Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 128: Oomisoka ("oh-me-so-ka")

The last day of the year is upon us. Most of the world have flipped into 2010. I find oomisoka, as we call it in Japan to be non-eventful in America. There is very little that is different than any ordinary day. In Japan, there is a huge amount of hustle and bustle with people doing their last minute shopping and the big house cleaning of the year. At Costco this morning, the line is non-existent, as we check out our food. At lunchtime, the pool has all of 5 people lapping.
As Japan rises for the first morning of the year, I call my parents and pass the phone around to their grandchildren. The ritual will be repeated later for my in-laws and sister who live in France. Re-setting the clock once a year is a good idea. My goal for 2010 is to make enough money to keep my family happy and healthy, while ensuring that the "money-making process" keeps me happy and healthy as well. I need to make sure not to offer little pieces of my soul in exchange for money anymore. My soul is all I have for the next half century or so (for we live long in my family). For starters, I will sit and meditate (or pretend to) everyday for the next 72 days.

Meanwhile, I must tend to dinner plans, starting with toshikoshi soba - Japanese buckwheat noodle which guarantees longevity from year to year. There is also the kuromame my friend's mother gave me. Beans are also good, as it represents diligence and persistence, which translates into success. If you don't know why it translates into success, I suggest you read "Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell at the library. According to him, 10,000 hours is the magic number to success, assuming you are innately talented to begin with. This translates into 10 years according to Malcolm, which reminds me of the philosophy professor who gave me my one and only "C" in college. 10 hours x 1000 days is only 3 years, I think, as I twist on the floor for my PT (physical therapy) homework. I suppose some people take it easy... 10 years indeed. hmpph! But then again, there is the saying that "too much is just as bad as too little". The middle road presents itself again. For 2010, I suspect I need to be less demanding of myself and my family if I want to stay on the middle road. Sounds easy enough, unless you are me.... Happy Oomisoka!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day 126 & 127: Optical Illusion and Japanese

It's not even the weekend and I am abridging my writings. It is year end, and I have been busy socializing. Yoga yesterday morning with a "mini Franco" mis-fired, as I can't make out his instructions half the time. As I pause to look around and figure out what pose I should be taking, I take a little sip of tea from my cup. Mini-F cocks an eyebrow and say, "Drinking tea? In my class? Well, that's a first one." I knee jerk telepathize to him, "It's the last one for you, too." What was supposed to bring me calm, brought me minor irritation, but I got all my physical therapy homework, and my seated meditation homework done, so I forgive him. Adios, Franco!

I host a luncheon for the retired, the jobless, the entrepreneurs and the in-betweens. We have a wonderful potluck that flows seamlessly into the evening. I have always thought that Agatha Christie's "Murder in Mesopotamia" was nonsense, but now I know it can happen. How could you not realize an old boyfriend, who comes back a few years later under a different name and becomes your husband? At lunch, I greet someone I know, but didn't realize it was one and the same as the person now being introduced as my friend's brother, until he points it out to me. What an idiot I am. There were clues everwhere, but I failed to see them, as I was so convinced that Harry was Harry and not the brother. This is where your brain plays optical illusion with your eyes.

Today is a series of catching up with friends, starting with coffee in Mill Valley, a chat with a friend in NY, lunch in Larkspur, and soon a cocktail party in the neighborhood. Some have physically moved on to different settings, while some remain where they have been. What's interesting is how some can let go, and others have a hard time doing this. It does not seem to have much to do with whether you are still physically "there" or not, either. Perhaps some people are more mentally mobile than others. I imagine my friend competently dealing with the work at hand, mentally counting the acorns she stores for the winter, while dreaming of the great things she'll do when the spring comes around. In times like these, we all have to become little squirrels stashing away our little acorns until abundance returns. Let us hope that 2010 will bring abundance to us all. Until then, we all need a few acorns in our little nests.

At dinner, the whole family turns on me, and criticizes me for not speaking Japanese with them. It is all my fault that they are not fluent in the language. Even my very French husband chides me. He used to be fluent in Japanese, BEFORE he met me. So, in 2010, I can only speak Japanese to them. 2010 is going to be one long monologue. For starters, I teach them how to say honorable mother - Okasama. As I tell them how smart they are, they speculate. "You have a good forehead." "You have a big brain." The way this is going, 2010 will be hilarious.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 125: The Last Week of the Year

Many of you are on vacation or at work but really on vacation mentally. I try to be productive since there is no salary to count on anymore. This is the tough part of being a start up. If you stop, the business stops, too. But business can only work if the world is working with you.

I decide not to spin my wheels meaninglessly. Instead, I take Charlie for a walk up the hills, go pick up Aya from her sleepover, and drive Julien to the DMV. I stop by the library on my way home. If the busy part of business is resting, I can at least stock up on ideas and wisdom by reading. I sense the "good student" in me for feeling this way. If you try more, you feel like you will get more out of life. According to someone I had drinks with recently, this is an illusion that many women suffer from. When something doesn't work out, women tend to think it was because they didn't try hard enough, or they weren't qualified. So they try harder, and become more qualified. But, in fact, the playing field is not level, and sometimes, it's stacked against them. I hate to think this is so, but I have a feeling that there is some truth to this cynical view on life.

So, forget about self improvement tonight. I think I might open that mystery novel instead.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 123 & 124: Gift

Yoga, the pool, puzzles and lots of sleep, have kept me in a constant state of meditation this weekend. Too much thinking is as bad as too little. I find that my spirits droop after a while. I may need that Sun Box that my neighbor Lynn told me about. It also shows that I have not really mastered meditation.

This morning I deposit my daughter at her friend's house for a sleepover and find that her friend's mom has just recovered from a stroke. This is a shock to the mom and me. She is the picture of youth, health and happiness, and yet it can happen. Life is truly a gift, that can be taken from you at any time. I am very thankful that she has recovered.

Since there are only 3 kids here tonight, I try imagining a house without kids, which brings me one level lower in my spirits. But then, I realize that it's the house, which is too big. No wonder people downsize when the kids move out. I can see myself living in a small place with my husband, and feeling quite happy as long as we find interesting things to do of which we have many.

As the year draws to an end, it is both exciting and nail biting to imagine what 2010 will bring to us. Whatever it may be, I feel that I should receive it as a gift.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 122: Ho ho ho!

As the sun rises over the East Bay at 7 a.m., the children open their Christmas gifts, which are smaller than usual and come in wrap-a-bags sewn by http://www.ayacamille.com/ . Santa is a quick study to have caught onto green wrapping.

At noon, we toast to each other with champagne and cranberry/pelligrino. As I write at 4:30 in the afternoon, the sun is starting to set over Sausalito. The tribe has left for a walk down the hill, leaving me alone to meditate and savor my good fortune.

When I was Camille's age(11), I played a little game of squeezing my wrist and seeing how many bumps would show. This was supposed to show how many kids I would have when I grew up. 5 bumps showed and now I have five kids.

When I was Jinsuke's age (19) and working as a translator with a cable TV station, I told my boss that I was retiring at age 40. He was the kindest boss I have ever had. He laughed at me kindly then, and is probably still laughing at me kindly.

4o was a special milestone for me when I was twenty. It was far away in the future, but I wanted to look at my life at 40 and be satisfied.

Now, at 21+, life is good. I have big, heavy, deep regrets. But, I have huge, profound happiness, too. Live and learn.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 121: The day before Christmas

In a frantic search for the pressure cooker stop, we pull out all the drawers in the kitchen. We find many birthday candles, at which point, a discussion starts about how many candles to put on Jesus Christ's birthday cake - is it 2009, 2010, or less because in the middle ages, we skipped a few years? We reach no consensus, but the artichokes are well steamed, and we have lunch in our backyard on this beautiful sunny day, with homemade mayonnaise (thanks to Camille). We are so privileged.

...which reminds me of the cashier at Trader Joe's yesterday with her Santa cap and Rudolf antlers. Despite her cheerful attire, she is angry - her face says so. At some random point, she says " Santa lives in Marin, because we are so entitled here in Marin." As she bids farewell to us, she swallows her "Merry Christmas" , and says the generic "Happy Holidays". I speculate that she is still holding on to her ideals even though reality has been harsh. There is much to be angry at, for sure. But, the sun comes up every morning, whether we are angry or happy.

I find myself on the phone with a driving lesson school for my 15-1/2 year old, who wants a driver's license. I have put up as many obstacles as possible to delay this process. I, who shifts lanes as soon as I spot anyone under 25 and above 60 behind wheels, have been as passive agressive as can be. I have come clean and told Julien that I will not pay for any of this. He will have to pay me back. By forcing him to call around for prices, I figure I have saved him 10 to 15 hours of burger flipping/ dish washing in the near future. Blessings come in different forms.

I look back to when I was 15. Back then, I worked weekends in a factory and then as a waitress , serving horrible coffee, because I knew no better. I have never stopped working since, excluding the 18 months in class at business school and the 9 months of nightmare in Toronto (while waiting for a visa, fighting a nasty international child custody battle, with an infant Julien to soothe my heart, a soon-to-become-Aya in my tummy, my friend Yuko calling almost everyday to cheer me up, with Columbo and Startrek replays on TV). Working for money has taught me many valuable lessons. Scrooge and I can tell you that money is important, but a balance between money and living is even more important. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and love, peace and Zen to all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 120: 10-10-10

I borrowed a book called 10-10-10 at the library yesterday. In a nutshell, if you make decisions based on the forecasted consequences 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now, you should be able to make the right choice. The combination of this book and Nyquil causes me to dream about getting married (again). In fact, in this dream, I skip my wedding because I know deep down that this marriage (in the dream) will not work in the long run, although I will have hell to pay for in the immediate future. Comically enough, my ex-husband features in the dream and tells me that I should know by now what works and what doesn't.

I have recurring dreams like this. Other than dreams of wrong marriages, the other repeat is about exams. I forget that there is a final exam, or there is a subject that I have altogether forgotten to study for. Trauma in either situation, is evident.

This morning, I speak with a dear friend in London, who tells me that some days, she feels that the job-related stress may kill her. I hear my voice from four years ago echoing in hers. This is the moment to 10-10-10.

I drive with Julien to pick up his rugby (! -yes, that "football without pads" rugby) gear. The volunteer mom's house is immersed in shorts, socks, caps, jerseys and other gear. I ask her what put her into this predicament. She shrugs and then grins. "I just LOVE rugby!" Do what you love doing.

Then again, I chat with my friend in Tokyo. We are both busy keeping our heads above water with our businesses. What used to take minutes to earn, can now take a day if we are lucky. But we have 10-10-10'ed the situation. 10 years from now, do we want to find ourselves cogging it out in the big machine, or are we aiming for something more fulfilling? Do what you love doing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 119:Oribtofrontal Cortex

I am reading a very interesting book called "How We Decide". Right where, in yoga lingo, your third eye should be, is the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a part of the brain that feels emotions. Without this emotional function, humans cannot make decisions. Rather, they would be in analysis paralysis mode, comparing alternatives until the cows come home. It's the emotion in the end, not the rational thought process, that is key to making decisions. Apparently, it is also true that one learns best from one's mistakes. This is due to the fact that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) sends out a neuron that basically says "Oops!", which in turn, tells the brain to think hard about what can be done to correct an error.

Coincidentally, I receive a postcard from Stanford inviting me to a conference in Barcelona where the keynote speaker is a neurosurgeon that share his secrets on how to exploit the emotional neurons in the brain to market your wares effectively.

What is amazing is how we are really only 3 pounds of brain matter. How little we know about the brain. How so very mercenary and innovative can one get in the field of marketing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 118: Sniffles

I find that often around Christmas, I catch the sniffles. It may be because, I relax and let my guard down. It is usually only a day of congestion, but it's enough to be thankful of a nose.

This morning starts off with rain, but around noon the sun shines, and mid-afternoon, we see a giant rainbow above the bay to the east.

On the east coast and in Europe, the severe cold weather continues. There have been accidents and deaths due to the storm. Much as the kids miss the snow, I am content to not own a snow shovel.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Days 116 & 117: Jigsaw Puzzle

Every year around this time, our family works on jigsaw puzzles. 500 pieces are for warm up, 1000 for fun, and 2000 piece puzzles are the climax as we welcome Christmas and the New Year. This year, I have changed my method: instead of randomly guessing, I have categorized by color and by sub-color. I hear there are people who come to your house to organize clutter for you. Jigsaw categorization is somewhat like this. I ask Camille how she would feel if she had a job like that. She responds by saying that it wouldn't be her first choice, but if that were the only job, sure, why not? At the recycling center, the people sort plastic into Type 1 and 2, and others as the trash travels on a belt conveyor. I bet they are pretty good at jigsaw puzzles.

This morning, my husband and I go to the pool to stretch our muscles that are tense from yesterday's yoga. I see my neighbors: Jackie has MS, and swimming is about the only way she can exercise. Ron is always there for her, and together, they are a wonderful couple, celebrating the good life they have had together. Every time I see them, I am in awe of their good attitude towards life, and feel incredibly fortunate to be healthy and happy.

Last night, I dream about snakes and slugs. Ironically, the stage is set at my old office with some old colleagues acting unnervingly realistically. I wonder whether there is any significance in the combination. The brain is interesting. It holds clues of information and sets them in place like a jigsaw puzzle, when the time comes. They say people with brain damage on their left side exhibit striking intuition and talent. Dreams seem to have the same effect, sometimes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 115: Choices

Would you rather have a long and miserable life, or a short and happy life? When you see a hobo, do you feel repelled or sad? When you go to someone's house, do you gauge whether they are happy or rich?

I hear that a storm is upon the East Coast. Here, it so sunny, that I turn off the heater, and the AC went on until I put a stop on that as well.

This afternoon, I take my son to the conservatory for his violin and stop by Japantown to kill time. They have a little fukubiki (lottery) going on. A lady is complaining in broken Japanese "Nothing" - she got to draw 20 tickets and none were hits. The young bilingual man at the lottery is very patient and polite. She claims none of the tickets are hits, and that this is sacrilege. My turn comes and I get 6 tickets. One is a $5 coupon! I pontificate to the crowd that you have to trust in good fate. The young man is very appreciative. It turns out that my son's violin teacher was not there, and we went there for nothing, but no big deal. I get to rejoice in my good fortune.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 114: The Middle Road

Paradise is sunny again. Simple creature that I am, I feel the need to do something. On the business front, my partners on the other side of the ocean are busy with meetings, but I am waiting for things to develop, and have little to do this morning.

I venture off to yoga. As my friend astutely coined it, yoga is a moving meditation. Today's instructor is a dancer turned into a Buddhist meditation practitioner. He tells us that Zen is about "doing without doing, working without working". What he's really saying is that you can always see when someone is trying too hard. It stresses them out, and it stresses you out watching them. How very true. The Middle Road is hard to stay on constantly, but actually quite easy to hop back on to, once you realize the clenching of the teeth.

On the way home, I stop by the pool for a mini-lap, just enough to loosen up, and then swing up the hill for lunch. Meanwhile, my friend in Japan has been to a yearend party (this is typically called a "forget-the-year-gathering" or bonenkai), and has a brilliant brainwave applying the 80/20 rule (getting 80% done with 20% of the effort). This just proves how important it is to "work without working" and and to let ideas float at the back of your brain for a while.

Now, to give you an example of how one can get sidetracked - Charlie and I take a walk up the hill and meet Samson, a big black dog who is out to prove that he is the alpha dog. He follows us up the trail and keeps us company, while Charlie looks a little bemused. As I look on detachedly, I see that Samson has decided that Charlie is actually a "she". Silly as the situation is, I feel compelled to interfere. Samson, then follows us home, so I deposit Charlie, and escort Samson home with admonition to refrain from further advances. Then, I realize that Maxime is not home and hurtle down to the library in semi-panic. He's not there, so I approach the librarians and ask. One kindly librarian says he saw Maxime after school, but hasn't seen him in a little while. I arrive home to find him wondering why my hair is sticking up from my head. What with Samson and Maxime, I have veered off the middle road. To restore myself to tranquility, I pour myself a generous glass of viognier. Ah, there you were, my middle road....(breathe)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 113: Paula

I have to tell you about Paula. She lives in my neighborhood (actually, I live in her neighborhood) and is so busy helping others that you would think she were a second year associate in corporate finance. She has journeyed with her husband through his disease, and has since helped many, many friends through their ordeal of dialysis. She has helped her best friend recover from cancer. She is taking care of her neighbor who had a heart attack yesterday. By now, you are all thinking of Mother Teresa, but Paula is a very happy, funny, intelligent person who also has a jolly good time!

Today, I get to go to lunch with Paula - her treat! What could be better? We have a lovely lunch in Sausalito, where Brian serves us. Brian owned a restaurant in San Francisco, and served Paula and her late husband Ed on their wedding evening. So, of course, we get special service.

In business school, one learns in OB (that's organizational behavior) that one should be nice to the administrative assistant (i.e. the secretary) because she has all the useful information that will help you better yourself. People like Paula are nice to the secretary because they like the secretary. Humans have sophisticated brains that can intuitively sense whether you have had a nose job. These brains, one would hope, can certainly differentiate between the manipulative versus the Paula.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 112: Doing it the Right Way

I did it! - today I volunteered at school and made sure my child saw me in action. In fact, the whole field trip was rather interesting. At the recycling center, I learn that Marin County has the highest output (per capita?) of garbage of any county in the nation. The nation itself, with 5% of the global population, produces 30% of global rubbish. The output in Marin went down by 30% in 2008 and has since recovered to about 20% from peak this year. This should serve as a leading indicator of consumer confidence. Other than the fact that 10-year-old boys are very cute and manageable, I feel like I have bought my way into heaven by a tiny step. This is what giving, charity, volunteering is all about. You feel like a better person.

Since my day is half gone anyway, I decide it's about time to do something about Christmas. This is the first year since we've had kids that we don't buy a Christmas tree. The year has gone so fast, and I don't see anyone around me slowing down yet, so frankly, it doesn't really feel like Christmas. However, a tradition is a tradition. I make a little tree with ornaments out of silk flower and ribbons, and it is quite well received (even though I had to drag each family member and force a compliment out of them).

With a glass of Pouilly Fume in hand, I chat with my friend in Tokyo on Skype about business, and feel so fortunate to have someone with similar work ethics and wave lengths on the other side of the Pacific. Having the right partner is the key to satisfaction, and hopefully, success in a start up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 111: Here Comes the Sun

The sun is out, the day is warmer- I see 57 degrees indicated on the thermometer outdoors.
I spend most of the day on newsletters and miscellaneous administration for my businesses and for the home front. Sometimes, I wonder if all this busy stuff is going to turn into profitable business. I am fortunate, though. I live in a gorgeous neighborhood in a comfortable house, perched on top of a hill, with a spectacular view spread in front of me. There is no better place to be wondering about one's productivity.

At 2:30, I find myself at the local pool to stretch my little muscles and get some oxygen into my lungs. At 3:30, I pick up my two youngest at the library, and climb back up the hill. As I prepare for dinner - tonight it is halibut sandwiched in crunchy lotus roots sauteed in sesame oil, I feel that 2009 has simply blown through time, and is coming to an end. I remember being glad seeing 2008 fade into the past, and thinking that 2010 would be a good year. I sure hope this is true.

At dinner, as we munch on lotus burgers, the kids talk about how Julien helped a neighbor bring her grocery into her house, with an "unnatural" smile on his face. As they reprimand him of following a stranger - "Stranger, danger!", Julien defends himself saying the lady was this big - pointing to a height similar to mine, her hair would be all grey if it weren't dyed - at which point, they all look at me, and then declares that she is 80-years old! My husband chimes in that "la petite vieille" (careful not to look at me) is no danger, even if she is a stranger. I am sure the lady is nowhere close to 80, and is actually quite tall, and can be dangerous if she feels like it. Nevertheless, I commend my good Samaritan son.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 110: Coming Out

I knew deep inside, but have never voiced this before. But now, I am coming out. I am actually a very primitive form of life. I am the type that hibernates when it gets cold. The other day, I could not stop yawning, even after I slept 11 hours. When I see the birds from my window in V formation heading south, I am with them in spirit.

This morning, I awaken to see a patch of blue sky. The clouds offer a silver lining as well. As I crawl to my shower, I feel that the world is on my side after all. At noon, I go down to the pool to do a few laps with my husband, and this does a lot of good for my spirits. My ritual is to spend 25 minutes doing leisurely laps (imagine a lazy seal) and then 20 minutes in the shower/sauna - BLISS.

Today, we are invited to a neighbor's for drinks, where we meet all our favorite neighbors. They are probably 20 years+ our seniors, and I am so happy to see them. The amusing town gossip I hear could make a bestseller, no doubt. I vaguely recall the turning point when I felt more comfortable with older people than younger people. I was born agressive, but turned sedate at a very early age. When I became a young mother, this changed my DNA combo for good. All of a sudden, I was wise and mature, and wary of what the world could do to harm my children. I became more compassionate and vulnerable. I suppose this is what makes me feel closer to children, to the elderly, and to the animals that need to hibernate.

Which brings me back to the topic of primitive life form. Wouldn't global warming get a big break if all of us humans hibernated for a few months?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 109: Rain

Heavy rain continues all day. Our neighbors from across the street arrive for lunch drenched. We defy the cold with a big pot of coq au vin, and good wine, followed by creme brulee with berries on top.

My curiosity is satisfied as I learn that the beam I see in their house is a special light to chase away the seasonal blues. Apparently, there are some people who are genetically disposed to feel depressed when the weather is dark, cold and wet. I know, for sure, that I am quite susceptible. The past couple of days, I have felt rather down in the dumps. Winters in NY were also tough for me. One winter I spent in Toronto was almost unbearable.

To lift my spirits, I turn on the lights and warm up the room. I listen to music and talk to friends. Even then, I know that I am slightly down. I am so glad I don't live in Siberia or Norway. Hopefully, the clouds will lift tomorrow and bring out the sun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 108: Nimble

Today, my husband, who hasn't taken a day off from work (including weekends) this year, says he won't work. So, we go to yoga at 8. A few errands later, I pick up the kids at the library where a real fire is warming us up in the fireplace.

I come home and realize I am 8 minutes late for a conference call on Skype. All of a sudden, speakers and microphones are plugged into my laptop (thanks to my husband), and it's almost as if we are sitting in a room together. 2 hours later, we have a company name, a business concept, and off we go - three different ways to make things happen.

In company pitches, I have heard how people are nimble and can adjust quickly. I doubt any company is as nimble as we are right now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 107: Yoga Pants

Today is the first day in my 107 days of entrepreneurship that I have spent the entire day in my yoga pants. I feel like a bestseller novelist. I've read about people who can work in their PJs. This is pretty close. The reason that I stayed in my yoga pants all day, is not to prove that I can, but because I have been meaning to go to yoga (or at least the pool) all morning. But, work got in the way, and I finally decided to go the pool at 3:40.

Of all the nature-defying people over 21 years of age in my neighborhood, my husband and I rank within top 5 at 4 pm. It is so cold that it could snow, and there we are, moving through water like seals. I cut short my shower and sauna so as not to keep my husband waiting, but it is impossible to emerge from the locker room under 13 minutes. I don't know how men manage, but women have a certain standard that cannot be compromised. Even then, I will have it known, that not many women can beat my truncated grooming. I deliver my husband back close to his office and fetch a bottle of milk for the tribe. Tomorrow, I must go to Costco again to hunt down the mammoth.

Recently, I have discovered that friends read this blog. Frequently, I am asked about Aya's pinky and other esoteric updates. At first, I wondered whether I was losing it and not recalling that I had spoken to you about the trivia. Now I realize that you have been reading and feeling as if you are talking to me all the time. That's really nice, but don't forget to call me or email me once in a while, since I don't know what you are up to. Speaking of friends, here is a video about friends, courtesy of Camille.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 106: Dedication

My first physical therapy session is mostly Q&A, but I do come home with a few exercises to do. My lumbar is getting intensive attention, what with yoga yesterday and exercises today. I skip the pool to give my body some relief.

To tell the truth, I don't quite know where the day went. I chatted with a couple of friends in NY, and with my business partner and good friend in Tokyo while making an cream sauce, chicken, peppers and zucchini, shallot gratin with potatoes to accompany. I may have poured a glass too many, as my face flares up. I now dilute with Oolong peach tea, to prepare myself for the school concert. Camille (and the frilly blouse, my black socks and my black pair of shoes) perform in the flute section. Luckily, my daughters and I are around the same height (I am now the shortest). I find some of my nicer things lost for days until they show up in the laundry.

In any event, the sun has set, dinner is cooking, and I am off to the concert on a cold (really cold!) night. Back from the concert, I again marvel at the dedication of parents who sit through these evening concerts despite their exhaustion and stress of daily life. I have also confirmed that I have the smallest and daintiest feet among the female tribal members. Proof of this is that Camille refused to walk the last few steps to the car in my shoes, while earlier on, she was swimming in Aya's pair.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 105: Mele Kalikimaka

On a cold day like this, I feel like singing "Mele Kalikimaka" to encourage the warm winds to blow and sway the palm trees. I work this morning, feeling my lower back ache. So, at 11, I zoom down the hill to an Iyengar yoga class. For the uninitiated, Iyengar yoga is all about posture and alignment. None of the flow and swing that makes you feel one with nature. This is all about discipline. The Italian yoga teacher reminds me of Julius Ceasar as she shouts out orders for us to pull our buttocks away from our lumbars. I feel quite stretched as I zoom back to the pool and sink into the warm little pool next to the cold big pool where the die-hard masters are flipping.

Back home, I peel root vegetables - daikon, burdock, potatoes- and simmer them in a kobu broth with fish and ginger. This is the best way to chase away the cold. Tonight, I complete the frilly blouse for tomorrow night's concert where Camille plays the flute. Camille says it's the sort that Amadeus would wear. After the concert, I think I'll wear it once in a while. For "mele kalikimaka"-ing, go to - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xE-XghNZ30

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 104: Mad Monday

New Yorkers will laugh, but it's cold here. I need to pluck up some courage as I pull into the local pool. I see a neighbor's daughter on crutches. She has had hip surgery and is rehabilitating in the pool. Now I know that all this hype about "minimally invasive" and "you walk out the hospital the next day (smiling implied)" is all lies.

This morning, I walk out of my steam shower to find my half French daughter wanting a ride down to the bus stop because she made crepe with Nutella for French food day for her French class. I, of course, oblige and come home to find my French husband sitting at his desk at 7 (at home!). I work on a couple of newsletters, while picking ticks off of Charlie and throwing the laundry into the machine. Highly productive.

After a brief attempt at muscling up, I life coach a life coach (at no charge, at least not yet), perform CPR on my orchids, and then hop on to a conference call re: the dinosaur era a.k.a. securitizations. Then, I zoom around the village, come home, hop on another chat with my friend in Japan while making Tantanmen (this is actually to die for yummy).

My eldest has declined to join his tribe for Christmas, as he now has a girlfriend. First question I ask is "what's her name?". As I communicate this info around, each member of the tribe asks "what's her name?" It appears that we are genetically programmed to ask this question.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Days 103 & 104: Random thoughts

Sunday afternoon musings make me think. A while ago, my friend Bob (name changed to protect identity) tells me that his goal for the next 5 years is to lead a life such that many people will come to his funeral and talk about how Bob helped them when in need. I wonder why it has to be his funeral, and why it can't simply be lots of people who liked him. I detect a powerful ego at work.

Yesterday evening, I drive into a beautiful San Francisco with Christmas decorations illuminating the city. The radio sings out Christmas in San Francsico. I am dining with out-of-town friends. We used to work together 15 (!) years ago down right across the bowels of what is now known as Ground Zero. How we have grown! As we sit across a table ordering our Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and chat away happily, we recall people and incidents of the past. How nice to have friends who lift me off my feet to give me a hug after all these years. This is when I don't mind being short.

This morning, I go to the gym (for 8 minutes, that's all I can take) and then to the pool. I spot my ex-colleague and friend with her beloved and have a nice catch-up. Luckily, the clock has ticked 6 minutes while we chat, and I fulfill my timeslot for laps as well. Up in paradise, my beef stew is smelling good for lunch. I type this blog with a thimble on my finger, as I am sewing a "frilly blouse" for Camille's concert on Wednesday. I wonder again, whether I wasn't meant to be the "perfect housewife".

In between now and tonight's orchestra (Julien performs), I will need to work on a newsletter for my new business which starts officially on January 1, 2010. Check the site out if you have nothing better to do: http://www.totalwealthasia.com/

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 99: Or is it 102?

Somewhere along the way, I must have miscounted the days - it should be Day 102 according to my calculation, yet here I am at Day 99. It is incredible that Robinson Crusoe managed to keep his days straight enough to name his friend Friday.

In college, the only class I got a "C" was for philosophy. I blame this on the professor. The first class I took was so boring, that I never attended any other. The old professor rambled on about random topics (he must have been tenured), but one thing did stick. "No matter what it is, if you do one thing for 10 years, you will become an expert in that one thing." This is true, although there are good experts and mediocre experts after the same 10 years. I had not thought about my previous professional life during the last 99 (or is it 102) days. Today, I have an opportunity to draw upon distant memory and find to my surprise, that I can still think coherently. Similar to how in Tokyo, I was able to recall trivia buried deep in my brain from 20 years ago, my livelihood of the past 15 years is still there. There is an intellectual satisfaction, if not an emotional one.

I don't have time to dwell on this, since I have lunch with a silver fox-like friend. The conversation with her is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. As I take leave of silver fox and fly north to Costco (for feeding the monster is part of my day job), I think of all the people that I have encountered over the years, and how some relationships have grown while some have faded away, and why this happens. In the end, for me, there is a somewhat spiritual attachment that draws me to certain people. I have to think about how to express this spirit - it is not religous, it is not intellectual. Maybe Louis Armstrong sang it best. "I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do? They're really saying, I love you."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 98: Kaleidoscope

I go to the doctor for hip and knee pain, and find out that it is not my hip or knee that is problematic. It is my back that lacks muscles which triggers pain. This is like the butterfly effect in one's own body. Good news is that all I have to do is muscle up. Bad news is that I have to muscle up.

Mid-morning, my neighbor and good friend picks me up for a coffee and biscuit treat. Serial successful enterpreneur that he is, he is onto his nth project. I am novice apprentice trying to glean morsels of wisdom whenever possible. We chat about everything and nothing in particular, which reminds me of my dreams. I am fortunate to have friends who remind me of dreams.

After laps at the pool to shed the few pounds I have gained, I trek up the goat path, but need to stop for oxygen. I reach paradise and realize I am 6 minutes late for a conference call. My daughters call, and despite the commitment I made in early days, I speed down to pick them up, scoop up my baby son (who is flirting shamelessly with the dentist and her staff) and zoom back up to paradise.

As dusk falls here, the sun has risen in Asia. Here we go again for a continuation of the DREAM.

Day 97: Saratoga

The fence guy shows up and offers nothing for free. The electrician comes and fixes a few things aound the house. Meanwhile, I busy myself sewing a few wrap-a-bag furoshiki's for the evening event. Apogee Club is offering evening refreshments with preserved flower arrangements, and there is a side table for arts & crafts. I feel obligated to present a few wrap-a-bags.

I head south in my batmobile, and realize that I don't know where Saratoga is. My faithful GPS gets me to my destination 50-odd miles and almost 2 hours away. Preserved flowers are the plant version of Lenin. They are bleached and then dipped in alcohol to keep them looking life like for eternity. They are much prettier than Lenin, but are quite pricey. A single rose is $12~15 - it will last a decade, so perhaps it is quite inexpensive.

The most memorable thing is not the flowers, but a comment made by a friend who just went back to a full time position. She is also an accomplished painter, and realized she could not paint well when she is happy. So, she is back at work, and can paint again!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 96: Myths

This morning I wait in vain for the fence guy to show up while chatting about investment ideas with my friend in Germany. I now have Skype but yet have to use it. I seem to have friends with common names, so everytime I try, I can't figure out which John Smith is the right one. My husband, who is a Vonage fan and doesn't believe in Skype, faithfully climbs the hill nonetheless with a head set for me. I zoom off for lunch with a friend, with whom I discuss my adventures in Tokyo. She, in turn, tells me about her adventures and commiserates the fact that I have little college savings for my kids. I have always been of the opinion that there is a way where there is a will. I am sure we'll figure it out, but we'd better hurry. In the afternoon, I do the "mom-takes-kid-for-doctor-visit" routine again. In the evening, I chat with my friend in Japan while stir frying vegetable and fish. Mid-way,through preparing dinner, I navigate calls from my husband and son on there whereabouts while pantomiming with another son about the progress of dinner preparation. Today is a typical day in paradise. Beautiful sky all day long, with a wonderful sunset. Aya and I spot a sad-looking man mourning the passing of this gorgeous December (!) day. Look closely at the photo below.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 95: Inefficiency

My first workday back is not too efficient. I opt for a massage in lieu of a doctor's appointment, but the result is so-so. During lunch with a friend, my daughter calls to inform me that her pinky may be broken. I pick her up at at school and the rest of my afternoon is history. Luckily her bones are young and strong, and a mere locker door slammed on her hand doesn't manage to break any bones. My joints are a different matter, so instead of procrastinating, I make an appointment for a check up later this week.

In between massages, lunch and doctor visits, I have conquered a few IT obstacles for my new business. Tomorrow, I hope to be more efficient. I will at least skip the massage.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 94: End of a Long Weekend

There is nothing like a long weekend to catch up with the family and life in general. I feel re-connected now.

My new office is proving troublesome. As I have an unobstructed 200 degree plus view, the sun is always shining in somewhere. I have two desks in the bedroom between which I move according to the sun, but there is a timezone, where I need to lie flat on my tummy on the carpet to avoid light (which, of course induces sleep and general sloth-like behavior). And, since my husband rises at 4 am, he goes to bed early. This means that I can only work in a worker bee position for about 4 hours of the day. I shall endeavor to fix this problem by putting up a sun shield tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day 93:New Office

I have a new office - it's a corner office with a view on the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a bed in the office so that I can rest when I am tired. It's actually my bedroom.


The table base that I had ordered many moons ago arrived a couple of days ago, and I have motivated my crew (strong and tall children) to move a few pieces of furniture around. Being such a big wig, I have an office downstairs (night time) and upstairs (day time) now.


I even have a pet cat (wooden carving) and pet dog (alive and hairy) to keep me company, with the occasional young human who visits with provocative comments.
Charles is also happy. He has been on strict dog food diet until yesterday.

For the first time in 16 days, I go back to my local pool for a few laps. It sure is nice to be back home.


I must now run to check my turkey gratin with zucchini, parmesan and alfredo sauce.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 92: Thanksgiving

10 hours of sleep and a catnap have restored me to the current time zone. The brined turkey turns out excellent after 5 hours of baking in the oven. The strawberry tart and creme brulee, followed by two Hercule Poirot movies completes our Thanksgiving dinner. My thanks go to a happy, healthy family and good friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 91: Living the good life twice

The world is round, which means I get to live November 25, 2009 twice. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself in Tokyo. Akemi and her family are so happy and complete together, that I feel an adopted child well accepted and well loved. I feel slightly sad as I leave her house.

We cab over to our first meeting at the Mandarin Oriental. Luckily, I have had two cups of strong coffee, and rise to the occasion to translate verbally and emotionally. The problem with two cups of strong coffee is that it encourages digestion. I am hungry! I steal a plate of cookies from my neighbor to fuel me on. We then zoom to Tokyo for a lunch with yet another friend. Alex is a Japanese francophile who is actually a French japanophile. I find it interesting that the waitress insists on speaking English to Alex, whose Japanese is just as good as mine, which is not without fault, but is generally regarded as high quality. This reminds me of the Brazilian lady I met at my son's college. She is third generation Japanese Brazilian. Integrating into Japan was harder for her than it was for her Portugese/French friend, because she looks Japanese but isn't. Spiritually, Alex is more Japanese than the biologically Japanese I am. It must be harder for him to be accepted. Intriguing....

On the bus and plane heading back to paradise, I embrace the land of nod as I have not done in a while. SFO is sunny and warm. Back near home, the first person who calls out to me is an ex-colleague and good friend wishing me a happy Thanksgiving from his steering wheel. I feel all the good karma flowing my way. Back home, Charlie and Maxime run up the stairs to embrace me. Maxime officially welcomes me home to paradise, which it is indeed.

In the evening, my husband and I catch a 15 lb turkey for tomorrow, and toast each other with a glass of wine. The turkey is brining for the big meal tomorrow.

Living the day twice is nice, when it's a day like today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 90: Ready

I think I reached 20,000 paces today. My feet are as big as tennis rackets now. I am quite ready to hop on that plane tomorrow and exchange my legs for wheels again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 89: Feet

Mt. Fuji is visible from Tokyo this morning. It's a crisp, clear winter day. It's also a holiday in Japan, and people are out strolling. My friend and I go for a couple of business meetings, and then for a foot massage. Pain is good as far as foot massage goes. My poor feet have been pounding the ground all over Tokyo these past few days, and feel all sore. Half an hour of kneading restores them to their normal shape. I head over to a friend's place and lie on her floor to watch TV. My friend is quite the celebrity, so I get to watch her on video as she explains what her company is all about. We then head over to another friend's for dinner, and cab our way home. This is the second time I take a cab this trip. I am proud about how frugal I have been. I imagine I have been kind to the earth as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 88: Lucky 8

8 is a lucky number in Japan. Today is therefore double-luck day. My son Jinsuke is a freshman in college, and today is his college festival. I am invited to go see a play called Satellite Blues. Thinking back on when I was his age, I don't think I would have invited my parents. I feel extremely fortunate that he doesn't mind. After the show, I am introduced to his friends and some of their parents. We walk around campus, where Jinsuke seems to know everyone. He introduces me to one and all, and I am impressed at how well behaved and open-minded they all seem to be. These young people are the future elites of Japan. It's encouraging to think that they may change Japan for the better.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 87: Ginbura

Ginza is the Tokyo equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue. A typical weekend activity is to take a stroll in Ginza - Ginza burabura or Ginbura for short. I find a $140 melon for sale at a high end fruit shop, which my friend assures me is normal.



We stroll around further, and find an interesting place - "the world's first free cafe" Harimaya is packed with people stopping by for free tea, coffee and osenbei. On a balmy Saturday afternoon, folks stop by for a rest after strolling, have some tea and rice crackers. On their way out, they purchase a few packs of rice crackers, either out of a sense of obligation or because they liked what they ate. The cash register is ringing non-stop. I ask one of the employees about their business model. The owner supposedly offers world peace and truth, and has written a book on this topic - the book is for sale for $10. Business is so brisk that they can barely keep up. The Japanese economy is hurting and people are very cost conscious. Offering free food and drinks in an airy, clean atmosphere seems to have worked.






By the time we step out, there is a line of people all the way down the stairwell and out onto the street. This business model must have applications elsewhere, if one thinks hard enough.









Day 86: Arashi

I leave my friend's house to go meet another friend and a popular journalist, whose expertise is on marriage. She is interviewing me about my view on said topic. She says she needs to go to Disneyland this evening because the storm ("arashi" in Japanese) is coming. I exclaim "Really? I didn't bring an umbrella, because my friend said it wouldn't rain today." The interviewer looks at me strangely, and says that Arashi is the name of a popluar band. Things like this happen all the time this trip. Words that used to exist no longer do, while new words are created. At the same time, I discover that useless words and knowledge have been stashed away in the little archive folder in my brain and pop out unexpectedly. The brain seems to work a little bit like a sewer pipe. Now that I have been speaking Japanese for almost a week, the vocabulary and knowledge base that had been clogged up, is flowing relatively freely.

Drinks and dinner with different sets of friends ensue. I stagger back home to find that an uncouth business partner has misbehaved. We deal with this hiccup well into the night, and write him off. Good thing we make this decision now and not later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 85: On the move, or not?

Tokyo is 9~11 hours away from San Francisco, depending on whether you are coming or going. What's interesting is how different the two places are, when in fact, it's not that hard to reach.
This difference is what keeps some people from moving around, and others constantly on the move. My friend tells me that she cannot imagine not living here in Tokyo, close to her family and friends, and the familiar environment. In fact, she doesn't understand how some people can pick up and move to another city, let alone another country, and continue on with their lives.

This is interesting. Many of my friends move from country to country with relative ease, and enjoy the process of making new friends, and discovering new cities. If they find that they don't like the new place too much, they will move on. The thought of not having a choice makes me slightly claustrophobic. I suppose having too many choices makes some feel like they are in free fall.

I wonder if this type of difference exists only in humans. Are there some whales that hate having to migrate up and down the ocean, and some that feels exhilarated about the thought?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 82~84: Tokyo

Life in the big city is very different from Tiburon. First thing you notice, there are LOTS of people. The capital grows to 24 million people during the day. This means they are everywhere. And they are mostly very slim. I find out why. My friend, whose place I am monopolizing during this stay, has absolutely nothing in her house that would result in weight gain. I go through her fridge looking for butter, of which there is none. In the local grocery store, I find some butter, but it looks like a mini version of what we have at home. Even the bacon here is sliced thinner and has no fat. It would take a huge effort to become obese in this environment.

In the city, I walk around a lot. Instead of driving everywhere, I walk to the subway station and ride public transportation everywhere. My cell phone registers close to 10,000 paces a day.

The day goes by very quickly even though I sleep a couples of hours less than usual. I meet with friends and business acquaintances, who are sprawled all around town. Last night, I come home happy but sore in the calves. I immediately plop myself down on the floor in front the heater while my friend pours me tea and discusses plans for today. There is so much to do and so many people to meet in Tokyo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 81: Flight to Japan

19th is closed for road work, so the Marin Airporter takes me down on route 1, the scenic way to the airport. It is the first time I see lines at SFO to get through security. It takes close to an hour to get through. The flight is uneventful and quite pleasant. On the other side, a friend from business school is waiting for me. As he would say himself, he is a late bloomer in terms of finding his true love. Now, he is happily settled with a wonderful wife and two very cute little sons. I am careful not to spoil his reputation in front of his better half. I enjoy a very nice dinner with the entire family, and then hit the road again with my friend at the wheels. I am staying with a friend in Tokyo. Actually, I am evicting her from her apartment for the next 10 days, while she moves back in with her parents. I wonder why I have all these self-sacrificing friends around me. Whatever the reason, I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 80: The day before....

Drizzle and fog when I wake up. Yoga at 9:30 with my beloved. By the time we emerge, the sun is out and it's warm again. Lunch outside by the pool looking at the Bay.

I pack a whole suitcase full of books for my friend, whose house I will be squatting at in Tokyo. So many books that have given me food for thought over the years... They are like old friends.

Maxime bakes his second pound cake ever looking like a miniature Jacques Pepin. We all joke about the next 10 days of sausage and pasta dinners. Reality is that everyone in my family is a distinguished chef. I am sure they will dine well while I am gone. Even so, I see a pack of sausages defrosting in the fridge.

Speaking of which, I am starting to look forward to all the good food in Tokyo. Also, the culture that I usually don't miss but appreciate so much when I am there. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to get around town in many places. My French husband offers me a map of Tokyo, to which I take mild offense. "I know Tokyo like the back of my hand!!", I declare. We shall see if I really do. I wake up my firstborn to inform him of my imminent arrival. Jinsuke goes to college in Tokyo and is asleep at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. Despite the shock to his system, he reacts with impeccable good manners. If I get lost, he'll help me out, no doubt.

Day 79: TGIF

I am my own administrative assistant, marketing person and legal counsel. For my trip to Japan, I order business cards, rush to Staples to get them, set up meetings, and read up on LLCs and C-Corps. It's actually fun, but not enough time to look pretty. At 11:15, I hop into the shower, and try to look decent before showing up for lunch with a friend. I zoom around town, pick up my two youngest kids and head to the doctor's. Fortunately, nothing is seriously wrong, but I feel the need to make sure, since I am away for a while. As I prepare dinner, I realize that one of my older kids is not home. I call, I text, I call, I call again....starting to panic, thinking of all the things that could have gone wrong. On the fifth call, Julien answers. He is in the city for his violin lesson, which has totally escaped my mind. Too many things to do, and the brain overflows.

So dinner comes, and we have our three wonderful friends drop in for a relaxed evening. After dinner, we look at our yearbook from fifteen years ago, and realize how we have matured. The good news is that we have retained our original shapes, and recognize ourselves in the photos.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 78: Yakisoba and Ratatouille

I know you are wondering what exciting things happened today, after the skunk event yesterday. The reality is that it was quite peaceful. I speak with my friend in Tokyo while I mouth "good bye, have a nice day" to my kids in the morning. I email here and there while nibbling until 10:30 when I really get hungry and wolf down some leftovers with Charlie. I then jump into my batmobile to go find some books to take to Japan. It's already 2:30. I feel agitated, most likely because I am gearing up to leave home and my family (sad), while looking forward to seeing family and friends in Japan (great!). So, at 4:30, I am at yoga, downdogging and updogging. I feel more centered now. I cook dinner for tonight and tomorrow (menu featured in today's title) with the help of my kids, and drag down books from the bookshelves to bring to my friend in Japan - books that were interesting, but not heartwrenching to part with.

I am so fortunate to have friends everywhere. Just today, I speak and email with friends and family in the US, Japan, France, Switzerland, the UK, Korea... I don't write this to brag. It truly feels like one of the things that modern day life makes possible. Together we are strong and fuller.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 77: Lucky Seven x 2

I am very superstitious. Today is my 77th day into entrepreneurship - it must be double lucky. Today is also Veteran's Day, and the kids have a free day off from school. Schools are really nice, they take every opportunity possible to take time off. In NY, they had snow days. Here, they don't have that, but they still try.

The adventure of the day is garbage. For those who follow this blog purely for the purpose of feeling like you are back in Tiburon (I can guess who you are, even if you haven't declared yourself), you will be thrilled to know that our streets are being re-paved. They have finally reached the top of the hill, which is where the exciting event happened. Today is garbage collection day on my street. As I go to put the bins back into their discreet little tuck-away, I notice one of the bins have not been emptied. I peer into it, and see something with black and white fur. You urbanites out there, I assure you that skunks exist. They actually smell bad when they feel like it. Charlie can also tell you this, as he has been sprayed a few times. So now, we (Maxime, Charlie, and our neighbor Susan) are feeling like Bond..... James Bond. We strategize and concur (I don't know quite why, but this word always cracks me up, it's so pretentious) that Charlie should go inside so as not to provoke the skunk. Then, we borrow a garage can lid from our neighbor #2. Our fearless neighbor #1 tilts the can on its side, I find a long bamboo stick to release the lid, while Maxime jumps up and down from a safe distance. A few minutes pass, and we are getting worried. As we start converging, a little face sticks out, then a fat body the size of a small dog or big cat waddles out, and scurries off down our neighbor #3's driveway. Tiburon is a dangerous place, but we are saved, and the skunk has had time to feast on leftovers. We are lucky - the skunk didn't bother to spray us.

Speaking of leftovers, tonight is "leftover galore" night. We have dim sum (purchased at Clement and 4th this morning), sick-tummy noodle, and beef steak, followed by custard tart. Charlie is also in for a treat with sweet potato and Gruyere cheese. It is fortunate that I went for laps in the evening.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 76: Grandma

When I was 18, I was already a grandma at heart. I never felt the need to go out into a crowd and party. In fact, the thought of that would exhaust me. At 20, still in college, I had a "hifalluting" job as a translator at a TV station. I was not at all interested in the celebrities that came and went. I would ride the subway with all the Roppongi girls dressed up to their eyeballs for the night on town, and wonder what made them so excited. At 21+, I am no different. If I didn't have to eat rats and mice, I would be a cat. Lying in the sun, doing nothing in particular, and just wondering.... I sure hope I get to do this (not the eating rats and mice part) when I am a grandma (but no rush, kids).

On the other hand, there is that obsessive compulsive side. I am eternally grateful that I am a woman, and not a man. Had I been a man, I would have been intolerable (although perhaps I am, even as a woman), driving myself to the edge and dragging people around me into the vortex. My husband does not drag. He simply drives on his own, with enormous stamina.

Today, Julien succumbs to the tummy bug, but seems better in the evening. It's like a wave, this bug. It manifests its tenacity each day on a different person. The only ones that remain immune are my husband and Charlie.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 75: Monday Frenzy

On Monday mornings, highway patrol is rumored to go weaving between traffic lanes so that all the agitated drivers slow down. Everyone wants to get ahead on Mondays, to get a head start. We are all aggressive animals.

This morning, I too, join the crowd. I drop my corrupted external hard drive off at UPS, go rushing to Costco so that I can feed the beasts again this week, while chatting with someone in New York. After I gobble down lunch, I live chat with my friend Mark at sitekreator.com. I see Nancy has also jumped on. I visualize them throwing murderous looks at each other over the cubicle divider and fighting for the opportunity to help me. Mark wins, and now I have a nice Japanese website, too. I feel so uber-self-sufficient to have achieved this, although in fact, it's not me, but Mark who does the heavy lifting.

I have pressure cooked the sweet potato and artichoke (again), and have produced a nice soup with the chicken carcass from last night. The sun is starting to set, so I think I'll just nip down for a quick few laps at the pool.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 73 & 74: Weekend edition

Friday night close to midnight, I see wildlife in Tiburon. A little Bambi, a fox, a family of racoons, deer, hedgehogs, even an armadillo.

Saturday is full of chauffeuring for the kids. Then, an afternoon and evening with friends.
Sunday is the same combination of events. In other words, it's an easy-going weekend. In the evening, as I wait for my violinist to come out of rehearal, I see other parents sitting patiently in their cars, waiting for theirs to do the same. Only parents would have the patience to do this every weekend, for years on end. What is it that gives parents this dedication? Is it love, is it the sense of cultivating well-rounded children, is it habit?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 72: Where there is a will...

At my first job in the US, there was a Will and a Wei. So, obviously, we had a running joke, "where there is a Will, there is a Wei." Everything I want, if I look hard enough, I find a way to find it using the internet to search. The world must have been so much more inefficient before the world wide web. For my kids, this is unimaginable. When I tell them that email didn't exist when I was their age, they look at me as if I were a prehistoric animal.

Yesterday, I find a company called sitekreator.com. Today, I have a published though incomplete business website. Since Julien is off to a swing dance party, and the chauffeur (= me) needs to stay up till 11 to fetch the prince, I start my second site of the day. This one is called AyaCamille.com. The slogan is "Where fine taste meets fine taste." I realize there is room for improvement. I don't need my son to snigger at me to realize this. Where there is a will, there is a way. Check out www.ayacamille.com in about 10 days. You may be surprised and even impressed.

I feel absolutely 100% productive today. Starting with yoga at 8 - Maxime recommended it, since "I was looking preoccupied and stressed" - and pool at 9:30, I managed to cram in 5 hours of web designing. In the afternoon, I speak to my friend in Japan who volunteers to write the Japanese part. Allegedly, my Japanese has become rusty and sounds like Google translation. I find this easy to believe. Even I find my Japanese hilarious at times.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 71: Scatter

Maxime is sick again today. We spend the morning experimenting with more wrap-a-bags and fabric printing paper. Fabrics that were purchased for a purpose half a decade ago, now come to shine. He now has his very own wrap-a-bag to take to his friend's birthday party Saturday. 2 o'clock comes and goes, 2 o'clock being the ideal time for me to do some laps at the pool. I have discovered there is a site that allows non-tech people like me to make multi-lingual websites. I chat live with Mark, the wonderful tech person in San Jose, while Maxime chirps philosophy into my left ear. 4 o'clock rolls by and I whiz down the hill to UPS a car key to my uncle-in-law in France, so that he can go get some croissant in the morning. Then, I think perhaps he would like a prototype wrap-a-bag, and climb back up the hill to fetch one. As I reach the UPS store, I find I have left the car key behind!!! No meditation, no pool, no yoga, and here I am. All tatters and scatter brain. I pick up my husband at the office and climb back uphill. As he fills a glass of Bordeaux and hops on a conference call, I fill up on Pouilly Fume and cook dinner. Life is good. Tomorrow, I plan to catch up on yoga and pool. Meanwhile, tonight I shall meditate a little.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 70: Aya*Camille


I have learned that old dogs can learn new tricks! I have managed to upload photos... Aya*Camille is my new whimsical brand for when I'm bored. If you feel like getting a wrap-a-bag (trademark pending so don't you dare), let me know.
Since I spent the morning sewing prototypes, I feel productive and energized. I go to the pool at 4 and do a few laps. Ha ha ha, just because I can.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 69: Gratitude

Now I know what people do when they don't go to the office. Everywhere I go, it feels like a special treat. But there they are, all my neighbors and friends!! They look like they have every right to be there (which they do). For me, it's still a great treat. Yoga in the morning, shopping at the local fabric store, pool in the early afternoon, driving around town mid-afternoon.... All this that I have missed out on for 15 years! Walking the kids to school, ambushing them on the way home, tossing laundry into the dryer during the day, meditating in the morning, picking ticks off of Charlie, getting locked out of my house and pottering around in my PJ's as my neighbors drive by at 9, being caught by the pool guy discussing various topics with Charlie, upgrading my software in the morning - ALL THIS STUFF IS AVAILABLE TO US!!! What a blessing to be able to experience this and to be grateful for this. If you ever find me taking all this for granted, I give you permission to grab me by the shoulders and shake me hard.

Day 68: Gon-chan

The days have fallen into a rhythm - time alone, and time with kids around. Time alone is not that long. This morning, I walk down the hill with the kids and climb back up with Charlie, which counts for 45 minutes of cardio activity.

The window guy comes for repairs and that's 30 minutes here and there of discussion. Watering and transplanting the orchids is another 30 minutes. Before you know it, lunch time is here. I toss a chop salad and then head out to pick my high schoolers up early for their physical check-up. As they lament the fact that they are middle of the pack on height, and lay blame on my genes, I tell them about my friend in high-school who used to be tiny, but drank milk all the time one year and grew a foot. The morals of Gon-chan work. Milk consumption has risen drastically this evening.

I work on my new business idea - which entails color markers and cutting and pasting arts and crafts style. I realize belatedly that I would have made an ideal trophy wife, had I followed Gon-chan's example in school. Now, half-a-foot too short to qualify, I potter around looking for the new opportunity.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 67: November

It's the first Sunday of November, and time has slipped back an hour again. It's another gorgeous weekend here in paradise. In between chauffeuring the kids here and there, we go for laps at the local outdoors pool. The heated water and warm air trick me in to thinking it's May.

But the night sets early. My boeuf bourguignon is smelling really good just about now. It requires another 3 hours to be excellent, but one cannot wait. We tackle the dish after an artichoke appetizer. My husband lectures how the beginning of the week in any country but the US (meaning France) is Monday. He also reminds us that Canada borders two countries: the US and France. There is a Pluto-like fishing village called St. Pierre et Miquelon which belongs to la France. It must be my boeuf bourguignon that invokes patriotism all of a sudden.

Today, while folding laundry, I think of another business line! If you see the brand "Aya*Camille", think of me. I am so confident of its success, that I am planning to rent a pied-a-terre in Tokyo. Next year this time, the Bay Area will be buzzing with Aya*Camille.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 66: Halloween

Halloween in the Bay Area is a little strange. Today boats are sailing in the bay. I find myself in my backyard in my sleeveless shirt having brunch with some friends, while basking in the warm sun. Tonight, the air is still a little warm. Mind you, I am not complaining. It sure beats trick-or-treating while worrying about frost bites.

Mercy did not persevere in the household. This afternoon, I find a mini pumpkin firmly gripped in the jaws of the giant one, while the remaining mini looks on in horror. It is Halloween after all.

With teenagers, there seems to be a 2 year period where they are too big to trick-or-treat. Then, the revert to dressing up and hanging out again. Aya, who is in the 2-year period, agrees to chaperone her younger siblings in their outfits in return for "community service" hours. She takes her pillow case, just in case. Julien, on the other hand, is beyond that, and has gone to "hang out" with his friends in the dark.

Back at home, high up on the hill, where no kids venture for candy, my husband and I sip our cups of tea, and remember the days when we frantically kept head count of our kids on Halloween.

The two pre-teens and Aya call for a ride back up the hill. As I pull into the store parking lot, I see a vampire, a wolf and a teenager checking out their loot on the sidewalk. Turns out Aya made the vampire and wolf say their little sister was at home sick so that people would give extra candy. Cunning.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 65: Kids

The Bay Bridge is still down. Traffic is bad, so I decide to stay in my village as much as possible. But, on the main boulevard, traffic is stalled. The local school K ~ 2nd grade is off to their Halloween parade. I see fairies, and ninjas, witches and oversized Poohs and Tiggers (over-zealous parents) cross the street, all 500 or so of them.... By the time the cars start moving, I am so into the parade, that I don't really want to go.

This afternoon, I help carve a jack-o-lantern complete with a third eye - totally Marin.The original theme was to have a gigantic pumpkin swallow up reluctant tiny pumpkins, but mercy got in the way, and now big and small are smiling next to each other. We roast the pumpkin seeds and munch. The third eye reminds me of this morning's yoga. My yoga teacher probably watched Jane Fonda's aerobics last night. I empathize with the lady who sticks her neck out of the window mid-way and heaves oxygen in and out.

Two of our kids are out and about this evening, and with one in college already, that leaves two at the table. In four years, two more will be off to college and the house will be like this every day. Sad. I wonder if it's harder to be an empty nester if you start off with more kids than average.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 64: Funny

Until 5 minutes ago, I thought I was pretty funny. Now, I change my mind. Julien shows me a blog website called mylifeisaverage.com. My tummy muscles are stronger now from laughing.

Day 63: Poof

I am writing a day late, because my wise son said something to me last night that was really powerful and worthy of mentioning. I was too tired to get out of bed and write it down. And now, POOF! it's gonzo. Cannot remember even a morsel.

A couple of years ago, I had a great idea. My husband tells me it was his idea, but I cannot recall, which is the beauty of selective memory. I even secured a website called GoPoof.com. It has expired so go grab it now. Anyway, it was how you could erase negative information about yourself from the internet. I was told it doesn't work. Now, there is a company called reputation something or other that does exactly that.

I realize that tenacity is not my strong suit. I am easily swayed. When I have notions, but someone says "no", I give up quite easily on most things. There are few things that I insist on. Among those few are basic table manners - don't eat with your mouth open, don't hold your fork like a pitchfork, don't start eating before everyone at the table is served , etc. etc. , and treat everyone equally - don't grovel, don't condescend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 62: Hair

A good friend tells me that I have "LOTS OF GREY HAIR, which makes me look OLD". Another good friend tells me that I have typical old Japanese lady hair. I may need to change the definition of "good friend" on them one day, but I take their comment to heart. I have a theory that one should age gracefully, and not obsess about youth. I like women with well coiffed grey hair. It makes them look wise and elegant. My husband says it makes them look old.

This morning, I drive to Japan town to get a new look. Two and a half hours later, I emerge with seaweed black hair and a "wanna look young" hairdo, which I immediately destroy by re-shaping into old Japanese lady hair. I lunch with a friend who politely says I look great.

Once home, I approach my daughter, Aya, who is still recovering from a bout of tummy bug. "Whoa!", she says. "It looks really black." Upon further interogation on whether that is supposed to indicate good or bad, she says, "Well, you did it. It's not like you have much choice now." I marvel at the power of words. How much more eloquently can one say "bad" without using the word?

The other kids come home, too. Camille says "Whoa, what did you do to your hair?". Julien says "It looks PURPLE, like a rock star." The only one who says it looks nice maybe too often, is Maxime. I remember now the hairdresser saying I could always change the color next time. My husband is wonderful. He comes home and says "It looks great. You look young and cute, just like when I met you." Even though I know this is stretching the truth a little, I am humored into thinking it's not so bad after all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 62: Cold

Just as I had predicted yesterday, my joints are aching, my head throbbing and my tummy hurting. Three of the four kids stay home sick today. The good news is that this cold appears to work swiftly and then simply moves on. What is also good is that the kids know the drill. It's not like the old days when you had to cuddle them and stay with them, while feeling like death yourself. We each retire to our rooms and sleep. Once in a while, someone would fix something to eat, and then retire again. Overall, it's a very unexciting day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 61: Tank top

How many people spent the day in a tank top today? I bet you there are not many. This is what I love about the Bay Area. While my friends in Japan are suffering from a typhoon, and New York is getting cold and depressing, I am walking around all day in a Calvin Klein tank top (3 for $19) and an $8.97 pair of pants bought at the Gap.

But, the swine flu is active. Half of my kids' class are out sick. I have a couple of kids that have succumbed, too. Seasoned parent that I am, I know it's a matter of time before I get it (although it may just be a stomach bug). Just in case, I infuse my body with alcohol, put ginger in every meal, and drink a lot of fluid.

A long time ago, when we lived in Toronto, I remember not catching a single cold. Rumor has it that it's too cold for the viruses.

Day 60: Rat Race

Thinking back to a few years ago, I was absolutely, totally burnt out. 9/11 had come and gone, I had become a senior executive of sorts in large corporations, and was realizing that hard work and brains alone did not get you any further up the corporate ladder. All of a sudden, there was a glass ceiling, there were politics, there were stakes to compete for.... and what for?

Over the years, our family had grown, our lifestyle had become more elaborate. I was on the treadmill, in the midst of a rat race, the head pig in a three-pig-race, and totally, utterly unhappy.

So, we moved back west for semi-retirement. But once a rat, always a rat. Less than a year had gone by before I was on the treadmill again, albeit a mini-treadmill. I got sucked into the vortex, until I realized how futile it was. Things got easier, I started "letting go", and here I am.

Serene.

Now, I need to remind myself to stay this way as long as possible.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 59: Multi-tasking

Being at home is actually quite busy. There is always something to improve on the homefront. Today I have the window person, the gate guy, the door people, the appliance gang all converge one after another. It's a good thing I wake up early to mini-meditate, take a shower and head to yoga. While I chat with all these nice people who come to take care of the house, I chop vegetables and prepare another slow-cook dinner.

In between all of this, I work on 3 or 4 projects, and head to the pool for a quick dip. Busy, busy, busy. But all this sure beats sitting in my cubicle, staring at the screen and looking at my navel. When you have the freedom to do what you need to do, and not look like you are busy for the sake of looking like you are busy, life is a lot more satisfying.

I verify that my intuitive training is working. Maxime comes back from 4 nights at camp, and tells me he was sick one day and vomited. I already know this happened, because I had a dream that night that he was feeling bad with a tummy ache. This just proves that you have to try everything out at least once. Don't let your reasoning get in the way. There are many, many things that are unexplained in this world. Just because you cannot explain how it works, doesn't mean it doesn't work. For instance, has anyone explained how love works? We all know it's there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 58: Complication

I have broken through my 10-day lull today! I can feel it. It may have been the fortune cookie, the intuition training, the meditation, the yoga or the wine. Whatever it was, it worked. This morning, I walk down the hills with Camille and climb back up the goat path slower than the last time. I line things up for different businesses, prepare a nice slow-cooking dinner before preparing for lunch, swim a few laps and have some calls with HK and Tokyo, not to mention Palo Alto, San Mateo and Santa Clara. The scales that were clouding my view are gone. I can see clearly again. In the end, we make things much more complicated than they really are.

A perfect example would be a situation like this: Your boss comes by to ask a question. You answer by truthfully saying how glad you are that he asked, because you were just thinking of this. An even more truthful answer would have been to say that you thought he'd never ask, because it is such an obvious thing, and yet you know he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. To have addressed the situation the first way, you will have given your boss false illusion that you think highly of his intellect. By using the latter approach, you make it clear that you think he is lacking in some je ne sais quoi, and that he is way over his head. Things may not bode well in the short term, but you will have done better by moving on earlier in the long term.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 57: Wish

This morning starts with dropping my daughter off at school and heading to yoga with major bed head. I am happy to see that my yoga teacher has equally bad hair, and is too sleepy for contact lenses. By 9:15, we are in a state of peace and calm, as we take a little rest at the end. My funky yoga teacher sings and preaches, "Accept who you are, in the totality. There is nothing left to achieve." I wish.

As I drive back home, I am chased off the street by fire engines rushing from the adjacent village into ours. Two hills away from my house, above the school, a house is ablaze. Helicopters hover above to get an aerial shot. I am thankful that it has rained a lot recently.

Lunch in Sausalito with my friend. As I pull into the parking lot, I see a sign that says the restaurant is closed. As I sit in my car with my hand to my mouth, my friend strolls up to declare conspiracy, as this is the second time I do this. This must be karma. We go to the Chinese joint next door, and have a nice chat. My fortune cookie says, "You will never need to worry about a steady income." I wish.

In the evening, I go for a walk with Charlie in an attempt to dispose of some calories, and try out some new meditation skills. As I walk the open field, I spot a COYOTE in daylight, which I hear is dangerous. Who says nothing happens in the suburbs?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 56: Side effect

I find it easy to ask people for help on others' behalf, but quite hard for myself. Is this universal? Is it because it makes me feel like a good person to ask for others, but it makes me feel selfish when I ask for myself? Someone tells me that humans are the only animals that make things so complex, but I am not so sure of this. Charlie, who is a dog, often sulks and stays away even when he wants a hug.

On a separate topic, I have gained 5 lbs in 56 days. I have analyzed the situation carefully. There are two reasons for this weight gain. The first is that I am not stressed. Stress drains me of appetite, while the lack thereof enhances my desire for food. The second is that I don't move around as much on my feet as I used to, despite covering so much ground compared to before. This afternoon, I walk an hour and a half with friends to remedy the latter issue. It probably does not help that I lunched with another set of friends before. I decide that the lack of stress is a good thing, and I will just have to exercise more.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 55: Monk

My day starts early today as I participate in a 3-way conference call with Japan and the Middle East on the other line. It is so satisfying when one is in the company of intelligent, well informed people. That is the one thing I enjoy most about international finance. One tends to work with the best and brightest that each culture has to offer. I realize at 3 a.m. that I miss this very much, and feel happy to be included in the scene again. I putter off to bed, and wake up at 7 feeling quite groggy. The rain doesn't help.

Lunch is with a former rug dealer friend, who in his youth, discovered that poverty was over-rated, and turned the situation around. Conversations with him always remind me of a cartoon I used to watch in Japan called Ikkyu-san. Ikkyu was a child monk, who apprentices with the monks and seeks the meaning of life. This also reminds me of the TV series of Kung Fu, where the Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine travels the journey of his soul. My friend talks about transitioning from being a builder to becoming an architect, and how it is best to apprentice with an architect to learn the trade efficiently. I immediately think back to the old days on the desk starting with the rough-on-the-outside-and-mush-inside Dean (who taught me how to check whether something made sense intuitively), and his sidekick Jeff who actually jokingly called me "grasshopper" all the time. Since then, I have had many mini architects to learn from, none of them being complete in their monkhood, but all having snippets of wisdom. Hopefully, I have made progress, and while one never arrives till the end, I aspire to pass as a junior architect in my endeavors.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Day 54: Sunday night

It's Sunday night, and I am not dreading going to work tomorrow morning. How many of you can say the same? It is sad how often going to the office means killing your spirits. What makes it this way? Who is to blame? Who is it that sets the tone, and who can change this?

I have worked at companies where I felt that we were all working towards a common goal, and we all pulled together to get there. I have also worked at companies where the stated common goal was not at all the real goal of those who had the most say. When you don't do as you say, those around you can tell. In a family, children are the reflection of their parents. In a company, employees are the reflection of their leaders. When you have bad parents, the children suffer. When you have bad leaders, the employees suffer. Fortunately, employees can change their employers, whereas, the same cannot be said for children and their parents.

Day 53: Cosmopolitan

When I was 20-years-old, I dreamt of being a diplomat. Working for the UN was my dream back then. I took courses from Professor Sadako Ogata, who later became the head of the UNHCR. But then, I thought about it long and hard in the abstract, and figured that I wanted children, and concluded it would be rather difficult to have a husband (because back then, I didn't think I could have children without a husband) who would accompany me on my 3-year stints. So, I gave up before I even tried.


Over the years, I have become friends with some diplomats and marvel at their ability to move from country to country every few years. As a child, I had a similar experience, and find that this has helped me become a flexible person. Some say it's good to have roots, and I have friends who were born, raised and live in one city all their lives. I cannot imagine this myself, but think it may be very nice, too. I find that being cosmopolitan has nothing to do with how many cities one has lived in, or how many languages one speaks. It's all about how accepting one is, and how interested, how curious one is about different people and cultures. Over the years, we have had nannies help us with the kids. Counting the nationalities of the nannies from Asia, Europe, and Africa, my children have been blessed with multitudes of cultures. I am hopeful that these children will be the norm of the future generation.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 52: Zing

My neighbor and friend visits for a drink, but is slightly wary. His image of me as the smooth and calm neighbor is distorted by images from this blog. My former colleague and friend chats with me and says, I am not showing enough of my color, the "sting" and zing that is my trademark. Too little or too much?

I read that some idiotic throwback in Louisiana is refusing to marry mixed race couples, because 'the children will not be accepted in their parents' community'. All I can say is that this one-cell amoeba better check the gene pools of the president of the United States of America, to whom he probably kinda sorta has a dotted line.

We are here on Earth for a limited time together, like it or not. We may as well accept each other and try to enjoy each other's company. Who is this atrocious ape to pass judgment on what is acceptable? Didn't he learn about rules when he took his role in justice? Didn't he take elementary biology that diversity is good, and too much of the same can produce adverse consequences? This king of idiots needs to be spanked a few times and have his brain muscle checked out for the existence of synapsis. Now is this too little or too much?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 51: French

I took French in college. I remember the skits clearly. Mireille Deschamps bumps into a guy trying to grab the same cab. In NY, this would end in bad language and unspeakable sign language, but in Paris, it ends up being a romance. I forget which, but either Mireille or the guy (let's call him Pierre) says, "J'habite a Place de la Concorde.", and off they go. I cannot recall much more since I was traumatized by my French prof who threatened to throw me out the window for not doing my homework. In fact, I was so traumatized that I cannot recall my third year of French, which my classmates insist I took.

So, it must come as a shock to all who know me that I am actually French. It may surprise all of you who heard my sister's inflight announcement, to learn that she is now also French, and is actually fluent in the language. I, on the other hand, have not progressed much. Every year, I open the same text book in the summer before heading to our summer house in France. Every year, I get to chapter 2. This explains why I am always in the present in French. Today, I need to read some business documents in French, and decide that I should use this sabbatical to master the basics. My French profs and tutors will be proud of me. I drag down a ladder from the garage, and locate my Bescherelle and French/English dictionary. I cannot find my text book. I must drag down a taller ladder later, or fly to France to rescue it from the gekkos.

With a new goal thus set, I drive into San Francisco for two lunches, one at 11:30 and another at 1:30. No wonder my jeans are tighter around my mid-section. I lunch with a total of three friends, a glass of pinot gris and lots of fun. Now, I suppose I should tackle the rest of the business document. As my kids told me a few years ago, they too were once as bad as I am in French, but if I persevere, I may just make it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 50: Myopia

I am a quarter of the way on my 200-day journey. I feel there are efficiencies that could be improved upon, instead of poking into holes here and there to see if there are worms worth eating. But, that is part of my self-discovery.

I enjoy various interesting encounters, starting with the lifeguard at the local pool. She says the pool was open in the storm yesterday, because their spoilt clientele will complain if they close down. I feel that things are slightly out of wack when people swim at the risk of being hit with a chimney ripped off its roof. What makes us so myopic in our pursuits?

I speak with my friend in NY this morning. My mistake is to open the front door to let the air in before my call. With air, come flies. I am trying to concentrate on the excel spreadsheet on my screen, but the flies are really getting on my nerves. Before long, I find myself with the phone hooked between my chin and shoulder, while swinging the orange fly swatter rigorously with my left arm. I hop around the room killing flies while discussing tax efficiency on the phone, and a leak problem with the plumber who looks at my warily from behind a column. I realize that I, too have been myopic in my pursuit.

My daughters also single-mindedly tell me this morning that THERE IS NO CHOCOLATE, NO BREAD, NO JAM. I even receive text messages reminding me of this. Out of the blue, my daughter tells me she would like to go to Ghana next summer to take care of underprivileged children. I wonder how this idea came to be, and what is wrong with taking care of underprivileged children right here? Besides, the only person I know from Ghana, is a very charming young intelligent women, who cannot be associated with the word "underprivileged". I send my daughter back with an assignment to do more data compilation on the topic of serving the underprivileged. Nevertheless, I come home with 4 lbs of chocolate (a produce of Ghana), 3 loaves of bread, and 4 pots of jam.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 49: Waiting

Today is a great day not to have to drive around much. The skies are dumping cats and dogs, along with gushing winds. The Golden Gate Bridge is still standing although I wonder how it drains the rain water. Sitting at my little desk next to my window, I feel like the captain of a ship sailing on stormy seas. Quite magnificent.

From my comfortable perch high up in the hills, I am starting to get a little antsy. I bought a self-help book called "How to Rule the World from Your Couch", and have been doing the exercises that are supposed to get me to where I want to be, from the comfort of my couch. The goal is to hone my intuition. So far, I have not made much progress with the intuitive powers. Entertaining as it is, the intellectual in me is wondering what I am doing. I telepathize apple to my daughter who receives grapes. I do better with my son, who says apple. Once I master fruits, I may move on to figure out the right business.

The interesting thing about new businesses, is that there is actually a lot of waiting to do. Waiting to hear back from people, waiting to go to the next step. Having done a lot to progress in my career, it feels unproductive not to "do". I suppose that is what makes me anxious today. While I wait, I will practice my intuition. If you feel me poking at your brain, send me an email. Chances are that I am sending you a message about fruits.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 48: Storm front

There is a storm front hitting us just now. It is the same storm that used to be a typhoon in Japan last week. Growing up in Japan, the typhoon season was always exciting. People would talk about the imminent typhoon and board up their houses, while we would hope that school would close. The day after, you would see roof tiles cracked on the street below with their goblin faces looking straight at you. The same sense of excitement is in the air this evening. The bay looks more active than usual, the plants look as if they are ready to receive all the rain that the skies are willing to give.

Today, I go to school to volunteer as a solar oven cook. I wonder if the event is on, since I see very little of my friend Ra. But then, I re-think. Solar ovens should work in overcast conditions. In fact, my Irish friend explained to me just last week, that solar panels work better when it's not too sunny. I find that I am wrong. So, I head home and detour at the pool for a few laps. As I finish, my husband calls to see if I feel like lunch, which I do. We find free parking and have a nice lunch. Around 2, I decide that the house needs cleaning and spend an hour of aerobics with my faithful vacuum cleaner. The kids trickle home, the winds pick up and we see activity in the skies. All the boats seem to have moored themselves securely. We have brought the outdoor chairs in, but now the rain has stopped, and I finally see blue skies.

I think I might be a primitive form of life. As the blue skies show, I feel my spirits lifting. All the melancholic thoughts are evaporating. I feel that life is full of opportunities again.

Day 47: Lull

It's unfortunate that the skies stay overcast the whole day. In the afternoon, our hot tub is full of 14-year-old girls, but the Blue Angels are only doing lateral movements mostly above San Francisco. I stay near the pool to keep and eye on them, just in case. I feel a lull in my pursuit for a dream job. Is it the arrival of autumn that makes me feel that I wouldn't mind not doing anything for a while? Is it the teenage energy that is making me feel a little long in the tooth? Or is it that I am just quite lazy? I suppose Sundays are meant so that one can let go and just be.



In the evening, we are invited to our neighbors who are in their 70's and very active in their professions. I wonder what it is that keeps them so engaged. Whatever it is, it seems to be working.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 46: Saturday

The day starts with Yoga led by a funky Brit. This is quickly becoming a place for meditation, not unlike churches, mosques, temples, shrines, with the added benefit of some muscular flexibility. I feel calm and centered again. My love and I head home, prepare lunch and then heat up the hot tub. The Blue Angels are performing today. They start off by flying over the house and onto the bay. A few times, they pass nearby, but mostly, they look like dust specks, especially for people too vain to wear glasses when they should. In between losing them and confusing turkey buzzards for them, I train my psychic abilities. I am trying to guess how a certain apartment in Rome looked like in August 2008. I fail miserably. Today, Maxime says I am rather weird. Upon interogation, I find that I am weird, because most people don't try out their dreams, but I try all my dreams. I take this as the ultimate compliment. If there is one thing a parent can teach their children, it is the ability to keep on dreaming. Two hours of sitting in the hot tub, produces raisin-like toes. Just about now, I could use those dead skin nibbling fish that originate from Turkey. I wonder if they sell them at pet shops. They are probably just as good pets as Charlie, who has displayed rare talent in catching flies with his jaws.

In the late afternoon, we fight traffic as we head into the city to retrieve our violinist. This is the first time I see so many people in San Francisco. We find our son, then head to Clement Street to purchase fresh vegetable and other edibles. The Chinese stores are great. They have such variety in vegetable, some that I don't know how to call, but love to eat. We fill the batmobile with 3 big boxes full of food, and head home for dinner. Some trees are starting to color and shed their leaves, giving an autumn-like atmosphere to the neighborhood. A nice lazy Saturday evening.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 45: Energy

I spend the day at and around Stanford University. It seems that everyone is launching or getting ready to launch a new business. The quiet, laid back, sunny suburban town is actually buzzing with energy. I compare this to New York, where energy is evident in the big city look of the people. How is it that this quiet area of Palo Alto has such energy, but remains so calm?

This is the America that I love. New ideas are tried out, some leading to great success, and others falling by the wayside. The ones that fail are not stigmatized for life, as they would be in other societies. Rather, they wear their failure as a badge of honor, and simply try again. It reminds me of the Little Engine that Could.