/aquarium/museum free admission days, library movie showings and story times, volunteer opportunities like park clean ups and nursing home visits, and cultural festivals and parades.

During the summer, Avengers Endgame came out in theaters and became the #1 highest grossing film of all time. I had never seen an Avengers£ film so I decided we would try watching the first Avengers movie. We enjoyed it so much that I decided once or twice every week we would watch a movie together and move through the MCU timeline until we watched Endgame.

Soon after that, we prepared for Halloween. Naturally, our costumes were little Iron Man, Captain Marvel and mommy Captain America holding the team together. We wore our costumes proudly going out to various movie showings and festivals during October, and on the night of Halloween we joined our hanai extended family for trick or treating in Kahala.

And just a short month later was Thanksgiving. Of course I planned out our dinner at home with family, but in the afternoon we were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a delicious homemade lunch at the Japanese church, and Chinami and I were the honorary entertainment, Chinami played and sang ukulele and I sang a couple Enka songs and we sang Speechless as a duet as well. Since we regularly have ukulele/piano/karaoke singing jam and practice sessions in our living room, it's great that we have these little performances to work toward. I always feel so proud and impressed when I watch Chinami sing and play music. The lunch was an amazing mix of traditional turkey and stuffing with makizushi, tsukemono, nimono and all kinds of traditional and Japanese dishes. And our dinner menu was the one I customize and fine tune every year for our family. This year we received gifts of Japanese sauces from a restaurant distributor and we had new crop rice from Japan, so I decided I would try marinating the turkey in a half gallon of teriyaki sauce and a bit of usukuchi shoyu for a day and stuff it with whole ginger while I roasted it. It was amazingly juicy and flavorful and the skin was sweet and salty! I made butter shoyu kale and cabbage, roasted some cauliflower tots and topped with kewpie mayonnaise, furikake and minced takuan, and we had salad and fresh local sashimi as well as the good rice. For dessert I made pumpkin butter mochi and purple sweet potato pie. In previous years I made wild rice and quinoa takikomi flavored like stuffing, and two layer green and orange sweet potato kabocha pie....our traditions are evolving to fit with our family's tastes. We also had plenty of drinks, snacks, movies and games to enjoy with friends and our roommate.

The day after Thanksgiving, we enjoyed a day of joining an ukulele jam group up in a beautiful home in the hills overlooking Koko Head and the ocean, and at night we joined a tree trimming party at a condo building in Waikiki, and even watched a little bit of the Waikiki holiday parade before going home for the night.

And now at our own home, our own decorations are up and our schedule is quickly becoming packed with the various parades, concerts, parties, and such for the Holiday season. We already spent this past week at two parades, a Christmas party for children at the Makiki district park, and donated to a charity event while watching performances at Ala Moana shopping center. This week promises more of the same, and during the school holidays we can enjoy at home activities like candy house crafts, Christmas movies, and such.  After Christmas,  we close out this year with our traditional Kohaku viewing party and start the next year with mochi pounding at Japanese church, and Gagaku and sechi-ryori lunch, and a blessing at the shrine.

I'm so grateful to be able to enjoy another full year with my family. I was so happy with 2018 already, but 2019 kept the positive trends going, mostly thanks to starting intermittent fasting and my new second job. My wish for everyone is the drive to do better for themselves, so they too can experience how amazing it feels to be healthy and happy, surrounded by a warm environment and supportive tribe.

2019年9月16日月曜日

Feeling so grateful. #SundaySalutation

So, the last few months and weeks in general have just been amazing. School started up smoothly with no problems, Chinami loves school and excels in pretty much anything she tries. Kairu loves his part-time preschool as well and the Japanese church group, the sports/motor skills clinic, and library storytimes I take him to.

Weekdays are usually pretty nonstop especially since Chinami has Japanese school until 5pm, but weekends are our time to go out to friends houses, community events, or if nothing is going on we just walk around the neighborhood, swim in our pool, or have an ukulele/piano/accordion/etc jam session at home.

We finally got to watch Avengers Endgame on Labor Day, an impromptu potluck with friends which was amazing, and then a few days later I turned 33 and we invited a dear friend for a homemade tomahawk steak and sashimi spread made by my "presidential" chef hubby, and watched Battle Angel Alita, and was gifted a nintendo switch by my family. On Friday, the kids and I went to a local kid friendly karaoke bar for dinner just for some fun and lots of singing. A week later, this past Friday night I hooked up a projector to my laptop and we watched Phantom of the Opera for the Friday 13th/Full Moon.

And now today, my husband and kids went to Ala Moana beach to play while I worked at the local Japanese radio station, at the Japanese cultural center building. My job is recording, editing and broadcasting a radio program from Japan with a 30 minute delay here, then DJ 15 minutes or so of music until I make the mixers switch to our other studio.
On my walk home I stopped by the Japanese supermarket that's also less than a block from our home, and picked up some things for our dinner tonight.
Satoshi winning the Alolan League is making worldwide headlines and trending on almost all social media. My kids are conversing with each other in Japanese as they play Pokemon on the Nintendo Switch.  Tonight I work in a call center where I'm expected to have a near native level of Japanese.
And I just feel so grateful that I'm here, living this life.
20 years ago, when I was 13, I became interested in Japanese anime and wanted to learn the language. Some people supported me, others just falsely claimed they did while simultaneously calling it a "phase"....or referring to my hobbies with racist slurs.

But just like Satoshi never gave up on his dream, I am here living mine...in Hawaii, with my happy, hardworking healthy little family.

Which makes me think of another aspect I really liked about the Sun+Moon arc of the Pokemon anime....Musashi and Kojiro both came from absent/abusive families and for the first time, in the Alola region, they were able to find a place resembling a home, a caretaker, and run a legitimate successful business. It really hit home for me since for me Hawaii was the place I found my dreams and my home as well. Yes, I have to work nights and a second day job and rent our guest room out, but it's worth it for this amazing life!


2019年6月5日水曜日

Intermittent Fasting Update - 2 months and 10lbs down!

I've been doing Intermittent Fasting for two months, and I'm happy to say my weight is down to 118, which means I've lost 10lbs or over 5% of my body weight in just two months! It was pretty effortless since I mostly slept during my fasting days.
I've also been trying to incorporate more exercise into my days. Sundays and Mondays I focus on family and resting, Tuesdays are tummy days so I try to fit in a few sets of crunches and V sits. Thursdays are thigh days so I do squats and wall sits. Wednesday and Friday I do 20-40 minutes of yoga, and Saturday I do 7 minute workouts.
However, summer has started which means I'm with the kids a lot more, which makes it difficult to do a 24 hour fast. So from June, I've decided to adjust a bit and just aim for doing 18 hour fasts 3-4x/week instead of 20-24 hour fasts twice a week.
It's so exciting watching my weight steadily go down and I feel so strong and healthy on the days I exercise. Now I just need to remember to be patient. I gained 18lbs gradually over 1-2 years, and it may take me as long to get it down to my goal, and as always, health is a life long commitment, not a temporary fad!

2019年5月1日水曜日

One month of Intermittent Fasting - Why, How, and results!

I often hear "gaining weight is easy, but losing weight is difficult." I've never actively tried to do either, but I grew up watching my mother struggle with yo-yo dieting, trying all the "fad" diets (Remember Atkins? and its still trendy successor Keto? and now gluten-free/paleo/etc) and getting down to around my size, then ballooning back up to "plus size" in no time. To me, it seemed like the problem was less about gaining or losing weight, and more about imposing unsustainable, unnatural restrictions on yourself only to go back to the exact same habits later, and be surprised when you return to the exact same state as before.

A little over a year ago, I started working for the call center and commuting 4 miles each way by bicycle. At first, it was kind of hard. My legs and core would especially be pretty sore the day after I worked. And then after a while, it became routine. And now, I have no problem riding 4 miles in 30 minutes, 6 times per week. And I generally enjoy making healthy meals with half the plate being colorful fresh vegetables most of the time.

However, sometime over the past few months, my weight crept up. Maybe it was the holidays, maybe it was the office snacks (always having a sweet treat with my coffee in the morning!) maybe my weekend glass of wine, whatever it was I needed to make a change. My weight which had hovered around 110-115 for the past 6 years or so except for pregnancy and immediate postpartum, had crept up to almost 130. For reference, when I lived in Japan I was at 125, and when I was in high school guzzling 2-3 sodas per day and thinking cheese/french fries or cheese/white bread was a legit meal I was 135. My pants were getting tight, my belly had a distinct soft layer, and I knew that it was time to do something.

So where could I make a change? Doing something like giving up all sweets, alcohol, etc. was unsustainable. I enjoy socializing and enjoying all kinds of foods and special occasions with my kids. Enjoying some cookies or cakes or a glass of wine on Saturdays wasn't the sole factor.

When I was at work, I usually snacked, ate something sweet with coffee for breakfast, and when I came home, I would eat something again before my nap. I realized that even though I was riding a bicycle I was still sitting for 10 hours, and then taking a nap at home. Was it really necessary to be eating at such regular intervals? Why did I just keep getting hungry again after a few hours?

Then I read about Intermittent Fasting. I read about the science behind fasting, the way it can regulate and reset digestion and blood sugar, and burn fat. Everything I heard so far about eating 6 meals per day, "keeping metabolism going" and "starvation mode" seemed a little far-fetched by comparison.

If I did a 24 hour fast. I could simply stop eating from after dinner before I went to work on Monday, and keep fasting until dinner on Tuesday night. On a fast, you were allowed to drink green tea and black coffee. On Tuesdays, I usually slept and recovered from Sunday and Monday nights work. If I fasted, my body would have a chance to recover as well.

I decided to try it, starting on April 2nd. Surprisingly, I only drank lots of water, a few cups of green tea, and a cup or two of black coffee, and I did get hungry for 10 minutes or so a few times, but I was able to fast for a whole day with very little difficulty.
I was surprised, because I always thought of snacks and chocolate as "fuel" or "quick energy". However, I found out that while I was fasting, I actually felt LESS hungry, and I felt like I had MORE energy, than while I was eating a cookie or a chocolate every couple hours!

I enjoyed the fast so much that I decided to do a shorter 18 hour fast from Wednesday night to Thursday. And on Wednesdays and Fridays, instead of eating the minute I woke up, I decided to wait until I did the 25 minute walk taking Chinami to school and coming back.

And then I did the same routine the next week as well. 24 hour fast, normal day, 18 hour fast, delaying breakfast until after a bit of light exercise.

After 2 weeks, I had lost 3 lbs, and I felt much better and more energetic.

And now, after one month, I am down 7lbs and have a lot more energy.

If I continue like this, I can see myself being able to cut down to 110lbs or so within another 2-3 months. And coupled with the addition of light exercise in addition to my regular 30-60 minutes of cycling and or walking every day, (planking at the park, yoga in the morning) this could mean an amazing transformation for my body. It's all very exciting, and above everything, it's sustainable. It's not some impossible harsh diet that I'm going to quit as soon as I've reached my "goal". I can keep fasting in my routine for life, tapering to a shorter fast or just once per week to reset and rejuvenate myself once a week.

I hope to update this blog next month with more progress!



Links about Fasting+Science:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fasting-benefits#section9
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156
https://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/are-there-any-proven-benefits-to-fasting