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.

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....)