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 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 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 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 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.