The month of March will forever hold a special place in my heart. My sweet A was born, it is the start of spring, and exactly one year ago today, A and I made Atlanta our new home. Isn't it crazy how fast that happened? In a year's time, so much has changed and continues to change, moving us along beautifully in the present and into such a bright future full of happiness and I'm eternally grateful to have a man in my life who is along for the ride. Today is our one year anniversary in this city among the trees. Spring is springing all around--the grass is getting greener, the flowers are starting to bloom, and the air feels fresher. There's always a feeling of newness that I embrace and now look forward to each year at this time. It's like a magical restart button that I get to press.
I just realized that my two previous posts were mirror opposites of each other--death and birth. Even more symbolic to me is that these topics are direct and personal and ones I have recently experienced. With death comes birth and it repeats--a constant circle that never stops, a pattern that's predictable and expected, and something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives. There are times when I can't help but accept that it was simply my dad's time to go. On our recent trip over there, I found out that his last words were, "I'm very very tired." And when we got there and saw him, he just appeared to be sleeping, resting peacefully with a slight smile. That's the best that I could have expected, you know? And again, at the very least, he and A got to "meet" each other, albeit not in the way I would have wanted, but a connection nonetheless.
This spring is throwing us right into the beginning of the next year of excitement and anticipation and I can't wait. So much again is happening so stay tuned. The best is yet to come!
You officially turned two years-old today. Two! I can't believe it. In your short time on earth, you've already accomplished so much: seven or eight at-home haircuts (I've lost track), crawling, standing, walking, running, the mastery of the temper tantrum, being demure, being a ham, singing songs, counting to ten (sometimes to eleven), dancing, and my most favorite thing yet--saying, "I love you so much more every day!" You've also traveled quite a bit by trains, planes, and automobiles. You've explored both the east and west coasts of the continental United States and you got to experience your first international trip to Japan just a few weeks ago. I will say, you're a pretty great travel companion (when you behave ;-)! How did I get so lucky to have a little girl like you?
Not only have you done so much on your own, you've also challenged me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I've never been more frustrated with a single human being in my life, yet have never understood or known the kind of love I have for you before. You push me to my limits and just when I think I'm about to lose my sh*t, you turn it all around by saying or doing something that leaves me crying from laughter. There are times when we don't and won't see eye to eye. But I hope you always know that I love you and always will love you forever and ever.
Today was all about you. We celebrated everything about you with a picnic in the park complete with family, friends, cupcakes, presents and an impromptu "studio" photo shoot in our kitchen. I love love love you!
Happy birthday, An-chan!
My dad was an enigma. He was mysterious and weird, stoic and, somehow at the same time, temperamental. My dad could be stubborn, tactless even. He was the kind of man who had presence. He walked in a room and you would feel one of two things: intrigue or fear. Then there was the other side of my dad--the lighter, more jovial side. He was eccentric and more than slightly ostentatious. He was charming and funny, witty and intelligent. People sometimes joked about him being the "international man of mystery" for good reason. He was. And he was my dad.
He lived life completely by his own set of rules. Obviously, that was both good and bad. He built himself up from very little and crumbled back down into nothing before he would start that cycle all over again. He wore so many different hats--a professional concert pianist, a real estate developer, a restauranteur, a commercial fisherman, an international business consultant, and most recently, a pre-school founder / principal. (See...? Weird.) He was a husband three times and a father seven. And he was my dad.
He regaled all of us with colorful stories of his life and his experiences. And the man had stories. I remember him telling my sister and me when we were very young about the time he was in Burma and he ate a tree worm because it was a delicacy. He said it tasted like a "cream puff". There was another story about how when he was in the fishing business, the sea captain fell overboard. Everyone thought had fallen into the Pacific abyss never to return, only to come back a little over a year later right at my dad's doorstep totally good as new. During his days as an entertainer, he played alongside all the greats. But one I know he was so incredibly proud to play with was none other than Ray Charles himself. Talk about a moment, you know? This was my dad!
This morning, as I was getting ready to take A to school, I found out that he had suddenly passed away. There was nothing I could do but cry and feel everything. My heart sank and I desperately searched for meaning in all of it. I'm still trying to understand how it all happened and why, but I don't know the details and at this point, I'm not sure if I want to know everything. I want to remember all of the things that I loved so much about him. I dug deep, unlocked memory vaults, and let the contents spill out. I remember my mom telling me about how my dad was so excited when I was born--excited because I was pink and rosy with a full head of curly hair (like him) and called me his "treasure". I remember him telling me that my hair would be shiny and grow faster if I ate seaweed at dinner. I remember him making us crêpes suzette complete with a Gran Marnier flambé on our electric stovetop. I remember him carrying me up the stairs to my bedroom after having fallen asleep watching movies on the couch in the living room and tucking me in...even when I was too old to be tucked in. I remember him letting us travel to Japan to visit family on our own without parents (!!!) when we were in high school. Only my dad would be crazy enough to let his teenage daughters do that.
I'm grateful for the time I had with him when I lived in Japan after graduating from college. I think I saw a side of him that so few people knew about. There were days when he was just quiet, drinking coffee alone at home, furrowed brow and cigarette in hand. Some days, he looked tortured by his own thoughts. Other days, he'd be grinning from ear to ear. There were times when he and I would take walks in silence but it was peaceful. There were moments when we'd watch marathon races on television and be amazed at some of the runners. We'd be shocked and awed at the Japanese variety shows with their cartoon-like hosts and their glaring lights. We'd have late night conversations and he'd sometimes even humor me with a romantic comedy he picked up at the video store (because he just knew of my penchant for rom-coms). He and I had regular lunch dates--sometimes at the local ramen shop, other times in a fancier hotel restaurant. He introduced me to his friends and colleagues and although I had just graduated and was just an English teacher abroad, he beamed so much when I was with him you'd have thought I was a rocket scientist. I felt it anyway. Some days, he'd forgo shaving and his five o'clock shadow would appear. Over the years, it went from black to grey to white. He could put on a three piece suit on any random day, walk into a building and look like he owned the place. The next day, he'd be unkempt and unshaven and still, he garnered respect. I don't know how he did it. But he did. And that was my dad.
His name was Yoshinori Fujiki but people here called him Charly. He smoked Benson & Hedges Menthol Lights 100s and took his coffee black. He wore custom-made shirts, suits, and shoes. He smelled like Dunhill aftershave. He combed his curls back when he wanted to look fancy. He read books on mixology before mixology was even a thing. He was an iron chef in the kitchen--some dishes a wild success (spicy cod roe spaghetti), others epic failures (orange juice with rice...soup?). He enjoyed beautiful women, luxury cars, gourmet food, and traveling the world. But he also enjoyed road trips, fried pork rinds, and walking around outlet malls. Always proud, never humble. He was my dad. And I am nothing but honored to be his daughter. Papa, you will be so missed.
I'm going to try my darndest not to turn this into a wedding blog...but I make no promises for the next five months. ;-) It'll be hard, considering how fun it's actually becoming. Also, with Valentine's Day having just passed, the whole world was lovey-dovey and googly-eyed, which could be part of the reason why my heart feels fuller than usual. I heard this story on NPR's Storycorps a few months ago and only recently found this animated video accompanying the story. True love, marriage, and all of life's tests are here. It's beautiful, moving, and heartbreaking. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
All that aside, last week was an amazingly rare display of winter here in the south. It actually snowed! It was oddly both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Terrifying because so many people were left stranded for hours, and for some, even days in the cold. Some were forced to abandon their cars that were stuck on the interstate and icy roads and had to walk miles before reaching warmth and shelter. But for those who were fortunate enough to make it home just before the snowpocalypse took full effect, watching the snow falling was simply just so beautiful.
We are lucky to be able to work from home, so we weren't stuck in the madness. Instead, we got to walk a block and a half over to our neighborhood park and actually play in the snow. It was A's first snow! The magic and wonderment that surrounded her was enough to make my heart feel like it was going to burst. We then met with good friends of ours for what has now been dubbed the Tuesday Night Snow Party. We indulged in pizza and vintage cocktails while A took advantage of staying up past her bedtime since school was definitely closed. For three days (!!!), A didn't have school and so we took that time off to hang out with her. And it occurred to me that those small pleasures that we so often take for granted really mean everything when you're with those who matter the most in your life. It's really that simple.
Wow. I'm engaged! We are engaged! I am still letting it sink in because, let's face it, I don't think it fully has.
I can't believe this month is almost over! The (suddenly very cold) days flew by and life, as we know it, has taken turns that were unexpected, exhilarating, and of course, always full of adventure.
Now, the planning begins. The fun stuff. New and exciting times are ahead. I can't wait! Can you?
As I look back at these photos from 2013, my heart swells. I feel a great warmth and calm reflecting on what we've accomplished and what uncharted worlds we have yet to encounter. I know that at the beginning of every new year, everyone gets hopeful for all they want to do or wistful with regret over the things they wished to have done. I'm not immune to that, either.
There's always room for improvement and there are things I definitely want to better. I want to exercise more patience, be a stronger mother, be a better friend, cook more, explore more creative endeavors, make more time for myself, take risks, make mistakes and learn from them, admit when I need a little extra help, put my pride away when I need said help, and lastly, be more open to give and receive more love than ever before. Something that I promised myself long long ago was never to lose sight of who I am regardless of what gets thrown my way. So far, I think I'm living up to that promise, regardless of what others may think. Something to note: I am grateful for the path I am on. Grateful doesn't even cut it. It's hard to articulate how much I am embracing all that surrounds me--the good, the bad, and everything in between. It's what makes life life.
That being said, 2014 has arrived. I can't wait to find out what's next.