The Treat of Being Nominated

I could be nominated for a lot of titles–loudest laugher, messiest cook, current carrier of a very round (pregnant belly), person most likely to sing “Wild Horses” or “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” at karaoke,…

Presently, I have been bestowed with a Liebster Blogging Award Nomination by the lovely Kristin Wagner. She writes so well about everything! Here is one recent post about her bout with social media (something I cannot identify with, in the least, cough cough).

Her kind nomination, paired with my latest writing rejection, is a gift. A gift, I tell you!

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This awarding of “Liebster”comes from the German, “sweetheart”, “beloved”, or “darling”. It is a way to promote our favorite bloggers who have fewer than 1,000 readers or followers. I’m certainly in that category! Readers and bloggers can meet many more new dear ones, by following the links to nominees.

We also get to answer a string of questions and then forward them to our own beloved bloggers.

Why do you blog?

I blog because I just have so much time on my hands and my husband would much rather that I creatively express myself than do dishes, maintain laundry, or create healthy, delicious meals for our family. Was that funny? Okay, the real reason is that I write to connect. I write to bridge the distance between my own need to figure out the world, express my thoughts, and connect with the writing and reading world, and all friends.

Who is your favorite author, or alternately, what is your favorite book?

How do we answer this? I love Psalms, as in the book of them, largely written by King David. I love the honesty and the call to our souls to look up and take joy.

I love Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Just read and you’ll see a thousand reasons why.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

In and out of backyard swimming pools every second of summer with my sister. Inevitably, we’d each dive onto a raft and race to the end of the pool and back. I remember the gator and orca whale rafts the most.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

We’ll go with “Who Was My Creative Writing Teacher in 11th and 12th Grade for 200, Alex.” Ms. Duhart showed such interest in my poetry and essays that I had an open, continual invitation to give her my journals, after which she’d hand back to me with the warmth of a hundred open fires, her favorite lines highlighted, and many probing questions and nudges like “Word choice??” written in the margins. Someone wanted to see the inner things, the deep words, and she would not shy away from loving this, all of me. That’s when I felt I was a writer. 

What would an ideal vacation look like?

Tropical paradise with happy kids, bronze husband, music, sun, a wealth of smiles, and tiki cups filled to the brim. Our whole entire family with afternoon corn grilling, and the biggest beach house.

What is one thing you do exceptionally well, but you can’t often talk about it because it would seem like bragging?

I read books to my kids well, with and without accents. 🙂 Sometimes I really get on a roll with a nice Brogue or a French “Madeleine” accent. Southern is also no problem.

What is your favorite food?

All I want is the jumbo cheese ravioli of my childhood, from The Ravioli Factory near our home, soaked in garlic and butter. And Mexican food. And baguette with cheese and nibbles.

Have you ever practiced an acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror, and if so what award was it that you “accepted”?

Good gosh, no. If I did, it would be for getting ready on time, knowing I match and definitely have my keys.

What makes you laugh?

Comedy like any moment in “Parks and Recreation”. I love laughing with our daughter over what her little brother (now, almost 3) says, i.e. “my brows” for “eyebrows”, his inability to make a blend of “s” into another consonant. Snack—> nack. Thanks to him, we all “nuggle” in bed together.

What is something you would like to see happen in your lifetime?

The end of terror. The beginning of a real reign of Love where parents and children do not need to worry.

If that seems too pie in the sky, because it is, after all, still earth, then I would love to see cancer rooted out.

If that is also too unlikely, then let’s go with all food being organic and free of pesticide. Or, perhaps, my own lifetime subscription to a free, amazing cheese of the month club. And better English books in our Japanese library. (There was the time they proudly ordered a copy of Go the F— to Sleep for the Eng Kids’ Section).

And now, to cast my own nominations!!

Lisa Sadikman of Flingo, for words that get you in the heart. About mothering, about being brave, and being ourselves. She is, also, so stylish, you know.

Dana Schwartz of Writing at the Table for how she writes of the complexities of grief and motherhood. For her fearless take, penned with words.

Rudri Patel of Being Rudri for her rich take on culture, motherhood, and well, being Rudri. Love all of the essays she publishes on The Washington Post.

Merete of Nurturance, a comprehensive space where my friend absolutely nails the balance between authentic, heart-filled experiences as a mother and teacher, and the research-based voice she offers as a mentor and leader.

Leah Moskowitz, my own sister, and the masterful Live Love Lipstick  beauty blogger! She is all glamour and tons of humor. Honestly, she makes my own beauty regimen look like I’m a mud farmer. I need her in my life. You, too.

So, bloggerinas, here are my questions for you…

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. Who is your favorite author, or alternately, what is your favorite book?
  3. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  4. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
  5. What would an ideal vacation/get away look like?
  6. What is one thing you do exceptionally well, but you can’t often talk about it because it would seem like bragging? (I am very calm around bees, mentioned this once and the other person felt I was judging her for panicking around bees. I don’t tell people about this skill often because of this!)
  7. What is your favorite food?
  8. Have you ever practiced an acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror, and if so what award was it that you “accepted”?
  9. What makes you laugh?
  10. What is something you would like to see happen in your lifetime?
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After My Modern Love Rejection

Is it okay if I paste this here? You know, for posterity, as if it were taped to my high school locker?

Dear Melissa Uchiyama,

Thank you for sending your writing to Modern Love. Although I don’t find your essay right for our needs, I’m grateful for the opportunity to consider it. I regret that the volume of submissions we receive makes it impractical for me to offer editorial feedback. 

Best wishes,

Daniel Jones, Modern Love editor

It’s here, proof that I jumped into my own deep end, that I know how to press “send”.

This is the form rejection letter I receive this morning from my phone, while climbing out of bed. It’s from the eminent Daniel Jones of The New York Times’ Modern Love section. It is for writers, an, if not the, esteemed pinnacle of publications. More than 47 book deals have transpired because of the work of these writers and the discoveries made by agents and publishers. Whoosh, they just get picked-up. One story even became a TV show, another, a musical. Modern Love is the magic promise that a simple submission of 1700 works, max, could lead to supermodel-dom of the writing kind. A whoosh and a sparkle and voila. Arrival. You could suddenly be Kate Moss to the adjective. Lauren Hudson to a story’s sense of place. All it would take is “Yes, we received your email and we love it.”

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I’m always the positive type. I figure that despite all of the warnings, while the editor receives over 5 K submissions, yearly, giving my story less than a 1% chance of being picked, I tend to figure “I have it in the bag”. Because maybe I have yards of ego, deep wells of positivity, or just a simple hope. I’m the one, come most birthdays, who walks into my home fully expecting, bracing for everyone to jump up from behind couches and curtains yelling “Suprise!” I take hopes and cast them out like they’ll really happen. I can tend to feel disappointed. Maybe this is “Modern Love”, too, the constantly re-evaluating our expectations and seeing the real life emerge, instead.

I guess what also has me pouting is this: my real life Modern Love story seems rife with all the makings of a “picked for TV drama”, certainly to me. (And I say this with love!) We’ve got conflict, voice peeping up through rising action, all of the sunset talk of South Florida, our wedding, and then packing for a life in Tokyo. A bouquet and tears. A coming and a going, all noted with such attention to detail, I perhaps could have become a dentist with the same amount of craft and fervor. Or at least a functioning receptionist with whiter teeth.

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Maybe I just want to tell my story and share our complex, but exuberant marriage. Maybe I want to shine a bright bulb on a certain issue. It isn’t just about ego, because heaven knows, most writers take a beating in the comments section. I want the chance to share.

This is a disappointment, that the prospect of winning or landing a spot in this column could make all of the difficulties of my Modern Love seem even more “worth it”, using some form of tangible, writer-speak. Like monetizing past pain. Like an actual silver lining one can frame and flaunt on their resume, in gold calligraphy pen. A ladeling of actual gold, plunk, on top of my story. Certainly, such acceptance would validate actual writing skills and boost me to a higher rung.

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Many active writers suggest that we all immediately have that backup plan, the outbox for our next submission try. Hmm, but it’s already seen several rejection letters…

This one, The Times, was so built up that the silly, immature part of me actually thinks the editor may actually write back in five minutes to say, “Wait! How did I let this one slip by?” I wanted this editor to fall hook, line, and sinker, with my words. I wanted to be captured by The New York Times, clinking Pinot Noir with husband, editor, and readers, worldwide. We’d collectively swirl the glass, inhale, and enjoy every note. All because I tried.

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It’s pretty easy to get hooked to those affirmations, perhaps forgetting the jewel that is “writing for the sake of writing”. Sometimes the desire to be published is as strong as my impulse for sugar, or coffee, or an “I love you.” The habits of any person, any artist, mother, architect, gardener, you name it, must be honed, edited, even cut off if there is to be growth. It’s always a coming back to the process, not just some trophy, but an inner resolve at the drafting table. The work of editing and mining and bringing up the feelings and details that spawn a book. I guess I do want it all…the inner and the outer things coming together. I believe it’s called glory. And persistence.

Don’t know where I’ll go next with this piece, but to live the life we have, that’s the thing. To spin gold, to squeeze those lemons, to take joy in the best gifts we’ve been given, that’s what I’m up to and that’s what I’ll write, acceptance or not.

But dang.

Here’s the song and video, “Modern Love”, by a dazzling Bowie. I forgot how much I love this. 

 

Teaching on International Women’s Day: the Gift of Listening & Taking Notes

Today I had the express joy of meeting with and teaching a group of Japanese women who, as a group, have met for over thirty years. I was filling in for anther teacher. It was rainy and I slipped walking towards the train station’s turnstiles– you know, those wicket things. Down I fell on a wet surface and I wasn’t even running. I was even wearing sensible flats.

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My round pregnant body and I fell on the wet ground. (No cause for worry, Mom, just on my keister). A woman helped me up while I tried to stand, a bit stunned, what with a baby inside and a hefty fall. After thanking her, I turned back to see my good samaritan picking up a plastic umbrella cover, those cheap plastic bags that cover wet umbrellas so nobody slips. That’s what I slipped on–flimsy trash.

We, women, help each other. It was also another woman who left her comfy spot on the train to let me, pregnant me, sit. The men didn’t get up.

All of this on International Women’s Day. I’d scrolled and researched plenty in planning this class, printing out a selection of ten prominent Japanese women who’d made some impact over time. I asked the women in my class what they thought.

We talked about the artist Yayoi Kusama, the polka dot maven famous in Warhol circles. They were not so impressed. “Emmm…Japan is conservative.” And fashion designer Hanae Mori? “Ehh. Sure, she’s okayyyy”. 

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They more applauded those who brought joy to them personally, or who shined a light on Japan or the world’s children, mentioning Sadako Ogata, Chairwoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Executive Board Member of Unicef, that kind of thing. 

These are intelligent, articulate women, all in their seventies, upwards.

We talked quite openly, discussing those women, both personally, or historically, who influenced them. I felt our small room opening up. I saw them, heard snippets of them awakening with memory, voices sharing conversations from professors and mothers from fifty years back.

They agreed with the author of the list I had about including the most famous Japanese singer who wrote over 1,000 hits. “She brought joy, life to Japan.” And then I read more on the paper– the songbird’s recognizable voice and fame came right after WWII. Japan lost everything and this woman opened them up to singing again. She might as well have taught them to see.

I stood before this warm bunch, a thirty-six-year-old woman, pregnant, with two kids in preschool, married for just a brief fraction of their married life span. These are women who’ve raised their children, who, though aging tired and wanting their own plans, travel great distances, like my mother, to help their own daughters out with new babies. These are women who went to university when it probably wasn’t so common, not in Japan. These are women who have beaten the odds, from war to chance, disease and whatever else.

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It’s changing, they said. Japan’s changing. Maybe it’s not so fair to women, but it’s changing.

In light of this International Women’s Day, I asked them to complete three sentences:

I want every girl to…

I want all mothers to…

I want every woman to…

And after the dialogue about their mothers, the influential teachers, thoughts of their own daughters and granddaughters, maybe through regret and recounted joy, here is their compiled list:

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I want every girl to…

be kind to everyone, especially elderly people.

get an education, same as boys.

have a good, big dream in her future.

to realize her dream, to know what steps she should take.

live safely in developing and conflicted countries

to have a chance to study, to realize her dream, if she wants.

In between voices, we spoke about other realities for some children in specific countries. We spoke about kidnappings, rape, the need for education in places where to survive is everything. We spoke about how more women here in Japan are becoming professors, politicians, or CEOs, but it is slow-going.

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I want every woman to…

know peace, worldwide.

have her own time for herself, apart from working or housework.

have confidence, both in her continuing her career and raising children, if possible, as         in our society, it is difficult to do both.

 

The hopes and desires for woman and for mothers bleed a bit into the other, but as mothers themselves, and grandmothers, they said this about their hope for mothers:

 

I wish that every mother may…

enjoy her life fully without any physical difficulties.

select her way of life by herself because sometime’s a woman’s life is made by other         help/other’s will or power and we must bear many things.

think of the children’s feelings, i.e. sadness, joy, worry and also, (spoken with a wink           and a smile), make delicious meals.

 

And then, following time spent in poetry and writing of spring, class was over. One of these sweet ladies told me that today is her 73 birthday and that her mother lived until 72, and her father, 69. She was so joyful to be here. She even handed over three small pound cakes, maybe gifts from her big day, “For your children, dear.”

Indeed. I was blessed.

I still feel privileged to have recorded their list, pen poised at every hope and wish for the girls and women of this world.

Imagine if we heard from women in every society about the needs and hopes of their people, of their children, specifically girls. Imagine if we knew our great great grandmothers’ prayers, or any woman, every women’s prayers and hopes for this world.

May you feel the support of the women around you.

May you lean on the hope that has been placed inside of you, and then, walk in that strength.