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The one in which my son gets into high school

Last week, my giant guinea pig rode the train far, far away to take the public high school entrance exams. As the firstborn, he is the one I have experimented all my random notions on, most notably raising the kids overseas and just tossing them into the public school system as non-Japanese speaking Americans. It was a sink or swim idea, for sure, and concocted by a much younger and more naive mother than I am today. And there have been so many points along the way where he was sinking fast to the bottom and I wanted to dive in and rescue him. But then this happened today:

He got in! Such a relief, though part of me knew he would. All the same, whew, you know. I mean, entrance exams in Japan are utter hell. If he hadn’t been admitted, we would have had to pay for him to go to private school, which he was already accepted to and to which we already gave a hefty non-refundable deposit. There are still uniforms and supplies and such to consider but that comes later. First, we are having some lemon cheesecake tarts that taste like sunny heaven and then the mighty new high schooler is going out to celebrate with his class at a yakiniku restaurant.

Whew.

My hair-brained idea worked.

Whew.

Now to to crank out some more crackpot schemes…

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The one in which I walk back my decision to travel back home

Saturday morning and I am awake at my usual time to work on a new short story and perhaps get a little bit of studying in before everyone wakes up.

My enthusiasm for returning to the States to visit this summer has begun to wane. The friend I wanted to visit now seems less available than she was before and while other people seem excited by the prospect of spending some time together, I am wondering if it is best to put it off for another year, especially as the Olympics are affecting airfares.

The idea of going back to my home state served to define my current situation better. As much as it would be interesting to visit people and go swimming everywhere possible, I honestly would prefer to be here. We were planning to go camping on the Seto Islands before my plan to go back arose and if I have to chose between spending 2 days with my friend (at the expense of 2 24-hour flights) and a week exploring the islands of the inland sea with my kids, well, the choice seems obvious.

There is the other thing, the fact that the proficiency exam is in July and December, and that the teacher’s certification interview is in August. It is already the end of January and I promised myself to focus on these matters this year so I could get it over with and make life more stable for my family. With America juxtaposed against my current situation, I came to value what I am trying to do here. The idea of traveling back to the States was infectious though. And yet, 2 days is not worth undermining my goals. Another time, perhaps.

I started work on a new short story this past week. And as I was doing so, I realized that I wanted to create a collection stories with interconnecting characters and yet entirely different tones and narratives. Something about this loosened me up, enabling me to be less timid with the writing of the story, less concerned about every sentence. That is why I enjoy working on my novel, because there is a flow that short story writing does not usually have for me, where every word counts.

It is my first two-day weekend in a long time. I hardly know what to do with myself, except of course get some more coffee and crack open my kanji workbook. Today is going to be another mild day, the high of 14 degrees C, so maybe it will be a good day to take the kids on a short hike. Something to take our minds off of school and work and entrance exams and the impeachment and global warming and racial injustice and airfares and all the thought patterns that consume our weekday minds.

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The one in which I praise the art of maintaining a routine

At the end of last year, when I was in a slight panic over the realization that my job was not going to last forever, the real reason I was flustered was because I thought I was going to lose my routine. Not only did it take me a while to establish a routine but it also took me even longer to come to appreciate the beauty of having a routine.

As a writer who teaches full time (and then some) and a mother of four, trying to find the time to do what I want to do has been a struggle for, well, how old is my eldest? And before he came into the world, I was just a piece of flotsam, floating about with a notebook and pen. I fancied myself a bohemian and scorned routines and predictability, stability. Life was chaotic and the world was mad. Having a routine seemed fruitless, like trying to harness a wild phantom horse.

I live with four children and a man who is a creative in his own right. If I am not strict with my time, it is consumed carelessly, spent instantly. Weeks will pass and I will have nothing done nothing but work and household chores. That is not how you write books. Books require time and effort. Books require routines.

I love the two and a half hours I have to myself every morning. Those two hours allow me to exist as I am, without any demands from anyone else. Those two hours allow me to be generous with the rest of my time. I can be the caretaker, the teacher, the coworker without resentment. Resentment is a worthless and draining state and yet so easy to be ensnared in, especially when you are tired and hopeless.

A routine empowers you. Yes, life is chaotic and the world is mad but within the chaos and madness, you can still exist as you like. That is the one thing you have control over. Yes, it means you might have to adjust things, compromise other things, but a routine is tailored for your circumstances. Look at your day as objectively as possible and figure out what you can do with it. Then stick to it, day after day. And before you know it, you too will be singing the praises of the routine, then hopefully returning to your actual writing.