A Snake, a Kitchen Ninja, and Japanese Art? (Plus Announcement*)


Back in early October my dog, Scarlet (aka the kitchen ninja I mention in my author bio) wanted to befriend a snake. Determined to kibosh that opportunity before it got started, I intervened. I knew it wouldn’t end well. As a result, I fell, hit my head, and suffered a mild concussion. (On the upside, I was right- it didn’t end well. But only for this silly human-snake and Scarlet were unharmed).

Scarlet resting after Snake encounter- while I was on opposite couch with ice pack on my head and back

  Thankfully, CT scan ruled out any internal bleeding from the blood thinners I take. But I became overly sensitive to lights/sounds which led to some severe headaches. A scarier symptom I had at the beginning was having a word in mind to write down yet writing a completely different word. I’m happy to say that hasn’t happened in a while.

Concerned when my severe headaches continued into December (past the usual 20-30 days), I decided to do what calms me- research. (Some people knit, I research) 😊 Before that, my husband reminded me that my noggin’ had been jostled in a rollover accident years ago. So, this is not my first concussion-is anyone who knows me really surprised?! 😊 (29 years ago, my husband and I were in a rollover accident on my birthday-yup true story! I hit my head on the passenger side window. My guardian angel definitely watched over us because it could have been so much worse-the car looked like an accordion). This could account for my symptoms lasting longer.

According to the Concussion Alliance, a concussion breaks the connections of the “billions of neurons” that form a pathway allowing our cells to communicate to do various tasks as well as react to emotions.
It takes a lot of cell energy to reconnect the network of neurons. That’s been the probable cause of my difficulties performing normal daily functions like focusing, forming words, pouring that much needed cup of java in the morning.

To complicate things further, as many of you know, I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). RSD already messes (technical medical term) 🙂 with the sympathetic nervous system, so that could also prolong my concussion headaches.

But another issue resurfaced after my CT scan- anxiety attacks. The test brought back traumatic memories of the two years that I spent having MRIs and CT scans as I went in and out of hospitals-at weeks at a time and nearly dying from a blood clot I had no control over. It probably doesn’t help that February 14th marks 20 years since that first hospital stay with a DVT that began my RSD journey.) Those memories added to the layer of swirling anxiety we all have with COVID-19, put my panic attacks on warp speed.

On a day that my headaches wouldn’t let up and I was feeling sorry for myself eating crispy rice treats straight out of the pan (yeah it was one of those days); I was reminded of God’s perfect timing when I received this beautifully painted wooden ornament from a talented artist and sweet friend- Kat Whitham in the mail.

This ornament represents the art of Kintsugi. Kintsugi (golden joinery) is a Japanese art form (over 400 years old) that mends broken pottery. But it isn’t just gluing pieces back together-the art is expressed through the materials used such as a lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. So instead of blending in or hiding that it was ever broken in the first place, it highlights the broken area thereby bringing a new beauty to the item.

Interestingly, over 9 years ago while researching and writing TLCB, I came across Kintsugi art for the first time. I kept the notes in my folder labeled “to be used in sequel”- I was nothing if not hopeful 😊.

Being someone who tends to drop things a lot (even before RSD affected my hands) I have become quite a whiz with a glue gun. Whenever I mend a broken object, I try to make it look as seamless as possible so no one can tell (anyone else remember that Brady Bunch episode of trying to fix the broken vase from playing ball in the house?) I digress…

So, as I work on my sequel (ever hopeful), I truly feel that Kintsugi-beauty in one’s brokenness- applies to my mother. Her heart and life shattered into so many pieces on August 6th. Because of her survivor guilt, PTSD, and prejudice against atomic bomb survivors (out of fear of radiation poisoning) she didn’t think she had a reason for existing anymore, so why should anyone else want her? She felt she should hide so much of her pain.

When I look back 20 years ago, I see the beauty of the time my mom poured her heart out to me with memories of the atomic bombing at a time when I felt broken and that my life would never be the same because of the RSD diagnosis. Kintsugi’s concept that objects can still be beautiful even while emphasizing the breaking point made me realize that when life events shook me leaving a crevice that I felt could never be filled, followed by the belief that I would never be whole again-nor even want to be whole again; hope still existed. Instead of hiding these fractured moments in my life, it’s okay-even preferable to let them shine recognizing that they make me who I am today. The spaces in my heart now filled in with fortitude, empathy, and compassion.

Mom & I shortly after my RSD diagnosis 20 yrs ago

My Mom never discussed Kintsugi with me, so not sure if I’ll actually use the specific art in the sequel. But I can say you’ll definitely recognize a similar theme for the main character, Yuriko, as she tries to come to her own conclusion as to what “living her life” means for her after the atomic bombing.

Okay, back to the beautiful and timely gift. I love the hearts on the ornament. I feel that they are representative of the love of family, friends, along with my faith that slowly fills in the gaps yet, leaving me open to opportunities. Opportunities to share empathy with others who may have gone through something similar health wise as well as keeping my mother’s voice as a Hibakusha alive. I can find my purpose again (just as my mom once told me 20 years ago). ❤

It’s taking longer than I’d like for my neuron pathways to reconnect and I’m still working through my anxiety attacks. But the timing of receiving this ornament, being reminded of Kintsugi, has given me a new way to look at what I saw as a loss because of the months I had to take off from email, virtual events, and screen/phone time to deal with extra pain. I’m already limited from my RSD pain and I was angry at myself for doing something so stupid that made me feel even less productive.

Yet in that space, I found comfort working on my sequel. I couldn’t do it for too long because of the headaches but that took the pressure off of writing until I thought it was “perfect”. We eat by candlelight which was kind of nice-dare I say, romantic. Okay we can’t always see what we were eating, but sometimes that works to my advantage though. In addition to this, I’m learning to be better at setting boundaries with my time/energy.

So along with a lot of deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, virtual appointments with my therapist, and prayer, I have also been journaling my thoughts of helplessness, fear, and panic. I hope that it will give me some peace. I’m also hopeful that journaling about my panic attacks, will give me insights to my character Yuriko’s (based on my mom) PTSD symptoms in the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom.

January and February can be reminders of the various breaks in my heart. My Godfather passed away on January 4th 7 years ago, my mom passed away 6 years ago on January 15th and February 14th marks the event 20 years ago that my current panic attacks are connected to. But even though I still feel the loss, I can also feel the love of all those that were there for me then and are here for me now.

I hope that some of my rambling today may help someone else see beauty in their brokenness. And I pray I’m able to continue to share my empathy and compassion for the emotional scars that my mother had from the atomic bombing with students/future voters so nuclear weapons are never used again.  Which leads me to my announcement:

*I’m humbled by and very grateful for an invitation from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to participate in a virtual event to honor my mom and discuss being a 2nd gen Hibakusha in the US, this Friday night(Feb 12th 8pmEST)!! ❤   My session is titled “A Hibaku Nisei’s (2nd gen survivor of atomic bombing) Labor of Love.” My friend (Hibakusha sister) and amazing award winning author Naomi Hirahara (Mas Arais mystery series) will also be speaking about her parents who were both in Hiroshima atomic bombing. The museum enjoyed the program we did together for the Japanese American National Museum last August.*

P.S.  In case you’re wondering, the snake was a black rat snake (Pantherophis Obsoletus – for you snake aficionados out there). They are supposedly harmless but did not look that way to me at the time! From now on the (aging) kitchen ninja can fight her own battles-I (also aging) have learned my lesson…

 

 

 

Also sharing at Joanne Viola

15 thoughts on “A Snake, a Kitchen Ninja, and Japanese Art? (Plus Announcement*)

  1. I know the beginning of the year is a difficult time for you but it was so nice to read that there was such exciting news to develop during that time. All of the accolades, awards, and special invites you have received and are still be awarded are so well deserved, mom would be so proud.
    I hope your headaches are beginning to improve. Post concussive syndrome (if that is your diagnosis) can unfortunately for quite a long time.
    I miss you my friend. ❤

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    • Dear Beth, Thank you so very much for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. Yes,it was post concussive syndrome and I finally am without headaches. Lights still bother me alittle at first but I can handle them musch better now. Also, no longer dizzy and was able to drive last week for first time since October!! 🙂 The miserable 4 week pain flare up has eased so I’m back to “my regular’ pain level. Right now emotionally it is still a difficult time with what is happening in the news, but knowing I have friends like you helps me, even if I can’t see you a lot, your friendship is and always will be very special to me. I look forward to seeing you again for lunch, coffee, or just a chat. Keeping you and your family in my prayers. Wishing you low pain days and sending a gentle hug. Miss you as well! ❤

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  2. carolbaldwin says:

    This was a great post, Kathleen. The Apostle Paul said it well:
    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. It’s always VERY hard when we’re going through painful times as you have. It is only afterward that we see how he writes in Hebrews 12:11
    “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” THe Lord is making you a beautiful piece of art–even with broken pieces glued back together!! I hope to join you briefly on Friday. My bedtime starts about 8:30!!

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  3. Donna B says:

    Kathleen, had to head over here after your kind comment on my blog. What a lovely post! Let me start again, first, I’m sorry about your accident and subsequent headaches in addition to your anxiety attacks. BUT it was such a fun post to read with so much information. I am very familiar with Kintsugi, and love the representation. Your ornament is lovely! I enjoyed reading about your mom, such an amazing story there too. On another note, I deal with past trauma and anxiety too. Check out my resource library on my blog for a free Calming Techniques guide full of techniques I use to help with my anxiety attacks. Blessings to you, and thank you for your ministry here!

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    • Dear Donna, thank you so very much for visiting me here. I apologize for my late reply. After my Hiroshima event, I ended up and have since been in bed with a pain flare up, so I’m very slow. Your Serenity in Suffering Resources is such a wonderful idea. I have started reading about your Calming techniques. Especially since this pain flare up hasn’t helped the anxiety attacks.I’m sure that the resources on your blog are a blessing to so many people. Thank you also for your kind words about my blog post. Isn’t Kintsugi such a lovely art that has so much more to its meaning than just the end result of an item or heart being repaired? Sending a hug ❤

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  4. I am so sorry you are having to deal with such pain. But I’m so appreciative of the beautiful and encouraging message you gave us from it. Visiting from the let’s have coffee link up. laurensparks.net

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    • Dear Lauren, Thank you so much for visiting me from the Link up.I apologize for taking so long to reply. After my event last week I have been in bed with a pain flare up-so am really behind. Your kind words touch my heart. Especially because I have read what your daughter is going through right now. Praying for her and for your family. Your daughter’s story gives me strength. Sending a hug ❤

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    • Sarah, thank you so much for visiting.I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner, I have and still am in a pain flare up, so am very slow in following up. I love the way you put that. Believing “that something helps make Kintsugi art out of the broken bits of our souls” applies just as well for anyone and everyone. Hoping that you and your family stay well. Sending a virtual hug. ❤

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  5. Joanne Viola says:

    Kathleen, I hope you fully recover soon. It is so hard to not feel well for an extended time. May God continue to redeem this situation and use it ,and you, for His glory!

    Thank you for linking up today! You are appreciated!

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    • Dear Joanne, Thank you so very much for visiting ,your kind words, and for your prayers. I apologize for not responding sooner. Since my Hiroshima event I have been stuck in bed fighting a pain flare up. I am slowly trying to catch up in between resting. THank you for your beautiful, inspiring blog and giving us the opportunity to be linked to DAYS and THOUGHTS. ❤ God Bless.

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  6. jerralea says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey! Praying you heal and that the healing process turns more of your journey into gold for you. Remember, He is right beside you every step of the way.

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