*Merry Christmas! I hope everyone was able to enjoy the holidays so far!

Even though I always try to remain positive throughout the holidays, I unfortunately can't sugarcoat everything. The pregnancy hormones and everything have been a bit difficult to cope with this time around, and since I stopped taking SAM-e for my C-PTSD, my symptoms have been coming back, and now since I am officially in my third trimester, I have decided to start taking it again. Even though extensive studies have not been done on the long-term effects on babies, there have been no birth defects linked to the supplements, and it has been considered safe to take in the 3rd semester, and in my case, the benefits are definitely going to outweigh the risks.

In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, I was able to enjoy some holiday traditions with Chinami, such as watching some great local Christmas parades, sharing my favorite Christmas movies with Chinami, riding the McCully Shopping Center Christmas trolley, and finding a Santa to meet that doesn't charge $20 minimum for a picture (This year we unfortunately missed the Makiki Christmas event, but we went to Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki and took a picture with their wonderfully tropical themed Santa.) We also had some awesome new experiences such as the School of Deaf and Blind's winter fair, complete with a pile of ice cold snow in the middle of the field for everyone to play in! And on Christmas Eve, I took Chinami to the beautiful Central Union Church for their Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, where we watched a kid-centered version of the story of the birth of Jesus. Chinami often goes to church with her Aunty Lia and Uncle Papi so she was excited when I told her we were going to church, and she kind of showed me what to do. I also feel that it is important to teach Chinami about the Christian aspect of Christmas.....We also did have a makeshift menorah made with LED candles that we lit together on each night of Hanukkah, and I had a smaller green Christmas tree that we decorated with more earthy, Yule-themed ornaments.

On Christmas Day, I had to go to work but I was able to get home around 8 am, make some waffles and we had our present opening time before Yasushi had to go to work. After that, we cleaned up, tested out our presents. Chinami got a riding toy and minion toys from Daddy and an ukelele, minions toothbrush, puzzle, new shoes, Inside Out sheets, and other little practical things from Mommy...she spent most of the morning sitting on the riding toy and strumming the ukelele to an audience of little Minions. I put some lamb, beef, garlic, onion, mushrooms, seasonings, and wine in my new electric 7-in-1 pressure cooker, and plugged in my vacuum/steam mop and gave everything a good cleaning!
Then we headed out to Manoa to visit our other ohana, exchange presents, and make gingerbread houses! I always do it every  year using graham crackers, pop-tarts, and icing and marshmallow fluff, and this year we had so much Halloween candy that I saved a bunch of things like taffy, etc. that we don't eat anyway and we used it to decorate our houses! And then we went straight to Waikiki, bought some sushi and headed to the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon to eat our dinner by the ocean, and then enjoyed the weekly fireworks show. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy and we couldn't see the beautiful full moon, but the fireworks were great!

This Christmas, I was especially pleased to be able to show my gratitude and appreciation for the loved ones in my life. I was blessed with the opportunity to work at a honey stand selling some of the most delicious honey until the beginning of this year, and a few months ago I started working at the only true gathering place for new parents interested in the best and most natural things for their babies, plus a full cafe with a range of organic teas and a menu of healthy and delicious food. So this year for Christmas, I put together various gifts of tea and honey and sent them out to my loved ones.

So now that Christmas is over, it's time to transform our tree into a New Year's decoration, and make sure our home is clean and organized for 2016. 2015 had its ups and downs, but I'm looking forward to meeting our son Kairu in 2016 and continuing to heal and grow personally.


Holiday traditions...

I can't believe it's almost December again. This year has been so full of great things, and now my favorite time of the year has come. I have always enjoyed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but now I love these holidays because I feel like I finally have a real family and home and our own traditions.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I don't have very clear memories of Halloween as a child, my costumes were often generic store-bought, I was a devil one year, Catwoman one year, a witch, etc. Only in high school did I really start to get in touch with my creative side and pursue my own interests and hand-sew my own costumes. So now in my family, our Halloween tradition is to make our own costumes. This year, Chinami was lucky enough to have 3 costumes! She was a Minion for trick-or-treating at the shopping center, Joy from Inside Out for her preschool party, and for our family trick-or-treating, we dressed up together, me as Totoro and Chinami as Mei (and I drew a baby Totoro on my bump as well for Kairu.) We ended up spending Halloween up in Manoa with our "ohana" from the baby store, who were dressed up in homemade Alice-in-Wonderland themed costumes, which was an interesting combination!

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving, and Chinami and I were especially blessed because not only were we able to enjoy the holiday with Yasushi as a family on his day off the day before, we were also able to join our other ohana for dinner on the actual day. Because of a combination of the emotional abuse inflicted on me as a child (and resulting low self-esteem and C-PTSD) and the fact that I have been moving across countries and oceans every few years for basically my whole life, I find that I have become untrusting and scared to really make a connection to people. In Hawaii, your friends become your ohana, your sisters, your brothers, aunties, uncles, cousins.....and I am finally becoming comfortable with letting more people into my ohana, and extremely blessed that I have found some amazing people. Chinami has also done her part to help me make these connections with her exuberant sociable personality and I am so thankful for her! Anyway, the food was amazing! I made my traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which was a turkey stuffed with lil smokies, onions, and garlic, and covered in a bacon blanket, with some brussels sprouts in the pan, mashed potatoes (that Chinami helped make!) creamed spinach Boston Market-style, wild rice and quinoa cooked with chopped onions, carrots, and celery in a turkey stock "takikomi" style, and for dessert, a two-layered kabocha and sweet potato pie. My friend/brother's Thanksgiving was similar, except he had a traditional roast turkey with crispy skin  stuffed with wild rice and whole vegetables, various side dishes and pupus including potato-carrot mash, creamed spinach, homemade cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, giblet pate on toast, and I contributed one of my pies and a plate of squash and eggplant cut into sticks, wrapped in bacon, and roasted in the oven. The kids made fun turkey headbands and we all had a blast!

Yesterday was the day after Thanksgiving, which is always the day of the holiday parade in Waikiki. Just like last year, I made a dinner from leftovers we could pack up and eat while watching the parade. Since we had a picnic lunch of turkey-bacon wraps and raw veggies in guacamole at the park, for dinner I made a tomato soup with corn, lil smokies and brussels sprouts, and a couple of creamed spinach pies and cheesy crescent rolls. We enjoyed the parade, and were able to hurry to the beach to watch the Friday fireworks as well before taking the bus home for a good night's sleep.

This Sunday, we will put up our Christmas tree. Since I don't see a point in buying a real tree that was shipped from the Mainland, usually brings invasive species with it, and dries out and dies by Christmas because of the climate here, so we have a white fiber optic Christmas tree that goes nicely in our living room. In Honolulu, there are many local Christmas parades and other fun events to enjoy up until the big day, and even though Yasushi works on Christmas, Chinami and I will still find ways to enjoy the day making candy houses and playing with whatever toys she gets.

After Christmas, it's New Year's, which will be celebrated Japanese style of course with Gagaku at the Dendocho. Hawaii is such a great place to live, not only because of the weather, but because of all the great things to do!


International Babywearing Week 2015


This year, International Babywearing Week was October 4-10.
Unfortunately, I haven't been wearing Chinami anymore as I am now 4 months pregnant and she is very heavy and also a great walker/balance bike rider. However, I will always be grateful for the 3 years I did wear her and treasure all of those memories. I'm glad that our trip to Japan was the last time I wore her, I have so many great pictures.

Especially with my new job and my second child on the way, I will always be one to advocate for babywearing. There are just too many reasons, but here are the main ones that come to mind for me:

~ It's cheap. If you are strapped for cash you can MAKE a wrap, and a soft structured carrier to last through toddlerhood is usually less than one of those 3 wheeled strollers.

~ It's healthy. Babywearing works your core muscles AND your baby's. Keeping a newborn baby snugly wrapped against you regulates their heartbeat and body temperature and helps your body make milk.

~  It's convenient. No searching for ramps and elevators to accomodate your stroller. You can ride the bus by just stepping on, no folding up strollers and awkwardly carrying it with one hand and baby in the other. And if you're breastfeeding, baby can just drink their milk and take their nap right there as you take a walk! Once baby is 6 months you can do a back carry and pretty much do anything with baby on your back!

And pretty much the best and most important reason of all is how incredibly adorable that happy face is when they are asleep against your chest or back, and how happy you feel listening to their little snores. I really couldn't have it any other way, no matter how many features that $500 stroller claims to have. Just give me a wrap or a carrier any day!


New beginnings!

This month is a month of change for our family!

The restaurant where Yasushi is head chef is moving locations this month with their grand opening near the end of the month.
I have decided to cut my hours at my main job, going part time with a shift from 4am-9am, and taking on a second part time job.
Chinami is going to be a big sister in March!

Yes, everything is very exciting and tiring for all of us right now.

For me, though, it seemed like everything kind of fell into place at the right time, and is going to turn out perfectly. But first, a little backstory;

From around April of this year, the company I work at did a major rearrangement of the office in an effort to streamline things. As a full-time employee, I had an office job in addition to the early morning customer support job I had been doing. However, my assignment was changed from office work to additional customer service/dispatch work, done outside in a parking lot full of fumes. It felt to me like mindless busy work to "fill the hours" and a waste of my time and the company's time. There were lots of times when there were almost no customers around and the boredom was mind-numbing. I am a native speaker of English, and can speak, read, and write Japanese at JLPT1 level! There must be something better I could be doing with my time than telling people which bus goes to Waikiki (the one right in front of you, read the signs that are in Japanese!) Anyway, it got pretty old pretty fast and I was soon contemplating if I should go part-time like my part-time coworkers and finish at 9AM, and consider taking a second job that would suit me more.

Meanwhile, the doula who had helped me when I gave birth to Chinami was pregnant and gave birth to her baby boy in June. Her and her husband own a shop up in Manoa that sells baby items geared toward attachment/natural minded parenting such as cloth diapers, baby wraps/carriers, and herbal remedies. They also have a little cafe in the shop serving organic teas, healthy smoothies and sandwiches. They also opened up a bakery right near it with absolutely delicious goodies. I started going up to Manoa to enjoy the goodies when I could and reconnected with the lovely family.

And then in July, I found out that we would be having another baby! I would have liked to wait just a little longer to plan for another one but just like with Chinami, this one felt like now would be a good time, I guess. And perhaps it was. Having a baby meant that staying at my job full-time would be impossible. Not only would it be hard on the baby and breastfeeding, and Yasushi as well, but the cost of having two children in daycare at once, even on the part-time schedule I have Chinami on now, would be more than the salary I was earning. It would simply be impossible.

And then my friend asked me if I would like a job in her shop. She had been hiring for a while and had already gone through a few employees, and was looking for someone reliable. Obviously, it would be okay to work through pregnancy and come back as soon as I felt comfortable, and babywear while I worked. More than anything, I would be able to work in a field I have been passionate about since I found out I was pregnant with Chinami. I would be able to help new moms get the information and goods they needed to do their best for their babies. And I always loved jobs where I served food, because usually we had satisfied happy customers! So anyway, for a chance at this dream job, I immediately let my current managers know I would be going part-time due to my pregnancy and lifestyle changes.

This month, I started my part-time schedule from 4AM and have been coming home by 9:30 AM. And we finally worked out a schedule for my second job, working on Tuesdays and Thursdays all day. Chinami is also changing her schedule from three days per week to just two days until 5:30pm. This means that for two days per week, we won't get to spend that much time together, but for the rest of the week, we can still spend all day together. And even better, we can both spend more time with Yasushi on his days off.

There have been hardships, the first trimester of this pregnancy was a lot harder than the first time, with constant fatigue and morning sickness, through which I still was working 40 hours/week and taking care of Chinami. And because SAM-e has still not fully been tested, just to be safe I fully went off of it, which meant my C-PTSD has also been re-appearing. But as my belly grows a little bit bigger and with my wonderful new part-time job, things have been getting better and I feel like I am coming to the end of another tunnel.


Throwback Thursday ~~10 years ago~~


he's on the way back to Japan now. 
The last 3 days were amazing. Of course in going to the airport it all went perfectly as planned so I arrived over an hour early at the airport because my parents made me leave a half hour earlier than I was going to. We met and took the subway back to the hotel. The hotel was so amazing....so huge and luxurious and cool looking..the room was small but still perfect. That night we went to the Empire State building and he gave me a bracelet. It's silver with two hearts linked by two slender chains. We went to Chinatown for dinner that night, and also got to walk around Times Square before heading back to the room and taking a bath with some lavender bath salt he brought from Japan. ^^ it made the water a bright purple color XD 
Then the next day we woke up early and walked to Central Park. We had some Jamba Juice on the way. Then we walked back up towards Times Square/hotel area and did some shopping. We ate lunch at a Red Lobster and then walked around some more. We had a street artist do a picture of Yasushi's tattoo. It was awesome and hilarious as people were watching and staring at the tattoo. 
Then we came home and had dinner, and met Jer and Messh via webcam. Sunday we went out to brunch, and then hung out in New Hope and admired bikes and went on a river boat ride and fed ducks. Yasushi got bitten by a swan. XD I also showed him I could belch louder than him :p it was funny.
Then we got dressed up and went to Morimoto. It was really awesome. So cool-looking, great atmosphere, and the food was so tasty and interesting. All sorts of sashimi dishes and Kobe beef too. Wasabi raspberry sorbet is weird, but it was still so well-made. 
Then we came home, and went out to the BFD with Jer, Tara, and Steve. Was fun. Then we went back and took a bath and slept. Then this morning it was just breakfast and then off to the airport. 
At least this time it's only going to be a little over a month until we see each other again, but still...
Yasushi also gave me a cell phone to use while I'm in Japan. It's on his same plan, so I won't use it much, but still. I have a cellphone for Japan now, I can make a call the minute I get to Kobe if I want. It also has a camera and can take video. AND it's pink with flowers. 
My parents like him and he likes my parents. It was all so wonderful but at the same time so sad because we knew we had so little time. I tried to make it the best for him and there were times when it didn't turn out perfect....but we spent every moment we could together. 
I miss him so much. it's so lonely not having him here. 

I miss Yasushi so much...
on top of that my parents just did the whole "Sammi's a spoiled brat" talk again. seriously, insult to injury. really hurts. 
excuse me for not being in the best mood this morning. jesus christ.
I can't wait to get away from here. It'll be so much better for me when I do.


July 2015 ~ Our family vacation to Japan ~
We left Japan in autumn of 2011, with the sad realization that we would most likely not be returning for a very long time. However, with the third birthday of our daughter approaching and the sad loss of my husband's grandmother the previous year, we decided it would be a good idea just to go and visit family. So we got out the credit card, I went through my company to get a slightly cheaper rate, and planned a whirlwind 5 day trip back to Yasushi's home, and my second home. (As a bonus, it has almost been exactly 10 years since the first time I went to Japan to start my year in Kobe!)
We were originally supposed to go during August, when Yasushi would have been able to get a longer vacation. However my job would not let me take time off in August, our busiest month of the year. So we made some adjustments, and would be flying out on July 8th and returning on July 13th, our daughter's birthday. Which, as a bonus, we would be experiencing twice because of the time difference!

July 8/9 ~Departure
We flew on JAL, which had exceptional service, and Chinami was great on the airplane. After losing a day due to the time difference, we arrived late afternoon on July 9th, and made our way straight to the hotel. We stayed in a business hotel in Akabane, which was convenient and a good value for the three of us. And because it was Japan, no fuss was made about extra cots or such, we all slept together in the family bed.....like most people!
After we checked in at the hotel, we had a quick and delicious dinner of sushi at a place right by the hotel, and bought some toiletries at the local drugstore (and some cold medicine because I wasn't feeling well from the plane ride) and went to sleep.

July 10 ~Family Time
There was almost no jet lag. I woke up my usual time, 4am. Chinami woke up an hour or so after me which sometimes happens when I am with her. Since she didn't go back to sleep, we decided to go on a walk after the sun started to rise. The only places open were convenience stores and the  24 hour supermarket, so we bought many kinds of vegetable juices, some green tea for me, and some snacks for later. We came back to the hotel room and watched TV for a while until Yasushi woke up. We decided he would leave first for Ibaraki to get some paperwork done, and we would meet him at the station later.
So I thought about what Chinami and I should do for a couple hours until we had to board the train from Ueno station, and after buying some breakfast at Mister Donuts, we headed to Ueno station and walked around the park, and I took lots of pictures of her with the lotus blooms, around the shrines, and eating our donuts on a bench together. There was even a small playground, and before heading back to the station we played together. At Ueno station, we bought some delicious healthy bento lunches and boarded the train to Mito station. After we ate lunch, Chinami took her nap and was all recharged when we met Yasushi at the station.
We got on the bus and went to Yasushi's grandfather's house, where his mother was also waiting.
Chinami loved running around the house and playing with her "Gramma" and "Jiji" We also went to visit the famiy graves to pay respects to Yasushi's father, and then to "Gramma"'s house. Chinami enjoyed some fresh, juicy homegrown tomatoes, which she loved! And played with the dog and ran around the tatami some more. After that, we went back to Tokyo on the train, eating some Lotteria burgers on the way for dinner. Chinami was tired and chilled out on my back while we walked back to the hotel, and we went to bed around 8 or 9 after a bath.

July 11th ~
Since we had gone to the gravesite and Yasushi's mother's house the previous day, he hadn't been able to see one of his friends in Ibaraki the previous day. So the next morning, Yasushi took Chinami back on the train to Ibaraki and I stayed behind and spent the morning at another one of my favorite places, Jizo Doori in Sugamo. I bought some delicious goodies at "Niku no Hanamasa" supermarket, went to the 100y shop, and even went to a honey store and sampled local honey from Japan, which I ended up buying as a gift for the folks at the honey stand at KCC Farmer's Market.
I went to Akabane Station, and met up with a friend/former coworker and met her young son and daughter. We headed a couple stations out where Yasushi's sister, brother, and their families were all having lunch. We all had lunch, and the plans were to go straight to his sister's apartment close by, but with 2 elementary schoolers, a preschooler, two toddlers, and a baby in tow, I suggested we spend a little time at the beautiful playground that was right in front of us. The kids ran around and played together and had fun, and I had fun watching them all. It was very hot, so after maybe 30 minutes or so we gathered everyone and went inside for some cold drinks and a birthday cake!! for Chinami prepared by his sister, a professional pastry chef! We took a family picture and then we had to go to the next event!
Chinami slept for an hour or so on my back as we walked to the station and rode the train heading for Shibuya. At Shibuya, we would meet a bunch of Yasushi's biker friends and the plan was to go to a bar. A few people I invited came along, and we all went to the HUB in Shibuya, which was really not a place I wanted to go with Chinami. After everyone showed up and I was able to meet them and introduce Chinami, we left and headed back to Akabane. Then, I met my former bosses, one from England, the other Japanese, and her nearly two year old son. We decided to go karaoke, and I had one more dear friend whom I met in Hawaii show up and Chinami stole the stage as usual. We were out until 10 that night, and Chinami fell asleep before she hit the pillow!

July 12th ~ Sky Tree, Shopping, Ikebukuro!
I had to wake Chinami up because she was still sleeping at past 8am! We went to Matsuya for a Japanese style breakfast and then to the Sky Tree for sightseeing and more fun with family/friends. After we went to the aquarium, we headed out to lunch. After lunch, Yasushi and I went to Akihabara. He wanted to go to his favorite computer stores, and also the big electronics store to buy a new rice cooker as ours was starting to act up. There was one place I wanted to go in Akihabara, and that was the Hello! Project store. Unfortunately, it was quite a walk, and Chinami fell asleep on my back and missed being in the store. But I did get a couple notebooks with pictures of Morning Musume and Angerme, and I did the vending machines where the random stickers pop out. It was quite a gamble considering they had stickers of all the Hello! Project members, and the first one I got was Ayumin!! which I laughed out loud at because she's my friend's oshimen.....so that is a gift for him! And then I tried again, and I got...Riho! which I gave to Chinami, because Riho's the only member she seems to care about besides her beloved Sayumi, which she confirmed when I gave it to her after she woke up. She looked at it and immediately said "Riho!"
After we got back to the hotel, Yasushi went out to meet his former co-workers, and so I decided to take Chinami out to Ikebukuro Sunshine City so we could go to the Pokemon Center! I went in my Team Rocket uniform, and Chinami in her homemade Wobbuffet shirt, and we bought some goods. Then we met up with one of my favorite guys in Tokyo, TkyoSam, and he took us to kaiten sushi and ice cream! He treated Chinami like the princess she thinks she is and she absolutely loved him. And she loved sushi too because they had plates of ikura sushi with so much ikura it was spillling out onto the plate, she just ate it all with a spoon. Sam insisted he buy her some kind of gift, so we went into Don Quijote and she found this plastic hammer that squeaks when you hit things, and she had so much fun hitting us that I said "just get her that!" and so we walked back through Ikebukuro station with my daughter in a Wobbuffet shirt holding a bright pink hammer. We were out until almost 10 this time as well. As we walked back to the station, I talked with Chinami, and told her I know how tired she must feel playing so much and not napping very much, and said that after tomorrow, we're going to go on the airplane and go back to our home again, and she can rest a lot when she's on the airplane. She nodded. I had no idea how seriously she would take this.....

July 13 ~Preschool
July 13th was a Monday and one of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip: Going back to preschool! I took Chinami to experience the preschool I had worked at for almost 3 years during the time I lived in Japan. All the children I had taught had graduated and moved on to various elementary schools, and some of their younger siblings were enrolled now. We did "music time" and yoga, and they had a birthday cake for Chinami too! We also went to the park. Chinami did great, she tried her best at everything and had a lot of fun. We went to kaiten sushi for lunch, and then it was time to head out to the airport. I assumed Chinami was tired, so I put her on my back and she fought and cried. We all agreed she would be asleep soon. It took a while but she did eventually fall asleep by the time we got to the airport.
We got to the airport, and two of Yasushi's friends came to see us off. Chinami woke up and was very mad. She insisted on getting out and walking around. I told her she could sleep some more, and she said no. We ate some light snacks at the airport, and bought some gifts, and Chinami became more and more restless. I asked her what she wanted, was it food, or something? She started saying "Airplane." She wanted to go on the airplane. I asked her if she wanted to go on the airplane and sleep, and she said yes. So until we got on the airplane, she gave her all, carrying bags, pulling the rolling bags, running full speed to the gate, and on the airplane, she sat quietly watching a movie, she ate her dinner, and when the lights dimmed, she went right to sleep until we had to wake her up to put her seatbelt back on when we were landing, which she did not like at all. She slept a little bit on the shuttle from the airport, but once we were home she didn't want to sleep at all, especially because she had lots of presents for her birthday and wanted to play with them all! She stayed awake until we ate dinner, and then as she was finishing her dinner, I saw her start to sway a little bit, and she started crying, stood up, and walked to the bed, and went to sleep.

Our trip to Japan was very short, but I got to do almost everything I wanted to do, which was introduce Chinami to her family, watch her play with her cousins and my friends' kids, and spend the day at preschool with her, so I was satisfied. I feel so much gratitude and appreciation for everyone who made the effort to come see us and gave Chinami presents and love. Our next trip probably won't be for another 4 or 5 years or so but I'm looking forward to it already.


Independence Day!!

Growing up in Pennsylvania meant the 4th of July was a big deal.....parades, fireworks, and everyone decked out in Red, White, and Blue proclaiming how great America is...it was all very exciting.
However, now that I have gotten out and experienced life in another country and now live in Hawaii, I don't find myself getting nearly as excited to celebrate America's birthday. In fact, I am much more excited for our neighborhood's annual Bon Dance and Summer Festival put on by the local Honganji and Japanese cultural groups. 
But actually, on a day called "Independence Day", donning a yukata or jinbei and enjoying a Japanese summer tradition is more appropriate than I thought. 
Because when I think about it, my interest in Japanese was what ultimately brought about my independence. Being one of a small (but close knit!) group of people in my age group who was interested in anime and Japanese was very hard at times, I had to deal with constant bulllying at home, but sticking with it was the best decision I ever made. Now I live in Hawaii, work at a Japanese company, raising a beautiful bilingual child, and I can truly be free to be myself and pursue what I want to do. This is what freedom means to me. 
What makes me feel sad is there are so many Americans who will be waving flags and wearing stars and stripes chanting "USA" thinking that we are the greatest country in the world when we clearly have major problems that will not change unless they change. Japan has its problems as well, but when I was there I learned the importance of eating and appreciating real food with local ingredients, how easy life with an efficient public transportation system can be, and how nice it is to pay a small premium to the government for national health insurance, and get cavities filled for around $20/tooth. 
And when I returned to the USA I found many things that I was not happy with. The "American food" I had pined for I now realized was just incredibly unhealthy. Meat and potatoes and....wait, that's it? No green, red, orange, yellow, or purple vegetables?" Huge American kitchens meant that people just had tons of expired stuff laying around. In a fairly short amount of time we were already at the Asian market stocking up on things that reminded us of home.
I was expecting my first child and I quickly found out that the "American way" of birthing and raising babies was heavily influenced by fearmongering media, institutionalized by the medical system and full of advertisements from giant corporations. I quickly researched all of my options on my own, and organized my homebirth and decided I would be breastfeeding, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, and baby-led weaning.
But the good thing is that this is America and I have the power to decide to do what I feel is best for myself and my child(ren). I'm grateful for the freedoms I have and even though I will be bon dancing in my jinbei instead of waving a flag and singing "America the Beautiful" I am grateful for the independence I have as an American, and the independence I have gained by finally standing up for myself as a survivor. Yes, it's not just about America breaking off from Britain, it's for all  of us who had to break away from someone who was trying to hurt us and control us for their own gain.....this is OUR independence day too!


The next step....

Taking Sam-E has been so beneficial for managing my C-PTSD. In the last few months, I have had more "good" days, and virtually no major panic episodes. Even in the worst-case scenario, which for me is within a few days before my period comes, if I have an argument or some kind of trigger, it can bring on a full on panic attack and depressive episode.......however even in that situation, I managed to escape with only half a day of feeling depressed.
Now that I am managing well in this area, I feel like I want to tackle another lingering injury from my past. Since I was a small child, I had always had nervous habits of biting my nails and picking the skin around my nails and sometimes even moles on my arms, and then when I hit puberty, pimples on my face. I was scolded, shamed, ridiculed for these habits and how ugly my hands and skin looked. I was terribly self-conscious of it (yet another blow to my already low self esteem) and I remembered I had used my own money to buy icky tasting nail polish, nail files to carry with me, etc. My mother eventually started taking me with her to get gel manicures and would marvel at how great my nails looked. However, the root of the problem was never discussed, and gel nails are impractical for a 13 year old, especially as using computers for schoolwork was becoming the norm.
The only time I had truly stopped biting my nails was when I went to Westminster Choir College for a summer camp in high school and spent almost 2 weeks learning a requiem, doing exercise and yoga, playing video games with some of my best friends, and meeting lots of new friends. However, with the onset of other symptoms in my late teens and early 20's, I fell back into the habit.
I still bite, pick, squeeze, etc. Not so much out of nervousness (even though anxiety is likely the root cause) but as I have read, it is an impulsive behavior and people with the problem will do it when they are idle or bored, and there is a reward system within the brain that drives them to do it. There are some similarities to OCD in how the brain is operating when people who have this habit do it, so like C-PTSD, while cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, etc. can help, supplements can also help. I'm going to try another supplement and see if it will calm down, because my skin and hands still do embarrass me when I have to be in a professional environment. Beating this will be the next step in my recovery.


Mother's Day...

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, a day to celebrate beautiful, loving mothers and all the hard work they do for their children by guiding and supporting them.
I became a mother almost three years ago, and up until then I had wanted children, but was increasingly afraid to have them because of my worsening C-PTSD. A mentally ill mother should not be raising children, and if I managed to attempt suicide again and be successful what would that do to them?
 However, they say all things happen for a reason, and timing of my pregnancy coincided perfectly with the start of our new lives in Hawaii, and so it was the perfect time in my life to really reflect and turn it around. My own mother made it clear that she was incapable of showing basic empathy for my mental health struggles, and respect for aspects of my lifestyle (and later, parenting) that she didn't agree with, so she is not in our lives anymore. I would be fine keeping low contact with her if she simply showed me empathy, respect, and remorse for her actions..but part of my healing is letting go of false hopes.

So I will be spending Mother's day with my daughter this year, appreciating her for making me a Mother and appreciating the support I have around me to be the best mother I can!!

Links + Resources:







February- a month of change!!

February is the month of the Chinese New Year, and seems that it's often a month that brings good changes for us, starting with February 25, 2005.

February 25, 2005 was the day that Yasushi and I met for the first time in Hawaii on after 6 months of chatting online. He spent 3 magical days here and we went on a sunset cruise, stayed in a hotel, and promised to see each other again. 6 months later, he came to Pennsylvania for another very short vacation, 3 days, but this time we knew it would only be another few months or so before we could see each other again, because I would be going to Japan for study abroad. 

February 25, 2006, he proposed to me. I use the term loosely, because we both knew that we had found "the one" and that we would get married after I graduated. 

February 24, 2008 was our wedding day. We had a lavish ceremony at a venue my mother chose, with over half of the 80+ guests in attendance her friends+coworkers, a good number of them people I had never even met. Nevertheless, it was our day, and I designed my dress and we had a Unitarian Universalist do the ceremony for us as we are not very religious, and I had a great time with my friends dancing to music I chose at the very end of the party. 

Then in February of 2012, we moved to Hawaii after spending some time in the Mainland because we had to wait for my husband's green card to be completed....and also because I had found out that I was pregnant and had to wait until at least the 2nd trimester to fly safely. That month we also got a 4-D ultrasound and saw our daughter's face, and learned she would be a girl (to Yasushi's disappointment, but since she is now the most badass+fearless 2 year old girl anyone has ever seen with keen interest in Daddy's tools and motorcycle, there isn't anything to be disappointed about!) That was also the time I started "no-poo", a.k.a. made a decision to not use shampoo anymore. I am still going strong 3 years later with my sporadic "washes" of baking soda and ACV and occasional dab of coconut or argan oil.

February of 2013 was the official time I cut ties with my parents. From around the time I moved to Hawaii, I started this blog and used it to reflect on my own experience and write about my new experiences becoming a mother. However, my parents took offense to the descriptions of their verbal abuse and emotional neglect and then the following entries in which I described my current struggles with my CPTSD (which had not yet been diagnosed at the time, all I knew was it was depression, anxiety, and I had attempted suicide and spent a few days in the hospital.) Like my pregnancy, it was all about them and their image. After deciding for themselves that I had ASD and was a difficult child anyway, they told me they would never contact me again, and ignored me when I asked for help in getting professionally diagnosed by a psychologist specializing in ASD.
After that, my mother continued to stalk me and attempt to passively-aggressively harass me via her Twitter account. She deleted any tweet that mentioned me by name 1-2 days after posting it, but the rest of them are still alive. She kept this up for almost 2 years, actually, and I mostly ignored it except for one tweet in February of 2013 where she posted our home address, which I had never told her and took precautions so she wouldn't find out. So posting the address was clearly an act of spite, and harassment, and also an act that would put our family in danger. I wasted no time, contacted Twitter and an attorney and had it removed and sent a cease-and-desist letter within a few days. Again, never heard back, and now I have a new address which is a secure building, so it's very safe. 

And so, now it is February 2015. It has officially been 10 years since Yasushi and I first met at Honolulu International Airport and couple of weeks before our anniversary, Yasushi found out that he would be promoted to Head Chef at his workplace. So instead of a usual dinner in a nice restaurant, we decided to do something a little more special for our anniversary and celebrate his promotion at the same time by going on a cruise. We had gone on a cruise on the day we met 10 years ago, but we were so nervous at the time and so much time had passed that neither of us remembered very many details of the cruise or the name of the ship.
However, using my knowledge of the travel industry here, I narrowed it down to two cruises, and then compared the two pictures I have of us on the cruise with pictures on Yelp, and found our boat. It was the Navatek. I called the number and spoke to a person that I spoke with regularly at work, but this time as a customer, not a business partner. However since I still am a business partner I did get some nice discounts and perks. The 3 of us had a great time on our sunset cruise and Chinami was the little Ambassador of Aloha and also gained a fan following and was busy taking pictures with everyone at the end of the night.

It has been an amazing 10 years, I am healthier and empowered with all kinds of knowledge and confidence that I didn't have 10 years ago. I wonder what things will be like after another 10 years? I know we will be living in the same place (hopefully with not too much mortgage left), and that will be the first time in my life for that to happen, and I hope we will have at least one more adorable, awesome child to share our love and our life with! 


Great memories of 2014- Home for the holidays.

The holiday season has officially started, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I am truly home for the holidays. Things are falling into place and I feel more and more relaxed. And there is also the fact that the holidays are just so, so much fun!!! 

First, there was Halloween. 

Chinami's first Halloween, she was just under 5mos and we sat outside our complex and handed out candy,  her in a leopard print diaper and me in a matching dress with ears and makeup. Her second Halloween, we were dressed up, her as a little angel and me as a devil, however we couldn't go anywhere because she had chicken pox (which, in true Chinami fashion, she got over in a few days with no complaint.) So this year, I was determined to show her how fun this day could be. I had started watching Sailor Moon with her as hulu was streaming both the original series (remastered!) and the remake, Sailor Moon Crystal. She really took to it, and now loves to sing along and do the various poses and catchphrases! (yay, more Japanese influence!)

 So this year I decided I would be Sailor Moon, and she would be Luna, as she loves cats and the color purple, I could make her a costume she would really be comfortable in. (Toddlers don't usually do well with costumes with lots of accessories and complex hairstyles) So, working on a budget, I bought a Sailor Moon lingerie set, and a purple Luna hat, and went to the thrift stores and raided my closet and scraps bag for a white tank, blue shorts, red sleeves to make "boots" and then went to the craft store and bought netting, ribbons and plastic tablecloths in several colors and made tutus. A red one and a blue one for me, and a purple one with yellow ribbons interspersed for Chinami, and attached a black tail to hers. I made a crescent shape for Chinami's shirt and a tiara for myself from yellow duct tape. Chinami wore a black or purple dress, as she wore hers several times. We had trick-or-treating at our local shopping center the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and then a party at a dear friend (our doula who helped me when I gave birth to Chinami) 's house with an unexpected detour through the "Hallowbaloo" block party in Chinatown. Then on the day of Halloween, we went to Ala Moana Center for trick-or-treating. My original plan was to go to Ala Moana, then Ward, then Hilton Hawaiian  Village. However, I underestimated the crowds and decided to keep it simple for Chinami, so after a dinner break at Subway (I had a BOGO free coupon for 6 inch sandwiches) we headed over to Hilton for the tail end of their trick-or-treating (Honolulu Cookie Company FTW) then walked through the Hilton, admiring the  Friday night luau show as we headed over to the Great Lawn for fireworks and an outdoor showing of the Charlie Brown Halloween special. As we waited for the movie to start, Chinami decided to go around to all the other families there and show off her costume. She was so proud of herself, so friendly and so much confidence! As we watched the movie, we snacked on some of the candy we had gotten, and then walked home, going to sleep past 9 pm. Safe to say it was the best Halloween both of us had had in years! 

Then in November, there was another important event for our family. We finally rented out our 2nd bedroom to a lovely young couple who are honest, courteous and Chinami loves them! So our household went from 3 people to 5! It's so nice to have extra people in the house. They watch Chinami once a week or so and it's such a great help to have them around!

So because of that, for Thanksgiving, not only did we have a lot of delicious food, we had more people to share it with! We had our roommates, their friend, and a friend of a friend of ours who was staying in Hawaii over for dinner, a total of 6 adults and Chinami.

The dinner itself was decadent-a turkey stuffed with onion, garlic, lil' smokies sausages and loaded with bacon on top with brussels sprouts thrown in the pan near the end, my wild rice and quinoa "stuffing" made with chicken broth and vegetables in the rice cooker, and my kabocha/sweet potato pie, and a salad, and we had some mashed potatoes with gravy, a spicy broccoli casserole, and fried rice contributed for a delicious spread.
The day after Thanksgiving, Chinami and I made some sandwiches with leftover sliced turkey breast, salad, and an avocado, and took a picnic dinner to Waikiki and ate under the stars before watching the Waikiki Holiday Parade. After the parade was over, we zipped over to the beach to watch the Friday Night Fireworks. The holiday season was officially here and I was so ready for it!

During the holiday season, Chinami and I watched more parades, Christmas kiddy events, met Santa, and we bought a proper Christmas tree for our home. On Christmas Eve, Chinami and I watched "Elf" on an outdoor screen at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

 Then on Christmas Day, after I played Santa and delivered tiny bottles of homemade mulled wine to my coworker's desks, Chinami and I watched Christmas movies and ate cookies, red and green pancakes, and made a "gingerbread house" out of cinnamon sugar Pop-tarts, graham crackers, and red cookie icing with marshmallow fluff. When Yasushi woke up, we opened presents, and went out to a Christmas brunch at the Willows Restaurant, which was delicious.
After that, Yasushi had to go to work, and Chinami and I spent the rest of the day at home, enjoying her Christmas presents and the food coma.

 Every year, the McCully Shopping Center runs a free "holiday trolley" that goes on a loop ride through the Downtown area to see the Christmas displays there and at the Capitol and Honolulu Hale. It's a fun event, a guide/MC hosts and we sing carols and he makes jokes. However, it's very popular due to the reasonable price and convenient starting/drop off point., and there are only a few days a year they run it. So we went before Christmas but were too late to get any tickets for rides before 7:45. Our last chance was a couple days after Christmas, we went and it was the same deal, all of them were full until the 7:45 ride. So, rather than miss out, I took the tickets, and we went up to Long's and the park to kill time. Long's was getting rid of all their Christmas stuff so we scored some super-cheap ornaments, and a singing elf hat and a Nutcracker which Chinami loved as we had watched the movie version of the Nutcracker Ballet together. We enjoyed our trolley ride and again, went straight to bed afterwards.

New Year's Eve, unfortunately due to Chinami's lack of staying power and my work schedule, we had to turn in early again. We went to Hilton Hawaiian Village again to watch "Frozen" and went straight home to bed afterwards. I woke up briefly at midnight and Yasushi came home, and we watched the fireworks from our bedroom window. We could see parts of both the Waikiki and Kakaako displays along with several amateur displays as well. It was a pretty magical way to say goodbye to 2014.

And then, it was 2015. New Year's Day, I worked, which meant I had to miss the Gagaku New Year Celebration, but since I was lucky enough to have been able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family this year, I couldn't really complain that much. Plus, on New Year's day, being a Japanese company, we shared a celebratory drink and had delicious lunchboxes for everyone, which was a really nice perk and I was glad to be able to share in that.

Our Christmas tree was temporarily made over into a New Year's tree, adorned with bamboo, plum, mandarin orange, and red and white themed ornaments, and we enjoyed my bento from work along with an assortment of traditional goods bought from our local Japanese market down the street, and mochi soup and stewed vegetables I made, in the afternoon after I got home from work.
I tried to watch the first sunrise of the New Year while at work from the airport, but because of the clouds the sun didn't actually come out until almost 8 am! However, I usually watch the sunrise on the way to my 2nd job- working at the honey stand at KCC Farmer's Market a few Saturdays per month. Compared to my regular job, I can sleep in a few hours or so, and still leave with enough time to take the longer, more exerting, more scenic route riding my bicycle around Diamond Head, taking a break at the lookout point to get a perfect view of the sun rising. The first sunrise I saw there this year didn't disappoint.


Having CPTSD means that not every day is going to be a good one, I accept that. But I can only hope that 2015 holds some good days like these.


Seeing a light...(finally)

2014 has become 2015, and now I can't believe it's already February. Happy Year of the Sheep everyone, because well, a bit too late for the "regular" New Year's greetings now.
I spent the end of 2014 enjoying the holidays but also dealing with my anxiety and depression.
Therapy, getting a diagnosis, and exploring the various aspects of what had happened to me and how it was affecting me helped a lot, but I was still having occasional panic attacks and days where I lacked motivation to do much of anything. The techniques and affirmations I was learning were useless if I was unable to actually apply them, and I didn't have enough support around me to really be able to get by with just learning about grounding and breathing. I gradually accepted the idea that cognitive therapy would not be enough to undo all the bad habits, coping mechanisms, and other damage. I hated the idea of taking medication after my experience with Paxil around 2009-2010. While it had helped a lot, the physical withdrawal symptoms after going off it were too scary to justify putting that kind of drug in my body daily for however many months or years I would need it. St. John's Wort and other natural therapies needed time and steady doses to be effective. So I kept looking around for other ideas.
After much deliberation, I bought some SAM-E from Costco and started taking it a couple of weeks ago. In a few days, I already felt better. Since I have started taking it I have been feeling more energetic, motivated, and best thing--no panic attacks. Of course it will take a couple of months at least to make a judgement, but things are really looking up now. Before, I would have great days, and always feel fearful that the next day would be another hard one. Now, I feel a little more confident and "normal". I am also considering trying MSM supplements as well, but so far SAM-E is pretty good.
Of course, I know this is no such thing as a cure for C-PTSD, that I will have to spend my life in and out of therapy, practicing yoga, meditation, I have also planned to add acupuncture treatments if needed, and I always have the suicide hotline on speed-dial in my phone.
The reality of it sucks especially because CPTSD is not an illness you are born with--it is directly caused by injury and neglect and a bad environment. I wish my mother had properly come to terms with her own past and her own injuries and gotten adequate treatment and therapy before choosing to procreate, but at least I was able to learn from her mistakes and break the cycle.
Hopefully supplements and more aggressive treatments will be the key to a truly happy, healthy 2015 for me and my family. I will do my best.