Nuanced Not Faded

Hello, my friends! I received this luscious bouquet from a dear friend a couple of weeks ago, on my birthday. We did a social-distanced hand-off of the flowers, which was quite funny.

As I gazed at these blooms the phrase that came to mind was, “faded beauty.” It’s what everyone says, right? The faded beauty of dying roses. Although these roses are no longer in the full blush of its blossoming floral youth, I don’t think their beauty has faded at all. If anything, it’s deepened and is more nuanced.

Of course, as someone who is now 49-years-old, perhaps I’m justifying the passage of time and what might be perceived as the dimming of what K calls my “sparkle.” Here’s what she said to me as she flipped through some old photos, “You had so much sparkle when you were in your twenties, Mama!” My almost 14-year-old K is so full of sparkle and it’s true, I definitely feel more muted. But nuanced!

One is prone to contemplation around the time of a birthday, and I’m a professional contemplator as it is. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my forties and I’m unabashedly excited about embarking on my fifties next year. If I’ve learned anything in my four decades, it’s that if I allow it, life gets better and better. Does that mean the world is better or that everything is perfect? No. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, if the news broadcasts are to be believed, the world has gone to hell. But I don’t believe the news (not entirely, anyway). And I don’t believe in suffering because other people are suffering. I tried that for many, many years, and all that happened was a lot of extra suffering. This is probably not a popular stance given current events, but I stand by it 100%.

What I want to do for this 49th year and beyond is to genuinely enjoy each day and — if I may use the quote from my ginger teabag tag today — “plant love and watch it grow”. To just be myself. Who knows how many days I have left? My mom has been an excellent role model in this regard. She used to talk about death all the time, and how she wanted to squeeze goodness out of each moment before she passed on. When I was younger I thought that was macabre and rather depressing, but now I see that it’s the opposite. She’s 71 now and hasn’t changed much. Every time I chat with her on the phone, she tells me of all the joys she finds in her new home and surrounding area and wonders when she’ll die, practically in the same breath — she seems so content to have returned to Japan after 50 years in California, but then again she was content in Los Angeles too. Now there is a woman who knows how to have a good time and is unafraid of the grim reaper.

I’d like to be like that.

I’ve been enjoying many things lately. M spoiled me with books and art supplies for my birthday and I got this amazing set of colored pencils. I’m obsessed with colored pencils and have tried pretty much every brand on the market. According to all the reviews I’ve read most colored pencil artists love soft, smooth, oil-based pencils, but I prefer harder, wax-based leads. What drew me in particular to this set is that like myself, the colors in this Derwent Artists set are quite muted (and nuanced!):

As you can see, I’ve tested a jillion brands to see figure out my preferences. K calls them my broccoli girls.

More experimenting. The Lightfast pencils are spectacular as well, but I still prefer the Artists…

I used to have a phobia about using my “nice” stuff and kept saving them for a day when I would feel somehow more worthy of the high quality items. No more. I dove right into using my gorgeous pencils and I’ve been cutting into my prized fabrics as well. I made this little self-drafted tank for myself this week. It’s made with Nani Iro fabric I bought at Yuzawaya last year in Japan. Again, who knows how many days I have left, right? Might as well use everything up.

Using things up has been a big theme during quarantine for me. I get this huge sense of satisfaction from finishing the toothpaste tube, cooking up all of the vegetables in the fridge, etc., etc. There’s the awesomeness of reducing waste, of course, but it’s that glee of completion that I love more than anything else.

I hope you’re all faring well in spite of the global chaos. Here’s another role model for enjoying each moment (I know that I keep posting similar photos of Katara, but she’s so darn cute and I’m such a cat lady now, I can’t help it):

I’m working on three books starting this week, so my schedule will be full for a while. It’ll be a nice change from my dawdling, doodling days — I like having the balance of the two. In a few months, I’ll be able to go back to aimless coloring and contemplating, which will be lovely.

P.S. K graduated from middle school last week and is now officially a high schooler!! Wow, I don’t think I ever imagined myself as a Mama to a high school kid and so far, it’s awesome.

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!!!!