Accepting Differences

Life has been going on. It’s loud, fast, chaotic, and messy as always. Raising three boys, going to school, battling health issues, volunteering, teaching, presenting, etc. etc. Great things are taking place everyday, and not so great things are taking place, too.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten better at sorting things in my head. Phew. It took what, 40 years, but I am definitely feeling better about my sorting system.

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Recently, I had experienced some rejections by people. They either lashed out at me, or suddenly pretended I did not exist. While I did my best to be open, honest, and fair, but my approach was not well received.

For the past month, I have been pretty ill on and off. My body probably couldn’t handle all the stress in my life. Years ago, when I went through the ordeal of having my health completely crash, I faced it with such strength, no one could guess I was going through so much. I was proud of that. But this time, I was feeling pretty devastated.

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Everything that was happening in my life was so heavy, and thoughts like, “What if I’m dying?” often flashed in my head. I am an active Mom, I am constantly on the move, but last weekend, I sat on my couch and didn’t do a thing. I didn’t have any will, energy, or desire to move. There was nothing for me to muster to get myself moving. I even thought, “It would be fine if I just died now…” It was not a pretty sight. Not only did I feel terrible about what I was going through, but my body was also feeling the effects of everything.

As I sat on that couch I thought, “What happened to my strength?” I so badly needed to figure this out. I needed to pull myself together. And this wasn’t just about my health, but it was about finding peace in my heart, that was the tricky part.

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I had to crash and burn a little bit, so I could find myself again, so that I could redirect my life to make it better. Little did I know, my strength was there all along. In fact, these negative things had to come my way so that I would be forced to dig deeper to find that strength. And every time I come to this type of fork on the road, I have to take a good look at myself before anything else. I know it all starts with me.

It was hard, and felt like someone punched me in the gut. I had to face all the mistakes I made, own them, and take actions to make them right. And I did. I also realized that I needed to let go, so I did that, too. Don’t give it another thought, let go, was the answer to some of my struggles.

Sometimes when people hurt you, it is hard to wish them well, but you gotta do it. The other night, I sent my loving prayer to them. I’ll admit, it didn’t come smoothly, but I did it. And I’ll be honest, I don’t know if it worked or not, but it was important that I did it.

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Life is full of challenges, and the world is shared by all types of people. All of us equally have the right to exist, and be who we are. And as hard as it is, it is important to understand each other’s differences, and do our best to be kind and accepting. If we could try to see each other’s lives as deeply as we see our own, maybe it would be easier to do just that.

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Customize Your Resolutions

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New Year’s Resolutions. Every January  we hear/read about them, from someone, in an article, on a Facebook page, in our heads, etc. Everyone, at one point during the first week of January, gets pumped about it and say, “This is the year!!” 

-Eat better and lose weight. (I would bet this is the most popular one.)

-Spend less, save more.

-Travel.

-Don’t stress.

The thing is, when you set the New Year’s Resolutions, you can’t just write them down vaguely, and expect the Universe to provide for you. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, you’ve just set yourself up for the 37th times because you didn’t specify your resolutions! This year, let’s not do that, and when I say this, I am also talking to myself.

Here are my tips and ideas on making sure this is your year of achieving all (Yes, I said all.) your resolutions, and ending the year with the bang! Let’s do this!

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So, what happens when you write down your resolutions like a grocery list? It will excite you and tell you, “You got this!” (Insert image: fists in the air.)

I am not a doctor, so I don’t want to quote any medical findings, but I am guessing that the mixture of stepping into the new year, feeling of starting fresh, and the excitement of it all create some sort of chemical reactions in our brains. And those sneaky chemical reactions make us gleefully jot down the resolutions we failed to accomplish in the last decades. No shame. I am guessing it works like a sugar high. The reactions get us feeling so high, that we get overly excited, and a week later we crash.

Everything is going well the first couple of days of setting the resolutions, then, you binge eat from feeling stressed about spending too much over the Holidays, you reach for the leftover pizza in the middle of the night, you dig into your savings to buy something you’ve convinced yourself you needed, feel guilty and stressed from your impulse purchase, you stress-eat again, and boom, there goes the resolutions…

See how that snowballed? Resolutions? What resolutions??

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How about this year, you customize the resolutions? I know myself better than anyone else, and therefore, I know what works and what doesn’t for me. If I simply followed everyone else’s (Who are failing just as miserably, mind you…), I am only setting myself up. And I also know listing them like a grocery list won’t work either.

What do the resolutions mean to you?

Yes, you want to lose weight, we all do, but what does it mean to you? Do you want to fit into your little black dress/favorite jeans? Do you want to feel healthy and have more energy? Do you want to feel good about yourself? Do you want to beat a disease? Do you want to be able to run around with your children/grandchildren? We might all have the same resolution, but the meaning they hold could be very different, and identifying them, I think, is very important.

What motivates YOU?

I love to write. I love to keep track of things by writing them down, and I love to write in my journal. I also love marking my calendar for different accomplishments, and seeing it full of marks at the end of the month. That makes me happy, and motivated. (I am okay that I just revealed my OCD with you all.) So, this year I bought a calendar book to write my goals down every week, and mark on. How do you like to keep track of yourself? What motivates you? What works for you?

Break them down and make them achievable.

Another suggestion is to make each of the resolutions more achievable by breaking them down. I’ll use weight loss as another example. Set small achievable goals for yourself within a resolution. Ex: Bring a big water bottle to work everyday and drink out of it. Have a no carb day once or twice a week. Go for a walk every Sunday morning.

Once you get used to those little steps, (Remember it takes 21 days to make something a habit.) build them up. Ex: Don’t drink anything sugary for the next two days. Go for a walk every Saturday and Sunday mornings.

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Vidualize and get excited!

Think about how you would feel once you’ve accomplished your resolutions. Now close your eyes and imagine that moment. Think about the day you have accomplished them, and what that would be like. Get excited! What are you gonna do!? Imagine yoursefl smiling big with your fists in the air, feeling PROUD! It is not only important to imagine these things, but also to feel excited about them as if they are already happening! Do this every night as you lay in bed.

Take small steps, and don’t beat yourself up.

Okay, so you will probably binge eat once or twice this year after unforeseen circumstances that life will wrap up and gift you time to time. It’s okay. Just hop back onto that saddle! Don’t beat yourself up, breathe, and know that tomorrow is another day!

 

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I hope these ideas will help you see and get to the light at the end of the tunnel. I hope this year, everyone reaches their goals and achieve their resolutions, dreams, hopes and wishes, whatever they be. (Make them positive and loving, of course.)

Oh and one last thing, don’t forget humor. We all need to laugh it out in life. If all else fails, just LOL because there is always next year!!

Happy New Year, everyone!!

 

 

 

 

 

Effects of Bullying and Meanness

Several days ago, I had terrible flashbacks that put me into a depressive state. I was going through the days with my head in the clouds, and every time I laid down to go to bed, I couldn’t stop crying. I was recently diagnosed with PTSD. Flashbacks, having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, anxiety, heart pounding, reacting to sudden and loud sound, remembering only bits and pieces of the incidents, etc.

When I was about 13 or 14 at my boarding school, I went to the school library to do homework. It was a small, but nice library, I remember, and there were quite a few people studying. I was carrying several books with both hands, as I walked to the desk to do my work. Suddenly out of nowhere, a Korean boy came up to me and started shouting in his native tongue. I had no idea what he was saying and why he was mad, but he was furious…at me. Soon, he started pushing me but I couldn’t defend myself because of the books I was carrying.

He pushed me again, and this time I dropped the books. I felt frightened, confused, and embarrassed, absolutely having no idea what was going on. People were watching, but no one did anything. They acted as if nothing was going on. I felt completely helpless and alone.

The boy was much taller, bigger, and stronger than me. Then, finally he exclaimed in English, “You killed my grandpa!!” Completely baffled, I told him I didn’t, but he kept shouting and pushing, and saying that I killed his grandfather in the war. I got that he cared deeply about his grandfather and he was deeply hurt, but I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was doing to me. Absolutely baffled…

Around the same time, I was on a basketball team at the school. Every day when practice was over, coach blew his whistle, and we had to take laps before leaving the gym. One day at practice we were scrimmaging, and I had the ball when the whistle went off. It was an instinctive reaction for me to drop the ball where I was and start running. As I turned to take my laps, I accidentally ran into one of my teammates, a quiet Chinese girl, and knocked her glasses off, so I handed her the glasses and apologized. She said it was okay. I didn’t think anything of it.

It was a Friday night, and everyone was hanging out in the cafeteria. Then, a group of Japanese boys came to tell me that two Chinese boys were looking for me, and they were angry. I had no clue whatsoever what it was about.

Soon, the boys found me, and took me to the side of the cafeteria in the dark, where no one could see us. They were visibly upset, and started shouting, again, in their language. I was scared they would hurt me.

The boys got in my face and kept shouting. They would make fists and pretend to punch me, stop the motion right in front of my face, and when I cringed, they laughed. They also brought a basketball and made motions of throwing the ball at my face, and laughed when I cringed. One of them was my teammate’s boyfriend who said I pushed her during practice, and I had to pay.

“I didn’t push her!!!”

I managed to run away, but they blocked me at the entrance of the cafeteria. They kept shouting in Chinese. People went in and out of the cafeteria witnessing the situation, but no one did anything. Even the teachers walked by without saying a word. I couldn’t believe or understand just what was going on and I was scared, just straight scared.

Finally, a group of Korean boys walked by and said something, but they walked away, and the boys continued to harass me.

I can’t remember how it finally ended but I know I got out without getting hurt. The most baffling thing is, the girl I accuse ran into was a soft spoken, very quiet girl. We were not close and only spoke, probably during practice very briefly. I have no idea what brought all that anger out towards me and I guess I’ll never know…

Many of my traumatic experiences like these often flash in my head. Sometimes I look at my oldest son, who is 13, and see how young and innocent he is, and think to myself how small I was… It hurts me to even think about him going through something like that and I wonder, “How did I survive all that?” All the abuse, meanness, cruelty, neglect… It is still very painful to think about and revisit my memories.

Effects of bullying can last for years and the symptoms of PTSD could be triggered at any moment because of it. My story is much longer and more complicated than just these stories, and I have worked through the emotional and mental struggles for decades, yet they still exist.

So, the message I want to bring out here is, treat people with kindness. Please, think about the ramifications of your words and actions, especially how they could affect other people’s lives. Kindness and compassion are the key.

Mahalo for reading. 💜

In Sickness and In Health

I was always pretty healthy. Growing up, I never got sick, let alone catch a cold. And no matter how tough things got, my body never gave up on me. I was a tough kid.

I gave birth to my first son when I was 26, and six months in, I started to get very ill. It was as if my body was finally saying, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!” It started with the most painful stomachache that would make me crouch down in a ball for hours. It was so painful that my husband often had to call the ambulance in the middle of the night. At one point, I was in the ER once or twice a week.

I was also having issues with my heart beating faster than normal, hands shaking uncontrollably, and going through a lot more anxieties than usual. I was always hungry, and eating constantly, but for the first time in my life, I was losing weight rapidly. While I loved being able to eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight rapidly, my heartbeat got faster and the shakes got so bad that I could hardly write.

When I explained the condition to my Doctor, she immediately guessed I was suffering from a thyroid disease and sent me to get a blood test done. While taking care of my newborn son, I visited the Sueen’s Hospital every week to get to the bottom of my health crisis. My stomach was not any better either and I was still visiting the ER in between.

I was poked, prodded and spun around on what seemed like a machine you get on to become an astronaut. I was strapped on a machine that spun around in every direction. It sounds like fun, but it wasn’t…

In a matter of two years or so, I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease, ovarian cyst, gall stone, and a newly developped allergy. It was awful, but it also made me realize how precious being healthy was. I was determined to get better, mostly because I wanted to see my sons grow big. I also knew I was strong enough in my head to figure it out.

Since then, the health issues have given me a lot of ups and downs, but they have also humbled me. Sometimes I could only take very little at a time, but I have definitely come far and gotten a lot better. And no matter what happens in life, I will always do my very best to do better and get better! Let’s go!

 

The Gift of Giving

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When babies turn one here in Hawai’i, people have birthday luaus. They invite families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. and celebrate big with entertainment, and lots of food. So, when my first son turned one, we did just that, invited everyone on the island to celebrate my precious son’s first birthday. I had games, a balloon twisting clown with a side kick, and a ton of food; it was going to be a blast!

People came from all over the island. Family, friends, friends’ friends… I saw many people I hadn’t seen in a while, and it turned out to be a great reunion. It was awesome!! That is…until I saw the birthday gifts slowly pile up on the table. Our generous guests brought gifts by the truck load and while I was grateful, the site also troubled me. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “What is Asa going to do with all of these things?” At that age, he was more curious about the wrapping papers than the toys that came in them…

So, fast forward four years, when my second son turned one, I made his luau into a fundraiser. My middle one’s birthday is in December, so I decided to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for bed ridden children at the Kapiolani Hospital. This was a much better alternative to my one year old getting toys galore.

We ended up raising about $600, and with it I bought toys, stuffed animals, DVDs, and books.

I placed all the presents around the Christmas tree in our condo lobby and took photos. Then, I took my boys to the hospital and pushed a cart full of goodies from one room to the next. It was the best experience I had ever had!

Some mothers thanked and hugged us with tears in their eyes and asked why we were doing what we were. The reactions surprised me but I guess they were surprised even more that some strangers thought of their precious baby and brought gifts. The best part was seeing the children’s eyes light up when I said, “You can pick what eeeeever you want from this cart!” I will never forget those moments and how I felt then.

When my third son was born, I planned an even bigger fundraiser. The amount raised doubled and we were able to help two hospitals in the end; Shriners and Queen’s. I donated items to the Shriners Hospital, and sponsored a children’s cancer support group by catering dinner for their last group dinner meeting.

I took my middle son with me to the dinner with gifts for each children. There were about eight children with cancer, who were the same age as my middle son. “Are they all sick, Mom?” He asked. “Yes. they are very sick, honey.” It was an eye opening experience for him to meet these children and hear their stories.

 

 

Every Life Matters

Last night at dinner my seven year old said, “Momma, if we let people into Hawai’i, then we’ll have a war and people will come and kill us right? We shouldn’t let people in because I don’t want war.” I was surprised it was my youngest who raised the subject. I asked where he heard about it, and he said he saw it on the news. Okay. Let’s have this conversation.

My husband and I explained to our children, that this was a very complicated situation many people fear, but we can’t solve issues with fear. We told them that in places like Syria, there are wars, and many people are killed, even children their age. They need to get out of the country because they want to, and have the right to live, just as much as we do. So, turning them away is not the answer.

We also talked about our grave issues here in Hawai’i, like homelessness. One of the reasons people here are against accepting refugees is because they feel we have a big enough issue on our own. More specifically people are wondering, how the Government could even think about bringing refugees in, when there are so many homeless families here that need their help? I can understand where they are coming from, too.

Many years ago, someone I can’t remember, gave me the best advice. “The table could be turned, so be conscious of how you react to things.” When I think about the refugees, I think about how devastating and scary it must be for them to be running for life. I think about people like me, who have children they want to keep safe. And when I think about homelessness, I think about how any of us could become homeless at any moment. If the tables were turned, what would I do? How would I feel? No matter what part of the world we live in, every life matters. Every life is just as valuable and precious as the next.

I am overwhelmed by all of this. What is going on in this world, what happened in Paris, what is happening right here in Hawai’i… How do I even begin to help my children understand, when I can’t even make sense of them myself? As many thoughts run through my head, I know one thing I will do. I will continue these discussions with my children, friends, family, and the community. If nothing else, I will do my best to raise awareness. Let’s start the conversation!

Growing Up Too Fast

Soon after my brother died, I found strength to go on. Everyone around me thought I was fine, and didn’t realize I was still deeply grieving. I didn’t cry in front of others because I didn’t want them to worry. The sadness surrounding his death was difficult enough, I didn’t want to be the one adding more of them to everyone else’s lives. That’s just how I was, and how I thought. I was always like that, but turned around and worried and cried for everyone (including myself) when I was alone.

What I carried in me, what was happening in my head, were heavy beyond emotional measures. But somehow, I was strong enough to push all that aside and be this positive, happy girl when I wasn’t alone. I guess that was what I learned to do, when I left home at 12. I had to be the responsible one, I had to take care of everything myself, I had to make sure everyone was okay, even at the expense of my emotional wellbeing.

Time after time, life threw curve balls and broke a little piece of my heart; and time after time, I put the broken pieces in a bag and carried them around. I could do it. No matter how heavy it got, I could carry it all and move on.

After working all summer at the school, I finally went back home to visit my family. There were friends and family visiting, bringing food, staying over to help us every single day. I was never alone, but the emptiness I felt inside made everything seem surreal. I would ask myself obvious questions like, “Why isn’t my brother here?”

My Mom cried every single day. I helped take care of my younger sister who was 11 at the time, and my Dad was swimming in alcohol and completely checked out. One night there was a commotion in the bathroom. Everyone was trying to open the door, but it was locked. “Your Dad went in there with a knife! He said he was going to follow your brother!” I pounded on the door, and soon he opened. I didn’t feel upset, sad, mad, anything because I knew. Between all the strength I could muster were thoughts of suicide that surfaced inside of me, too.

I comforted my Mom everyday as she cried hopelessly. I couldn’t even begin to imagine her pain, and only now, after having three children, I can scratch the surface of her immense devastation. I don’t even know how she is still standing. She said to me one day, “Tomoko, I need you to take care of this family. I am sorry, but I can’t do this right now, and you are the only one who could.” My autopilot mode must have turned on full blast. I took the responsibility without a question, and made a firm promise to myself that I wouldn’t cry in front of others, that I would take care of everyone, and I would make everything okay.

I was 16.

Looking back, I know I was given the impossible task a child should never be asked to take on. I took care of my family as best I could, but all I wanted was my brother back. I had to push all my emotions deep down, so I could put on my responsible daughter hat to save my family. There was nothing else for me to do. I didn’t have any adults helping me through any of this, or telling me it’s okay to cry. No one carried the burden for me, I had to carry it all myself, and lock it up so I wouldn’t breakdown. And my life, well, it just went on…