Today’s challenge: Vacation planning

My husband and I did some vacation planning before 6:00am this morning. We live outside of the U.S. for almost 2.5 years and we didn’t realize you can’t renew your driver’s license anymore after renewing twice by mail. California DMV would like to see us at least once every 15 years. If we had known about this “15 year rule”, we would have renewed it in person while we were still in San Diego, but then again, we didn’t know we’ll be living out here (Japan) for extended period of time until about a year before we left. Certain things in life you only find out by experiencing it. Anyway, now we know when we need to fly back to the U.S. (we knew we’d go back sometime during next 18 months), so we booked a place for our San Diego stay. Having that taken care of feels really good.

Today is also the day to go to doctor’s office (one of the two appointments I made last Wednesday). I am in home stretch in terms of this task, because I am actually not afraid of going to see a doctor. Making the plan was definitely the harder part of this one.

Do the next right thing

Yesterday’s task is complete. Now I have another task to “create a full backup of my iPhone” before visiting the store. This will be the challenge I’ll tackle this weekend.

As I mentioned in the post “Asking a favor”, I am a bit concerned about our older two kids’ English writing skills – For the record, I am also concerned about our youngest son’s English skills in all areas, but that’s for another post. Anyway, recently I was shocked to discover that our middle son doesn’t know how to spell certain 2nd grader level words. I was kicking myself about not keeping up with spelling practice for kids after we moved to Japan 2 years ago. When I was telling someone about it yesterday, she said to me “Well, you can beat yourself up about it, but it’s not really helpful, is it? Just think, “what is the next right thing”? When you come up with something, just do that”. She is right. In a way, I have already taken a step towards the next right thing, which is to find a tutor to address that challenge. I am happy to report that the mom I wrote to responded and I now have a lead for a writing tutor. Taking action towards the solution I can think of right now helps me to feel less anxious. When you are less anxious, you also come up with more creative ideas. Beating yourself up is not only unproductive, but it also affects your overall happiness negatively. I know all of this intellectually, but actually putting it into practice is a different challenge.

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.

Today’s Challenge: Apply for a writing gig

One thing I know I need to focus on this year is to double down my effort to amplify my voice. I have so much thoughts in my head about love, relationship, partnership (married or not) and all the things you can do to make it work. One way I can make myself heard by more people is to write in a place where there is already a built-in audience. So that is what I am going to do today…I have been procrastinating this task last few weeks out of fear of failure – or success, in this case, because when more people will know my thoughts, there is an increased chance of people disagreeing with me. But that’s ok. That is sort of the point, to enter the conversation that is already happening on those topics.

If I was not afraid, I would….

Recently, a friend of mine told me that he told someone he likes how he feels about her. A few days later, he told me that it didn’t work out – she has someone else she likes and can’t be his “girlfriend”. He was obviously heartbroken, but also said he was glad he decided to tell her. Hearing his story, I realized how much I let fear of failure stop me from doing what (I think) I want to achieve in my life.

So this is my attempt to rectify how I have been operating. I will write what I would do if I was not afraid, everyday. Everyday? Yes. I can see already where I might fail….I might fail at doing this everyday. But that is ok. I will then pick up where I left off the next day, or on whatever day I can and start over. It will be brief like this post. That’s ok too.

To start, today I sent a message to someone I’ve known sometime. She is an editor of a major magazine. I asked her if I could send her a copy of the book I translated and got published last year. I have been dreading this task as I was afraid of being rejected. In a few hours after hitting “send” button, she replied “Please do”. Today is a win. Not because I got a positive reply, but because I finally sent that message – and also because I am writing in this blog, for the first time in a long time. Tomorrow I will pick another items on my list of “things I would do if I wasn’t afraid”. Come join me.

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.

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