Tuesday, May 31

Dreaming in green


So now that we get to stay, we have to fulfill all those promises we made, the little IOUs to the Universe in exchange for the three-year visa that lines Colette's passport.

One of the main promises I kept making was to be more awake and aware. Obviously our life here is very fragile so I need to pay constant attention. I really, truly love Japan. I love the quiet, the attention to detail, the weeds left to grow everywhere, the glass bells and cicadas in the summertime. Even the soft and sour parts of Japan can fit into my heart. Yet, paying attention includes paying attention to my own needs, as well as appreciating my environment.

And one thing that I have been craving is wildness. Japan is a very wild country, though most might not consider it to be so. Step outside of the city limits and you will probably be in the mountains or standing in a rice field. For my nature loving family, living in the concretescape that is Nagoya can be a little soul-numbing. Don't get me wrong, Nagoya is a comfortable city, and less urban than Tokyo, Osaka, and even Fukuoka. But it is a city nonetheless. Living here can make you a little dazed, it can make trekking outside of the city limits seem troublesome. For us, a lot of the problem is based around scheduling. It is rare that all of us are free for explorations on the same day. So on Monday after our triumph at immigration, realizing my luck in having all three kids at the same time, we headed out of Nagoya a bit to see what a forest park looked like.
Upon arriving, we were reminded how everything is closed on Mondays in Japan, including forest parks.

So we ended up taking a lovely, albeit windswept, stroll around a small lake. Though no hike, it was such a good, sunshiny walk. We saw our first tanbo (dragonfly) of the season, along with skinks, ladybugs, water striders, and even a muskrat. Being outdoors with the kids (coupled with the release from the heaviness of worry I had been toting around for a few weeks) made it really a perfect afternoon. So perfect in fact, that I have decided to spend every chance we can going outside of the limits, into the unknown. Though Sebastian does request that we bring the nets next time, for as he said, "If I had known there were going to be insects, I would have been better prepared".
the family stripes

Monday, May 30

To sum up....

We're in, folks! Colette has Special Permission to stay! What a relief! Notice all the exclamation marks!

Okay, off the properly celebrate. First to the forest park then later after Jason gets home, to the mall to collect our first batch of suzumushi (bell crickets). Thank you all so much for your support. Now we can throw away the "If we get deported" list and focus on "If we get to stay". Exciting days ahead for this troop.

Thanks again! Take care.

Sunday, May 29

Plum Rain::梅雨

tsuyu::plum rain
tsuyu::plum rain

Tsuyu, the rainy season, has arrived in Nagoya. I am one of those rare birds that loves the rainy season. I truly do. It is such a peaceful time in Japan. It gives everyone a chance to rest before the unrelentingly oppressive summer grabs us and allows for no other conversation besides for "Atsui desu ne?" (hot, isn't it?).
With the rainy season comes my favorite flower of all, ajisai (hydrangea). Wet shoes and curly hair is surely a fair price to pay for such beauty. The literal translation of tsuyu is Plum Rain. How can you not be charmed by that?

Tsuyu love aside, I do wish that it didn't have to come so early this year. Tomorrow is the big day at immigration and because of the kindergarten schedule and the elementary school holding their sports day on Tuesday, I find that I will be taking three kids with me in the rain to plead my case. Three kids, in the rain, on the early Monday morning commuter trains. Three kids who after two solid days of rain are bursting at the seams.

The good thing is that regardless of the outcome tomorrow, I will be able to enjoy another Japanese tsuyu. Maybe after the appointment tomorrow, we'll go splash in some puddles and hunt snails.

Wish me luck!
tsuyu::plum rain


Tuesday, May 24

On the storefront

I know I mentioned I was planning to hold a preview in my shop last week, but time got away from me, the willful beast. I have been working slowly towards my early June grand opening by continuously sewing and resewing when things are not up to my standard. I have become more familiar with my machine in these last weeks as well as educating myself on the ins and outs of selling online. Using the blogs on Etsy and reading this book have been very enlightening. This book helps me to understand the more pragmatic side of selling online, which is very good indeed.
new book
Living in Japan has been helpful in that I have become more conscious of details. What used to be acceptable in my sewing now makes me blush but I will chalk it up to being part of the learning process.
I never accomplish as much as I hope over the weekend but as long as I can get my area in order for impromptu sewing, then I can remain inspired and willing to work, even after a long day of teaching and parenting. It is very satisfying to have a tidy work area. The organization revives me.

I will keep chugging along and filling out my inventory. The rotten thing is that the date with immigration is one day before my anticipated grand opening so I will go ahead and expect delays as I deal with the strain of legal headaches. Making and drawing has proved to be a wonderful relief from the stress so I will push myself more in these next few days to finish up my various products. Then I will share again with you.


Monday, May 23

By any other name


There seem to be roses blooming everywhere around Nagoya right now. I have never been very fond of the rose, inheriting my grandmother's prejudice against their full sweet blossoms. She referred to them as funeral flowers, a description that repelled me for many years. This year though I have been charmed by them.

roses everywhere
yellow rose bud
ladybug on rose

Friday, May 20

Everyday Beauties

print hanging in fish shop

Living in Japan, I am surrounded by amazing but mundane textiles. Though I have a deep appreciation for some of the finer textile processes that are usually connected with Japan such as silk brocade for obi, my main obsessions are silk screen and block printing on fabric. Usually printed on cotton or linen, they are used for door curtains, wrapping lunch boxes and presents, handkerchiefs, you name it. This fabric here, for example, is providing shade against the morning sun in a fish shop. What attracted me to this print was how it is both subtle and obvious, a contradiction that can be perfected through textile printing. (Yes, we are a fish shop but we aren't going to shout it.) And because they are somewhat easy to produce, it makes this sort of fabric affordable which means that they will really be used. When aesthetics and practicality merge, that is where I want to be.

Thursday, May 19

be here, be aware

perfect green sakura

Colette and I had Jason to ourselves Monday and Thursday as it is test week so the high school where he works didn't require his skills. Though I had intended to use all my spare minutes for sewing, I chose instead to go tramping around downtown Nagoya with my main squeeze.

Despite looking at this glass I was served as being half full, the impending deportation hearing has been weighing on me. I am trying to use this situation to readjust how I have framed our time here.
We feel settled, we feel a part of this beautiful section of the globe, but in reality we are just long-term guests.
Or at least from the perspective of the authorities.
To counter the feeling of helplessness, we are pushing ourselves to be more aware of where we are right now. To go out and find the Japan that we would miss.

Thursday, May 12

In the grand scheme of things

you are welcome
green means go

In deportation news... Colette and I have an appointment with immigration May 30th. We don't know what this means but we were asked to bring our passports and alien registration cards and expect to stay for five hours.

So we'll know something soon.

If we stay, then we will learn Japanese for real this time and move to Arashiyama in Kyoto.

If we get the boot, then I am thinking about the Northwest coast. Specifically southern Alaska.

Either way, we will keep making and drawing and being together. So, either way, all is good.


Wednesday, May 11

The dawn of mushi season


It's still a little early but the nets have made their way into our daily walks again, both boys ready for whatever will fly or jump their way. Or out of their way.


Right now, butterflies are the main thrill. Sebastian has learned how to catch them in his bare hands and in doing so has come to realize just how delicate they are, how easily their short lives can be ruined. He has returned to the net, preferring now to watch them briefly in the plastic mushi case before releasing them back to their clover and dandelions. It is in turn amazing for me to watch my son's innate respect for life blossom and grow.


Soon, we'll have mushi cases housing preying mantis and beetles, cicadas and grasshoppers stacked on shelves and cabinet tops. Everything will buzz and hum, tuning in harmony with summer. Dripping with sweat and determination, the kids will check every bush and tree trunk for more six legged creatures to invite home. The nets will seem like extensions of their bodies.


I would hardly recognize the season otherwise.

Tuesday, May 10

Growing up

postcard swap- belated but on their way

When I was about my Nico's age, I declared that I would be a writer when I grew up. Specifically a poet because at that time I really got a kick out of word play. So for two plus decades I have been saddled with my own expectation of becoming a writer, like a prize winning novelist sort of writer. Being on a hiatus from grad school, I decided to finally pursue my dream. And it turns out that I have outgrown it. I don't like writing fiction. I hardly even read fiction anymore. But it has been hard to release myself from this promise of becoming a writer. What has made it easier has been rediscovering something I do like to do. I like to draw.
Now, I know I am not good or even decent but that is okay with me. And that is how I know that making and drawing is my actual path. I was never that interested in improving my writing craft but I readily accept the challenge of learning how to draw better. I find myself looking at everything with curiosity, trying to determine how I would begin to draw the fallen bicycle, the accordion covers between the subway cars.
Perhaps it has something to do with following a Buddhist path and my pursuit of mindfulness. Drawing keeps me present and aware while writing throws my mind into a daydream world that has fogged over most of my days on this planet.
I want to be here, as it is, at this moment. Poorly drawn pictures and all.


Monday, May 9

Taking our lives in our own hands

Maple Whirleyseeds

Right now I am sitting on the porch with Colette, sharing a grapefruit. By sharing, I mean that I am eating the flesh and she is daintily drinking the juice from a spoon. It is a good moment. The essential chores are completed. I organized my work space. There is a sweet warm breeze moving the curtains and drying the laundry. The boys are still at school so it is quiet besides for the birds and babies cooing next door. I had anticipated sewing during the day today but have enjoyed just being home.

In fact, just being home is decidely my favorite way to be. So much so that I am now putting all my spare energy into the ambition being home on a regular basis. I have never had such a clear purpose in my life. Moving into my thirty-second year has made me realize that no one else is going to give me this, that I will have to take it into my own hands. Which is fine and the way it should be though I wonder why it never occurred to me before.

It is strange that you can feel lost in your own life but for too long, I have not recognized my surroundings. The sirens that wailed tsunami warnings served as my alarm clock and jarred me out of my confusion. I am awake now and grateful to be so. It was exhausting living a life that I did not own. Now that I am here, there is no disconnect, no daily bridge to build and cross. As much as I will continue to mourn the tragedies of the disasters that hit up north, I am also grateful for the opportunity to open my eyes upon my own life and now have the sense to live it. I am not sure who to direct this letter of gratitude to, so I will just leave it open, for everyone and everything. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 3


There was a moment that extended into a day where I believed that my sewing machine was dead, never to be threaded again. Luckily I discovered a quick and lasting fix and now I can continue.
Some things on my work table, designs and patterns being tested.
The Aki-chan doll. There will be a few alterations to what you see here but she's been approved by the original Aki so I am feeling good about her.
Summer dresses...
And more slippers, simply because they are addictive to make.
I will return Thursday evening to share more works in progress.
Here's wishing you many quick and lasting fixes.
Take care.

Sunday, May 1


It's Golden Week, my favorite week of the year when four national holidays collide and become a second Spring break. I'm lucky to have Monday off too, meaning that I have an entire week of freedom and will not think about teaching until Friday.
As per my nature, the first creation I made was a very detailed list of all the goals I wanted to accomplish before dreaded Friday dare show its face on my calendar. These past three days, I have had a heaping spoonful of reality and have now gone back to the original list with my red marking pen, crossing out 80 percent of my ambitions. Did you know that I have three kids and a husband in my [tiny] apartment? It's true. In the quiet of my work life, I sometimes forget what it means when mama is home full time.
temporary studio
Not that I am complaining. I love being home and spending precious hours with my littles, even if my patience is challenged continuously. I have many priorities to balance this week as I add to my shop's inventory amidst the daily cacophony of family life. I have created a solution in the form of a little space for my sewing against the window with the best light. I have also overcome my shyness about using the sewing machine at night. This means during the day I can be more present for the kids and at night (after a few cups of coffee) I can work on the surviving goals from that list.

I'll pop in here again this week, hopefully with some tangible evidence of my productivity to share.
I hope you are all well and safe wherever you may be. Take care, particularly you dear readers from the South. Our thoughts and hearts are with you.