Death and Consequences

Just before Christmas, my uncle committed suicide. My grandmother, Obachan, who lived with him, found him hanging. The last time I saw him, he looked like a beaten man. I later found out that he had attempted it before, while my grandmother was visiting relatives in Japan. His wife didn’t tell us about it. She had left him. He faced financial problems. He drank a lot. He was visibly depressed. Obachan, to this day, has not discussed the fact that he killed himself. It is supposed to be a secret.

As we packed up my grandmother’s belongings we found a little notebook with notes to his wife, his children, and his mother, written presumably during his previous attempt. He said he loved them, that he was tired, and that he was sorry. My mom told me a few years ago that he had begged her to take Obachan so that he could work on his marriage. She refused.

My grandmother had to move to Colorado to live with my mother, about whom I have written before. Mom left my sister and me with my father when we were kids. My father had been battling cancer for years when she left. Eventually he died due to complications from it. She didn’t come to the funeral. She didn’t come to claim me or my sister. We didn’t see her for years after…we rarely see her now. Our kids barely know her.

I love my mother, but I think it is an automatic love-something programmed into me because she gave birth to me, nursed me, and kept me alive when I was helpless. It is obligatory and painful. Our relationship consists of phone calls during which I listen to her talk about her life. She married my step-father shortly after leaving, and had my two brothers, whom she managed to raise to adulthood, thank goodness. Mom talks about them, their accomplishments and failures, her own trials and tribulations…I listen.

My sister and I have accepted that mom is incapable of empathy. We suspect she is a narcissist. When all of this happened she lamented to me, “if only I hadn’t married your father, my parents wouldn’t have ever moved to this country and your uncle wouldn’t have met his wife, and none of this would have ever happened.”

Our children know that Grandma is not the doting type. She doesn’t send gifts or visit or call them. She doesn’t keep photos of them in her wallet (or smartphone). She is ill-equipped to give comfort and sympathy to the grieving in more than a superficial manner. This brings us to the plight of Obachan…

Mom calls to complain about Obachan nearly every day. She’s not eating, she is locked in her room, she cries all the time, she is miserable here. No shit, she found her only son hanging. Her daughter is a sociopath. She wants to go home. There is no home to go to. The home is in foreclosure. It turns out that my uncle used my grandmother’s credit to purchase cars, pay bills, pay for his estranged wife’s bills, his kids’ car insurance, the list goes on. My grandmother is in serious debt that she knew nothing about. At 87 years of age, she will never pay it all off. She has been betrayed by her son in so many ways, and now her daughter wants to be rid of her. Mom says my step father didn’t sign up for taking care of her mother (or the two kids she had previously).

Unless my sister or I take her in, mom says she will allow her to go to the daughter of my uncle-my cousin who went to jail for stealing thousands from my grandmother’s bank account. Who, incidentally, would have avoided prosecution if she had told Obachan the truth. Since she denied the theft, they reported it to police, who witnessed the video of her withdrawing the money from an ATM. This genius cousin raises only one of her four children, the baby. Her pattern is to love the babies, then give them up when they are older and more annoying. I suspect she has a problem with drugs. I know for a fact that she can’t take care of her own children, let alone my grandmother-something my mother knows as well.

Obachan took care of my sister and me when we were little. When one of us had a bad dream or fell down and skinned a knee, Obachan was the one who gave us kisses and Band-Aids. She cooked delicious meals and and sewed our dresses and cooed over our artwork. She also took care of my uncle’s children and their children until they no longer had need of her. There are three people in my family who loved my sister and me unconditionally; two of them are dead, the other is Obachan.

My children love her dearly and endure her endless fussing over them, though it sometimes embarrasses them. She tells cashiers and passersby on the street that these are her “grand-grand children.” They are fascinated by her, this link to their Japanese heritage. She makes quilts and aprons and knits doilies for everything. She has a supernatural green thumb, able to take a little tiny snip of a stem and grow it into a tree. She saves every scrap of food, down to the crusts of toast, because she can’t bear waste. She is annoying, nosy, bossy, and weird, but we love her.

I live in an 1100 square foot house with more people and pets than I have rooms. When my mother in law had to live with us for seven months, she stayed in our living room on a hospital bed, which drove us all crazy. It was traumatic for my children and really untenable as a permanent solution. My sister is in a similar situation. I could finish a room in my basement or my sister could find a bigger apartment, but neither of us have the resources for either of those things at present. My mother, whose home is nearly 5000 square feet and who subsists on six figures, can’t seem to find a way to help. Her struggle is real.

I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for a person who is near the end of her lifetime. I am already overwhelmed by my other responsibilities. I recently had a hysterectomy, which depleted my sick leave. I juggle weekly doctor’s appointments for the many issues that my children face, trying not to let it interfere with work. My day is full from dawn until my weary head hits my pillow. What happens when my grandmother comes to stay? I think she is clinically depressed, but the language and cultural barriers make it difficult to find help for her. I communicate with her with a mixture of Japanese, English, and hand gestures. Usually, we both reach the point of fuck it, never mind.

The way that my mother seems to think we should take care of Obachan, without regard for the impact on our finances, our marriages, or our children, shouldn’t shock me. I tried to explain the obstacles. Her response: “then tell her you don’t want her.”

My uncle’s suicide hit my eldest daughter pretty hard. We weren’t close to him, but he was always nice to the kids when we saw him. When my daughter saw him in the casket, his death became real to her. Obachan’s pain was hard for her to witness. She began to think of losing her own parents and loved ones. She struggles with depression herself, as do many of us on both sides of her family. She began to think, what if I ever get that hopeless? She has been in counseling over this and other things going on in her life.

Will taking on the care of another person further diminish my capacity to take care of my own children, who need me now more than ever? Will it affect my marriage adversely? Will the stress be too much to bear? Do we have a choice here? What is the right thing to do? My Christian friends would say that God gives us no more than we can handle, but I don’t believe that. We handle things until we can’t, as my uncle so sadly illustrates.

I believe our only option is to figure out a way to take care of her. How can we not, when mom would allow her to go into a potentially abusive and unhealthy situation? My sister and I are going to work together to figure it out. OUR husbands, thankfully, take seriously the vow of “for better, for worse.” I can’t help but think that when the time comes, my mother will also expect us to take care of her. What will I do then?

10 Reasons Why You Should Never Feed Your Children


Brilliant logic right here, folks!

Originally posted on List of X:

The government is meddling too much in our private lives and bullying us around with their food pyramid scheme. What ever happened to that thing called "freedom"? Image source: The government is meddling way too much in our private lives and bullying us around with their food pyramid scheme. What ever happened to that thing called “freedom”?
Image source:

Recently, about 100 children became infected with measles in an outbreak, and everyone has been quick to blame the parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. However, I think that the vaccine skeptics’ arguments make perfect sense. I just don’t think that we should be limiting these arguments only to vaccines, and if we’re really serious about keeping our children safe, we should treat even the seemingly innocent things like food with the same amount of healthy skepticism. Here are 10 reasons why you as a parent should never give your children any food.

1)  Food has some scary side effects, and hundreds of people die of food poisoning every year.

2)  There is an established link between food and autism, because 99.95%…

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Daiji: Important, Valuable, Priceless Things

For the better part of the last week, I was with my mom and grandmother together for the first time in I don’t know how long. Decades? My uncle, with whom my grandmother (Obaachan) lived, died suddenly. As is often the case, tragedy brings a family together, at least for a short time. My family is not close even in the best of circumstances. We had to pack up all of my grandmother’s belongings and prepare her for a cross-country move to my mom’s house. It was very traumatising for her, losing her only son, and basically losing all of her stuff in one fell swoop.

As we packed Obaachan’s things, we looked at old photographs and reminisced before placing them in back into boxes. My mother took charge of the packing, basically deciding what was junk and what was a keeper. Being very unsentimental and a minimalist, she was brutal. My grandmother would stealthily pull things from the donation and trash piles and sneak them back into the keep pile. It was funny, but also sad. I want to be a minimalist, but I understand the bond we have to our things. For my grandmother, every letter, every trinket, every dish has a memory and value attached. “Kore wa Obaachan no daiji (die-jee).” “This is Obaachan’s important/valuable thing,” in Japanese.

Daiji is a word that my whole family understands. If I tell my kids a thing is daiji they rarely disturb it. It is sacred. My grandmother kept asking, almost pleading “will you keep it?” Yes, we said, over and over again. My sister and I took her stuff back to my house, because I have a basement. Later, we will go through the process of sorting, dividing and purging a lifetime’s worth of collecting. I hope we do it soon, but the fact that my father’s stuff is still in boxes down there is not very encouraging. He died nearly 25 years ago. It’s hard to face all that STUFF and all of those MEMORIES, let alone split it between us. It seems wrong. What about the stuff that neither of us wants? Now I have a basement FULL of DAIJI stuff!

Someone snapped a photo of my sister and me with our children, Obaachan, and mom all together. Although we bickered and bitched at each other the whole time, that photo is special too-something for the daiji pile. In it we look happy to be together. In reality, it was stressful and a bit painful. But we were there for each other as much as we could be. Who knows when we will all be together again?

The table that I ate at as a child is now in my kitchen. It replaces an old fifties table and four ratty chairs that we supplemented with stepstools when we all decided to sit together. Finally, I can seat all of my family at once, plus some! I finally feel like a grown up, at 41 years of age, because of that table. If I could only pick one thing to keep besides photographs, it would be that. On it was set the lavish New Year’s dinners that we enjoyed when I was a little girl. My sister and I used to fling sheets over it and crawl beneath to play fort. My dearly departed father and grandfather, and every dear relative sat upon those chairs at one time or another. Though my children and my nieces have never met my father or grandfather, their precious little butts will sit on the same chairs upon which my forefathers sat. That table is my daiji.

I’m not sure what I am feeling right now, other than sad and thoughtful. I am thinking about all the smiling faces in those old photographs and our own smiling faces in that recent photo of us. Smiling faces hiding pain and loss or smiling faces expressing genuine joy…they all seem to look the same.

Tales of an Untamed Uterus, or Pagophagia and Me

Greetings, fair readers! I submit to you my humble apologies for my long absence. Much has happened since I last updated this blog, but today I am going to talk about my uterus. Of course, you probably didn’t know that there is anything noteworthy about my uterus, and there really isn’t. It is like many other uteri out there, save for the fact that it is mine. And it has a story to tell.

The saga begins on my 12th birthday and goes downhill from there. On that day that began with such promise, I felt the as yet unfamiliar rush that has now come to mean “uh-oh,” and the first in a long line of undergarments that would be relegated to the corner of the drawer was created. AKA, Period Panties. Our one family vacation that year was ruined for me. I would stare longingly at the swimming pool for the rest of our stay. Good thing I received Stephen King’s “Skeleton Crew” for my birthday-always look for the positive!

From my youthful loins there was no trifling flow that some call “light days.” No, mine was the stuff of legends on the level with an apocalyptic vision from the Revelations. The Four Horsemen themselves galloped gleefully through my tortured womb. My insides twisted as if being vitamixed into a tempting vampire smoothie, I skulked down the aisle of the drug store with winged maxis, briefly considering the adult diapers. Shamefaced and pallid, I plopped down my mammoth box of sanitary pads and a mega-sized bottle of Pamprin. For two weeks I bore the curse that left me pale and shaken, barely able to venture from my room.

And so the story replayed itself over and over on a strict lunar cycle, broken only by three pregnancies and extended breastfeeding. Some think that breastfeeding my youngest until three years old is creepy. Judge not the woman who knows this would be the last respite from the floods until menopause! To slow that mad march of wizened eggs down the maze of my fallopian tubes, my heroic breasts were offered up as pale victims to the gods who demanded blood sacrifice.

I realize I am being a bit dramatic; it wasn’t that epic. Fast forward to the present…

I had a full physical with a new doctor a couple of months ago. She was really cool, and by cool I mean very Asheville. Her skirt had little pompoms hanging from it like a Mexican sombrero and she was wearing Tevas sandals. She was both focused and lackadaisical, if you can imagine it. But really nice and I felt comfortable relating to her my health history.

I mentioned that I had recently begun flirting with veganism, though this has gradually morphed into a quasi-vegetarian/pescatarian hybrid diet that leaves me pining for bacon. I told her I was always tired and a chronic insomniac. I spoke of my many failed attempts to donate blood due to low hemoglobin. In a determined effort to donate successfully, I popped extreme doses of iron before my Red Cross appointment. I finally accomplished the level of 12 that was needed on my third try. I happily chatted as they tapped my vein, right up to the moment that I found myself with legs in the air as the nurse attempted to revive me from a swoon. The doctor suggested “you oughta get your blood levels checked, dude.” She hastened me to the lab for the obligatory stick and peaced out.

Sure enough, it was confirmed that I had abysmally low levels of hemoglobin, iron and B12. Cue the order for sub-lingual B12 and a nasty concoction called Floradix that doesn’t tear up my insides and clog my pipes like regular iron pills. And an order for an ultrasound of my lady bits. WTF? Yes. My doctor informed me that anemia is CAUSED by something and you must find out what that cause is to cure it. In my case she suspected that I might have fibroids in my uterus causing heavy bleeding. So a trans-vaginal ultrasound was in my near future.

For an intrauterine ultrasound, one must chug about 64 ounces of water about an hour beforehand. The morning of the appointment, I drank the obligatory amount of water, but having a notoriously nervous bladder, I had to pee even before I started my fluid intake. So I found myself sitting in the waiting room, cold sweat running down my face, legs crossed and frantically shaking. The others waiting had a similar look of desperation.

Finally the technician calls me back. I disrobe and sit shivering in a paper gown as I struggle not to pee. The technician comes in and instructs me to put my feet in the stirrups. Assume the position, as any lady knows how to do. The first in a series of awkward moments ensues: “Your toe nails look pretty,” she says. “Ummm, thank you?” I reply with my knees in the air. “Did you do them yourself?” “yes…” What is with this lady and her obsession with toes? “Shall I insert the wand or would you like to?” She asks. “I guess you,” I respond, thinking that neither option sounds any better than the other and I am concentrating on NOT PISSING all over the place. Then she starts poking around and taking what I presume are snapshots of my womb. All of a sudden, she turns on the sound and I hear what sounds like heartbeats! My heart leaps to my throat and I stop breathing… The technician notices the look on my face and laughs. “That’s just the sound of blood going through your vessels, hahaha!” I emit a sickly laugh and wonder if this can get any worse. It doesn’t, thankfully. In a few minutes I am sighing with pleasure on the potty.

So, long story a bit shortened, I tested positive for fibroids and have to wait forever to get in to see a gynecologist to find out what, if anything, I am going to do about it. There are many options, but they all sound shitty. Fibroids are basically tumors of varying size that are usually not cancerous, but can cause all kinds of havoc. Heavy and painful periods, swollen belly, back pain, restless legs, frequent urination…all things that I have been suffering all of my adult life.

I may be over sharing, but I have a purpose in chronicling the trials and tribulations of my uterus. I have learned a few things that I didn’t know before. I had never even looked up the definition of anemia before. I always thought that it just meant low iron. Paleness, fatigue, nothing serious. Actually to be anemic means that you don’t have enough red blood cells in your body to carry adequate amounts of oxygen to tissues. Anemia can be quite serious and it may indicate a serious underlying illness.

Ever since I was pregnant the first time, I have had a terrible and powerful craving for ice. My husband went into hunter-gatherer mode in search of the perfect pearls of ice that might calm my intense need. Incidentally, I found the holy grail of ice in the hospital when I gave birth to my first child. I think I will dedicate an entire post later to my quest for perfect ice. But for now, know that this craving is called pagophagia and it can be an indicator that you have iron-deficiency type anemia. If you are tired, easily winded, craving ice or other non-food items, get your blood checked! Not sure what craving lemon peels means, but I ate those too. No scurvy for me!

Vegans and vegetarians often have low levels of vitamin B12. This type of anemia can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, heavy drinking, Crohn’s disease, and other problems that inhibit absorption of B12. Symptoms include light-headedness, rapid heartbeat and breathing, easy bruising and bleeding, intestinal distress, pallor, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, and even cognitive impairment. Long term deficiency can lead to nerve damage, so don’t mess around!

It’s important to get your blood tested to find out if you have anemia. Don’t try to diagnose yourself. Iron overload can lead to serious health risks. Too much B12 can lead to cancer.

As I await my next appointment, my internet research has given me plenty of scary scenarios to ponder on. I also fantasize that my stubborn leftover baby fat is actually a fibroid the size of a 5 month fetus…

Forward Together, Not One Step Back: Moral Monday Returns To Asheville, NC

Yesterday I attended Asheville’s second Mountain Moral Monday, a movement that started in Raleigh in 2012 in protest of the extremist policies of the NC General Assembly, most of which have been signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. Early estimates put the number of attendees at about 5,000-6,500 people-down from last year’s 10,000, but an impressive turnout nonetheless.

Mountain Moral Monday in Pack Square, Asheville
Mountain Moral Monday in Pack Square, Asheville

The Moral Monday movement’s organizer and state NAACP chapter president, Reverend William J. Barber, was in attendance. Barber and hundreds of others have been arrested for peaceful protests in Raleigh and vilified by the far right. The Moral Monday movement has been reported on by national outlets and versions of the movement are beginning to spread around the country. A short clip of his speech can be found here. I hope to add the full video when it becomes available.

Yesterday’s rally focused on voter registration and bringing public awareness to the continuing struggle for equality, environmental protection, quality education and support for teachers, immigration reform, and healthcare for all. There were several speakers directly affected by recent legislation: a doctor from a rural community, a single mother, an undocumented immigrant, a teacher, a gay minister who wants to marry her partner…

Those who attended the rally carried signs that addressed issues important to them.

Medical Cannabis Advocates
Medical Cannabis Advocates
Frack Off Gasholes!
Frack Off Gasholes!



Veterans for Peace
Veterans for Peace

Since Republicans won a super-majority in the General Assembly in 2012, NC legislators have succeeded in pushing forward the far-right’s agenda, such as Amendment One-a Constitutional amendment which bars recognition of same-sex marriages. The earned income credit is expiring this year, as are several deductions and exemptions that will result in a higher tax burden for the working poor and the middle class.

In 2016, the new voter ID law will require voters to show a photo ID to vote. Early voting days have already been cut, and several polling locations have been closed, leading to longer lines and more difficulty casting a vote, especially for minorities.


Legislators have also voted to fast-track fracking and criminalize the disclosure of the chemicals used in the process. This law, the so-called “Energy Modernization Act,” was passed without public notice or time for public comment-a tactic which has become par for the course in NC. 2378

Restrictions on reproductive rights, unemployment and Medicaid cuts, immigration issues, and tax cuts for the rich  may also be added to the laundry list of grievances about which NC voters have become increasingly concerned. North Carolina has become a test lab for all of the regressive policies that tea-party driven politics have wrought.


For decades, the far right has claimed to be the moral voice of “real” Americans. Their so-called Christian values are the source of their morality and the reason for the positions they take on everything from gay marriage and women’s rights, to their draconian stance on the refugee crisis at our border. But some Republicans are finding the courage to speak out against what they believe are immoral acts by the government. Reverend Barber recently joined forces in Washington, DC with Adam O’Neal, the Republican mayor of Belhaven, NC, who had just walked 300 miles to the capitol to bring awareness to the health care crisis that that has occurred as a direct result of not accepting federal funds for expanded Medicaid. “For me and the mayor, it’s not about partisan politics,” Rev. Barber said. “It’s about what’s right.”


Wearily I rise as birds begin their morning song,

Thankful for the peace that seems to only come at dawn.

The weight of slumber is not so heavy

As the daily mask I wear.

My smile fixed like a rictus, but I edit it with care.

I tuck away my sorrow like strands of fallen hair.

My eyes, deep pools, never shed their tears.

The salty pearls are swallowed,

How bitter are those spheres!

Carefully arranged, it’s time to face the day.

So practiced, so artful, so perfectly assembled…

I rarely have to fill the cracks that form along the way.

Heartbreak at START


Please visit Valentine’s blog and read this beautiful and so very powerful post. Her courage and compassion will move you to tears.

Originally posted on QBG_Tilted Tiara:

my.opera Last Thursday was Victim Impact with young people in the START (Short Term Residential Treatment) program. This where juveniles land when all else fails, when probation conditions have been broken and less intensive interventions are not working. START is the last stop before full on detention in one of Texas’ lock-down facilities is ordered. The program is 90 days, includes peer-to-peer counseling, one-on-one counseling, group counseling, educational resources, parent inclusion and of course Victim Impact.

I have been doing Victim Impact for years now; you would think it would get easier to tell the story, it doesn’t. You would think it wouldn’t hurt so much; you would be wrong. Some days it is worse than others, there are days when my calendar pops up to remind, ready myself to make the drive to whatever facility I am speaking and my heart clenches, my eyes tear up and I think to…

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