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March 19, 2010

Jerri :: Stylespotting

Janet_and_Jerri.jpg

Earlier this week, my sister Jerri launched her L.A.-based blog and channelzine: Stylespotting.com. Jerri's always had a gift for nailing trends and pop culture -- the zeitgeist -- or "spirit of the moment." She's focused on the details RIGHT NOW, while I, on the other hand, often mine our past for answers or gaze in to the future for inspiration. This new medium is the perfect showcase for Jerri's innate visual talents. I've always been amazed at her ability to analyze a room full of people, a dense magazine, or a film and share her micro view of style, accessories, mood, and fashion. And now it's here for others to experience - not just southern Californians, but those of us who wish for a glimpse in to that world occasionally. (If you're like me, you crave a glimpse in to that world every day).

While Jerri credits me for being her secret weapon, she's always been my first reader -- the one I have in mind when I write. Jerri won't allow me to quit or give up. Our currency these days is inspiration. Since we don't have the luxury of seeing each other in person, we share links and ideas in text messages and emails. It takes me back to our intense creative sessions in Norman, Oklahoma, on the days I would visit her at school to get a brief break from being a working single mom. We'd shop for beads (her) or books (me), step into Victoria's or Lovelight Bakery for something to eat, then head back to her place (an old Victorian apartment), where my clumsiness would usually result in a spilled tray of beads on her wood floor. It feels that way again, if only in a virtual sense. And I'm not spilling beads.

And now, since I can't visit L.A. in person very often, her blog is a wish come true. Lovelight is now Urth and Victoria's is Chin Chin on Sunset Blvd. We have a lot of memories of experiencing places together and she's the best guide for anybody who wants to experience it street-level. I hope you visit Stylespotting.com -- not just because she's my sister, but to get a glimpse of her immense talent and unique perspective.

March 10, 2010

65 years ago today

Last month I wrote about a package of memorabilia that my sister sent me. In it were documents from my Uncle Michio that he had sent to my mother sometime in the mid- to late-80's and included a translation of our family history (that is, translated from ancient Japanese to modern Japanese) and a genealogical chart for their immediate family. He knew I was interested in our family history and after my mom and I visited Japan in 1985, he started compiling some of the information to send me. He later sent it to my mother, rather than to me, since much of it was written in Japanese. I think he expected that I would sit down with her and listen while she translated the information for me. Probably due to other things going on in our lives at the time, I never knew that he had sent her the chart or the letter. I discovered it last month with the other items in the box.

Some background:
Several years ago, I learned that my mom had a brother who died during World War II. More recently, she shared a little more about the day he disappeared, giving me details that led me to believe that he was "lost during the war." It wasn't until I saw the chart my Uncle sent that there was more significance to his disappearance than I could have imagined:

March 10, 1945
March 10, 1945

It appears likely that he perished during the firebombing of Tokyo. More specifically, the incendiary bombing of urban centers all over Japan, using bombs filled with what would become the precursor to napalm and often described as "jellied petroleum" or "jellied gasoline," and in this case, dropped in heavily populated areas of Tokyo. But on this day 65 years ago, in the neighborhood where my mother's family lived, my Uncle Osamu died. History came alive the moment I saw the date.

Accounts of that day in Tokyo are so difficult to read. Survivors can rarely be coaxed to talk about that day and I'm not likely to ever ask my mom to tell me more about it. She was 14 years old on March 10, 1945, and a student at Keisen Girls' School in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo (from April 1942 - March 1946). I recall that she has always had a difficult time watching any war footage (Iraq, Desert Storm, etc) or seeing any images of fire. And, although her older brother Osamu was one wartime death among hundreds of thousands in Japan, there are still questions about this one young man and some whispered rumors within the family of what really might have happened *. His body was never recovered, but seeing this date finally helps me to understand (after reading so many gut-wrenching accounts of this day 65 years ago) what my mother meant by "lost."

From here:

On March 9 and 10, 1945, before dawn, 279 B-29s dispatched from the 73rd, 313th and 314th, 31 from the 500th Bomb Group, attack Tokyo urban areas with 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs from between 4,900 feet and 9,200 feet. Fifteen square miles of the Tokyo urban area is burned out.

The numbers are almost unfathomable. But one young man died that day and that man was Osamu:

1932
Osamu & Akiko, 1933

Valentine Vintage
Keiji, Osamu, Michio, Akiko

And the earliest known photo which again, I found in the package my sister sent:

Summer in Japan about 1931


I've labeled the photo to indicate who everybody was. The photo was clearly taken sometime in the summer, so I believe it to be 1931, and my mom would have been around 1-1/2 years old.

I was so close to never knowing that I had this highly personal connection to such an infamous day in American and Japanese history. But it's important to me because without that connection, I might never have understood the significance of what happened that day and how so little (if any) is written about it in history books. Some of you might remember this post from 2008 in which I shared my first glimpse of what my mom's life might have been like in Tokyo during WWII. Back then, I didn't know that my uncle's death was tied to this day and to events similar to the ones depicted in the animated film Grave of the Fireflies.

A continent away, the same year my Uncle Osamu died, my father was in high school and planning his enlistment in the US armed forces. Although the war had ended by the time he enlisted, he clearly had the desire to leave Ohio for more exotic locales, eventually arriving in Tokyo sometime in 1949. The rest, as the old cliché goes, is history.

*I no longer have any family members currently living who know the details about what happened to Uncle Osamu the day he disappeared. I can't stress enough that had it not been for Wikipedia and the internet, I'd never have this information or insight

February 20, 2010

Treasures no longer buried

Joyful, 1965

UPS delivered three boxes from my sister yesterday. One of the boxes had some amazing photos I'd never seen before. The photo of me was taken in Torrance or perhaps San Bernardino, sometime in 1965. I was excited to find the photos of myself, but even more so to find dozens of photos of my mom and her family dated much earlier than most that I have. I loved this one:

A new (old) batch of photos arrives

and this one:

Little Akiko

And still more to come - some amazing stuff

May 29, 2009

Cultivation

Kristen's Pink™ Albutilon Hybrid
Kristen's Pink™ Abutilon hybrid

Thank you all for the kind comments on my previous entry . I appreciate (so much) the emails from all of you and the incredibly helpful advice and encouragement. Thank you!

I needed some quiet time on Wednesday, so I went to Lowe's to visit their garden center. I intended to just look and write down some ideas for a large bed in our front yard, but there were a few plants that had to come home with me after all. Although I'm not planning a lot of vibrant color in the beds, this pink and yellow flowering plant (above) was irresistible. Details are linked in the photo caption.

About three years ago, I was with my dad at his favorite garden center:

Dad at garden center

I don't remember what he bought that day (if anything), but he enjoyed strolling through and looking at the plants and talking about them. We knew he was declining due to dementia, but he was still very much at home with his plants. I don't have much of a green thumb, but like my sister mentioned to me last night, gardening is something that reminds us of him and perhaps that's part of what led me there.

My aunt has emailed me snippets of stories and memories about my dad's childhood and it's been such a great reminder to me to keep moving forward -- to remain connected and in the present. When I'm self-absorbed (whether through grief or distraction), I'm not connecting with anybody and that's not healthy, is it?

cul⋅ti⋅vate - to promote or improve the growth of (a plant, crop, etc.) by labor and attention.


April 13, 2009

I've had a hard time smiling today

I've had a hard time smiling today, so I decided to go through my Flickr photostream to find old family photos. It worked. I smiled:

My mom and sisters sometime in the early Sixties

My mom had this photo taken sometime in the early 60's for my dad who was stationed somewhere in the Pacific. She wrote a note on the back and mentioned how much she was enjoying the car and that she liked this picture of herself and their two daughters. My little sister and I came along a few years after this photo was taken. It would have been interesting to be part of this family in the photo -- having a younger, somewhat happier and less-stressed mom and getting to enjoy more time in southern California. I think it's probably the one place that BOTH my parents enjoyed.

What the photo triggered is something I needed to see and to know -- I'm giving myself some grace and relieving myself of some of my own absurd expectations. I'm acknowledging that change doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all. I remember when I figured this out years ago, in a different context, and it was such an epiphany -- to be OKAY with things the way they are and to find ways to thrive and be happy -- that is, just make the assumption that while the situation won't change, my attitude about it can.

Crocheting has given me much JOY in the past few weeks. I'm 29 stripes into the 60 it will take for me to consider the blanket finished:

Ripple Jr. (27 Stripes)
(click the photo to see it larger on Flickr)

It's so much easier to find joy when you're actively seeking it.

March 30, 2009

You can come home again

I had to take a short blog sabbatical while Erica moved back home again after living in Florida for two years. We're all adjusting to the new rhythm of the household, but we're delighted she's back with us for a while. So, that's the reason for my serious lack of knitting during the month of March. The crochet project - the Ripple - is something I pick up and work on whenever I have a spot of time.

Rumpled Soft Ripple Crochet Blanket

My best decision about this blanket was to keep it on the small side -- it's a junior-size afghan. The decision I most regret is including the "Aran" or white yarn. But since this is the first of what will be many softly-rippled crochet blankets, my next one(s) will be planned better and I'll be trying cotton or cotton-blends.

Anybody else notice the crochet resurgence? Now's a great time to jump in and start crocheting -- whether it's for the first time or the first time in a long time. Check out Flickr if you need a dose of crochet inspiration. I also made a mosaic this morning that includes colorful crochet visuals and some other random images that made me smile.

Finally, this is my week to Fix, Frog, or Finish my fiber projects. It's also time to de-stash, donate and declutter. Watch this space for more information. You might score some cool fibers.


March 09, 2009

Twenty

Erica at 5 months


Erica Jordan is TWENTY today

Twenty years ago today, I was having an emergency c-section so that a baby we thought was in distress could make her entrance. Erica weighed in at exactly 8 pounds and was perfectly healthy and actually not in any distress at all -- other than being unhappy about being yanked from her comfy, dark home.

It's kind of startling how quickly twenty years has gone by for both of us. While we've had some rocky years here and there, I think we're on the other side of it and can finally appreciate our differences and celebrate the irony that while our personalities are opposite, we look so much alike.

Happy Birthday, Erica!

March 04, 2009

Henry Snodgrass: 3rd Great Grandfather

Hentry_Snodgrass1.jpg

Henry Snodgrass
Born July 16, 1816 (Virginia)
Died November 22, 1895 (Ohio)

Henry Snodgrass is my 3rd Great Grandfather on my paternal Grandmother's side. I've not written much about my American ancestry simply because I'm more curious about the Japanese side of my family. Recently, however, I've been contacted by several distant cousins from this branch of my family and was sent a few photos and information regarding Henry. For me, one of the striking things about this photo of Henry is that I can see some of my dad's features in Henry's face -- the jawline and the deep-set eyes for instance.

While doing more research, I found the Snodgrass Clan Society and information regarding Snodgrass origins in Scotland. There's a family crest with the Latin ("Facta Non Verba") for "Deeds not Words" and a tartan as well.

Henry remarried after his first wife died and continued to father children until he had 21 (or perhaps 22) offspring. The distant cousins who've been in contact with me are all descended from Henry's first marriage to Elizabeth Phillips. Their grandson, George T. Snodgrass, Jr., is my great-grandfather. George married Sarah Yeater and among their children was my grandmother Ethel. Several generations of this branch of the Snodgrass family lived in Martins Ferry, Ohio where my dad was born.

Another historical tidbit: the year in which Henry was born -- 1816 -- is known as the Year without a Summer -- a weather event caused by the volcanic eruption in 1815 of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. This event subsequently impacted climates around the world.

Let the stories be told
They can say what they want
Let the photos be bold
Let them show what they want

--Good Times Roll, The Cars


February 04, 2009

Arm warmers

Toast Arm Warmers by Leslie Friend

While Erica was here over the holidays, I started and finished these useful Toast arm warmers. Because our late-December temperatures fluctuated wildly -- sunny and warm one day, chilly and gray the next -- I needed a little something to carry with me to keep me warm (and even accidentally wore them to bed one night). They were perfect.

Kim had generously gifted me with one skein each of the same Classic Elite Portland Tweed that Leslie used to knit her Toast and Toasty mitts. They're both lovely neutrals with spots of unexpected color. It was such a smooth and speedy knit -- there's a tiny bit of viscose in the fiber that gives it slightly more elasticity.

Classic Elite Portland Tweed from Kim - Chronic Ennui
Classic Elite Portland Tweed in Black Forest and Folkestone

In the last couple of weeks, I've received some long-awaited copies of my Japanese family "koseki." Koseki are family registries that show births, deaths, marriages and more. I received the koseki for both my grandmother's and grandfather's families. The translations gave me some valuable information along with official names and dates to enter on my family tree.

Japanese Family Registry - Koseki

I learned that my grandfather and his siblings were raised by their uncle (Toshiyuki) after their father (Motomichi) died. I learned that my grandmother's father was adopted and that his birth name was "Gohee Noda." This is enough information that I can now request koseki for my great-grandfathers and great-uncle. I'm grateful to Mr. Eric N for his translation help -- I learned from Lisa that older koseki are very difficult to translate, so I'm appreciative of Eric's help in translating the older ones.

November 10, 2008

Outcomes

This blog entry is dedicated to Jennie, who in an unfortunate turn of events had her Flickr account suspended. If you're a knitter, visit her NEW Flickr account and add her as a contact/friend.

So I never did blog here about my oldest son's broken arm or my younger son's stitches, did I? While it was difficult and upsetting and both things happened two days apart a couple of months ago, I can count any number of blessings that have come about since it all happened. We didn't have to experience it alone either -- some very cool heads (not mine) prevailed. Stitches were out weeks ago and the cast was off last week. Both boys are fine and probably much more cautious now as a result. I, however, have a few more gray hairs.

An outcome-related knit:

Mock_Cable_Dishcloth.jpg

I started this dishcloth on election day because I had a lot of nervous energy. I finished it moments before discovering the outcome and I honestly didn't expect to cry during McCain's speech, but I did. I cried again (harder) during Obama's. While I will never share what happens when I'm at the ballot box (not even with my own husband), I voted courageously and I'm happy with the outcome. I'm proud of our country. While my faith in the leadership and direction of the country had been shaken these past four years, I was very aware that this is the first election in my memory in which my dad couldn't vote. (For my new readers, he's suffering from dementia and is now in a nursing home). He's always set the example for me regarding faithfulness in voting. And although he was the one who actively demonstrated that it is our civic duty and privilege to vote, we knew not to ask how he was casting his vote; I'm continuing that proud tradition because it's how I roll. I voted on your behalf, Dad, and your grandsons were with me.

Dad2008.jpg


October 10, 2008

The Two Uncles

1949 Keiji Wedding.jpg
View it larger with additional information here


1950 Michio Wedding.jpg
View it larger with additional information here


Both of my Japanese uncles, pictured here in their respective wedding photos, have passed away, but thanks to my Uncle Michio, I have many important family photos and details. The photos he sent me were always accompanied by detailed handwritten information including dates and names. He sent me two photo albums in the early 80’s that included a lot of older photos like these as well as current ones of his family.

Of my two uncles, Uncle Keiji was the more “traditional” Japanese man and the brother with whom my mom was closest. When I was visiting Tokyo with her, Uncle Keiji never tried to speak or write in English but through smiles and gestures, he was able to show me (for instance) how Japanese men drink whiskey (with a beer chaser). I had to show I understood by doing the same thing -- he got a huge kick out of that, though later he told my mom to tell me to stay healthy by eating well and taking a lot of vitamins. What we didn’t know at the time was that he was in the early stages of what might have been stomach cancer; he passed away a few years after our visit. Keiji had a Karaoke machine in his house and put on a performance for us the night we celebrated my 21st birthday. Throughout his life, Keiji remained in the neighborhood where the family had grown up and eventually served a term as mayor. When his youngest son graduated from college, Keiji tore down their family home and built a 4-story apartment building with what eventually became a flower shop on the bottom floor. Their home was on one of the upper floors.

Uncle Michio, the eldest son, seemed quite a contrast to his younger brother. He was educated at Tokyo University and then worked as an engineer at Shell Corporation in Tokyo until his retirement in 1982. I don’t recall seeing him laugh or smile very much while we were there. He was incredibly serious and prone to sitting on the sidelines observing and taking in every detail (and taking a lot of photos). He spoke English as much as possible and asked me a lot of questions about life in America and in Oklahoma. He was incredibly interested in American politics and world affairs and if he was still alive today (he passed away in 2002), he would be totally enthralled with what is going on in our country.

Both Keiji and Michio met us at Haneda airport when we arrived in Japan in May 1985. My first observation? They were both shorter than I am. After a hair-raising taxi ride from Haneda to Michio's home in Tokyo (we stayed half the visit with Michio and half with Keiji), the prevailing feeling for me was that I was in a comfortable and oddly-familiar place where everything was the right size for me -- from the heights of the counters and tables to the portion sizes of the meals. Even more importantly, however, was the feeling of having begun my task of unlocking the secrets of the past and discovering more about my Japanese heritage.

September 12, 2008

Hunkering down :: Hurrricane Ike

We're "sheltering in place" while we wait to see what Hurricane Ike is going to do, so I thought I would share a blog entry I started writing a few months ago but didn't finish.

While I was doing some genealogical research several months ago, I found the ship's record from my mom's journey from Japan to the Port of San Francisco. I also found a photo of the ship on which she traveled:

USS_WHGordon1967.jpg

Her journey was in 1952, but there's a good bit of information about the ship's history online. In reading about the ship, I was interested to find this:

"In November 1951, upon expiration of APL's charter, she was taken into the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), reinstated on the Naval Vessel Register and placed in service as a civilian-manned Navy transport. USNS General W. H. Gordon (T-AP-117) departed San Francisco in December 1951 on the first of many trans-Pacific voyages in support of Korean War operations."

According to this, my mom and her fellow shipmates (Asian -- the majority of them Japanese -- wives of American servicemen) were some of the first civilians to travel on the vessel. My mom, a newlywed married less than a year, left Yokohama with my dad in December 1951 and arrived at the port of San Francisco on January 8, 1952. And after 56 years, if anybody asks her what she thought of the journey, she'll tell them how much she hated being on the ship. I never understood why, but I can imagine that some of it might have been unpleasant and uncomfortable. She was a few weeks from having been married a full year and she was 2 months pregnant with my older sister. Prior to being able to leave Japan with my dad, she had to undergo an extensive background check; she had to have letters of reference from Americans in Japan. She had to undergo a complete physical, including a mental health history, and her family history had to be checked for anything that might indicate her potential to be a spy. My dad kept all the documents in a file and it was unquestionably thorough -- and though I can frame it in the context of post-war sentiments, I was slightly insulted to see some of what she had to go through. It would be almost 34 years before she would see Japan again.

Soon, I'll share more about the trip I took with her to Japan in June 1985.

May 31, 2008

Reconciliation, Part Two

Mom and Dad, 1952

In late 1951, my mom left Japan via Yokohama on the USNS General W. H. Gordon (T-AP-117) bound for the western US. While I was doing my genealogy research, I found the list of passengers -- my mom's shipmates. I didn't know the name of the ship prior to finding the passenger list, nor did I realize that she was traveling with many other Japanese nationals - women with Japanese first names and American last names. This was one of the ships bringing Japanese wives stateside with their husbands - American servicemen. Some of the women were pregnant (this was noted in the list -- my mom was four months pregnant as well) and two of the women had already had children. The youngest wives were 19 years old, with the average age being 22. There was one Chinese woman and one Korean woman on the ship as well.

My mom doesn't like to talk about the journey from Japan to the US -- she hated traveling by ship and it was a long, unpleasant trip -- she left Yokohama before the end of December and arrived in San Francisco in the second week of January, 1952.

Over the years, I've pieced together some details that she's shared with us and although hers is the only story I know, I imagine that almost all the other Japanese women aboard the ship were disowned by their families and had to face the same degree of background investigation, medical exams and probably their share of humiliation and racism in order have permission to marry an American. The "reconciliation" I'm referring to in the title of these posts, refers to my reconciling the historical facts with the feelings and observations my mom has shared. Once in the states, she felt she had to stop "being" Japanese. She even had to have an American first name, which confused me; she was "Sandy" and her friends were sometimes "Kim" or "Sue." I was so curious about my Japanese heritage and wanted to know more, but I was often shushed and left with my own curiosity; I would have to be content with reading and imagining until I went to Japan with my mom in 1985.

I've been working on this post for a few months now and for some reason, working on it has made me feel rather blue. It's been difficult coming to terms with the war and its aftermath and also the racism -- not just towards Japanese women, but toward other cultures as well. It's hard to reconcile the pride and privilege I feel with the suffering and disgrace we inflict on others.

May 22, 2008

Reconciliation, Part One

Mom_Pre_war.jpg
My favorite photo of my mom - taken several years before WWII

Earlier this week, I watched Grave of the Fireflies and it has unexpectedly stuck with me. If you're new to my blog, my Dad served in the USAF and was stationed in postwar Japan (during the occupation) when he met my mother, who is Japanese. While I was growing up, my mom didn't talk about her childhood in Tokyo except in vague terms. To say I didn't understand her back then is an understatement. But I started asking questions when I was a teenager and thirty years later . . . I'm finally beginning to understand some things.

My mom was 12 years old in April 1942 when the US first bombed Tokyo in retaliation for Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor. By 1945, B-29 bombers were being flown from China to bomb Japan, with many sorties over Tokyo. It's difficult for me to imagine being a teenager during the incendiary bombing of Tokyo; my mom shared about one incident of heading to the bomb shelter and not being able to locate her favorite cat. But it wasn't until I watched this animated, but nevertheless very accurate, depiction of incendiary bombs and the story told from the point of view of Japanese children, that I was able to begin to understand some of what she went through. I'll leave it to those of you who take the time to read through the links to reconcile your own feelings about WWII and about "war" in general. Personally, since watching the movie, my own views are beginning to change and evolve.

Actual knitting content resumes tomorrow; I've frogged nearly everything that was giving me trouble.

March 08, 2008

Places I don't go

NYCView.jpg
NYC skyline - photo taken from the Affinia Hotel in Manhattan

My husband has to travel a lot for his job and I stay here and run things. Somebody asked me once if I was envious of his business travel and I'm really not -- traveling WITH my family is a lot more appealing to me than traveling without them. I know my husband was sincere when he said that he wished I could have been at the Waldorf Astoria when Martha Stewart was being honored at the "Go Red for Women" luncheon. And while I do have a list of yarn shops I would have visited if I'd been in NYC, it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if I'd been alone.

That's not to say that I don't have travel in my future. I'm making a list of places I would like to go and hope to update our passports soon.

These past few weeks, I've really felt the loss of my laptop but I've deferred the purchase of its replacement for a few more months. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from other knitters about Macs vs. PCs. If you used the one and are now using the other, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. I'm most concerned with portability, battery life, ease of wireless connection and your experiences using a Mac with Flickr and Ravelry (i.e. the browser). I won't be using Photoshop or graphics software -- I'll be using it for long-term writing projects, blogging, Flickr and Ravelry. I like to knit while I read blogs and obviously prefer something very lightweight.

I've been working on some gift knitting and am almost finished with the simple knitted shell with the RYC Cashcotton DK (Ravelry link here, but no updated project info yet). On Thursday, I got to meet up with another local knitter at Starbucks and knit for a while on my take-along sock. Earlier in the week, I stopped by Twisted Yarns and bought the leather straps for the Noro bag. I chose the longer (large, rolled 25") leather straps in dark brown. I might have also bought another skein of Online Supersocke 100.

I've continued to work on some of the genealogy research I started a few weeks ago. One of my aunts has helped fill in a lot of missing information and another aunt and a cousin have gotten in touch with me after my not having talked to them in over 34 years. This time last year, Sallie found most of my American family's ancestry information and I wouldn't have had such a good start without her. Lisa and one of her good friends has been helping me with the Japanese side. Of course, I now wish I had learned to speak and write Japanese (and no, it's not too late) as that would have helped immensely!

Here's another photo of my sisters and me that I don't think I ever saw before last week:

sisters.jpg

It was taken the same day as this one.


March 01, 2008

Off-course, of course

This weekend, I had that unsettled feeling of having veered off-course. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I have to stop and remind myself of my mission and goals.

There's been knitting, but nothing much to show yet (it's a shop sample) - lots of stockinette in the round and you saw a preview a few entries ago. The knitting sets the stage for the thoughts that are the true undercurrent of my writing and blogging here. Knitting helps me think -- it's mind- and heart-expanding. I couldn't write if I didn't knit.

I'm still organizing all the data regarding my family ancestry -- both the Japanese side and the Irish/Scottish/German side. I have two stacks on my desk and they're separated: the "H" side (my maiden name) and the "F" side (my mother's maiden name). I work best from stacks rather than files, so I'm doing what works for me, but if you were to visit right now, I'm sure it would look like clutter to you.

The most overwhelming part was sensing all the stories that want to be told -- I can pick something out of either stack and tell a compelling story based on what I know or what I've learned - hence, that off-course feeling. To get back on course is to focus on my OWN story. I'm the only one who can tell it. I'm the only one who can share my own experiences - the people I've met, the places I 've visited and loved. We four sisters grew up with very different experiences due to our age differences and having lived all over the world. My younger sister and I are only 22 months apart so some of our memories are shared, but we don't often share the same point of view. I don't think that's uncommon, but it's part of what made me realize that I need to focus on my own unique perspective.

The Patons Merino hat that I blogged about last week was finished that same day.I used to think it was so odd that others could knit a plain (or fancy!) hat in less than 24 hours, but now I can too. When did that happen? (And oddly enough, it's almost cold enough here today to NEED a hat).

Patons Merino FO :: Basic Hat

Finally, to wrap up this post, I finally figured out the handles I want to use for the Noro Kureyon Scraps Bag I knit in 2004. (Ravelry link here). I used the leftover Kureyon from the Booga Bags I knit that year plus some additional single skeins I had acquired to knit a large project bag.

Felted Noro Scraps Bag

So it's back to the knitting for a while.

February 20, 2008

Little choices

My Mom 1933-34

We have no choice of what color we're born or who our parents are or whether we're rich or poor. What we do have is some choice over what we make of our lives once we're here.--Mildred D. Taylor

In going through so many levels and layers of genealogical research, the strongest impression I have is that the biggest changes are sometimes a result of what seem in the moment to be small choices -- like the choice my father made to lie about his age in order to join the Army before he was out of high school. The most compelling reason he had was an opportunity to travel and see the world rather than become a coal miner like his father and grandfather. While he was stationed in Tokyo, he met my mother who was on the path of making some choices of her own.

Unfortunately, but probably not unexpectedly for postwar Ohio, my mom wasn't accepted by my American grandmother -- my sisters and I didn't have a relationship with her (or with one of my aunts and my cousins); it's likely I saw her only twice in my entire life. It would have been nice to have known more about my Irish and Scottish ancestry.

My mom is in the hospital right now. She's going to be fine, but she's been in a lot of pain and they're trying to help her with her degenerative disc disease.

what little knitting I've been able to do was on Sunday; I'm swatching for some simple summer tanks.

Turning row (round)

Now I just need to find the time to knit them.

Elsebeth Lavold Cotton Patine

February 14, 2008

Processes unrelated to knitting

I'm experiencing heightened intuition and perception, along with feeling extremely empathetic (to the point of weepiness sometimes) and strange maternal and nesting urges TOTALLY unrelated to pregnancy (no chance of that). And these are the GOOD parts of this female aging process. I'm not sad to be starting to experience pre-menopause, but I am a little unsettled. The skin changes and grey hairs don't bother me, but the forgetfulness and anxiety DO upset me a bit.

And to be quite honest, I wasn't going to mention this particular process at all on my blog. Then I remembered my goal of having a blog as a record for myself -- and also my desire to use this blog as a way to capture some things in REAL time that might help my daughter twenty years (or more) from now. I know that my mom doesn't remember anything at all about what she went through and I wish she did.

Knitting helps. I am able to focus and concentrate on knitting when I can't focus on anything else. On some days I feel incredibly sharp and focused and others I feel like I'm in mental quicksand. But the heightened perception -- I'll take that any day. With unexpected surprises (both physical and mental) around every corner, successful navigation requires that I have an optimistic attitude. Pollyanna? You bet.

I wait until I feel sharp enough to tackle demanding tasks and this past week has included working on our income tax returns and organizing some historical family documents and vintage photos. This one of my mom and her brothers was taken in the late 30's, presumably before the death of their father (my grandfather). My mom was nine years old when he died, so I'm fairly certain that this was taken before then:

Valentine Vintage
Keiji, ??, Michio, my mother

When a bit of time opens up and I'm able to organize my stash, frog hibernating projects or wind yarn, if I get an urge, I'll allow myself to indulge in a quick project. These two one-day projects have been enjoyable and entertaining. Oddly, they're both Malabrigo:

Drawstring Pouch 3 - LMKG
click the photo above for more information

compelling

So go ahead . . . indulge yourself.

Happy Valentine's Day!

January 10, 2008

Well-loved socks

One year later . . .

These were the socks I knit for my sister for Christmas in 2006. She sent them to me when I sent her another pair this past Christmas. She told me she loved them and provided proof:

One year later . . .
.

And this is the Wollmeise Brombeere that I had left over when I knit her these socks:

Wollmeise Brombeere - leftovers

I'm thinking I have enough for my first attempt at mending socks. Tips anyone? Ideas?

This will be a short post for now, but I wanted to thank those of you who left such helpful and encouraging comments (and sent private emails) in my last post. I am pursuing some leads you all have given me and have discovered that a native Japanese speaker will actually have a more difficult time translating to English in an understandable way. He/she can translate in the SPOKEN native Japanese language, but then I would have to have somebody translate THAT. That explains the difficulty that my uncle had providing me with a translation. I had to set aside the pursuit in favor of some unexpected crises this past week, but it remains at the top of my mind -- even though I haven't been able to sit and reply to the emails some of you have left. Please know it is very much appreciated.

For those of you new to my blog, this is my maternal grandfather:

Grandfather
Born April 1891, Kyushu - Died January 1939, Tokyo

and this is my grandmother:

grandmotherblog.jpg
Born June 1898, Kyoto - Died June 1959, Tokyo

The samurai ancestry is on my Grandfather's side.

January 06, 2008

Research :: Letters from Michio

Samurai_Letter.jpg

In between a few knitting projects this weekend, I'm also going through many old letters and photos from my uncle. Although he passed away several years ago, I've kept over twenty years' worth of letters he sent me and combined with the details my mom has been able to share, I've filled in some gaps.

Sallie was immensely helpful in providing me with genealogy information from my father's side of the family -- but mostly my grandmother's (Snodgrass) lineage. I think I only have two generations of my father's information.

The biggest obstacle in learning more about my Japanese ancestry is that I don't know the language. I can't speak it, read it or write it. I do have our koseki, but because my mom married a non-Japanese, her husband and children (me and my sisters) wouldn't be on the koseki. And for those of you wondering the obvious, my mom can't read the koseki either -- after more than 5 decades in the U.S., it's increasingly more difficult for her to read Japanese and understand it when it's spoken.

I will be checking some local resources, but I'm also going to "ask the blog" (It worked before!) if anybody could put me in touch with somebody who can read Japanese. The koseki (I have a certified copy) probably covers our family's history from the mid-1800s to the late 80s. I do have some scans of it if that would help.

And now, back to some knitting. If all goes well, I'll have knitting to share this afternoon.

January 01, 2008

Happy first day of 2008

Family 1970s
Family photo from the early 1970's

I went to sleep with some big questions last night and woke up with the answers. The big questions have to do with a goal of mine -- something I want to complete this year involving a family story.

I love this photo of my family. Due to the age difference between my oldest and youngest sisters, it was rare to get all of us in a photo together. This is how I remember my Dad. I'm startled now when I see photos of him with white hair and his thinner, smaller frame. During most of my childhood and the years I lived in Oklahoma, he was stocky -- and looked like he did in this photo.

Longtime readers know that I don't "do" resolutions, but I do evaluate what's working for me and what's not. In 2008, I'm taking some steps to enrich my life -- I'm excited about the things I'm considering. And because the most effective method I have of dealing with unresolved issues is to write through them, I'll continue to do that and will probably share more of it here on my blog.

My knitting goals for 2008 are rather vague, thanks to a refreshed point of view and a desire to be true to myself -- I will knit what I enjoy knitting and do what I enjoy doing. Because I don't struggle with discontent or disappointment internally, I'm going to take full advantage of the absolute freedom I have to just BE.

And now, for the winner of the hand knit socks . . . congratulations to Susan at KitKatKnits. I'll be contacting you to get your color preferences and shoe size!

Look for more fun contests and giveaways in 2008.