Why I’m Thankful for NaNoWriMo

N is for NaNoWriMo

N is for NaNoWriMo

I first participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2010 and have remained a participant since. (I did take a break last year to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test instead since it fell the day after NaNo.) What began for me as a shy, solo, mad dash for words soon became much more, and I’m thankful for NaNoWriMo for several reasons.

1) NaNoWriMo taught me that I am not a novelist; I am a poet. I’d always dabbled in poetry, but thought that what I’d really write was novels. NaNo taught me otherwise.

2) The first reason might sound like the opposite of one thing that NaNo promotes, that there is a book inside everyone. But the way I see it is this: NaNo not only served to teach me where my strengths in writing lie, it also gave, and continues to give, me 30 days of ‘permission’ to myself every year to chase one of the longer stories in my head. I have yet to completely finish any of these, but I’ll get there. These are the stories I tell only for myself. And if one day, 20 years from now, miraculously one of them is publishable? I’ll count that as a happy bonus.

3) It’s taught me the beginnings of plotting… and not plotting, both. It’s taught me to listen to the voices in my head. It’s taught me to stop standing in my own way, or at least as much as I can manage that anyway.

4) And perhaps most importantly? It’s given me friends. Many of them. People who are very dear to me know who I most likely never would have met otherwise. People like the Ferret girls.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? What has the challenge done for you?

Of Moons and Medical Things

M is for Moon and Medical

M is for Moon and Medical

A short A-Z post today, nothing too spectacular.

For those who read my Of Doctors, Diets… post, today is the day I get the results from all the tests I had run last month. Not sure what to expect, if anything. (I’ll have a longer update post soon.)

It is also the morning after the first Blood Moon this year! Were you someplace in the world you could see it? Did you take pictures? Have you ever seen a lunar eclipse before?

The Colorful Side of Writing Letters

(Note: To my fellow A-Zers, I apologize if you have visited me and I have not yet returned the favor. This first half of April has been a bit of a mess for me, but I plan to be visiting you soon!)

L is for Letters

L is for Letters

Today you will also find a longer post from me on the meaning of letters at the Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society blog. I invite you to please check that post as well. I have a question posed at the end to help me with a writing project too. Comments there are most gratefully received!

I love writing letters. Sending notes the good old-fashioned way with pen and paper. I would have made a great lady in Jane Austen’s time when women sat down to attend to correspondence several times a week. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like to write letters at my antique writing desk, hiding from technology, and pretend that perhaps I was back in that time. Oh when things (some of them anyway) were simpler!

The box of most of my stationery

The box of most of my stationery

I digress.

Writing letters, in today’s world, is far from a necessity, and as such I like to have a bit of fun with it. There’s nothing like the comfort of your favorite pen and a box full of colorful stationery to choose from when writing a letter. I like to use stationery to match holidays, my mood, or perhaps to change the mood of the person to whom I am writing. Stationery is a small way to turn an ordinary letter into a simplified art project. We like all of those colorful Hallmark cards after all!

I’m always looking out for new stationery, especially bargain stationery when I can find it. (A great way to feed a habit when money is tight!)

What is your favorite sort of stationery? Do you write letters?

A Brief Glimpse at Kanzashi

K is for Kanzashi

K is for Kanzashi

Worn in various ways throughout history, kanzashi are now perhaps most frequently recognized as being worn by geisha and maiko. Kanzashi are special hair ornaments that come in many varieties and change throughout the year depending on month, season, festival, and more.

Maiko, or apprentice geisha, typically wear more vibrant and elaborate kanzashi than their elder ‘sisters’. Hana, or flower, kanzashi change every month of the year.

In April, the favored kanzashi are those that imitate sakura flowers as hanami season, or flower viewing, is in full swing. Butterflies are also commonly seen at this time, accompanying the flowers.

Next month, purple wisteria will be the flower of choice and in October (my birth month)? Chrysanthemums.

As westerners we often find the kimono and kanzashi of the geisha’s world to be beautiful, but what is often overlooked here is the history and meaning behind each choice. Little to nothing is done simply because it may be beautiful. Everything has a reason.

Kanzashi worn by a maiko in December (Found in Wikimedia Commons)

Kanzashi worn by a maiko in December
(Found in Wikimedia Commons)

Introducing the 5-Year, 1-Minute Journal


J is for Journal

I love keeping a journal. But I have a few problems when it comes to, well, keeping one.

1) Go big or go home. If I write an entry it might be ten pages, easily. I describe every last detail. Every possible thing I can remember. And entries like this can take all day to write, or worse, multiple days.

2) I have noticed a personal trend that I tend to pour my heart out to a journal at the worst times in my life and very rarely at the best or even mediocre times. It’s hard to stay motivated to finish or catch up on long, heart-wrenching or ranting-heavy entries. Very hard.

3) Oh the guilt. The guilt for not writing the good. The guilt for not catching up. The guilt for wondering if things I’ve written now are the same I will want to / need to burn in ten years. THE GUILT.

I’m a terrible journal-keeper. But my heart is in the right place, and just before Christmas I found the perfect solution.

I present… the 5-year journal! 

Q&A A Day

Q&A A Day

It’s so tiny and adorable! Just like old novels from the early 19th century and before. (A personal delight.) I never would have believed this quaint little book would promise to be my journal for 5 whole years, but it’s perfect.

The key? 365 different questions (well, 366, leap year is in there!). 1 question per page. 5 sets of four lines each, prefaced by a spot for you to fill in the year for which you are answering. Simply answer the question and that’s it! Five years from now you’ll be able to look back and see how you answered the same exact question five years in a row. I think it’s a brilliant idea. And for lazy journalers, journalers with little time, or those like me who get caught up in all the wrong things about journaling… this is ideal. Take one minute a day (a few more on the tough question days) and you’ll find it well worth it in the long run.

I was curious about the questions themselves, wondering what I would find once the book was in my hands, but so far I have encountered a wonderful range of both practical and impractical, silly and serious. Everything from “List 3 foods you ate today:” and “How late did you sleep?” to “What would you like to ask your mother?” and “What do you want to forget?” I’ve been asked to classify days as animals and myself as an art movement. I’ve talked about music and the weather and what I’m wearing.

For a small investment over a five-year span, I can promise it is well worth it!


Introducing the Samurai Guitarist

I is for Ishihara Takamasa

I is for Ishihara Takamasa

I didn’t used to care all that much for guitarists, but there have been several Japanese musicians who have changed that. Akihide is one such musician, and Ishihara Takamasa, better known as Miyavi, is another.

Miyavi is adoringly known as the Samurai Guitarist. Self-taught from the age of 15 (and only now 32 at the time of this post), his style and technique of playing guitar are extremely recognizable. He does not play with a pick and performs only with himself on guitar and his drummer, Bobo. Bobo’s performances, just like Miyavi’s, are also very unique. There’s nothing else quite like the pair of them.

Miyavi and his girls (From Miyavi's Twitter)

Miyavi and his girls (From Miyavi’s Twitter)

Aside from his music, Miyavi is also a bit unique as far as Japanese musicians in his willingness to talk about his family. Many musicians (and I assume most likely many celebrities in general from Japan) share little of their families and personal lives, if at all. If you follow Miyavi on nearly any social media however, you’ll see pictures of him and his girls, Lovelie and Jewelie, who he dotes on seemingly every chance he gets, and occasionally his wife Melody, whenever work doesn’t keep them separated.

The best thing I can do to introduce you to Miyavi is to share his music.

“Guard You”, Miyavi’s most recent music video released just last month. This is a calming and sweet song. (This song is primarily in English.)

“Girls Be Ambitious” is an older song from Miyavi, but one of my personal favorites both for its sound and message. This might be my favorite recording of it, during the special Samurai Sessions.

And finally something else recent and more upbeat. I’ve shared “Horizon” on this blog before, but it’s certainly worth sharing again with all of my new A-Z visitors! This song is also in English.

I hope you enjoy!

‘Tis the Season for Hanami

H is for Hanami

H is for Hanami

It’s spring, and therefore the season for “hanami”. The word literally means “flower viewing” in Japanese and most frequently refers to the viewing of sakura or cherry blossoms, but on occasion may be used for other flowers too, like plum blossoms.

Much like my favorite flowers (tulips), sakura bloom for a very short time. One of the most common ways to participate in hanami is to take a picnic to a park and enjoy it under the blossoms. But hanami can be as simple as appreciating the trees when walking down the street, or visiting them when at a temple or shrine. The tradition of flower viewing has gone on for centuries.

Sakura in particular go beyond beauty and have a long and rich cultural history as well. While they are vibrant and striking as they bloom, their life is also very short, serving as a reminder to appreciate the relatively short beauty of our own lives.

Have you ever had the opportunity to see sakura bloom, either in Japan or elsewhere in the world?

Sakura in Japan (Found via MorgueFile)