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 . 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 -

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:

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.