Waiting for the Light

 

Happy 2018 everyone!

It’s been quite a while since my last post. I hope you have missed me 🙂

At the end of the year people tend to take stock of what the previous year was like, and determine what they wish for the upcoming new year. Instagram compiled my top nine posts together in one display.

There were definitely some awesome moments captured. But, one memorable moment for me is not documented anywhere online, until now.

My family and I lit this Advent wreath each Sunday as we waited to celebrate the birth of Jesus-our light to shine in the darkness. Key words here are waiting and light.  

This homespun wreath is not the epitome of craftsmanship, but it is a reminder to me of my time in a holding pattern close to 17 years ago. After one of my hospitalizations, I needed occupational therapy to strengthen my hand muscles (atrophy as result of a medication reaction). Recovery was slow, and I was very impatient (shocking, I know). In September my physical therapist suggested that I choose a craft to strengthen my hands. She knew I loved using my glue gun. But did I choose something simple with the glue gun?

Nope. I chose to construct an Advent wreath that required using an ivy leaf stencil on two different colors of felt, cutting out that shape, stuffing with a little batting, and then hot gluing them together. I then used pins to arrange them on a Styrofoam craft wreath (btw, it’s not as easy to stick them in as you might think) and glued a little red pom-pom onto the leaves.

A time-consuming and arduous process to say the least. I didn’t just want to rehabilitate my hands-I needed to prove to myself that I could still accomplish something-something other than having the less than 1% reaction to most medications known to man.

To have it ready for the first Sunday of Advent, I knew I had to make a decent effort each day. Also, my daughter looked forward to coming home from pre-school and checking out the homework her Mom completed. I couldn’t disappoint her, especially with the guilt I had for being away from her so much when I was in the hospital.

Amazingly, I finished it in time-well barely, but finished. I learned that even though events were not happening in the time frame I wanted, I could still have something to show for it. As a side note-make sure you have someone carve notches in the Styrofoam for the candles before you cover it with the ivy leaves. Not that it happened to me of course, I had this friend…. 🙂

So, fast forward to this year. As I unpacked the wreath from the storage bin, it struck me that my life had hit the big ol’ pause button once again. This year’s moment in November when the ultrasound tech confirmed I had a blood clot, events from 17 years ago flooded my memory and anxiety floated to the surface. Once again, I’m up the creek without a paddle, although if a had a paddle, I couldn’t grip it since my hands are worse now, anyway—I digress.

After my new blood clot diagnosis, I dreamed about my hospital stay 17 years ago which brought back the feelings of isolation, fear, and the need to hoard cranberry juice (that’s a story for another day). That was the first of many sleepless nights and re-emergent panic attacks. It didn’t help that my recent blood clot diagnosis came the week of Thanksgiving. That same week three years ago, my Mom’s health began its downward spiral before she would pass away a mere 3 months later.

I guess you could say I was dealing with my own form of post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). It prolonged the time that I couldn’t focus on any writing/researching my work-in-progress, reading for my own pleasure, or marketing The Last Cherry Blossom-which already were on hold because of my October surgery.

So, looking at the Advent wreath a couple months ago, I remembered the painstaking hours making it, and that eventually I completed it. So, I applied that to my writing and started journaling. Very rudimentary, sometimes just list of emotions I felt, and sometimes full sentences. A few days later, it dawned on me that my character, Yuriko will be dealing with PTSD.

Although I may have different reasons for mine, and my reaction may not be as intense, but I could understand some of the feelings her actions will be based on. So maybe I am accomplishing something after all and I’m not stuck on pause. That moment of revelation (this is where the light comes in) won’t show up on any top 2017 list, but it helped set the stage for how I’m approaching 2018.

Wishing you all peace and light this 2018!

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Bringing a Peace of Hiroshima to North Carolina

At the home I grew up in, a stately evergreen tree towered over our front yard. This pine tree gave shade every summer. It’s the spot where my father would sit while he made sure my best friend and I did not drown in the pool that we spent hours in-until my friend’s lips would literally turn blue. 🙂

It’s the spot where we all sat on a swing while the smoke from the mosquito coils (remember those?) swirled around us as we ate watermelon or ice cream at the end of a fun- filled summer day. I treasure these childhood memories.

Sadly, some years later, that majestic evergreen had to come down-I don’t quite remember why. The front yard looked so lonely with just a grounded stump in the middle. My mom decided to fill that void with a graceful Japanese Maple sapling. She loved the idea of having a tree that reminded her of the ones in the yard of her Hiroshima home.

This stroll down memory lane, leads me to the event I alluded to in my last blog posts. Since my novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, introduces readers to the culture of Japan in the last year of WWII, I wanted to bring Hiroshima to the state I’m living in when my book published. Last year I found a program called Green Legacy Hiroshima, which was started by two friends: Nassrine Azimi and Tomoko Watanabe. Green Legacy Hiroshima is under the umbrella of the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR).

Green Legacy Hiroshima(GLH) cultivates and sends seeds from trees that miraculously survived the atomic bombing on August 6th, also known as A-bomb trees. When we visited Hiroshima two years ago, we viewed these trees and it was a remarkable sight to behold.

GLH has sent seeds to 30 countries to be cultivated into saplings that would then be planted in memory of the victims of nuclear weapons and to spread the message of peace. Currently in the United states, only six states have these saplings. North Carolina will now become the 7th state. (In the future, I’d really like to work on having an A-bomb tree planted in Rhode Island. It is the state I grew up in, and is the first state my mom moved to when she came to the United States and lived in for over 50 years before moving to NC in 2013).

So, in late 2015, I contacted Nassrine Azimi and discussed my wish to partner with GLH and a university in North Carolina to plant a sapling from an A-bomb tree. In July 2016, she connected me with a couple in Atlanta, Georgia (Steve and Elizabeth Leeper) that had nurtured a Ginkgo sapling. This would save time and paperwork normally needed to procure and quarantine the seeds that arrive from Japan. I’m very grateful for the elimination of that process. My husband and I drove to Atlanta last July and picked up the sapling.

The A-Bomb sapling grown from seeds of Mother Ginkgo tree to be planted at UNCW

http://www.lang-arts.com/survivors/shukkeien.html

The Mother Ginkgo tree at Shukkeien Gardens after atomic bomb.

http://www.lang-arts.com/survivors/shukkeien.html

Mother Ginkgo tree today,Shukkeien Garden

My daughter, Sara, attends the University of North Carolina, Wilmington(UNCW) and is minoring in Japanese. It seemed like a great fit. I contacted the coordinator of the Japanese Minor and Senior Lecturer of Japanese at UNCW, Kano-sensei. She loved this idea as well and would work with me to make this happen.

This past spring semester, Sara joined the newly formed Japan Club at UNCW. She discussed having a fundraiser for the dedication plaque for this Hiroshima A-bomb tree. The Japan Club jumped on her idea and set up fundraisers within a week. The Japan Club, with the help of some other donors had raised the funds needed within a few months. The Japan Club members, Kano-sensei, and UNCW have been fantastic. The Japan Club is currently planning the dedication ceremony.

UNCW Japan Club Members

UNCW Japan Club GLH cookie sale

Kano-sensei invited me to speak at the North Carolina Teaching about Asia Network Seminar being held at UNCW on Saturday, September 30th. The dedication ceremony will take place after this seminar.

I’m so grateful to my daughter, her professor, the Japan Club members, and UNC Wilmington. Their enthusiasm and dedication to this cause truly touched my heart.

I do have one other very important reason why I feel that UNCW is a perfect fit. In the summer of 2014, my mother toured only one college with my daughter. And yes, that college was UNCW. 😊

I hope that whenever someone walks between the UNCW Student Union and the pond near Leutze Hall, they might find respite from the heat of the Carolina sun under this A-bomb tree. And while sitting there, would read the plaque, be reminded of what happened on August 6, 1945, and the wish for peace that these trees bring. I pray that these Hiroshima A-bomb trees are the last ones that will ever need to be planted to remind us of why nuclear weapons should never be used again.

When the A-bomb Ginkgo tree is dedicated to the Ishikawa family, on September 30th, I am sure my mom will be smiling. Just like she did whenever she looked at the Japanese maple in our front yard.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

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