Our 2nd son is just 16 months younger than our 1st son. Understandably, he often thinks he is “equal” to his older brother. He asks fair questions such as “when can I get to go to kindergarten?”, as his brother graduated preschool and now is now a kindergardener. To that, my husband says “why don’t you just enjoy being a 3 year old? You have plenty of time to grow up.” But being just 12 months younger than my own brother, I completely understand how our younger son feels. When I was 5, my brother started going to school in Japan. At that time, our parents purchased a desk/chair set for him. After all, he is going to school! But I demanded – literally – that I get the same exact thing, right there and then. To appease me, my parents bought me a set too, except that on the expected delivery day there was some kind of hiccup in order and the chair didn’t arrive at the same time the desk arrived. I remember going outside of the house and waiting for the delivery of my chair. I was probably very determinately thinking “I will not be left behind!” In my mind, my brother and I were equal – just because he was going to school and I had to wait another year, that didn’t mean I shouldn’t get what he got right now!
So yes, I can relate to our second-born. In fact, his birthday is in November, and it might mean that there is a possibility that he needs to wait even longer to go to school. Recently I learned that the State of California decided that they are going to change the criteria on when kids are allowed to start going to public school. For the school year 2012-2013, it was proposed that you have to turn 5 before November 1, 2012. However, I also learned that the board of the school district we belong to has not yet decided on officially implanting the new rule. So as of early November, we do not know whether or not our younger son will go to the same school with his brother next year. If they do decide to follow what the state has decided, he has to wait not only until September 2012 but one additional year to go to school with his brother. This is, by the way, one of the things that amazes me about this country – it will not happen in Japan that you don’t know whether your child is going to school or not in less than 10 months time. I really hope that he gets to grandfathered in somehow, even if the board decides to implement the changed California law, so that we don’t have to tackle the impossible task of explaining why they changed the rule on him.
From “9 things you didn’t know about the life of Steve Jobs”, this one is with the title of “The wife he leaves behind”. It says:
For all of his single-minded dedication to the company he built from the ground up, Jobs actually skipped a meeting to take Laurene on their first date: “I was in the parking lot with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, ‘If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?’ I ran across the parking lot, asked her if she’d have dinner with me. She said yes, we walked into town and we’ve been together ever since.”
They met in 1990 and got married in1991 at Yosemite National Park by a Zen Buddhist monk. I can’t imagine what Laurene must be going through in these past few weeks – losing a life partner for over 20 years. As much as she was proud and supportive of the work Steve Jobs have done, I wonder there were days or nights where she wished he would have been with her and their children. In the end, what matters is whether you found joy in your life, and whether you shared that with someone you love. His story about this love can be an inspiration for people who say they want to find someone to love, but make other things more important than taking the time, and chance, in finding out if the person next to is the one to love.
It’s been a few days since the inaugural World Domination Summit has ended. Those who’ve attended are still talking about it on twitter by using the hashtag #WDS. Numerous blog posts have been written, including this one by the visionary and creator of this event Chris Guillebeau. I’m about to add one more to the list.
First, I have a confession to make. At some point I had seriously thought about not going. I purchased the ticket as soon as the registration opened up last year in fall, partly because it was offered with a “pioneer price” to the first 50 or 100 people (Also, being a “true fan” that I am, I usually respond to Chris’s invitation to his readers). Portland is one of my favorite cities because my friend since elementary school lives there with her family and I had fun memories visiting them a few times in the past. But as the departure date drew near, other things started to come in to my life. I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Japan at the end of May, which would leave only one day between Japan trip and the trip to Portland. I was also feeling a bit selfish for leaving our two young sons with my husband’s care in 2 weeks in a row.
The other hesitation was that I felt like as though I already knew what I’d “get” by going to this event. I’ve been following Chris’s work for 2 years – I’ve been reading his blog regularly, I have translated his manifesto to Japanese, read his book and even worked really hard to get a Japanese publisher to buy the foreign book rights in Japanese… I knew what his message was all about. Also, I knew some of the speakers at the event, including big-name bloggers such as Pamela Slim, Danielle LaPorte, Jonathan Fields… I have heard all of them speak before and/or have been reading their blogs occasionally, and felt like I sort of knew what they are about too. Additionally, I had already taken a leap of faith and have been living my dream! Shouldn’t I stay with my family instead of going on “vacation” to Portland, after being absent for a week? If I want to know more about what they have to say about anything, I could read their blogs…
In the end, I am glad I didn’t cancel my trip. Looking back, there were many memorable moments throughout the weekend, but here are some key things that I took away.
1. Awareness and gratitude:
On Saturday morning, in his opening remarks, Chris mentioned; “This is not a motivational conference”. Listening to him, I realized that I went there partly because my life is already awesome. That awareness filled me with gratitude for my life and my family who supports me in my journey.
2. Connections with new and not-so-new friends:
I have made several meaningful connections throughout the weekend. One of them was with @Mehori, or Mr.Hori from Japan. On several occasions we had a series of conversations about life, work and the current status of things in Japan. It was refreshing to hear his point of view from many reasons. Another re-connection I made was with @mma323, or Mr.Matsumoto – for those who were there, he’s famously known as the guy who Pam Slim took down on stage. Actually, Mr.Hori, Mr.Matsumoto and I had met in Tokyo last December, but reuniting again at this side of the ocean meant a lot to me. Mr.Matsumoto and I had dinner together on the second day of the conference, and we joined fellow WDS attendees afterwards for a drink. It was interesting to hear him talk about his pursuit of romantic relationships. We’d have to continue the discussion when he comes down to San Diego this weekend…
3. What makes me feel most alive:
On the 2nd day of the event, Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen took the stage and presented their Mondo Beyondo talk. These two giggly ladies asked us to think of a time where we felt most alive. This question threw me off a little bit, because the first thing that came to my mind was not at all what I had expected. It wasn’t about accomplishing amazing goals such as getting a job at the United Nations or publishing a book – it was when my kids and I were pumping the pomp of this fire truck to make it move forward at the Legoland, or when I was out swing dancing by the beautiful San Diego bay. Then we were supposed to talk to a partner and solidify why these moments came up, and pick a word to describe it – which ultimately pinpointed the value we hold dear. The word I picked was “let go” because when I get out of my head and am taking action I feel most alive. Also, they told us that their message to each of us will be found underneath of the chair we were sitting. This earned them a standing ovation from a hall full of 500 attendees – the card I found on my chair said “You are becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be”. This experience brought me tears. The rest of the speakers were all uniquely great and inspiring but this was one of the most memorable moments. I carry this word with me and try to look at it written at least once a day. Oh, we were supposed to write that one word we found somewhere on our body to honor and reconnect with that value…it looked something like this in this picture of @mma323. As you can see, his one word was “love”!
Last word about this event; there is something about being there in person. Yes, you can accomplish lots of things on-line these days and the distinction between “virtual” and “real” are getting blur especially if you are connecting with “like-minded” people. But being in that space and creating a face-to-face connections is still very powerful. An inspiring event where you get to connect with inspiring group of people, where you feel like you belong, an event which bring you tears and laughter….If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of, you can put your information here so you can be one of the first to know when the registration opens this fall. I look forward to The Sequel in 2012.
*Photos by Armosa Studios
PS….Short video of WDS2011 can be found here.
It’s been almost a month since the 4th biggest earthquake on the record hit my home country Japan. Many of us who live outside of Japan spent these past several weeks in emotional turmoil. I still remember when my friend in San Jose called me at 10:00pm that night telling me about the earthquake. I saw my brother’s facebook message, asking me to try and contact my parents. I tried calling their cell phones, leaving voicemail message and text messages. It wasn’t until the next morning that I finally talked to my mother, and eventfully with my father. While I couldn’t reach them, I chose to believe that they had gotten stuck somewhere when they were trying to get home due to the transportation system in Japan halting for the earthquake. In the meantime, I learned that things were getting worse by minute – a big tsunami hit after the earthquake, and then the problems with the nuclear plants occurred. From what I read on twitter feeds and various media outlets, small earthquakes kept occurring and things were far from over. It was the end of the world as we knew it. (By the way, my husband who was editing this post commented on this sentence “a little dramatic, don’t you think?” but I disagree. I think something has shifted that day and we are yet to see its full effect.)
During the first few days after the main earthquake, what I saw and heard constantly was (apart from the devastation of this disaster) that non-Japanese people applauding how calm and caring Japanese people were in the face of these difficulties. There was no looting or violence which one would expect should a similar thing happen in other places. One of my Japanese friends wrote in his blog that when this particular aspect of the disaster was discussed in the ESL class, someone asked why there was no looting or violence in cases like this in Japan. This was a pivotal point for me to realize that this is one of the main reasons why I want my children to have the experience of living in Japan. I want them to know our way, not like foreigners seeing us from outside, but want them to live there and breathe our philosophy – or what being a Japanese person means in situations like this.
I know that what is happening right now is tragic and there is so much political and historical discussions around what we should do about the nuclear plant or our dependency on it, and that the government’s and TEPCO’s response to the situation leaves a lot to be desired. Also, Japan’s cultural nature to conform to group values vice putting individual values first has its downside – being different is not always welcomed or accepted, and we feel strong pressure from people in the group to be just like them. People criticize lack of strong leadership on the government’s side, but it is very challenging to be a leader in our country because you are not meant to be different or stand out, and also supporting leaders is not our strongest qualities (they go hand in hand; who wants to take charge when all they get is criticism?) I’ve been thinking how to show my children the best of both worlds. How can my son learn the have a healthy balance between doing what’s best for the team, and putting himself first so he can live his life as he sees fit? I want him to contribute and be a member of a society, and I want him to stand out and speak up as he desires. It will be a long learning experience for all of the cross-cultural couples like us. One thing I’m determined to continue as long as I can is to tell them “I love you” every night when I tuck them in bed. Also, I will have my sons call each other by their names even though that’s now what we do in Japan – usually younger brother calls older one “Oni-chan” (older brother) and not by name. I have my own theory about what this might do to my kids. Whether calling each other by name and not by their roles does what I think it would, only time will tell. In the meantime, I continue to be the best “me” I can be and live fully. As we have all seen, you’ll never know what tomorrow brings.
Last weekend I assisted the Remembrance course. It had special meaning to me because of the participants I personally enrolled. One such participant, Hajime, is 18 years old and has ALS disease. We raised enough money for him and his mother, and I was pleased to see them both on Friday evening at the Indigo Village which was where the course took place. Even though I trusted that this course will “help” Hajime, I did not know what kind of expectations he or his family had coming in, nor how exactly it could help him. I maintained a poker face while they were settling in their seats before the course begun, but to be honest, I was terrified.
The Remembrance Course takes place a few times a year in San Diego. What happens during this course is that participants take turns to get up to stand in front of the class and introduce themselves by sharing – they talk about what they want to get out from this course, what challenges they are facing, and how they would like their lives to be different. Instructors guide the person in the spotlight, and everyone in the room, both participants and assistants help to take part in this process. Everyone’s turn looks different as there is no cookie-cutter format for each person to get what he or she is there to get.
Hajime was the last one to go on Saturday. Most participants had not been informed about his illness until that point. When it was finally his turn and the instructor told the group about it, I felt like I could hear what is going on in their heads. We talked about ALS and his fear and sorrow. We discussed how trying not to feel pain or sadness also limits the extent you feel joy and happiness, because you can’t take just “good” parts in life – it’s a package. If you try to numb yourself so you won’t feel seemingly negative feelings, you also won’t get those feelings at the other end of the spectrum. Also, we helped him see that it is his responsibility to keep the friends whom he can express his honest emotions with.
After that, we were instructed to tell Hajime what we had learned from him – not from a place of feeling sorry for him, because that would not help him in moving forward, but from a place of love and gratitude. We each took turns to tell him how courageous he was for being there, how caring he was towards his mother and how bright his smile was and how much his presence in the course encouraged them. His mother was the last one to share, and she told him what a tremendous gift he has been to her and the entire family, and how much she love him. As a mother, I couldn’t help but feel for her. The thought of losing a child is one of the fears all parents may have to deal and live with, even if there was no obvious reason to fear. This possibility becoming a reality because of a specific reason likes this – it is something a mother should not have to go through. During this course, Hajime and his mother learned that it is okay and safe to express those feelings of fear and sadness, even to each other. They learned how not to take the responsibility of making the other person happy, and that way, they can feel safe to be upset or sad in front of the other person and be comfortable with all of those emotions. I believe that lesson was the real gift. I would love to build such relationship with my two sons when they are older.
After the course, I had a chance to talk more with Hajime. He had a very different facial expression than when I first saw him on Friday. His eyes were twinkling with excitement. He was so happy to feel everyone’s love, and he shared with us what his plans are for his future; returning to assist the course in April, graduating high school, going on to his dream school in San Francisco, assisting this course for teens…. He couldn’t stop talking about the course and said that more people should know about this course. I was relieved that the course had such a positive impact on him – and more than that, I learned to take a chance in inviting someone if I think that this is beneficial for him or her, despite the fear of rejection, or the possibility of this experience turning out not so great. As Susan Jeffer said, feel the fear and do it anyway, because the possible outcome is just too great not to give it a chance. The next Remembrance course is from April 29th through May 1st and you can enroll here.
This year I have made so many good friends whom I initially met on Twitter or Facebook. There is a particular group of friends I’ve been close with this past 6 months, and they threw me a party in San Diego after I returned from my book tour in Japan.
Later that evening, I learned that one of my friends in the group, Hozue’s 17-year-old son, Hajime has ALS disease (also known as Lou Gehrig disease). He was diagnosed with this disease in fall this year, and he has already started having some difficulties with his speech. It is said that it’s one of the most difficult diseases one could have, because you will lose all of the muscle in your body over time while your consciousness is still intact. When my friend told us about it, I started to think about how I could help her and her son.
The answer came immediately; Enroll her son to the Remembrance course. It’s a weekend course which takes place at the Indigo Village in San Diego, and the next course is from January 21st through 23rd, 2011. I spoke with my mentor Susie Walton and Pamela Dunn, and they both agreed that the course will offer him a space to express his feelings as well as help him gain some tools to face his fears. I then talked to Hozue about this idea, and she spoke with her husband and her son – they agreed to move forward.
This is where I ask you for your support. I want to raise the course fee of $425 so her family can enroll Hajime for the Remembrance course. If you want to contribute, there are two ways to do so;
Write a check payable to “Indigo Village Educational Foundation”. Write “for Hajime Miyasaka’s course fee” on memo space and send it to
Etsuko Tsukagoshi, 3142 Midway Drive B212 San Diego CA 92110
2. On-line via Indigo Village Educational Foundation
For this option, the donation amount is set for $25, $50, $100 etc. but you can use your credit card to donate. Since there is no space to indicate that this is for Hajime Miyasaka, send me an email after you have donated this way (my email is firstname.lastname@example.org)
Indigo Village Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization, so your contribution will be tax deductible. I’ll be responsible for compiling the excel sheet to keep track of who has donated how much, so we can make sure that all of the donations will go towards Hajime’s course fee. Since the course will start on January 21st, if you could send the donation in by January 15, 2011, I would greatly appreciate it.
There is no cure for ALS disease. I won’t pretend that the Remembrance course will prevent his disease from progressing. Our life is ending one day at a time – that is true for everyone on this planet. But Hajime is only 17, and his life will be cut shorter than he or his family members have ever imagined. I trust my mentors, course instructors and my intuition that the Remembrance Course will give him the tools to deal with what remains of his short, yet meaningful life.
As I wrote in this post in January this year, one of my goals was to publish a book. I got a book deal a few month later. I have sent out the final round of revision last week and now I am just waiting for them to send me a finished copy. In the meantime, a few non-Japanese friend asked me what my book will be about, so I decided to write a post.
My book “Cross-Cultural Marriage 101” (Japanese Title: “Kokusai Kekkon Ichinensei”). I wrote this book in Japanese for Japanese people who are seriously considering marrying a non-Japanese person. They can be engaged to get married, or dating a foreign partner for a while, or simply entertaining the idea about it because they think that it might be a better option for them based on their belief formed by their life experiences.
It is a lighthearted, yet serious and insightful book about what Japanese people should be aware of before entering a marriage with a non-Japanese person, to increase their chances at successfully creating a happy, long lasting and peaceful family.
I’m working on getting this book to major Japanese bookstores in other countries as well. If you have Japanese-reading friends who could use this book, please let them know about it. They can either get this book on Amazon.com or ask the Japanese bookstores in their town to order from Japan. I’m also in touch with Japanese U.S. Military bases in Japan as it has a special chapter about marrying a U.S. military personnel.
Hopefully I will get English version of this book published next!
<Chapter 1> Is marrying a non-Japanese person intrinsically more difficult compared to marrying a Japanese person?
1.What’s your “Deal-Breaker”?
2.The reason why “Cross-Cultural Marriage” is said to be more risky
3.Benefit of “Cross-Cultural Marriage”
4.Does love conquer all?
5.Check sheet for your “Cross-Cultural Marriage preparedness”
<Chapter 2> Why do you want to marry a non-Japanese person?
1.The real reason of why you want to marry that person
2.Be aware of your stereotype “If you are from XXX country, you must be YYY”
3.Is your “Dream life in XYZ country” real or an illusion?
4.The reason why you want to get your family onboard before the wedding day
5.A few words for the parents
<Chapter 3> Did you talk about this yet?
1.Things you need to know before moving to your spouse’s country
2.Things you need to know if you continue to live in Japan with your spouse
3.Your aptitude for a “nomadic” life
4.Could both of you live in each other’s country?
5.Critical factor – Eating habits
6.How good is your foreign language skill?
7.What are your expectations for your spouse’s Japanese language skill?
8.Don’t give up on communication
9.True nature of your relationship
10.Let’s talk about money
11.Do you know “pre-nuptial agreement”?
12.Insurance for rainy days
13.Where would you like to live when you retire?
14.Planning ahead – what happens when your spouse suddenly dies
15.How well do you know your partner’s family?
16.How many kids would you like to have – if any?
17.Raising your cross-cultural children
18.Know the Child Protection Law
19.It isn’t easy to raise a bilingual child
20.Double income or single income?
21.Pursue independence so you can both be happy
22.How well do you know your partner’s friends and hobbies?
23.What’s your religion?
24.What’s your political view?
25.Your partner’s anger management skills
26.Asking for professional help
27.“Marriage” means to be on the same team
28.If you are marrying a millitary personnel
<Chapter 4> In case of Divorce
1.Increase of divorce rate
2.When divorce doesn’t fix things
<Chapter 5> Happy Cross-Cultural Marriage
1.It’s up to you
2.Get to know your partner’s many faces
Today I attended “It Takes a Village to Create Change” conference where Simon Sinek did the keynote speech. The first part was basically his TED Talk contents with more emphasis on creating community with people who believe what you believe, and he talked about why you need to start with “why”, and not “how” or “what”. I have seen his TED Talk multiple times prior to today, but I still found it very energizing and inspiring.
The second part was a Q & A session and he became even more lively and engaging as soon as he opened the floor to take questions from the audience. Someone asked his thoughts about President Obama and the recent election results; He won the presidential election two years ago by effectively communicating “Why” with the voters, and yet, it appears that he might have lost his way as evident from the most recent election results. Simon replied that it seems like President Obama does not trust that communicating his “why” is enough. Moreover, Simon speculates that because President Obama, with his college professor-like intelligence and knowledge, likes to try convincing people with facts and figures (which is the “What” in Simon’s golden circle), he keeps getting sucked into the argument over the details. Simon reflected how he would have started out the President’s speech to push through a health care bill. He demonstrated how reversing the order of WHAT-HOW-WHY to WHY-HOW-WHAT, as explained in the video clip above, would have been much more effective in inspiring people to agree with him on his health care plan. It was beautiful and very powerful. Even before Simon finished his spontaneously-created health care speech, someone yelled out from the audience, “I’m in!”, meaning that they are sold on to that idea.
Simon also explained that people need to find a way to put words in their “why” to inspire other people, which is not an easy task. He also added that once you find your “why” and a way to articulate it, it is necessary to surround yourself with reminders of your “why”, because people tend to forget as the time goes by, or the organization or business grows, or circumstances change. After finishing his speech and Q & A session which lasted for over 100 minutes, I was able to speak with him briefly one on one. He kindly agreed to say a few words in front of my camera about his own “Why”.
This past Wednesday was my birthday. Since I put a list of birthday resolutions I made last year here, I decided to follow up on how it turned out as well as writing new ones.
<Last year’s Birthday Resolutions>
1. Fully graduate from my current day job
2. Complete Evolution Series Instructor Training
3. Live my ideal day at least 3 days a week
4. Meet with Chris Guillebeau in person
5. Create more music, including learning to play guitar
6. Learn to cook better & more often
7. Learn to meditate
I accomplished #1, #2 and #4. Chris and I have since become friends. Through him, I have expanded my circle of good friends. I met Leslie in person when we went to Japan this past March, and I’ve been working with Masa on a project together after meeting with him on twitter. I am grateful about these “en”, or 縁 (a Japanese word meaning “chance meeting”).
As for other items, it’s a work in progress – I didn’t make the time to play guitar – I became pregnant in October of 2009, and I made getting enough sleep a priority. I remember telling my friend Henry that I am too tired to stay up and learn the chords, and he jokingly told me that he understands – “having a bun in the oven does that to you”. My youngest son, Miroku was here on Monday, December 7th, leaving delicate foot prints in our hearts. He left us that day. Come to think of it, I haven’t touched my guitar or piano since then. His story can be found here and here. Maybe it’s time to start playing piano again.
Learn to meditate and learn to cook – I’m working on it too. I have to admit that after leaving my full time job, making the time to cook became more challenging, which was surprising to me. Working from home has its own challenges. Being able to set your own schedule is definitely one of the advantages but it could also be a disadvantage if you are not highly disciplined. Charlie Gilkey dispelled the myth about having more time when you work for yourself when he said that “Don’t think that work/life balance issue will disappear when you become independent and start working for yourself.” I have now experienced it first hand. In a way, the line between work and play blurred. On one hand I “get to” do this for living now, and it doesn’t feel like work when I write a blog post or chatting on twitter or being on a Skype call, and because of that, I tend to do that any time of the day. However, I have realized that I need to balance that with the family time, couple time and time for myself. I suppose that it’s a challenge that self employed people all face and I will be better at creating more balance as I continue this path.
So what are the new birthday resolutions?
1. Publish books
2. Create more balance in daily life
3. Practice yoga and meditation on most days
4. Be fully location independent in my business
5. Express myself more fully and freely to the world
I know some of it might sound vague…#2 and #5 are more like the state of mind I want to keep working on. #1 & #4 are related to my business, #1 is also a way of doing #5. This past year I learned how much I put myself in a box with self-imposed rules, and how much I filter my thoughts and not say things that come to my mind. As an adult, having a filter is a necessary social skill, but in my case it could be limiting myself and get in my way of how I relate to other people. It seems to be limiting my intuition also. I’m hoping doing #3 will help me with that.
OK, your turn! What are your resolutions?