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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Light the Lights and Ring the Bells

At this time of year, almost anywhere you may go, you can see holiday lights. Sparkling lights adorn the evergreen tree in the mall parking lot, as well as decorating doorways and front lawns in your neighborhood. Personally, I’m partial to the blue lights on our Palm tree in front of our house.bluelightspalm

Lights also play a major role in the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, the winter festival of lights.  In Japan, the celebration of Christmas is not necessarily for religious reasons, nor is it much of a commercial holiday.  However, their outside Christmas light displays are amazing.

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But lights are not just illuminating the outdoors.  Two weeks ago, I attended a remembrance service sponsored by the local hospice. Each of us that gathered there had lost a loved one. Some people had lost someone as far back as twenty years while some as recent as a few days before.

Inside the church four candles were lit- one represented grief, the second courage, the third one for our memories, and the fourth for our love. One of the hospice staff lit his individual candle, while saying the names of the people he was honoring and a fond memory about them. He then passed the light to the next person and we each in turn did the same. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult, yet very cathartic.

Inside my home, I lit candles the past 4 Sundays on our advent wreath. These lights remind me that a baby was born long ago to be with us, to save us, to stay with us.  Celebrating that miraculous birthday gives me strength and hope through each aspect of my life.adventwreath2

Our own birthdays are another occasion with candlelight.  My mom’s fell on December 15.  She loved éclairs more than cake. I remember the last birthday we celebrated. She was in a nursing home for physical rehab after her first hospital stay.  She finally had her appetite and I wanted to bring her an éclair.

It sounds easy enough.  However, around here, eclairs are not all made the same.  Some only have a fluffy, frosting cream instead of the yummy custard we had up north.  Anyway… I finally had found a bakery.  My daughter and I brought it to her, along with a little battery operated candle that she could make a wish on.  We sang to her, and kept the candle going the rest of the night. Little did I know, she would be gone in 4 weeks to the day of that birthday.

Last year, I was too depressed to celebrate her birthday.  But this year, I bought an éclair, lit a candle, and we celebrated my mom.

Glimmering lights and candles are used for remembrances and celebrations. In that sense, I feel that a person’s love for us can also be a light in our life.  When someone passes away, their light may flicker, but it is never really snuffed out. The source of the light is just a bit further away, and our loving memories keep the flame burning.

We are now about to usher in 2017. Many countries celebrate the new year with fireworks, firecrackers, and bells ringing. While I was growing up, my mother insisted that I always be home with her on New Year’s Eve. She believed that if the whole family was together at that time, there would be good fortune in the new year.  When I married, and moved further away, I would call her right after the ball dropped in Times Square and wish her happy new year in Japanese –  “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu”. (One of the few Japanese phrases I know). I did this every year until she passed away. I so miss that. (I also miss the time when I could stay awake past midnight.)

In THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM(TLCB), one of the featured holidays is the New Year celebration(Oshogatsu).  Yuriko’s Papa settled his business finances for the year, they cleaned the house, New Year decorations were put up, and Yuriko helped her relatives prepare their special food for the New Year celebration which lasted from December 31st through January 3rd.

I feel that the sentiment from this paragraph of Yuriko’s celebration in TLCB echoes what I hope 2017 will bring:

           I took Papa’s hand as the temple bell began to strike. It rang out 108 times.  Each toll of the bell was intended to symbolize the release of a sin or bad habit, giving a fresh start to the New Year. But with each bong I sat wishing, “Peace, peace, peace…”  

I wish you a peaceful New Year filled with much joy and light with your loved ones!

Also linking up at Coffee For Your Heart.

A New Year Ushers in a New Reality

As some of you may have noticed, I have been very quiet on the blogging front.
My mother, as I have mentioned in my last post, has been battling a serious disease. I have gratefully spent all my time and energy helping her on this journey of her illness. On January 15th, my Mother Toshiko, went to heaven. She gave me the gift of life some number of years ago. On that January day she blessed me with the gift of her last smile.

There is a new reality I must get used to. A new reality shadowed by emptiness and a broken heart.
My mother had to quickly adapt to her new reality of hospital stays and sickness beginning the week of Thanksgiving. But as sick and exhausted as she was, she certainly was never fragile. She exuded such mental strength. She knew how she wanted to treat her disease and made sure the doctors understood as well.

She worried about the grief I would feel and how that would increase my RSD pain after she left.
Once a mother always a mother.

However, she was not just my mother. She was a walking glimpse of history that inspired me and my writing. She lost so much at the age of 12 in Hiroshima. I will always be amazed and continue to say that she never lost the ability to love; especially when it came to my daughter or to me.

Mom and Grandfather
I am grateful that she read the latest draft of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, and knew that it would be published.
She leaves an empty space in all of the upcoming first holidays and celebrations, but in time the cracks in my heart will fill with the memories of her love for me. I take comfort in knowing she is smiling down at my family and me, as she is reunited with hers in heaven.

If I can live my life with just half the strength and love that she lived hers, then I will truly be a success.
I miss you Mom and am so proud to be your daughter. I love you very much.

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