Simple

Hello, my friends. How are you? How different the world is since I last posted here.

Nothing like a pandemic to stop you in your tracks, to take stock of all that is.

It’s very odd. I was experiencing a sense of deja vu as events unfolded, and I kept trying to figure out why that would be. It finally occurred to me that I had felt this very same sense of foreboding and out-of-control-ness and unmooring when my health was at its worst, back in 2012.

I was homebound for the most part back then too, and I felt constrained in every way because my body was incapable of functioning how I wanted it to. But as the restricted days turned into weeks and then into months, I found a rhythm that started to make more sense. The slowing down became normal, appreciated, even. I slept a lot, took longer and longer walks as my strength increased, ate mountains of vegetables and read an astounding number of books. I filled one notebook after another as I examined my life from every angle and discovered unsettling and buoying aspects in equal measure.

I simplified. From the outside looking in, my early days of rehabilitation probably appeared nondescript, boring. Ironically, it was anything but. It was one of the most creative, richest times for me. All that time of quietude and percolating thoughts led to sewing with vigor again, picking up a paintbrush to teach myself watercolors and gouache, launching this little blog. And then crazy things kept happening and dreams came true.

My days are simple again. I get up early in the morning to walk around the neighborhood. I come home, make myself a cup of coffee and write for hours. I feed my family (including my cat) brunch. We’ve done away with breakfast and brunch is always more fun. I work on book projects at a leisurely pace. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is rushed. I paint little sketches. I like to paint flowers. Some days I sew. I do some laundry. A little bit of tidying up happens here and there. I start on dinner around 5:30, and chop many, many vegetables. We eat our evening meal, and K has started a new tradition: we must report three good things that happened that day. I read a chapter or two from one of the books among the towering stack beside my bed before drifting off to asleep. And then I repeat the whole thing the next day.

This doesn’t mean there’s no fear or anxiety. My brain feels foggier for sure. I am more emotional. I miss my regular routines; I miss getting together with people. But the simplicity helps. Simple feels good.

P.S. My 2021 sewing book, as expected, has been postponed since we couldn’t proceed with the photoshoot, but the good news is that my ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW book will be on sale earlier than expected. I will have more updates on that soon.

This one’s figured out the whole lockdown thing.

 

Another Year of Magical Thinking

Hello, my friends! Here it is, my last post of the year, squeaking in at the very last minute. Overall, 2019 was a profound year for me. I changed a lot, accomplished so many goals. I failed and failed and failed, too.

One of the biggest changes of all: I am no longer afraid of public speaking. In fact, I might even go as far to say that I enjoy it now. That’s not to say that I’m any good at it, but I’ve stopped caring that I’m not. Just last month, I stood in front of two hundred elementary school students and all their teachers and gave one of my book presentations. Not a muscle spasm to be seen on my face, not a single drop of sweat glistened on my brow. At one point when I opened the floor for questions and answers, one of the students raised his hand.

“Yes?” I pointed the microphone towards him.

“Why did you stand in front of the projector and screen the whole time? We couldn’t see anything!”

Now, a couple of years ago I would have been mortified. This time, I laughed and laughed. I apologized, naturally, but it was so funny to me that of course I would block the view!

Herein lies the most massive change I’ve seen in myself: I’ve stopped beating myself about things that — in the grand scheme of things — matter so little.

Despite the many successes I’ve enjoyed this year, my financial goals remain unmet. This continues to be a source of contention in my family and there’s a lot of talk about how I need to go get a “real job.” Several weeks ago my well-intentioned yet destitution-fearing husband made me aware of my “magical thinking,” and how problematic this is. My daughter, lovely K, calls it “Moo Moo Cha Cha.”

I gave this some serious, weighty thought. Magical thinking…..hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think they’re right.

And because of my magical thinking, here’s a partial list of what has happened in the last 6 years. I’ve:

  • Pitched and sold 10 book ideas without an agent. TEN BOOKS. I got four book deals this year (Thank you Sasquatch Books and Little Bigfoot, I love you).
  • Improved my health so much that I no longer have any Graves Disease symptoms, with which I was diagnosed in 2011.
  • Lost nearly 20 pounds without dieting.
  • Manifested illustration clients, magazine work, paid events and other opportunities that I couldn’t have even imagined six years ago. I modeled for a magazine, y’all. At age 48. With hyper-pigmentation and wrinkles and gray-streaked hair.
  • Sewn literally hundreds of garments and projects. I can make perfectly fitting jeans. This, more than anything, seems to blow people’s minds.
  • Become comfortable in my own skin. Most importantly, I now truly love my life and love myself. Exactly as I am, full of flaws and full of light.

Call me crazy, but magical thinking seems awesome, wouldn’t you agree?

I decided that in 2020, I’m going to keep going with the Moo Moo Cha Cha (I so love that term K coined). I’m going to experiment and try anything and everything that I’m curious about that people keep telling me are unrealistic. It’s amazing how many people tell me that I’m unrealistic — sometimes complete strangers!

I’m willing to experience discomfort on a grand scale, my friends. I’m starting now, by offering up for sale a little booklet I wrote with my thoughts on magical thinking because — why not? If it helps even one person get closer to a long-held dream or improve his or her health or aid in feeling just a little bit more okay in this chaotic world, I’m delighted. I put so much of myself in this little digital booklet, and it’s quite embarrassing in some ways. This e-book started out as a post that I shared with my Patreon group (they’re the best! I share all of the in-depth behind-the-scenes stuff with them) — I received such encouraging feedback that I wondered if it might benefit more people.

I truly believe that ANYONE can accomplish the things I’ve listed above. For six years, I’ve diligently focused on what I wanted my life to look like and lo! By changing the way I think and taking steady actions, I’m astounded by the results. This year, I’m turning laser-focused attention to the money aspect for obvious reasons — and I want to do it in a way that is with integrity, from a place of uplifting and helping others. For the e-book, I’ve added more to my original raw post and drew up some illustrations too. Included are actual, unvarnished thought processes, the struggles, and information about how much I actually earn as an author/illustrator. It’s my first iteration and I’ll be creating more products along this line over the course of 2020.

Here’s to experimentation and Moo Moo Cha Cha! If you’d like to purchase this wee digital book, click here

2020!!!! This moment at the cusp of a new year is the most thrilling for me. The potentiality is gigantic and shiny and sparkly, and I’m shaking off the difficult bits and bobs from the past twelve months. I’ve learned a lot from them and I’m ready to move on. Onwards and upwards!!

Greetings from Japan!

Takeshita-Dori at Harajuku, Tokyo. We ate a ton of sweets here.
Ginza, Tokyo. I liked the “San-ai Dream Center” sign because it reminded me of my name and the way I pronounce it, which is actually different from the Japanese traditional pronunciation.
On weekends, the main street in Ginza is closed off and is pedestrian only. K is lounging at one of the tables in the heart of the shopping district.
The theme of the trip was animals. We went to the amazing Yokohama Sea Paradise aquarium where it felt like we could practically touch the dolphins.

Hello, hello! K and I have spent a glorious time in Japan for the last 11 days, and we’re having a hard time leaving. I have so many thoughts and emotions right now and though I’m unable to organize them in a coherent way at the moment, I wanted to pop in to say hello.

I also wanted to talk about Ogden camis. For this trip, I somehow made four Ogden Camis by True Bias Patterns in two days before embarking on the plane to Narita. I originally purchased the PDF pattern and then printed it out via PDF Plotting. This turned out to be a brilliant move because I probably would have never gotten around to sewing these great little tops if I had to tape loads of sheets together.

I started with the size 12 based on the finished size dimensions, but the top was much too large and also too short for my liking. Undaunted, I traced the size 10 and the fit was much better, though I think I could go down a half size. I experimented with lengthening, ranging from 1″ to 3″ — 2″ feels like the right amount for me.

Size 12 in a Japanese fabric I received as a gift from Frances of Miss Matatabi

 

 

Version two in size 10 using a double-gauze.
Here’s the back
Version three in my favorite indigo cotton with subtle vertical stripes. I lengthened this one by 3 inches.

Here’s the sad part though: I brought three of the four camis with me to Japan and I only wore one. The breezy top is perfect for the muggy weather in Japan, but I felt very exposed and a bit scandalous showing so much skin in the thronging areas amid women covered from head to toe in layers of fabric. The Japanese as a whole are a modest people and there seems to be an unspoken rule to cover your shoulders.

This fourth version was made from 1 yard of GORGEOUS linen I got on major sale from the no longer open District Fabrics in Fremont. I love how Katara stays close to me and you can see what the photo area situation is actually like here…

I wore this stripey linen version to a cat cafe in Atagawa — where my parents now live — and I felt all the Japanese cat lovers surreptitiously staring at my torso. Luckily, the kitties were incredibly adorable so the stares were short-lived. The cat cafe was one of the highlights of our trip. K and I were missing Katara and it was an unplanned way to get a dose of feline fun. I was pleased with how well-cared for the 28 (!!) cats were at the small facility. For the price of roughly $10 an hour, we played with incredibly friendly cats, fed them snacks and enjoyed a beverage ourselves (the snacks and drinks were included).

K at the cat cafe, having the time of her life.

Well, it’s time for me to wake up K so we can have our last breakfast in Japan. I want to absorb all that we’ve seen and done here in the land of the rising sun and will be updating my Patreon lovelies with all the nitty gritty behind-the-scenes stuff as I always do. I hope you’re all doing well, and I’ll be back with more sewing with some fabric goodies I got in Ginza soon!

TEENAGER + BOOK GIVEAWAY {CLOSED}

Hello, hello! Here is a rare photo of M — this one’s from 13 years ago. K is only a few days old in this image, and for several months, she frequently slept on M’s chest like this.

Today, my baby is 13. THIRTEEN. M had a birthday last week as well, and he always says that K has been the best present he’s ever received and I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps the one downside is that ever since she popped out, his birthday has been upstaged by hers (sorry, honey). He doesn’t seem to mind.

1-year-old K

I feel simultaneously emotional and oddly detached, if that’s at all possible. Motherhood is such a paradoxical experience, overflowing with the mundane and exalting. Sometimes it seems like I’m the adolescent and she’s the mature one. I find myself increasingly reliant on her technical savvy, and she shrewdly observes the world with an older-than-her-years wisdom. And then she’ll crumble into a fit of uncontainable feelings worthy of a toddler. I’m constantly wide-eyed with wonder and not a little mystified by how quickly that tiny being has grown up. She’s on the petite side so she’s not quite as tall as I am (I’m 5′ 4″), but her comportment is decidedly young adult. I look back on all the phases — Dora The Explorer, Elmo, Disney princesses, that weird goth period when she was 5 or 6, unicorns — and I wonder what the next evolvement will be. Make-up? Boyfriends? She starts 8th grade in the fall and she’s already talking about preparing for college…oh, I don’t think I’m ready for that. No, not at all.

But today is all about celebrating her entry into teenage-hood. I’m so proud of her. I’m so in awe of her. There’s that popular quote, “I love you to the moon and back,” which I adore, but I want to know where the farthest, deepest, highest point in the universe is because that’s where my love for her extends to and fro.

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As an additional way to celebrate (and because I’ve just completed my fifth book that will be released next year), I’m doing a little book giveaway! Details are on Instagram, but if you’re not an IG type, here’s the 411 for entering through the blog:

To enter, simply leave a comment below with a summer reading recommendation. I’ve been devouring YA books lately, but I’m a voracious reader of any and every genre. I will choose FIVE random winners — winners can select any two books that are shown here and will receive signed (and personalized, if desired) copies. The books are SEWING HAPPINESS, LITTLE KUNOICHI, CHIBI SAMURAI WANTS A PET and BA-CHAN, THE NINJA GRANDMA, published by @sasquatchbooks And @lbfbooks. International entries are more than welcome and the giveaway will be open until Friday, August 9th. Good luck!!!!

 

Attention Span + New Sewing Gadgets

Hello, my friends! How are you? Are blogs still a thing? I’m committed to updating my little space at least once a month, but I get the sense that the collective attention span has been rapidly dwindling (including mine for sure) and Instagram is so much easier, isn’t it? Despite my amoeba-like attention span, I can spend so much time just consuming images — which perplexes me. There have been times when an entire HOUR (or more!) will have been frittered away while I mindlessly scroll through my feed. Yikes. Intellectually, I understand that I’m getting dopamine hits with every new image or a “like” for something I’ve posted, but I make sure to read super interesting books just before going to bed and have noticed that I can barely make it through two pages before my mind wanders off. There’s something about just looking at fun square photos that feels easy and addictive and lately, reading can seem like too much work. This is a travesty for someone who considers books to be the very lifeblood of existence. So I’m actively working on weaning myself from social media.  Although I’ll continue to post on Instagram every once in a while, I’m going to dramatically cut back on the time I spend ogling at all the pretty feeds. I don’t want my gravestone to read, “She excelled at Instagram, the viewing of.”

I also like to watch my cat, Katara. True to the cliché, she’s a curious creature and is constantly exploring all the smells and sounds and sights around her, and her attention span is ultra robust. Her ear twitches back and forth in this cute way when she catches an unusual noise that my ears are incapable of hearing. We have staring contests sometimes and she beats me every time. It’s so fascinating to see how primal and deeply encoded many of her actions are. For example, when she chooses not to finish her food, she’ll scratch the linoleum all around her food bowl. I found out that it’s a genetic predisposition from ancient times when cats lived in the desert and would bury prey in the sand to save for later and to hide it from other animals. Katara’s never been near a desert or even a sandy area as far as I know. It makes me ponder our human encodings — what do we all act out unknowingly, instinctively? Marketers and advertisers and social media developers seem to have a full grasp of our primal instincts of wanting validation and constant change within a comfortable nest of familiar safety.

Anyway, I wanted to pop in and ramble digitally for a bit.

Also! Earlier this year, I treated myself to a cover stitch machine and a new serger (to replace my dying Brother 1034D). I am completely intimidated by both machines and have only used them once. I did figure out how to thread the snazzy things, but I feel very shy around them, like they’re the cool kids that might reject me. Anyone have recommendations for tutorials or resources for using the Juki MO654DE and Janome CoverPro 1000CPX?

I’m off to go give them another whirl. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, my friends, and I’ll keep you posted on my serging/cover stitching adventures!