Today’s challenge: Make an appointment for iPhone battery replacement

Yesterday’s task is complete. I’ll wait for a few days to see if I get a reply – if not, I need to come up with other ideas on how to find an English writing tutor for my kids.

Today’s task is to make an appointment for iPhone battery replacement. I purchased iPhone 6s in fall 2015, and about a year later, it started to shut down when the battery is not low. I learned that Apple is replacing battery for iPhone 6s for free if it has certain serial numbers (you can check it here). It is one of those things that is important, but not urgent, so I have been putting it off. You would think it’s easy enough but Apple store intimidates me a little. I wonder if anyone else feels that way.

Today’s challenge: Asking a favor

Yesterday’s task was to visit doctor’s office. Well, I didn’t make it – but I called and made an appointment for next week. Also, recently I learned that someone I love and admire had gone through surgery for breast cancer. It came as a bit of shock to me because she seemed so healthy and energetic from what I could see on SNS, and she is my age. This made me think of “what if”. So I also made an appointment for cancer exam. It was liberating to have made those two appointments, it made me feel like I am slowly starting to defeat a habit of procrastination.

Today’s challenge is about asking a favor. This is also one of the things I hesitate… I feel more comfortable asking a favor if it’s someone I know well, and also have done something for them in the past. As I write this, I realize that I am operating from this “quid pro quo” mentality. I know this world is full of good people and most people will be happy to help out others, as long as it’s withtin their power and the request is reasonable. Basically I am in search of English tutor who would come to our place and teach our sons how to write essays. It just so happens that there is a dad in my youngest son’s daycare who is a teacher at an international school in the area. He is English, and his wife is Japanese. I don’t know them too well but today I’ll ask them in a way of a letter slipped in their son’s backpack, as we rarely see each other at drop off/pick up.

Today’s Challenge: Visit doctor’s office

Yesterday, I wrote about applying for a writing gig. It was 9:00pm last night when I finally brought myself to do it, but I did it – pushed “send” button! Now wait and see what happens.

Today, I had a plan to meet up with a friend for lunch, but she fell sick. So I decided to do another task I have been dreading – visit doctor’s office. It’s one of those things that is not urgent, but important. I am not sure if I would use the word “fear” about going to see a doctor, but in any case, for some irrational reason I did not make this a priority until now. Also, I changed the title from “if I was not afraid” to “Today’s challenge” so I can throw in this type of tasks too. A friend of mine said to me that this is a bit like “Rejection Therapy” and in a way, she is right. I want to overcome something. Rejection is definitively one of them, and also last two years I let the notion of “not having enough time” slowed me down or stopped me altogether and didn’t even start doing something I have been wanting to do. I want to change that. I want to change my perspective of time.

The day I made my friend cry (WDS2015)

The inaugural World Domination Summit(WDS) took place in Portland, OR in June 2011, and this year we celebrated its 5th birthday. I have gone to all of them. Someone mentioned that only 2 % of this year’s attendees have gone to all five. I am not sure what this fact makes me, but I’ve had a wonderful experience every time I went back for WDS. This time, WDS team wanted to highlight the Japanese community – a handful of us have gone back to WDS year after year, and they wanted us to talk about why we come all the way from Japan. I liked the idea of doing something different this year, as I had the feeling that this might be my last WDS when I was planning my trip to Portland. When my Japanese friends and I were discussing what we could do, at some point I suggested us doing a skit to tell our story, but after some back and forth, we decided that I would be the main speaker on stage (and no, no skit… just talking).

So I prepared the speech, sent out the presentation slides, and practiced it on my way to Portland. Once I got there, the speech evolved with the help from WDS “magician” Michelle Jones, and we decided that fellow Japanese attendees will be on stage while I talk. We were called for rehearsal on Saturday afternoon during the long lunch break. (Yujiro snapped this great shot!)

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My speech was focused on three things: what WDS does for us, community & friendship, and remembering who I am.

DSC06992What does WDS do for us? WDS helps us to feel free(er) to do things we would be more self-conscious doing in Japan. For my friend Hori, it was Bolleywood dancing. For me, it was giving a hug to my Japanese friends or calling each other by their first name.In my speech, I shared about my realization that hugging is not a part of Japanese culture, and I often let that notion stop me from hugging my Japanese friends when I see them. hugs But I do want to hug them, so I went ahead and started a hug-chain on stage. This act earned me at least a hundred hugs once I got off the stage, and someone even said “you are the hug lady!” Also, one guy said to me “you know, a Muslim guy was sitting next to me, and while watching you guys hug each other on stage, he said he wants to hug his people too ”. This made me smile.

I then talked about community where I put my friend Oliver’s picture on a slide, because I think he is someone who embodies the idea of WDS community. Oliver is kind, fun-loving, adventurous, and super supportive. DSC06996I still talk to him regularly via Facebook chat every now and then. He is always there for his friends and I can count on his encouragement and support whenever I need it. I aspire to be Oliver for whatever community I’ll enter or create (later I learned that this part had him in tears)…. I was lucky to have lived in San Diego because we have a great WDS community. Connecting with them after WDS 2012 was one of the most significant events of my 12 year stay in San Diego. They taught me what it feels like to be surrounded by loving and supportive friends, who see you as someone who could do anything. They hold your vision for you, even when you can’t see it for yourself.DSC07007

While I was away in Portland, I left our three kids in my husband’s capable hands. The night before I left, I mentioned to him that this might be the last WDS for me, because I saw that he was playing this scenario of “what if kids get sick or I get into a car accident?” in his head. It wasn’t that he was overly anxious or worried, but he wanted to mentally prepare himself for emergency as he would be left in a foreign country where he didn’t speak much of the language. When he heard me say that this might be the last WDS, he initially said “that’s cool (so I don’t have to do this again)”. But after a while, he continued;

You know, I am not sure if your not going to this kind of thing is the best decision for our family. After all, you are just trying to be the best person you can be. Self-exploration is necessary for that.

DSC07009This caught me by surprise and I felt deeply grateful for our partnership. This was when I realized what WDS means to me. It helps me remember who I am. People say “wow, you came all the way from Japan? That’s so far!” Yes, going to Portland from Japan is quite a bit of travel. But it’s an important journey to go back to who I really am underneath of all the “roles” we were supposed to play on daily basis. Taking away those labels, masks and armors, I become just “me” again.

At the end of the speech, we had everyone stand up and hug each other, and we left the stage. I felt relieved that it was over, and I didn’t fall on stage or anything like that. I also remember feeling deliriously happy when I first walked on that WDS stage – yes, I was nervous before I got there but once I started seeing some friendly faces, I couldn’t wait to start connecting with them. This is not to say that I am an experienced public speaker; I had never given a speech in English to an audience bigger than 60-70 people before that. But on Saturday, I was watching how engaging the audience was, laughing and responding to keynote speakers on stage, and I knew that it was very warm and kind crowd. I had this trust that even if I fell on stage, it would have been ok, they would be supportive and cheer me up. So I knew that giving my best was the only thing I needed to do.
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OliverEtsukoAt the closing party, I felt a bit melancholic and bitter sweet, because at that point I knew that I was not going to come back next year. WDS team announced that the size of the participants for next WDS will be reduced to 1000, and 500 tickets had been already sold at that point. That means only 500 more tickets will be sold in future ticket sales. I had the honor and privileges to come to all 5 WDS, and it is time to let someone new experience it. But I knew I was going to miss a super fun party with my dear friends next year, so I made the most of the little time we had left together.

And then it was over.

Everything good will come to an end, and that’s ok. This is by life’s design, so that we can put ourselves in a new environment and grow some more. 4 years between the first and the last WDS gave me tremendous gift. Being in WDS community propelled me to take action, and brought me to where I am now. Connections and friendships I made through this community will continue to grow and so will I. So, I will say good bye for now, with gratitude.

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(images: Armosa Studios)

Things I miss about San Diego

It has been about 2 months since we left our home in San Diego. Here is the list of the things I miss most about San Diego – in no particular order.

1.Near perfect weather!
I have two close friends who have recently moved to San Diego, and their Facebook feed are filled with beautiful shots of sky and praise about how nice the weather is there. Having lived there for 12 years, I admit I have gotten a bit spoiled. While I had missed the seasons, its weather was one of many things that made really easy to like it there…

2.Yoga Studios.
I have been a yogi on and off for many years. In 12 years of my San Diego life, I have tried many yoga studios, and towards the end of my stay, I found a yoga studio I really liked at Liberty Station. It was so easy to get to and I enjoyed the Wednesday evening class a lot. It was shame that I only got to go there for the last 3 months or so.

3.Liberty Station
This place has developed so much over the last few years – it has everything – restaurants, stores, nice play area with two different play structure, art studios, huge glassy area….One of my said friends who moved there now lives there with her family. I wouldn’t mind living there myself if/when we go back to San Diego again. It is so peaceful and every time I went there I couldn’t help but be grateful of how beautiful and enjoyable life is.

4.How people dress
I loved the unpretentious way people dress in San Diego. T-shirt, short pants, flip flops…while I never dared to drive a car with flip flops (I am always cold) I admired how relaxed the dress code was in most situations. Returning to Japan, I feel the need to adjust my wardrobe, which is not easy to do as I don’t really enjoy shopping for clothes. Things are simpler in San Diego on that front.

5.Green Smoothie
This has a lot to do with the fact that we are still living in a hotel and our Vitamix is in the shipment (which has already arrived by the way, just waiting for us to move to our new house). Yesterday we were at the Navy Exchange (a store in the U.S. Navy base we are staying) and Vitamix person was there to do a demo, like the one you’d see in Costco in the U.S. It was my first green smoothie ever since we got here. I miss my Vitamix. I am sure there are places you can get green smoothies somewhere out in town, but I haven’t found one yet.

6.Wider streets
Driving in Japan is an adjustment and not just about which side of the streets we drive. The biggest challenge is that the streets are so narrow, especially in older part of town. In more than few occasions my husband commented in amazement how the street we were on could possibly be a two way street. Also, lots of people are on bicycles and they just go everywhere, and they don’t believe in wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle which makes me really nervous when I am near one. I miss the wider streets in San Diego with plenty of street parking!

7.Friends
With Facebook, email and Skype, it has never been easier to keep in touch with friends who live across the ocean. However, that does not mean I miss my friends back in San Diego any less. Getting together for play dates with the entire family, or driving the kids to their friends’ house, planning a movie date, or going out with my friends for a meetup, or just hanging out together outdoor… I miss you and cherish the time we had together. I hope you will come visit us in Japan.

P.S….I am planning on sending holiday cards. Please message me (via Facebook, email or through contact page of this site) with your address if you would like to receive one!

Living “in-between”

009A month has passed since we left our home in San Diego. After almost a 12 hour flight, we landed and started our long walk towards the immigration gate, dragging our sleepy kids with us. After passing through immigration and custom we exited to the lobby where we were greeted with by a tall person holding a piece of paper with my husband’s name on it. He turned out to be one of his colleagues, and he drove us (along with our 17 pieces of luggage) to a hotel located on the U.S. Navy Base in Yokosuka. We did not know that someone would be there to pick us up, so it was a really nice surprise and I was so relieved that we didn’t have to spend another 2-3 hours taking bus and train with all of our stuff to get to our temporary home for next few weeks.

The first few days flew by quickly – we were busy getting situated, going here and there to register ourselves with places – attending a mandatory Housing Office brief, getting kids enrolled into base elementary school and arranging childcare for our youngest while we looked for houses. I quickly realized that we really need a good phone number to start house hunting so that became the next task. It was a time-consuming experience but after spending almost 2 hours at the DoCoMo shop in Yokosuka, we managed to get our U.S.-bought iPhone and Android phone to work with the Japanese SIM chip and obtained Japanese cell phone numbers. We learned to ride a base bus to get around the base (it feels really huge if you have to walk everywhere). Our hotel room only had a small kitchenette, so we have been eating out almost every night. I always prefer to go out of the base and eat at local restaurants rather than going to the restaurants at the base (I believe we ate at almost every one of them by now). When we do go out though, sometimes we don’t make it back to the base to catch the last bus back to the hotel and we end up taking base taxi, or walk 20-30 minutes if the weather accommodates.

Speaking of weather, in this short 4 weeks, we had two big typhoons. Both of them were said that it was one of the biggest in past few years. When the first one (Typhoon #18) hit, we were staying at my parent’s house for the weekend. It just so happened that we rented a car for the weekend and getting there by car was faster and more convenient than taking the train. But I had not driven in Japan for over 12 years and I was not confident in driving back in heavy rain and wind, so we extended our stay. The base command had declared school closure even before the first drop of rain. As we’ve learned from our Area Orientation Brief (AOB) which we attended during our 2nd week, the command would always chose safety over people’s convenience. Watching the heavy rain continued over 24 hour period, I was thinking that I had never seen this amount of water falling from sky back in San Diego. We really are in Japan now.

After having seen 6 rental properties in Yokohama/Yamato area, we had found a place we’d love to rent out, but the owner of the place is still there and it’ll take a while for it to be move-in ready. In the meantime, we just purchased a car last week. Purchasing a car was relatively easy as we bought it from a dealer who does business on base. We put a deposit on Wednesday around 12:00pm and it was ours by lunch time on Friday. It would not have gone this quickly if I tried to buy a car from a Japanese dealership store as we still do not have a local permanent address. When I called a Japanese dealership, they asked me if I had my “Inkan-Shomei” which is a certified seal of my last name to verify who I am. Also, we’d need to submit the measurement of the garage before we could buy a car. I was again reminded that we are in Japan where the seal is required in an official transaction and also living space is very limited. I didn’t have my Inkan-Shomei as we still don’t have a Japanese address, so we went with this dealer who could register our new (used) car with the hotel address and also helped with the registration process with Yokohama Land Transportation Office(LTO). It’s a Toyota 7 seater car – a type of car I had always been afraid of driving because of its size, but this one came with a back camera that turned out to be very helpful when we have to park backwards. I am slowly getting the hang of it.

Although we are still transitioning, we have roof over our head, means to get around and get what we need for day-to-day life. We see my parents fairly regularly which is nice, and spending time at my parents house provide a welcome break from living in a small hotel room with family of five. The next big step is to actually sign the lease, move in and hopefully get our household goods shipment which is supposed to come during the first week of November has actually arrived today. That is then the real transition will happen – especially for kids as they will then start going to Japanese school. As much as I am eager to get to the next step, I also realize that it will eventually happen, so I’m trying to enjoy this “in-between” state of living.

“The Happiness of Pursuit”

002I just finished reading “The Happiness of Pursuit” written by Chris Guillebeau. I received an advanced copy of his book, which was one of the gifts that were available for this year’s World Domination Summit attendees. This book is about a quest and I enjoyed reading it. Chris said this was the most difficult to write of his three books he has published so far, and I could see why – he told us many stories of the people who took on a quest, including himself.

People often talk about a “hero’s journey” and the word “hero” has this connotation that the mission is heroic in nature. It is quite prevalent in pop culture from Star Wars (my husband’s all time favorite) to Harry Potter (my personal favorite). But reading this book, one thing I realized is that a quest doesn’t necessarily have to be about saving the world. Many people whose stories he showcased in this book do/did have a great cause, such as Miranda Gibson who lived on a tree in Tasmania for over a year to protest illegal logging (she saved the forest!). But there are others who did things as a personal pursuit, such as travelling great distance on foot, bicycle or by sailing the ocean. The author Chris Guillebeau’s quest was to visit every country in the world before his 35th birthday. For each quester in Chris’s book, the quest started out as just a thought. An idea each person started contemplating, because he or she felt the strong pull to it and just couldn’t stop thinking about it, until one day they felt compelled to put that thought into a plan and took action. Pursuing it brought the quester joy and a sense of purpose.

This is great news for people who has read this book, and started thinking about their own quest but have no idea what to do or where to begin. In summer of 2012, Chris gave out $100 to all the 1000 attendees at World Domination Summit(WDS), an annual gathering of people living unconventional life. A few months later, when I talked to a few other fellow attendees, I heard from some people that they were still sitting on that $100 because they felt the pressure to do something amazing (such as multiply that money a 100 fold), and the thought of whatever idea they come up with might not be “good enough” stopped them from moving forward. I can imagine some might feel the same pressure and challenge in their attempt to decide on a quest that is worthy to pursue. For example, would collecting every stamp that was ever produced in my country be significant enough? Does it meet “WDS standards”? Having been to WDS a few times, I can say that it’s easy to compare yourself to fellow attendees and feel discouraged that you are not as accomplished. However, I believe those are the wrong things to worry about when you think about your own quest. As you will read in Chris’s book, a quest doesn’t have to solve any problem in the world nor does it have to be practical for anyone involved. The quester that will strike most people as “odd” would be John Francis who one day decided to not use a car (so he went everywhere on foot) and then also decided to not speak for 17 years. Because of this vow of silence, it was very difficult for him to explain to others why he chose that for himself. This tells me another aspect of a quest; the pursuer (you) need to believe in it even if it might not make sense to other people. You need to be convinced that this is something you will do, as it takes commitment and courage to see it through especially when others don’t understand or support it.

A part of the book that spoke to me the most was the last part. Chris illustrated what happens when quest comes to an end. I felt a little sad to read about what happened to Howard Weaver who took down a competing newspaper company in Alaska. After the competition was destroyed (by the newspaper he built), he was pushed out of the company he spent years building, and eventually he left the town he grew up in. There is definitely a sense of loss after a quest ends. A quest does not guarantee that you’ll live happily ever after once you have completed it. Through a quest, you will most likely grow as a person and become a different version of you, but from these stories in this book, I can tell that people don’t do it to make money or to be famous (“those are called career move”). You do it because you want to (or you feel you have to), no matter what it may bring. I personally think that while you are on your quest, you might not even feel happy 100% of the time. Gretchen Robin said that being happy comes with three components: feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right. Every quest has its own process and there will be times that it becomes another daily grind…that’s the “feeling bad” part. You might even die while pursuing your goal. But the questers in his book all say they were glad they did it, despite everything, and after that’s over, some will chose to take on another challenge.

I am writing this in a hotel room with a partial ocean view of Coronado beach. It just so happens that my 12 years of San Diego life is coming to an end this week, we had moved out from our apartment last week and we have been living in a hotel since then until we finally leave in a few days. It was not that I was not happy here…that is not why we are leaving…if anything, we have been living a nice, comfortable life where it is almost always sunny, people are friendly and beaches are just a few minutes away. As my husband put it, we are leaving a perfectly good ship. And yet, I know I need to do this so that I (and we as a family) can experience and grow. People ask why we are moving to Japan for a few years, and the left-brain answer would be so my kids can learn Japanese language and culture, so they can get to know their Japanese grandparents and relatives, and that it might give me more opportunity in terms of business and writing my next book – but my right-brain answer is just one word: adventure. I just have to move my family across the ocean so we can experience what’s out there; the good, the bad and the ugly, all of it. While I wouldn’t call my move back to my home country a quest, it is certainly an adventure as I have never lived there with my chosen family who grew up in the U.S.A. and have Japanese language skills that are emerging at best. I am certain I will miss my life here in San Diego that I worked hard to make it easy and comfortable, especially when things get stressful and tough as I am sure they will be at times. But I also know I will regret it if I did not do this. In that sense, the words of the questers in this book on why they chose to pursue what they pursued resonated with me a lot.

As for my own quest – I have two projects I am working on right now. The first one is to document my life and my children’s life by using 1 second everyday app, basically taking a video of them and preserve one second of each day. My motivation for this project is that when they grow up and ask me “what was I like when I was little?” I can show them their individual timeline. You can watch your whole year in just 6 minutes! I’ll continue this as long as my kids allow me to chase them with my iPhone video camera. Another project is to produce my podcast show where I interview people and collect their stories. So far I have produced over 80 episodes, featured stories on the life in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan, France, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates….eventually I want to showcase stories from every country in the world(do you know anyone who has gone everywhere?), though I can’t say at this point how long it will take to complete. Reading this book will inspire you to think about your own life (my friend Oliver said it’ll make you feel like you are lazy) You could start thinking about what your quest could be – but remember, it is not something you do to get other people’s approval. I wouldn’t even do it to be happy. Do it because it sounds fun, interesting or make sense to you. My two little projects fit that criteria so I’ll continue them as long as they stay that way.

Baby in the car…

When I take my 5 year old son, Kenta, to school in the mornings, my routine is usually to park my car, put our 14 months old in a stroller and walk him to his classroom. But last Thursday morning I drove my husband’s Honda Civic hatchback as he needed a bigger car that day to do some errands after work requiring the bigger car. So on that morning, I did something different; I just dropped him off at the curve. The plan was to watch him walk up the ramp to school before driving away. I parked the car in the loading zone, got out the car, got Kenta out of the car, walked to the other side to get his backpack and jacket from passenger seat. Just when I was about to say “good bye”, Kenta shut the door. A moment later, I realized that the door was locked, even though it was not all the way shut, with the car keys in the ignition, and of course, baby still in the car.

“Oh my…” A panic went through my head and body. I tried to wiggle the half-shut door to see if I could open it, but I knew it wouldn’t work – I had done this a few times, a long long time ago. My cell phone was in the car too and I didn’t have my husband’s work phone number or road side assistance number memorized. It was clear that I needed to get some help from strangers.  Just then, Kenta’s classmate Alex’s dad walked by. We ran into each other in the morning all the time and we always waved at each other. I walked up to him and asked if he had a moment. He said “sure”, so I explained the situation and asked him to stay by the car while I ran up to the office to get help with figuring out the phone number to call.

I walked with Kenta and left him with his class line at the daily morning assembly, and ran to the school office. “Excuse me”, I said in a hasty tone, “I need some help! I locked myself out of the car, with the key in the ignition and my baby is in the car”. While I was saying that, there was a dad dropping off a piece of paper at the office.  He heard me and said “Baby in the car?”, and offered to use his cell phone. School office staff quickly found the number I wanted to call off the internet, and that dad and I started walking towards the car while he was making the call. When we arrived at the car, he saw the car, and the baby in the car and said “I am a fire fighter. Let’s call my buddy, they’ll be here faster than the road side assistance”.

So he made the call. While waiting, a police car drove by and asked if everything was ok as they saw three of us standing next to a car with a baby inside. The firefighter dad said “yes, the engine’s coming”. We chatted while waiting, I said “I hope I am not keeping you two away from your work”. The man I thought was Alex’s dad said “No, I am a retired grandfather, I’ve got nowhere to go anytime soon”. Also the firefighter dad was not on duty that day, all he had was a dentist appointment in an hour. He also explained that the firefighters are called to open a locked car door if there is somebody in danger, and it’s a good practice for the firefighters. Even though the car was parked in a shade, and baby seems to be just smiling and all, I felt so much better knowing that the help was on the way. After a few minutes, a shiny fire engine appeared.  Four firefighters got to work from both side of the car, and the door opened in no time. I was almost in tears and I thanked everyone, especially the firefighter dad.

After they left, I re-park the car, took my baby out and walked back to the school office, letting them know that everything went well. I then walked to Kenta’s classroom and told him that the firefighters came and helped us (to that he said “hey, not fair!”, meaning he wanted to be there). We then drove home.

When I look back this incident, I feel incredibly lucky. Yes, I could have avoided all of that if I had taken out the keys, or made sure the doors were not locked – or not get out of the car without my cell phone on me.  Also, when I realized what happened, my first instinct was to call 911, but I didn’t because I was afraid to do so, and talked to myself out of it by thinking “the car is parked in a shade, and road side assistance is pretty quick too”. So I was grateful that firefighter dad was there when I was asking for help, and made that call for me. He said later that the road side assistance would have told me to call 911 in this kind of situation. So here it is, the lessons learned; Trust your instinct!  Nevertheless, I am so grateful for the angle that appeared that morning when I doubted myself. Also I am eternally grateful for our society’s first responders!!

PS…. I figured out where the fire engine came from, so I stopped by there today  to express my gratitude. They were really nice and showed us around the firehouse, which made my boys’ day!

Meet Nathan Agin

Nathan Agin came into our lives about 2 weeks ago. Here is what I knew before I decided to open up our place for him to stay: He is a traveler, a foodie, a fellow World Domination Summit (WDS) attendee, and he comes with great cooking skills. He was all of that and then some.
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During the past two weeks, we had a pleasure of having him around. He cooked for us, showed us what more we could do with our Vitamix (ultra-blender), how he decides what to eat, not to eat and why. He greatly influenced my thoughts about healthier food choices – now my breakfast is green smoothie instead of bread or cereal.  He did this not by telling me what to do but by showing that you can actually make healthy stuff that are delicious.
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He was also very kind and always willing to help out. Not only did he give me some tips on how to create a podcast, he was happy to be interviewed by me for my podcast program. We had lots of fun discussing WDS, travel and food. It will be available for the world to listen once the show launches in coming months.
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There was also an unexpected event during his stay. One day when he was in our place by himself, he noticed that his stuff on the kitchen counter top is wet with water. He realized that water was leaking from the ceiling, and he went upstairs to see what was going on and talked to the upstairs neighbors. That’s something I would not have done if I was staying at someone’s house by myself, but he did, because he is just that kind of a guy, always looking for a solution, taking action, and goes above and beyond when called for.
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For a young, single guy, he is also very good with kids. Our middle son loved to climb on him or sit on his lap and watched him do stuff on his computer. He has been travelling past 2.5 years, and mostly couch-surfed, so he lived at a variety of settings and with different people. When I asked kids what they remember most about Nathan, our oldest said “he didn’t act like a guest. He was like a family or someone in charge, like cooking stuff”. Our middle son said “He loves to hike. And travel”. In short period of time, Nathan had huge impact on our family.
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On our last day together, we went to a meditation garden in Encinitas – one of my favorite places. It was a gorgeous day and we were standing at the top of a hill looking over the ocean. We talked about some deep topics such as who we really are if we are not defined by what we do. As we said good-bye in front of Starbucks in Encinitas (omnipresent temporary office for nomadic people), I wondered if he will continue travelling or possibly change course, as he shared (both online and in person) some of his thoughts that came up in considering his next move.  I sensed that he is partly afraid of stopping now because of this question: who will he be if he is not travelling?
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As I started writing this post, I continued to ponder this question. Who are you if you are not doing all the stuff that are (in your mind) making you an interesting person? And it occurred to me. We tend to think that we are what we do, and people like us because of our ability to do something. But is that really true? Yes, he might not be the “food and travel guy” if he doesn’t travel anymore. But that does not mean he will stop being all the things he already is; kind, intelligent, helpful, upbeat, motivating, fun-loving and adventure-seeking. We are not defined by what we do , but who we are will guide us to choose what we do – or rather, who we are will show up in EVERYTHING we do, even during the process of “trying to figure it out”. I will continue following his path on his blog, and will see him in Portland, OR at the third annual WDS in July. Whether he will continue travelling or not, I will cheer him on his journey as a friend. Thank you, Nathan, for enriching our lives. Until we meet again!

New Beginnings (again)

Our son was born on 2/22/2012. I was secretly hoping to have him on that date so it was a happy coincidence that he actually decided to be born that day. I started having contractions the night before, and decided to go to the hospital in the morning after having breakfast and taken kids to schools. Delivery went smoothly and uneventful, and he was born at 3:04 in the afternoon that day. Our kids came to see him later at the hospital that  evening. It was definitely an emotional day for me.
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Fast forward three months – he is growing nicely, despite the fact that he has been hospitalized twice already. On the first incident, he developed a lump on his upper right cheek when he was  about 7 days old, and it wasn’t getting smaller over time.  We decided to present the lump to an after-hours pediatrician on the weekend instead of waiting until Monday, who sent us to the Emergency Room. He was admitted to NICU that evening and spent next 10 days in the hospital – it turned out he was infected with MRSA. We never found out how he’s got it, but apparently MSRA bacteria is among us (Community-MRSA) so it could have been anywhere. After ten somewhat stressful days, he was able to come home with oral antibiotics. After another week or so, he got a clean bill of health and was able to wean off all the meds.
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Then just last week, he developed a high fever, and after consulting with nurse over the phone, we decided to take him into the ER again. My husband took him in and while he was at ER, his oxygen level dropped to an alarming level where nurses made the call to intervene  with an oxygen mask. Naturally doctors wanted to keep him for observation. His fever spiked even higher later in the morning, so he stayed two more nights, doing all kinds of tests. Well, they ruled out bacteria, and dangerous kinds of viruses. They never figured out what caused the fever in the first place, but he was better by the 2nd night so he was discharged from the hospital.
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At home, Baby Hirot likes to be held a lot. He is a good eater. He recently started smiling and making quiet cute audial baby noises. Our older sons, now 4.5 years old and almost 6 years old, love their baby brother. It is one of my favorite things to see how much they adore him. Another thing about him is that, unlike most babies, he doesn’t like riding in a car seat and he almost always cries. When I tell people I have three boys, most people say “Wow”. Sometimes people ask me if I wanted a girl, and/or ask if we would still try for a girl. To that, I say – after having lost the previous pregnancy at 16 weeks, I am kind of over that boy/girl thing, and that I am grateful that we were given another chance to raise another baby. But sometimes people press like “You must try for a girl” or “At some point you should give up, right?” To that, I don’t really know what to say. The other day, one of the teachers at my son’s preschool said “Three boys! You are a chosen mom”. I liked that comment a lot (I do think I am good at making cute boys). I hope this trip to ER followed by hospital stay does not become his “thing” – we need to reinforce more strict hand-washing before touching him – but that kind of experience gives you perspective. Nothing is certain or guaranteed in life. We are all given equal chance of choosing to feel grateful and make the most of the time or the situation. I am grateful to be given another day with him, and with everyone in my family.