Tag Archives: family

家族のDNA

今年の4月にあった母方の祖父母の法事での会話をきっかけとして、5月の連休の日曜日に叔母夫妻、私たち家族と兄夫婦で実家に集まりました。

母方の家族は音楽一家。祖父はバイオリン、祖母はピアノをやっていて、祖父は94歳で突然亡くなる前の日までバイオリンを弾いていたそうです。祖父母の子どもたちである私の母やふたりの叔母も、ピアノ、バイオリン、エレクトーンなどをやっていました。母はピアニストになり、音楽大学で今でも現役で教えています。そんな環境だったので、子どもの頃は私も兄もピアノを習っていました。あくまで趣味の域を出ませんでしたが・・・

法事のあとの会食の場で、我が家の子どもたちが管楽器にも興味を持っている叔母夫婦に話したら、楽器をたくさん持っているからぜひ今度、私の両親の家で集まろうということになったのです。

連休の日曜日、叔母夫妻が実家に到着すると、次々と楽器が運び込まれました。私と母のピアノ連弾や、母と叔母のピアノとバイオリンの演奏など、ひととおりそれぞれが曲を披露したあとに、叔父の数々の楽器のお披露目大会に。叔父のメイン楽器であるホルンはもちろんのこと、トロンボーン、トランペットなどの管楽器に加えて、ジャンベ太鼓やディドゥリドゥまであったのには本当に驚きました。

サンディエゴで一度、友達の演奏を聴いたことのあったディドゥリドゥ。実家で聴くことができるなん思いもよりませんでした。

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その後はそれぞれが入り乱れてのジャム・セッション。兄夫婦もピアノの連弾で参戦し、4歳児の三男も太鼓をたたいたり、鈴をもって踊ったり・・・音楽に動かされている感じでした。
IMG_4535夫は特に楽器を弾かないので、退屈するかな?と思っていたら、長男のジャンベ太鼓演奏に触発されたのか、その後にジャンベ太鼓をたたきはじめ、それにあわせて叔父がディドリドゥを弾きはじめると、そこに入ってきた長男は曲に合わせて踊り始めました。叔父がディドリドゥの説明をしてくれたときに、オーストラリアの先住民のアボリジニの伝統的な民族楽器で、お祭りのときなどにこれに合わせて踊る・・・という話を理解していたのか、はたまた長男に刷り込まれているダンスの魂なのかはわかりませんでしたが…
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「アルプスの少女ハイジ」の曲の冒頭にひびきわたるアルトホルンは、長すぎて写真におさまりきらず。
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トランペットがやりたい次男も、念願かなって楽器を触らせてもらえて満足げ。子どもたちは、トロンボーンもチューバもポケット・トランペットも初めてなのに、音をだしていたのには驚きました。
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母と叔母が演奏を始めるときに、兄が祖父母がふたりで映っている写真をもってきたのが印象的でした。母が子どもだったころにも、こうして家族で演奏会をしていたのでしょう。
IMG_4560祖父母がそれぞれ2004年、2005年に亡くなってからしばらく後、私や兄が小さい頃から時々訪ねていった東京の祖父母の家はもうなくなってしまいました。でも、おじいちゃんとおばあちゃんの音楽好きのDNAが、私たち、そして子どもたちの世代にもこうして受け継がれていくんだなぁと感じて、なんだか感慨深い日になりました。

家族で「この時には決まってXXをしていた」というファミリー・トラディション。子どもたちの成長につれてだんだんと行われなくなったりしていくこともありますが、でも何年もなにもしていなくても、こうしてまた復活させたり、新たに始めたりできるものなんですよね。また、これが自分のルーツの一部なんだなということも感じたので、来年また集まるときには、ハワイで買ったままで進歩がみられないウクレレもまた手にしていきたいなと思います。

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!

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.

Expecting…..

We are expecting to have a baby, due early March in 2012. As usual I had not shared this news with a bigger circle of friends until way later than the first trimester; this time, I had been holding my breath (figuratively) to go beyond 16 weeks because that was when Miroku left us. Now I’m in my 29th week and I feel the baby kicking and moving. That does not guarantee anything, but what’s guarantied in life anyway, right? I am just taking it one day at a time, enjoying this time – most likely the last time that I’ll experience this magical time of having a baby growing inside of me.
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This summer, I didn’t do much work. Being a freelance has its share of upsides and downsides, because if you lie in bed, not working, then obviously not much work gets done. In my previous pregnancies I worked in an office, so they paid me whether or not I was being productive. But this time I was determined to put this pregnancy to the top of my list of priorities. I knew in my head and heart that it (lying in bed when I needed it) was the best thing and that is what I should be doing. Even then, sometimes I heard voices in my head saying that I should be doing more – getting work done, write one more blog post, responding to emails, and whatever else I had on my “to-do” list that day, week or month.
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So a few weeks ago, I raised this question during the course I had attended. My teacher and mentor Pam had a brilliant insight as usual – she asked me what I was accountable for when I was resting in bed. Was I being accountable for nurturing my baby, or getting the work done? I said “the former”. But then, she pointed out, I didn’t do a good job of silencing the voice, nudging me to get up and get some work done.  It turned out, I was not consciously choosing to rest. It is a subtle distinction but it makes all the difference. If I chose to do something, I am not doing something else at any given time. Sometimes there is an opportunity cost. But choosing to do something over other things means that I am responsible for the consequences of my choice, and dreading over what I am NOT doing because of the choice I have made was not serving me.
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The other thing I realized was is that I sometimes expect too much – too much from myself, my abilities, or from life. Maybe sometimes even from other people, like my husband or kids. I sometimes look at my husband and feel like he is a very happy person precisely because he does not expect much from other people. Most of all, he does not expect others to make him happy. For example, when we come home from a trip and when I ask him what the best part of the trip was, his first answer is always “that we came home safe and sound, no one got seriously sick or hurt”. That’s the bottom line and anything beyond that is an icing on a cake.
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I remember that after we lost Miroku, all I wanted for and from my other kids was that I’ll see them again the next morning. I secretly prayed (and am still praying) that they’d still be alive when I wake up. And yet, it’s amazing to realize how quickly I forget. I don’t think it’s necessarily negative to have expectations; it can be a driving force and source of motivation. But at the end of the day, I want to be grateful for what I have done rather than regretting about things that I have not done. Being conscious about what I am accountable for will help me with that.

After the quake

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.

About My Upcoming Book

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!

Book Contents:

<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
3.Success stories

<Epilogue>

What is the Best Way to Thank Parents?

My parents recently did something very nice for us. I wouldn’t go into details here thank-youbut I’m very grateful about it. I’ve been wondering what I can do for them, besides sending a thank you card, to express my appreciation. Generally speaking, my parents and I have a really good relationship and even though we go through the usual ebbs and flows like many parent and child do, we still communicate regularly, we love each other, and also as important, we like each other – a lot.

Of course, they are my parents. They raised me to the person that I am today, and while some of the growing was almost entirely up to me after I left home, the values that they taught me helped to establish a solid foundation from which I took off to explore the world. Yesterday I was talking to someone I just met, she’s from Iran who grew up in London, and she now lives in the United States. Even though we just met, we quickly connected and discovered our life experiences were somewhat similar. At some point I shared with her my religious/spiritual view of the world. She then told me that I am very fortunate that I have been all over the world – I grew up in Japan for the most part until I was 23, but I’ve then lived in Europe and in the United States and have been to many other places. I agreed with her, I am truly blessed to have the life that I do, and for that I am forever grateful to my parents. Even though we Japanese are known to show deep respect to our parents, I am sure that this sense of gratitude for those who raised us is universal.

After pondering the original question (“What can I do to show my appreciation?”) for a while, I tried to put myself in their shoes. After all, I now have my own kids. I will do everything I can to raise them so they can be self-reliant, confident and happy adults and find what they love to do in life. When they grow up and had a similar idea of thanking us and asked us how they could express their appreciation towards us, what would I say?

I’d probably tell them, “It was my pleasure”. Would I want them to do anything for us? Probably not, except that they keep us in their lives and spend time together, call us when they need help and let us know when they are happy. If they are blessed with their own kids, pass on whatever life lessons they learned. I think that’s probably what all parents need and want. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake – right? Would you share what you’d do or have done to show them that you are grateful for all that they have done for you, especially that “icing” part? I need some ideas!

“The End”

The final episode of the TV show “Lost” aired last Sunday. (Spoiler Alert! Stop reading now if six-feet-underyou don’t want to know the ending) Even though I was not a rabid fan who religiously watched the show weekly over the last 6 years,  I did watch many of the  episodes this past season on-line. For the most part I was satisfied with how it ended, and was happy to see the last scene. Depending on your point of view, it was a happy ending. It made me think that dying is not at all a bad thing. It also reminded me of the last episode of my all time favorite HBO TV show “Six Feet Under”. Everyone dies sooner or later, no one escapes from it. But if you have come to terms with yourself as who you are and have made peace with what you have done, or what has happened to you or to people you care about, you can move onto what comes next after you die. The possibility of reuniting with people mattered to me most is definitely something to look forward to when it’s my turn to cross that bridge.

It was interesting to read people’s reaction in the comments section of abc.com where I watched the last episode. Some people were not happy at all about the last episode. It seemed that there were lots of questions unanswered especially about the secrets of the Island. Some expressed their frustration by saying things like “I wasted six years for this ending!?” While I understand their sentiments, I wondered if those who felt cheated really did not enjoy this past 6 years watching the show. I hope they kept watching it not just to learn what happens in the end, but also because it was entertaining, thrilling, or touching. It’s like anything in your life. Like the spiritual teacher in the movie “Peaceful Warrior” said, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. If your eyes are only looking at where you are going and not paying attention to the surroundings, you might be disappointed when the view at the destination is not as pretty as you had expected. But if you have immersed yourself in the experience and fully enjoyed the process of getting there, what’s in the end matters less, if at all. In a sense, we all know what happens in the end at this life – we all die – so it should make sense to most people that it’s not what happens in the end but how much you experience in the process of getting there. The last episode of “Lost” also suggested that how you live your life dictates how you die or who would be around you when you die. Did you live your life fully today? Make it count as you never know when you get there.

Princess And Frog

A few weeks ago we went to a military movie theater with our kids to watch a Disney movie “Princess and Frog”. I was curious if our older son could sit through a 90 minutes animation film, and princess-and-frog-posterit turned out he did fine for the most part, though there were some parts where a voodoo doctor appeared which was scary for him. It was an entertaining story with so much color and music, with an unique storyline; The main character Tiana turned into a frog when she kissed a voodoo cursed frog, thinking it’ll turn him back to a prince. Together they visit Mama Odie, hoping that she’d undo the curse, but she told Tiana that she needs to understand the difference between what she wants and what she needs. Continue reading

“Life Changing Events”

We all have experienced events in our lives which have affected us profoundly. When we talk about those events, we often use this phrase ”It totally changed my life”. Events such as living 1830027840_8335581a99abroad, going to Zimbabwe to work on an HIV/AIDS project, the experience of giving birth to babies, attending a self-development courses….all of which are my own life changing events. Life changing events are not always pleasant – I am certain that some people would say that losing a family member or a close friend affected them significantly. I know many people who have said that the 9/11 event changed their lives. For me personally, losing Miroku would qualify as one of such events. The other day, I came across a phrase; One of the simplest forms of prayer is to say “Life is a gift from God”. When I saw it, I thought, “yeah, don’t I know it” with a mixture of gratitude and sadness. A part of me is very happy that I do (know that statement to be true), but a part of me feels that I wish I would not be aware of that so keenly. Continue reading