On This Mother’s Day

Since my mom passed away, Mother’s Day seems to sneak up on me. I admit that I still turn the channel if a Mother’s Day commercial comes on-I just don’t have enough tissues in the house 😊.

This Mother’s Day is the first one (I’m sure of many) when I’m not with my daughter. We are still adjusting that she will be studying in Tokyo for another 3 months (although, the first month seemed to whizz by). But thankfully the ability to video chat and text her through the LINE app on our phone without any cost, helps a great deal!

I remember my very first Mother’s Day-my daughter was 6 months old and she sat up by herself for the first time-I of course convinced myself that she waited to do that just for me, on that day. I also remember my Mom thanking me that day for giving her a granddaughter to love.

I remember the Mother’s Day a few years later, after I had spent so much time very ill in the hospital with the debilitating blood clot, my then 4-year-old daughter gave me an adorable handmade card of a heart. Inside the heart she drew a picture of her and I holding hands-best stick people ever 😊 When she handed it to me, she hugged me and whispered in my ear, Thank you for not going to heaven. I can’t even……. ❤ I don’t think I could ever truly put into words how my heart felt at that moment.

On this Mother’s Day, the Japanese Wi-Fi refused to cooperate, and we could not video chat. Instead, we used our cell phones to have an actual conversation (seems like we use them for so many other things like texting or reading instead-I’m not alone in this, right?). Later that day, she emailed me pictures from her recent trip to Hiroshima with some classmates. One picture in particular- the Peace Bell in Hiroshima Peace Park stood out to me.

This bell designed by Masahiko Katori in 1964 displays a world without national borders embossed on the front.  The wooden beam strikes the atomic energy symbol carved on the bell, representing the end of nuclear weapons. Because each strike represents a message of peace to be heard in every heart around the world, there is also a mirror that reflects the person (their heart) ringing the bell. Inspiration for Yuriko’s words at the New Year celebration in THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, “But with each bong I sat wishing, Peace, peace, peace…”

Looking at that picture of Sara striking the Peace Bell with love in her heart for my Mom, the family members we lost, and all the victims touched my heart and gave me such a feeling of connection-like a warm hug from my daughter and my Mom.

Perhaps another reason this Mother’s Day snuck up on me is that I’m recovering from a surgical procedure. Turns out, having your Ilial vein constricted by your Ilial artery in your pelvis, is actually a thing. It’s called May-Thurner Syndrome.  Unfortunately, the angioplasty done last week, isn’t working as the doctor had hoped. So now the next plan is to put a stent in that vein in June.  It’s not an urgent matter, just means more time with the extra pain,swelling, and my foot turning a lovely shade of sea green(but, maybe an excuse to buy more clothes that will match it, yeah? 🙂 )  I haven’t exactly gotten past the frustration and disappointment about needing the stent, yet. It will probably take one more round of crispy rice treats…

However, I have an upcoming event that I’m looking forward to speaking at- Animazement in Raleigh on May 25 and 26th (which, if my husband is reading this post-is our 27th wedding anniversary weekend-just sayin’). Attending the event has been in the planning stages for several months and I’m honored that they invited me. Plus, waiting a few weeks until June, will give my body time to heal at the incision spot. I always fear that the RSD burning pain will develop at an incision site. But, so far so good and I hope that with some time in between to heal, it will be the same after the stent procedure.

Because of these recent events, I did not get cards out. So, I would like to say that I’m so very grateful for all the women in my life who have been(but are no longer here) and are like another mother to me now. I’m forever grateful that I had so many wonderful years celebrating my Mom on Mother’s Day with her and that I’m blessed with a loving daughter to celebrate Mother’s Day with me-even if this year it’s from the other side of the world with the striking of a bell.

Wishing all Mom’s and people who are “like a mother” to someone they love, a belated, yet a very Happy Mother’s Day along with a warm hug! ❤

 

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MOMENTS OF WONDER

A few days before Mother’s Day I came across this photo in my mom’s photo album. Although, taken a few(ahem) years ago, I still remember telling my mom that I had to dress up for Sunday School for her “Mother’s Day surprise card” (I’m much better at keeping surprises/secrets now though).

A few memorable Mother’s Day moments for me are from my first one as a mom.  Two weeks before this Mother’s Day, we had pictures taken of three generations-my mom, my daughter(6 months old), and I. On Mother’s Day, my daughter sat up by herself for the very first time! My parents also drove 40 minutes to my house to hand deliver their first Mother’s Day card to me. We had my mom and mother-in-law over the day before to celebrate them, but my mom insisted on handing it to me on the actual day.

Mother’s Day is also observed in Japan. In 1914, Christian missionaries introduced the second Sunday in May holiday. During WWII, the Japanese government briefly halted this celebration due to it being a western tradition. But now it is celebrated with cards of thanks and carnations are a favorite for this holiday because it is a sweet, enduring flower-like a mother’s love.

This was the second Mother’s Day without my mom, yet I still woke up with the notion to call her and then felt the now familiar ache in my heart when I realized I couldn’t.

I still have many moments like that, especially after I’ve discussed her book with a class or read an email from readers who say the main character Yuriko, is an inspiration to them. I’d like to share one of these recent moments:

Mrs. Park, a wonderful teacher at Cheatham Elementary School in Springfield, Tennessee, wrote me to say that her class read The Last Cherry Blossom, and enjoyed it. Not only that but, they had received a grant from the Dollar General Corporation, and they chose to buy a hard cover copy of TLCB for 125 Fifth Graders with this grant!! I nearly fell off my chair when I heard that-what an honor. If that wasn’t enough, she shared the various projects they did in relation to my novel. Here are a few of them: they learned to write their name in Japanese. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know how to do that, until my daughter recently showed me.(I also can’t cook rice on the stove without over or under cooking it.My mother loved teasing me about this-but that’s what we have rice cookers for, right?) 😊 The class learned about tea ceremonies, and how to use chopsticks.

But what made my heart melt, was when they told me they made origami flowers in honor of my mom for Mother’s Day!

I, of course, wanted to meet and thank this wonderful teacher along with her fantastic students. I arranged a Skype visit with the entire fifth grade class. My biggest Skype assembly yet! I’m very grateful to Mrs. Park for choosing The Last Cherry Blossom and the time she put in developing a lesson plan around it in the midst of standardized testing.

Visiting with students/readers is one of my favorite things about being an author. I’m so grateful for programs like Skype and Zoom that allow me to virtually visit schools that I can’t physically visit because of pain or monetary cost.

The awe I felt when I visited with Mrs. Park and her class reminded me of my mom’s feelings when I showed her the publication contract for my book. She was completely amazed and wondered why anyone would want to read a book based on events in her life. I hope that she looks down from heaven and she now can see why her story is important. That by talking about what she went through on August 6th can make a difference in the way people may view nuclear weapons. Readers can learn that she and other children in Japan had the same hopes, fears, and dreams as the Allied children had.

Each of us have had a mother or a mother figure in our lives that has given us an example of strength that goes beyond expectations. It happens even in the most mundane tasks that are done for the ones we love. Because some days the ordinary tasks can take extraordinary effort to push through any emotional or physical pain. It wasn’t just the fact that my mother survived the bombing that made her strong (although definitely a big part of it), but that she fought through her emotional pain so she could love and take care of me, and later my daughter. She risked opening her heart to love again, despite her constant fear of a loved one suddenly being taken from her.

I’ve been having more bad pain days then good, but on Mother’s Day I had a wonderful day with my daughter who introduced me to her new favorite drink-Boba. For those of you who don’t know what Boba is (and I was one of them), Boba (also known as bubble tea) is a Taiwanese cold tea drink. It comes in coffee or fruit flavors. The bubble is the tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink. It tasted okay, but sipping a drink and then having to chew the tapioca bubbles confused the senses. Or at least confused mine 😊. But it was fun to try something new. The best part was knowing she still loved having our mom/daughter days even though she’s a junior in college. It has become one of my new favorite Mother’s Day moments.

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SECOND TO NONE

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, hopefully you missed them. 🙂  I had been dealing with a lot of firsts: my first birthday without my Mom, first Mother’s Day, first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and her first anniversary in January. It took (and still does) grief therapy sessions, prayers, wonderful family and friends to help me make it through them. Not only that but they reminded me of the grace and joy still in those very days.

In the midst of these firsts, I began my first major round of edits for THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, with my publisher. It excited and overwhelmed me. Excitement because I knew that meant I was on the road to publication. That said, upon opening the Track Changes editing program with its maze of lines and comments, I did what any dedicated author would do. I closed it. I Grabbed a paper bag and began hyperventilating into it. My one thought- I was not capable of writing an email, never mind a blog post, and certainly not a novel.

But, I then made a batch of crispy rice treats, hot cocoa (to soften the blow) and opened it again. I read one comment at a time, instead of all at once (I ran out of paper bags). My editors were so helpful with their comments and directives for new scenes. They also had a lot to say of what they liked-that renewed my hope.

An interesting thing about the timing of these edits, aside from having a tight deadline around the Christmas holiday, recovering from a pain flare, and researching for the new scenes(OK I did enjoy that), was I could visit with my mom once again. I looked through some of my research books and found notes of questions I had meant to ask my mother but never got the chance. But I also found information about her family tree that I had forgotten about.

I could hear the catch and tremble in her voice when she recalled the sad, horrific times. But I could also hear her voice retelling me the joyful loving events of her childhood. I could see the smile on her face and the love shining in her eyes. I remembered the long and tight hugs she would give me afterwards.

So as I approach the second Mother’s day without her, I realize that with each presentation I give, with each person who may read my book, with each hug I give to/receive from my daughter, and with each pain flare I get through, my mother’s love and perseverance are there. These realizations do not erase the ache of losing her. But knowing and remembering that she will always be with me, begins to fill some of the cracks in my broken heart.

the three Ishikawas

Happy Mother’s day Mom, with love from your daughter & granddaughter.

And Happy Mother’s day to all of you Moms out there!

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