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.

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. I began to wonder if he was actually washing his body in the shower, because he seemed to still smell after he had taken his morning shower. Maybe his clothes smelled from being stored in the room. Either way, I'm surprised he never got complaints at his workplace from it. I certainly would notice if I were a customer of his. 

Anyway, 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....)


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...)


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.