Idle Thoughts for an Idle Mind

I’ve been a bit pensive lately, contemplating things that are happening or have happened. Part of me is sheepish: why bother thinking about these things at all? I truly believe I’m on the cusp of taking back my true self.

I’ve been a bit pensive lately, contemplating things that are happening or have happened. Part of me is sheepish: why bother thinking about these things at all? Every once in a while, though, the collection of ear worms and idle snickers start their rustling and my subconscious spits something out.

A while back, I mentioned being a madwoman when it comes to making sure my upper lip is clear of hair. Genetics, hormones, the lighting hates me – whatever it may be, if I can see it, I suspect others can too.

Photo by Life Of Pix on

This special kind of ick extends to my nose hairs (among other things). I’m unfortunate having two peeled-back nostrils. I like to think of them as Big Foot’s ankles; just a peek of hair, teasing the carpet that awaits should your hand stray too high. I never paid too much attention to them and the occasional hairy tuft until an ex that took up way too much of time and is better off where he’s at told me “Hey, your nose hair is flaring.”

I reckon he meant well, but as the good people in our lives are always telling us, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  He’d notice and mention it often.

Almost seven years later, I still carry it around. It’s a dust bunny caught in the corner caulking. It’s one of many, in fact, that occupy the tiny spaces of my mind. Have glossy hair. Have no hair at all. Have smooth skin… but don’t mind if it’s next-day prickly. Surely, the list goes on and it’s not just relegated to women.

Having grown up and out, I’m high enough to look back and see all the small chips on my shoulders, collected over the years. Despite them being there, I hope to live in a world someday where these convoluted “expectations” people hold become simple preferences not forced upon others. Eventually, the chips will become indistinguishable, fading into the distance.

Photo by Nico Becker on

For now, I’m slowly coming to feel at home in this body of mine. With its hills and valleys, stretchmarks, stubbly hair, and handholds, it’s a work of art in its own right. It’s up to me to treasure myself.

Speaking of treasuring myself, I’ve started paying more attention to my healths. That’s right, I said “healths.”

Although I’m no gym bro, I’ve found a kind of comfort in taking brisk walks on nights when I’m not obligated to be elsewhere. During these moments, I take time to look around. Too often, I stare at the ground, determined to hurry along. I now literally stop to smell the roses, watch a bird on a fence, pst-pst-pst a stray cat, or simply take in the scent of a freshly built home.

And guess what. Even though I may experience that hitch of anxiety, demolishing the cycle of work, screentime, work, screentime, home, screentime helps. News breaking, I know. How often have you done the same for yourself, though? Especially, if you’re a workaholic like me.

We feel guilty for having that moment to ourselves. We feel guilty for not moving or looking busy. We feel anxious, thinking the projects we absolutely have to get done can actually… wait.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

That’s right. Once you’ve completed your high-priority tasks, all those Honey-Dos and half-baked thoughts will still be there for you. If they’re on your mind a couple of days later, sit down with them. How do you feel? Do they give you a thrill of inspiration? Do they start churning that motivation? If not, well… put them away. They may come back to you another time when your mind is quiet.

When all is finally calm, allow yourself to remember what makes you happy.

Art makes me happy.

Crochet makes me happy.

Baking makes me happy.

Seeing my flowers bloom makes me happy.

I truly believe I’m on the cusp of taking back my true self and basking in the foundation I forgot I had built.

…and I hope you find your way to that path too.

There You Are Again

In the thick silence, on your mind; Tiptoeing, the words between us; Your sleep in interrupted, there is no rest in sight.

Photo from

There you are again, on my mind

Leaving tracks, the treads from your shoes


A sense of loss



Our tape is damaged, there is no rewind.

In the thick silence, on your mind

Tiptoeing, the words between us


A sense of weight



Your sleep is interrupted, there is no rest in sight.

At least, mine is.

What token can I pay, the change in my pocket

A sense of regret



In the quiet of the night, there is no end to the buzz.

There you are again, on my mind


A sense of faith



Your whispers of love, I hear.

Even across this broken connection, there is an escape.

On the busy street, on your mind

Trudging, the calm you found there

A sense of hope



In our peripheral, rally forth.

I Dreamt You Moved On

I dreamt you moved on

through the muted green background

of the phones that once connected us.

The growing silence,

the spaced messages;

I tried to find the answers

to the universe’s rhetorical questions.

I dreamt you were a leaf

drifting along a stream to the ocean

full of the possibilities that once connected us.

Kissing me along the way,

resting for a moment,

enjoying the space;

we pondered the universe’s rhetorical questions,

for there is no use keeping you from the experiences you seek.

I dreamt you moved on

through to the muted green tides

of the oceans that now connect us.

Photo by Josh Sorenson on

Hi, hello. Can you help me?

Hi, hello. Can you help me?

I’m looking for who I used to be.

Unconcerned, dazzled by the simple

Things weren’t so clouded then.


Excuse me. Are you busy?

I’m looking for a life that’s a little less dizzy.

Uncluttered, easy to slide into

A soft, warm blanket would be welcome.


Oh, I’m sorry. Am I bothering you?

I’m looking for any progress that’s not been skewed.

Unbiased, quantifiable evidence

That might be easier to understand after tomorrow.


Do you know who I could call?



It’s important I find a sign.


You see, I miss her dearly.

She used to fill me with such joy,

Acutely affecting all facets of my day.


Hi, hello. Can you help me?

Things I’ve Realized AFTER Turning 30

The trends and habits of today’s youth are starting to baffle me. What is so appealing about smooth-skinned hot thangs swishing their hips to some random EDM? They all make me feel fat, ugly, and old.

Hi, there. You must be close to turning 30 or are already over the threshold if you’ve stumbled across this. Here, you’ll want this butt donut and there’s some refreshments on the table over there if you find yourself getting thirsty. Don’t worry, they’re all easy to digest and sugar-free.

Hm… you’re not looking too sure. It must be your first time. Nuh-uh-uh-UH! No-o-o you don’t! Don’t try and weasel your way out of using that donut. It’ll come in handy, trust me. Here! Take this and read up on what your 30s have to offer before I get started on more things I’ve realized.

What’s up, doc?

Forget things happening or coming in 3s. Let’s be real — that hasn’t happened in a hot New York minute and our bodies don’t bend that way anymore. It feels like mine has gone on strike and I’m having to go see a doctor more often than I used to. Before ya’ll get all high and mighty about getting out and exercising, I KNOW. I just choose to ignore it. I have zero interest.



Seriously, as we get older, seeing an OBGYN and whoever it is that tickles the insides of our glory holes becomes a must. Our teeth and skin start to take a dive, showing spots, weird dents, crooked wrinkles, bleeding at odd times, or just ashy AF no matter how much lotion we lather on. I’ve become increasingly aware and yet, am still in denial over the fact that I’ll have to talk to my local Smash-a-Boob about cancer screenings some time soon.

Totally disregarding the aforementioned ashinasty, any itch has me checking for rashes and bumps. Any slight ache of the throat has me hoping I haven’t caught the ‘VID. Any excess hair in my brush has me praying it’s just stress and not something more. Farts got me clenching my butt harder than usual, I’m seriously considering the benefits of therapeutic shoes, and my increasing disgust with bodily fluids has me washing clothes way more often than my nasty-ass teenage self could ever understand.

…ew. I can practically hear my mom telling me “I told you so! You didn’t wanna listen to me, didja?”

Sigh… and don’t get me started on how much money I’ve thrown at the dentist since my last blog post, but I’m just going to blame genetics on that one. Also, let’s tack on some recent news that I’ve received from my company: the mandatory health screening is due in two weeks. Doctors can see just about anything what’s not right with us through blood. Say a chant with me, charge them crystals, and light some herbs to prevent any voodoo on my read-out plz k thx.

Who am I? What am I?

And for some reason, having numerous health check-ups = grandma. Like, ¿que? ¿Cómo se dice BOOL-SHYEET? If you’ve noticed people treating you differently because you’ve added on a year, you’re not alone.

Not being “young” anymore has thrown me for a loop. 30 now has somehow brought back The Twilight Zone (the BW version, amiright?) and I feel myself being pulled two ways: one is to be the responsible adult and fit the stereotype of success, and the other is still trying to convince me I can walk in a short skirt and toothpick stilettoes without eating the pavement.

I mean, who isn’t coasting through life right now?

I’ve entered my 30s uncomfortably unprepared. The amount of things I just don’t know is staggering. There’s suddenly this pressure to read more, be woke, eat conspiracy theories for breakfast, and walk a political tightrope.

Barking Mad and Mentally Mental

These are my special guests: Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity and Guilt. Say hello, you freeloaders. If ya’ll in the audience know a good lawyer, I’d like a referral because these dudes owe me back rent.

I’m still baffled by the fact that life follows the movies. Y’know, the same opening scene where the main character is spread over a psychiatrist’s sofa, spilling all their worries? That one. I’ve entered that and it seems to be helping (!!). Yes, that’s right! I’ve taken a step in the right direction and am getting professional guidance on how to manage the unwelcome guests that have been squatting unhindered since forever. Their numbers have increased as I’ve gotten older.

But why is it with age, we become more self-aware? That means we’re noticing intrusive thoughts, poor decision-making, burnout, and whatever else this generation has going for it. Holding onto festering ideas and stress, morphing it into something normal, is not healthy.

Let me ask you, would you keep moldy fruit? You wouldn’t. You’d throw it out, beat back the mold stain, smack the flies with a newspaper (are those even a thing anymore?) and start fresh, right? I know that and you know that, and yet, some of us keep repeating the habit without a second thought.

Eventually, with the therapist’s help, I’ll be able to reform my habits and start saving money. If you’re struggling too, I gently suggest seeking third-party help, as they’re removed from your situation, triggers, and stresses, and can provide an objective eye.

Not understanding the young people

Unfortunately, those triggers can take any form and mine seem to be everywhere. One of them is social media with its intense saturation of young women flaunting their goods for easy likes. Seriously, we’re missing out on a profitable business. We’d have way more millionaires in the world if those likes were currency! On the downside, it really puts Insecurity at risk of setting Anxiety off.

The trends and habits of today’s youth are starting to baffle me. What is so appealing about smooth-skinned hot thangs swishing their hips to some random EDM? They all make me feel fat, ugly, and old. I’ve seen 2D characters with more dimension than them!

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Probably. More and more though, there’s a disconnect. I’m finding myself having generational shock. Y’know, like culture shock, but… between me and them.

Does Hobby Lobby have hobbies for sale?

And as we get older, many of us will fall into two camps: being super unmotivated or being intensely genki (Japanese for energetic, healthy). The genki folks undergo a transformation as they take on new challenges, start eating healthier, and overall becoming the superstars we all secretly envy.

Our views of success get distorted, and with that, comes apathy; apathy towards everything that once defined us. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to hold onto ungratifying pastimes. If you’ve stopped for valid reasons or absolutely need to change for your health, that’s fine. What I’m trying to say is that it’s sad when we stop doing what we love; when we sever that important emotional connection.

We end up becoming unmotivated. And what do we say to that?!

If this line ain’t a motto for a lot of people, I don’t know what is.

By the way, if having a mountain of unfinished projects stacked up around the house applies to you, raise your hand. Mine’ve been there for months. You might as well call me an odds and ends collector or Miss Money Throw-away ’cause that’s just about what it amounts to. If I take a moment to think about it, the oldest unfinished item I have is from like… around… 2011? TEN YEARS YOU GUYS! Ten years that project has been hopping from the storage bin to boxes to my floor and back to the storage bin.

I’m loathe to admit that I might have picked up the negligence from my dad. Seriously, why can’t those projects do themselves?!

There’s an upside, though. Slowly, I’m reaching back into my youth and picking up old hobbies. Do ya’ll remember boondoggles? Does anyone play with Tamagochis anymore? I would totally love to have my old Lite Brite back, dressed up in one of those gawdy princess costumes with the clickity-clack plastic pumps.


Truly though, this is where the panic sets in. Panic that you’re going to kick the bucket before you can get everything set and squared away. Panic about seeing people you haven’t reached out to in years. Panic over not being as organized and upstanding as you’d like. Granted, some people are more well-rounded and stable than you and I and they’ve already got a hefty 401k going, their eyes are on a house at the age of 27, and have several rescues they’ve fostered out.

What is the dream anymore?

It’s an all hands on deck kind of feeling. The deadlines you thought you were ahead of are either moved forward or they shank you when you least expect it. Perhaps you have a kid and you’ve realized you’re in need of self-help books for the eventual mood swings and goth period they’re bound to have.

Best have a lot of skip and reverse cards handy, or at the very least, some good pals you can depend on. There were plenty of times I wish I had them.


Speaking of friends, we either keep them always and forever or we gain the seasoned ones later in life. That seems to be my case, anyway.

Allow me some sentimentality. Friends are beautiful. They are a kaleidoscope of personalities, likes, and interests that are all, funnily enough, suited to us in some way. Just look at the number of quotes and sayings on friendship! I bet you could wallpaper your house with them all.

As we age, we notice more readily who’s valuable and safe for us to know and have around and… well… who’s not. Our view of people regresses back a couple decades, shedding the multiple lenses we use, and becomes much more straightforward. We literally have lost the patience to get to know someone.

Those friends come in handy too because, let’s be real, we’re all still scared of the dark.

Things I’ve Realized as I Turn 30

With age, our perceptions of things change. Long gone is the innocence of the world, the simple steps in life; wake up, go to work, make money, come home and sleep. I suppose the overcomplication of adult life could be simplified down to that bare minimum, but we refuse to see things so plainly. These are but one of the things I notice as I turn 30.

Allow me to guess. You’re here either because you’re about to turn 30 or are already in your 30s, yes? Great! I’m glad to have some company.

Grab a seat and get comfortable!

And so, it begins!

Before you know it, they’re happening. The incidents are small at first — little nuggets scratching at the surface of your awareness, wanting to make themselves known. Then, you’re stepping out of the shower and you’re pelted with a powerfully sudden derp. What am I talking about? Turning 30. Yup. For someone who doesn’t place too much stock on labels, I’ve unknowingly placed one on myself. Oh, the irony!

As it’s my birthday today, let’s talk about it!

In all honesty, I never imagined being at this point. Just as it freaked me out when I turned 16, 18, and 21, I’m unnerved by the fact that I’ve managed to live for 30 years. Even though my responsibilities have increased tenfold from when I was young and I’ve a changed view of the world, I still feel as if I’m a child. It’s certainly an odd sensation. There are some things I’ve started noticing about myself and my life, however.


It drives me absolutely bonkers. Insane! I’ve mentioned to my mom a couple of times, but I swear to God that the dust here in Japan is made up completely different stuff. My image is of fine, gray layers on top of mantlepieces and dressers — the kind of stuff that would stain a white glove. The dust I barely tolerate resembles lightweight fibers. They float at the barest breath of air.

And no matter how much I clean, how careful I am not to be more of a mess than I already am, I’ll still finding dust bunnies rolling around in the corners. Not to mention that it’ll all stick to the feet of fuzzy furniture if you let it.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Skin Care

This is a gray area. I care a lot more than I did when I was a teenager, but I’m certainly not at the level of some people. I thought my mom was nuts to not only care for her face while in the shower, but she’d spend so much time in the bathroom, layering on product after product. I didn’t understand at all. Heck, washing your face for washing’s sake was a foreign concept to me.

That is… until puberty struck and decided to turn me in an adult. I started washing my face in earnest and having beefs with the oil my T-zone produced on a daily basis. I was even sneaking off into restrooms to dab the excess with toilet seat covers, I was that desperate to keep my face from causing accidents.

Now, I’m washing my face twice a day, using (sometimes) cheap SPF, hyaluronic conditioner, moisturizing cream, and attacking regularly with my popper tool. Go figure.


For as much dedication I show my face (what little there is to start with), I kind of wish I showed the same amount to the rest of my body. It seems running wild is a habit I’ll never break.

I remember when I was around 10 years old when I noticed carpeting on my legs. Yikes. Because I wanted to fit in, I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me start shaving. That was a mistake, because now, I’m stuck in the stupid mindset that, if I want to look good, neat, and tidy, I have to shave.

Waxing armpits is for the birds, by the way, and I’m not even going to touch the phases I went through in regards to landscaping. Any dude that thinks they can exercise control over your body by telling you to groom according to their standards needs some serious re-education.

Overall, am I dissing shaving? No, it has its uses and many people do prefer to be slick, smooth, and shiny. Is it for me? I have my moments. The current obsession I have now is keeping my upper lip hair free.

Babies and Children

They make me happy. You couldn’t have gotten me to care for one when I was younger. Did I babysit? Sure. For money. Now? Pfft, give me all the babies! I spend my days now enjoying the energy my elementary school children have and watching my nieces and nephews grow up (by the way, did you know that’s what you call your cousin’s children? It’s the best!).

Children are indeed heartwarming. But there’s a flipside.

Being Single

After dating many times, I’ve developed poor post-break up coping habits and trust issues. It only took one more burn for me to swear it all off. In no time at all, all of the apps I had on my phone were wiped of their accounts and uninstalled. Dramatic much? I think not. When you’ve had the same conversations again and again, both in English AND Japanese, the whole idea of dating loses its luster.

I can only tolerate the same pub food for so long. And honestly? My wallet could use a break, too.

That still doesn’t change the fact that I feel lonely a lot. That empty area is glaringly obvious some days and I find myself contemplating reinstalling those stupid dating apps. The population of unmarried middle-aged Japanese men must sense it too, because the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m married, have a boyfriend, or are otherwise engaged in some way, has increased exponentially. Luckily, my close friends, family, and age remind me I have a backbone.


Speaking of backbones, do you take care of yours? Yes, I know, there’s a heated debate on whether or not supplements are even needed, but my diet sucks 90% of the time. That’s only one reason I started intermittently choking a handful of pills down in the mornings. Raise your hand if you’ve swallowed a big ass tablet the wrong way!

The biggest reason was because I developed dandruff and was desperate for a cure. Why go to a doctor when I could just follow the advice the internet gave me?

In between changing my shampoo and changing my diet, I bought fish oil, biotin, vitamin D, and multi-vitamins all in an effort to banish the nasty dancing around on my head. Did it all work? I wouldn’t mind being a test subject for a hard yes or no. For now, it all seems to have calmed down. My hair is no longer lanky, my scalp is oiling up again, and whoever was sprinkling salt all over my bedsheets has stopped.

Work Culture

With age, our perceptions of things change. Long gone is the innocence of the world, the simple steps in life; wake up, go to work, make money, come home and sleep. I suppose the overcomplication of adult life could be simplified down to that bare minimum, but we refuse to see things so plainly.

This is where my frustration with the workplace comes into play. Why is it, when we get older, we (unknowingly or not) become embroiled in the politics of it all? I’d gladly take the fun, carefree times at work during my early 20s over the seriousness I’ve seemed to have adopted now. Perhaps it’s my character, but I’ve noticed more and more people telling me I’m too uptight, too focused on doing a good job.

Now, it’s all “You’ve got to be more considerate of others, Ashley,” “You can’t let your mouth run off like that, Ashley,” “You’re gonna find yourself in trouble if you do that, Ashley,” or “What did I tell you? You’ve done it now, Ashley.” OH. MY. GOD. Just tell me what you want done and leave me alone. It’ll be on your desk by Monday morning.


With work comes stress. We all know it’s a killer. It slaps much differently than when I was bugged out of my mind a couple of years ago. I busted my ass working two jobs while pulling myself through school on so little sleep. Back then, I didn’t even bat an eye. It was my normal.

Now? I can pull an all-nighter and drag on for two weeks after that despite getting ample amounts of sleep. I won’t even mention the muscle aches. I don’t even think my neck and shoulders know what relaxation is. My hair, too, is showing signs of its loss of youth. I cheer whenever the hairbrush pulls a grey hair out.

The Passage of Time

Speaking of youth, did you ever notice how, when you were young, you’d want the day to hurry up and be over with or you’d think that you couldn’t wait to grow up — that growing up meant freedom?

Shyit, can I go back to those days?

While I still want the day to get on with itself, I feel like I never have enough time. I don’t have enough time to leisurely finish my tea in the mornings. I don’t have enough time to plan my lessons at school. I don’t have enough time to enjoy my hobbies (pfft, what are those, even?). I don’t have enough time to simply sit and stare a hole in the wall in an effort to get the world to stop turning for a damn minute.

It’s a weird psychological construct that we’ve developed and keep reconstructing since 4236 BC, Egypt. Are we cursed, as humans, to always be reminded that we aren’t eternal?

I suppose I’d take my human life over a fly’s. That’s way too much pressure.


By the way, have you become more organized as you’ve gotten older? Even though my mom tried super hard to instill within my child mind the benefits of being clean and structured, I still turned out a cluttered wreck. It got to the point that my folks would close my bedroom door and only enter if they absolutely had to.

Organization didn’t have a point. I hated it, actually. It made me feel like my home wasn’t homey. This pattern continued all through college, too. When I moved to Japan, things changed… and so did the number of baskets in my apartment.

Baskets are so damn useful. Instead of disarrayed clutter, I can now have organized clutter! It’s brilliant. They come in all shapes and sizes, can be stacked or connected. The options are endless! It’s too bad this basket case can’t be handled in the same fashion.

Remember, if it doesn’t spark joy, dump it!


They suck. I’m the sort of person who hates having only A or B. Why am I not allowed to have C or All of the Above? This is the sort of situation I seem to have found myself in as I live out this particular chapter of my life here in Japan. I can feel the blinders starting to dry up and peel off.

“Adult life” is waiting for me and, after having gone back and skimmed an old post on choosing between Japan or America, I suspect I’m having the same exact dilemma. I’ve fallen into the wash-rinse-repeat societal trope — at 30, it’s time to buckle down and say good-bye to youth. It’s time to take up the mantle of duty and be Best Girl. There’s also the ugly trend that says the older you get, the harder it is to find a job.

Can you tell I’m angry and bitter about the whole thing? What makes me feel worse is that I’ve gone and blabbed in the heat of things, thinking, “That’s it. I’m tired of dilly-dallying, the emotions hurt. I’mma just rip it off and move back home. Who cares if I’m ready or not?” My coworkers and family are doing their best to be understanding, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Las Vegas is going to have a hell of a time recovering — should I sit tight and wait? One dear friend did point out that I’m safe, have a stable job, etc. here in Japan. Why would I want to throw that away too soon without checking to see if the back-up chute is still good?

The knot of fear in my stomach hurts.


Overall, turning 30 for me means I’m taking a moment to look back at my youth, give it the consideration it deserves, before turning my eyes towards the wide unknown.

It means looking in the mirror and realizing this new kind of human is me. I must dig in deep into myself and find the fortitude that is unique only to this Ashley. It’s just a bit cluttered right now.

I must also learn that I can’t control everything or have everything the way I want it. The sooner I accept that basic facet of life, the sooner I’ll be out of this frantic cycle of caring and not caring.

Back Home and My Fortune (New Year’s 2021)

So, I’m late on the new year’s wishes and felicitations. That’s OK, right?

I travelled back to my hometown of Gotemba for the occasion. Arriving at night, the town was as quiet as ever. But I could see that the old royal residence wasn’t immune to the tides of time.

The Subway I had eaten at many times was no longer there, much to my dismay. They’ve been disappearing slowly across the country, I feel. Would anyone be interested in investing in some sub stock? I could really use a good sandwich!

A few steps from Subway, there was a ramen shop I’d aim to partake of every Friday to celebrate the end of the week, but that too was either closed or gone. I still couldn’t tell after squinting in through the window from across the street.

Here are some more highlights from my trip:

When I lived in Gotemba, there was a Tourist Information shop underneath a hotel across from the station on the north side. Imagine my surprise seeing this new, fancy building on the south side. Not only was this there, the city had refurbished its shuttle area, too. It’s certainly more organized now!
Sun Sun Plaza was a shopping center I’d often go to. It had a drug store, a supermarket, a Daiso, a small arcade, and a few clothing shops. No longer will it be standing there in the future, as it’s gated off to be demolished. I still have the sweatshirts from that place!
Mt. Fuji in the background. My camera phone simply cannot catch the closeness in which the mountain is. Truly, I feel such kinship with this icon of Japan.
The Gotemba Premium Outlets are a hotspot for shopping and deals on expensive items. The lines for Nike and Adidas were out the door with scheduled time slots for the Pokémon Store. I managed to score some new sweatshirts that are… hand wash only. UGH!
The hotel I stayed at had some osechi for breakfast! The konbu roll hit me a bit hard. They must’ve used something that tasted like peppermint. I didn’t enjoy it.

Lastly, I took some time out on Sunday to hit up my local shrine for my yearly fortune. Before you skip ahead, you can read what last year’s fortune had in store for me!

The quote about the plum blossom blooming after a hard winter fulfilled its prophecy as we all stumbled into a year with Uncle Covid. Seriously, who invited him? Not only did I have familial brushes with possible infection, I also lost my Aunt Judy. She had a brain aneurysm that ripped her rather violently from us and I’m still sad knowing I won’t ever see her again.

Let’s have a moment of silence. That 2020 fortune had “a sad event” pinned down to a T.

I panicked too after hearing that my only grandma had fallen and broken her leg. What a heart stopper that was! I thought I would have to drop everything and move back home. Mixed in there was a several month-long mental breakdown that had me questioning if I even belonged on this earth.

At Kenroku-en, a former royal garden! It was “super green” if y’know the reference.

Through it all, I managed to regain a sense of myself by concentrating on my painting, floral wreaths, and my relationships with my friends. Yay!

Another something that came true was the advice not to travel. I don’t think any of us saw a worldwide shutdown in the cards, but it happened! I ignored the warnings and was extra careful taking some time for myself as I worked my way around Kanazawa.

This year in 2021, my fortune is extremely lucky! I had some help from an acquaintance translating it. Thank you, Mika! The words of wisdom, too, are very auspicious.

渦を巻く (うずをまく – As the whirlpools spiral)

谷の小川の丸木橋渡る (たにの おがわの まるきばし わたる – Cross the log bridge over the valley river)

夕べの心地するかな (ゆうべの ここちするかな – You’ll arrive at your heart’s hearth tonight)

My interpretation is affected by others’ interpretations on Japanese ask sites in that there are difficulties ahead, but I have the faculty to overpower them and reach the other side. Life is a powerful current that pulls and pushes us where it may, just as the water in the river ebbs and flows.

Below is my complete fortune for the areas of life:

  1. 願望 (ねがいごと, negaigoto, hopeful wishes) – You’ll remember how to get over your misgivings.
  2. 待人 (まちびと, machibito, awaiting person) – They won’t come.
  3. 失物 (うせもの, usemono, lost item) – It’ll be difficult to find. It might be low to the ground.
  4. 旅行 (たびだち, tabidachi, travel) – Travel on a lucky day.**
  5. 商売 (あきない, akinai, business) – Buy stocks that have a low risk of loss.
  6. 学問 (がくもん, gakumon, school) – Be relaxed. It’s a good time to study.
  7. 相場 (そうば, souba, stock market) – Sell; you’ll have a large profit.
  8. 争事 (あらそい, arasoi, quarrels) – You’ll come out the winner if you wait.
  9. 恋愛 (れんあい, rennai, love) – You’ll have happiness.
  10. 転居 (やうつり, yautsuri, moving) – Now is not a good time.
  11. 出産 (おさん, osan, pregnancy) – If you are careful, you’ll have a safe delivery.
  12. 病気 (びょうき, byouki, sickness) – If you believe in the gods, you’ll be cured.
  13. 縁談 (えんだん, endan, marriage) – You will be tempted by others’ words.

**Have you ever noticed that there are markings on each day of the month on a Japanese calendar? These are called 六曜 (ろくよう, rokuyou) or the “days of fortune” and follow the Buddhist practice of auspiciousness. offers a succinct chart.

Screencaptured from

How was your New Year’s celebrations? Did you do anything exciting or did you just chillax and hang out?
Let me know!
Until next time.

Hey! What’ve you been up to?!

The dishes from Christmas dinner need to be put away.

I keep staring out of the curtained window, like I’m waiting for something to happen.

What is it artists use to record their videos?

Do I even want to push my art into the world and jump on that bandwagon?

A composition I threw together from some scribbles that were already on the page. Who knows if it’ll ever make it onto a canvas. (Dec. 2020)

Groan. I still have those Christmas wreaths to get started and finished.

Ah, and I need to start working on something for the company newsletter, too…

Can’t you tell that I’m super distracted? I’ve told my counselor a couple of times that being at home, unfocused, is a dangerous thing. It’s easy for me to slip into that dark corner and think little of myself. Last week was so busy and now I’ve got another two days to slog through. Where’s that teenager at? I need a right proper scoff and eyeroll!

Let’s get to back-pedaling.

No joke, I thought I was in trouble there for the last couple of months. I wanted to disappear, angry with everyone around me for not noticing how much of a mess I was becoming. Work was becoming increasingly busier, I felt incompetent, I held grudges against colleagues… I needed my screen to flash GAME OVER. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I not as good as everyone else? Why am I not more liked? If I were just a bit more like everyone else, I’d have more attention.

HURK BLARGH. How petty are those thoughts?! Seriously, I feel disgusted with myself. Combine those insecurities with the fact that my family seemed to be suffering blow after blow, I hit the end of my rope faster than I would’ve liked. I couldn’t, wouldn’t accept that all roads were starting to point me in other directions.

Change is scary. Acceptance is every scarier. I’m learning, though.

I’m learning to accept that I won’t ever be as popular as other artists, that my skills will stay where they’re at until I hunker down and practice. I’m learning to appreciate what I’m capable of doing already and now. I’m learning to love my determination and single-mindedness regarding my work as an ALT.* I’m learning to stop thinking “I’m always alone” and ask for help. I’m learning to be grateful for what Japanese I know.

Be kind and love yourself. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I’m worthy.

I’m valuable.

I’m not insignificant.

My work and my accomplishments in life will speak for themselves.

Just this month, in fact, I was notified by my branch that I was awarded Top Motivational Instructor. It’s the highest honor an ALT can receive in my company for superb work ethic. I’m still trying to process it! I certainly wasn’t expecting it — I even went to one of my bosses and urged him to remove my name from any kind of running. I felt I didn’t do anything this year to deserve recognition in… well… anything.

I hadn’t done any work with my English boards.

I completely scrapped my English newspaper.

I did absolutely nothing for my schools this year, but somehow… my supervisors and bosses recognized and acknowledged something I don’t see within myself.

Some time during this winter vacation I’ve got to make a small speech for the occasion. Who would I even thank?

I’ve thought about dedicating this win to my late Aunt Judy. She was taken from us rather suddenly this year and not from COVID. I feel I’d be more at peace with the whole thing if it had been that — I mean, it’s kinda become the taste in everyone’s mouths. Other than that, I have no clue on what to say. Have you ever written a speech before?

I’ve also seen some success in the wreaths that I make in my spare time. The praise I receive from one of my schools certainly helps keep the motivation going. They’re not hard to make if you’ve got some wire cutters, scissors and a lot of hot glue sticks. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Japan doesn’t have Hobby Lobbies. I’ve included a video from my Facebook page for your viewing pleasure!

2020’s Halloween wreath as featured on my Facebook page, Artleycoul.

Other ways I’ve been attempting to handle my stress and keep my mental health healthy is through baking; specifically brownies. My friend Carla, over at The Geordie Gaijin, seems to really enjoy them. I’m happy my sweets can reach her “cold, bitter English heart” as she more or less puts it.

I’m in a love-hate relationship with breads, too. It’s so incredibly easy to kill the yeast! I never seem to know when to knead the dough enough, so I’ve just kinda given up reading the instructions. I work it all until it comes to a consistency I’m comfortable with and give it all shove into my tiny oven. Which do you enjoy baking, quick breads or yeasty breads? I think my specialty will always be an improved version of my grandma’s banana bread recipe.

Photo by Pixabay on

A third method has been to write an extended letter to my dad. I made it to 11 pages (they’re small — maybe like B5 size) and stopped writing after December 2nd. I suppose it can be considered to be a really long conversation.

The lovely thing about the whole deal is that it got him in the mood to write me a letter, too. It arrived with my Christmas package! It’s always a pleasure to receive something as special as that from loved ones.


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt comfortable with airing out my thoughts. I’d like to invite you to join my artful progress by following my Instagram and Facebook page. Both hold a spot on my homepage. Let me know what you think and if there’s anything you’d like to see me try!


wk-171-impactSmack. Crunch. Shatter. All of them end in silence. And from that, the impact resonates within us; spurring us to produce sound and action.

Laughter. Cries. Applause. A determined light blossoms in the vast void of Us, ultimately taking shape as thoughts and half-baked, heartfelt nothings.

Like the air around us, all impacts are mystical happenstances. They leave us in awe of the overwhelming infinite-ness of possibility.

* * * * * * *

Lately, I’ve been wanting to improve. I look at the world around me and I feel like what I’m doing in life isn’t enough. It’s driving me quite insane.

But with the support of my friends and family, I have a very safe environment in which to panic, cry, and get better. I suppose my first foray into writing prompts proves that.

* * * * * * *

This prompt is brought to you by Sammi Cox and her Weekend Writing Prompts. Each week, a new prompt is announced with the only requirements being you use the target word, word count, and comment with the link to your post on her side.

If you know of any other writing challenges or prompt blogs, let me know! I’d like to continue challenging myself. And as this is something I’m relatively new at, please tell me know how I did in the comments.

Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects. – Dalai Lama

What is a hug?

In amazing human fashion, there are as many different takes on what a hug is as there are people on this planet. In my humble opinion, a hug is a place in which all is communicated and all is felt on the deepest of levels.

There is a scene from Dreamworks’ The Croods, where Nicolas Cage’s character, Grug, and Emma Stone’s character, Eep, a dysfunctional father-daughter duo, tearfully clasp one another to themselves as the movie’s climax unfolds. They’re not holding each other like an adult would a baby. They’re not carrying the other as one would a tool or vessel. What purpose could gripping another body in such an obviously upset manner serve?

Eep and Grug stand there in that moment, the movie’s music score swelling, on a cliff that’s crumbling around them as the world they know falls to bits. Earth’s crust is cracking, breaking. They’ve got to move! Already, their family is on the other side of the ravine, eagerly awaiting them with worry and terror plainly etched on their faces. It’s a real nail biter!

Secured in her pa’s arms, Eep cuddles up close. “This works good,” she says through her sniffles. “What do you call it?”

In famous dadderly fashion, Grug confesses, “I was thinking about calling it a hug” before throwing in a Dad JokeTM. “Because it rhymes with Grug,” he says as he shrugs sheepishly. “But you can change it if you want.” Eep manages a chuckle and throws her arms around her big, strong Daddo, telling him she loves the idea.

The Croods, a heartwarming film about family and preservation. I recommend it for anyone who’s into a slice of life, family road trip kind of movie.

Man, someone get me some tissues because that scene gets me in the emotions EVERY. TIME! There is a handful of reasons I could think of as to why something that particular wrenches, from the depths of my tender soul, such a deluge of tears and snot.

The Definition of a Hug

Can you imagine a time when hugging, a gesture we are so accustomed to, didn’t have a name… or even happen outside of coupling? A hug in itself, as defined by, is “a tight clasp with the arms; embrace.” How very straightforward and succinct. They suspect its first appearance in the English language was around the 1560s from the Old Norse word hugga, meaning to soothe, console.

Mmkay, so that’s starting to match what we know a hug to be. That’s certainly a lot more informative in regards to the movie I mentioned just a moment ago.

But what is a Hug?

We are beings with a consciousness. We are a veritable mass of muscles mooshed around a boney frame with this knobby, wrinkly blob encased within our skulls. It contains these vague, misty images we know to be memories. It releases hormones that allow us to move, breathe, digest, and rid ourselves of waste. It collects information from our five senses and somehow molds it all into reactions and moods.

These bits and pieces are what gives us an image… an interpretation of what a hug is. Crazy!

I set out and asked my friends and family via Facebook what they thought a hug is. Only a few responded, but I was intrigued anyway.

A Hug Is

Reassurance, comfort, love.

C. D., a friend, 30s

It’s anything and everything you need right now. It’s warm. It’s peaceful. It’s home.

K.M., a friend and coworker, 30s

A hug is the love inside you coming out through your arms to the one you’re hugging. It’s the friendliest way to say you care without being sexist, racist, religiously critical or too overwhelming. It gives back to you a feeling of well-being.

P.B., a family member, 80s

Closeness among friends.

G. T., a friend, 60s

…like a tip: it’s a sign of gratitude in a (usually) platonic way in the form of something vague and useful.

C. G., a friend and waiter, 20s

Holding someone you care for close to you with the purpose of feeling better or making them feel better.

S. C., a family member, 60s

A sign of affection. Happiness. Sadness.

M.C., a family member, 60s

[…is place where] there are no secrets.

D.C., a friend, 30s
From Google’s Reuse section

In amazing human fashion, there are as many different takes on what a hug is as there are people on this planet. If one were to take the time to make a word cloud of all the keywords from a free response survey, I’m sure real qualitative data could be gathered! Perhaps some of the top docs in the field have already done so.

Throughout the day, as comments continued to trickle in, one friend showed me an interesting perspective. She said something akin to “You must relax and remember to breathe in a hug. They’re not to be taken advantage of.” While I know her to have experienced many unfortunate and inconvenient upheavals in her life, I suspect this view was coming from experience.

What a Hug is Not

Other definitions of a hug are to cling together and to keep close to. Analyzed with a jaundiced and bitter eye, a hug can bring forth ugliness. It can make us remember times where we were oh-so vulnerable and an individual we thought we trusted took that openness in hand with a mean intent.

Touching a touchy subject, pedophilia and pedophiles have been in the news recently thanks to Jeff Epstein (seriously, what was up with that guy?) and the huge push for pedophilia to be recognized as a sexual orientation. Even now, in France, there is a public outcry to revolutionize old and out-dated views on what the best age for consent is because one victim decided to write a book about her encounter with a celebrated pedophile.

Not only that, but both men and women with a record of manipulation, aggression, and emotional abuse of their peers (among other things) use hugs to gain our trust and rip our finances, family, and peace of mind from right under our noses. What is their end game? Is it an internal drive they can’t rid themselves of? Perhaps they’re receiving some kind of divine vision from Up High. Do they feel this urge sometimes or has it been there since birth? I can continue to wonder in suppositions.

However, I’m certain we can agree on what a hug is not. It is not permission to do as we please with another human, their surroundings, or loved ones. It is not a green light to strip someone of their self-worth; for who are we to play an Ultimate Being?

A True Gesture

In my humble opinion, a hug is a place in which all is communicated and all is felt on the deepest of levels. It is a delicate dance that brings balance to us — a weakened state garnering strength from a sturdy source, a wail in the dark being soothed back to sleep, a celebration after much toil.

A hug is the hallmark of a strong community, a gesture shared among strangers and loved ones alike. It’s used to bring others into the fold, warm and secure.

Simply put, a hug is an aspect of true human experience.


For my next post, I’d like to discuss “silence.” But first, a poll!

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