Saturday, December 30, 2006

Baseball, Dad and Me

The summer before last, Jio asked me to write a story about him playing baseball with Daddy. I was inspired, and that night I dashed off what I felt was a heartwarming story about a boy (Jio), in a country with no T-ball, who just wants to hit some balls with his dad. Problem is, Dad is busy coaching his high school baseball team so about the only way he can see him is to turn on the TV during the summer tournament. Needless to say, Jio didn't like this story. As I read it to him, he frowned and said "When do we play baseball?" "Just wait," I replied brightly, feeling pleased with myself. There was a scene at the end where the narrator (Jio) finally got a moment with his dad. Well, I liked it. I sent it out to some magazines and book publishers and got a lot of encouraging rejections. Yesterday, my story finally found a home. It'll be published in Skipping Stones.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Family Stone

My last pick at the video rental shop was "The Family Stone." In this movie, Sarah Jessica Parker plays a rather high strung young city woman visiting her fiance's laid back, liberal family for the first time. At Christmas, no less. It was entertaining, but what I liked most about it was that one of the characters (the fiance's younger brother) was deaf. He was played by a deaf actor with a hearing aid. Everyone in the movie family was adept at ASL and signed whenever he was present, even if they weren't speaking directly to him. How ideal, I thought. If only our family was like that. As it is, Lilia has figured out that I am the official translator in this family and she looks to me whenever she doesn't understand what her dad is trying to say. I got him a hefty sign language book for Christmas. You can swipe a bar code for each sign with a cell phone and view a video clip of each sign. Hopefully we'll all become better at communicating withour hands.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Behold the Turkey

I cooked two holiday meals, including this one, with the four pound turkey "killed with a sharp knife according to Islamic rites." The sweet potatoes in orange shells, which we actually had the night before, were a big hit. And they were pretty easy to prepare. Just peel and boil about 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, throw them in the food processor and add 1 stick of butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup brown suger, 1 Tablespoon vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, 1/2 cup cream, 1 Tablespoon each of lemon and orange juice and some grated lemon rind. Whip it all up. Cut off the end of about 8 oranges, scoop out the insides and replace with the sweet potato mixture. Bake at 180 C or 350 F for 45 minutes. Fabulous!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Meaning of Squash

Yesterday my mother-in-law cooked some winter squash (nankin) for us because, apparently, one traditionally eats nankin on the shortest day of the year. "Why do you eat it today?" I asked, hoping for a more detailed explanation. "Because today is toji (the shortest day of the year)," she replied. Okay. Whatever. I suppose it has something to do with the Chinese characters that represent winter squash, a secondary meaning, or maybe there is a synonymous word that has some special meaning. If anyone out there knows, I'd love an explanation.

At any rate, we ate the squash, and in a week or so we will be eating o-sechi ryori, in which every morsel is weighted with meaning (fish roe for fertility and so forth). In the meantime, I am preparing a traditional American holiday meal that no one will appreciate as much as I will. Lilia and I made cornbread today. On Christmas, I will roast a small turkey which, according to the packaging has been killed according to Muslim law, and I will also prepare sweet potatoes in orange shells, mushroom stuffing - and pumpkin pie, if I can find a can of evaporated milk.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lunch with Lilia

Today was the last day of school before winter break. Lilia finished before Jio, so I took her out for spaghetti in her two-hundred-dollar dry-clean-only ceremony outfit, which of course now needs to be dry-cleaned. At one point, she stuck a straw in her mouth and signed that she was like a mosquito. Get it? The straw is like the proboscis. And the juice was presumably like the blood. She was exhibiting bad manners, but I couldn't help but be amused. And amazed. In spite of her paltry vocabulary, she comes up with some clever metaphors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why There are Dishes in the Sink

I've pretty much abandoned housework over the past few days in order to read Sarah Bird's The Flamenco Academy
I was disconcerted, at first, by the similarities between this and the unpublished novel in my proverbial drawer. As in Ms. Bird's book, my novel features a hopelessly white girl with a wild friend, and a hot, tortured Gypsy guitarist. However, while my story is set in the Midwest, this one takes place in New Mexico, and there is a lot of dancing. The flamenco lore is fascinating and Ms. Bird is a damn good writer.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My Weird English

Not that I spend all my time plugging my name into search engines or anything, but...the other day I discovered a reference to one of my stories in the book Weird English. In the introduction to the book, Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch'ien, writes "With increasing frequency in literature, readers are encountering barely intelligible and sometimes unrecognizable English created through the blending of one or more languages with English." Do you think my English is unintelligible??? I couldn't resist ordering a copy of the book. I'll let you know what she wrote about me.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Deck the Halls

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More Champagne!

A friend informed me that I was mentioned yesterday in the newsletter Publisher's Lunch, so I guess it's okay to tell you that....MY NOVEL IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!!!! Hooray!

Here's how the deal was described:

Suzanne Kamata's LOSING KEI, the story of a desperate woman who will go to any lengths to be reunited with her young son, to Ira Wood at Leapfrog Press.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I am a Hypocrite

For a few years now I have been yammering on about how I will never buy my children any video games or hand-held electronic devices such as Gameboys. I believe that children should read lots of books, engage in imaginative play with Waldorf-approved toys and run around outside. Yoshi thinks that children should run around outside and watch educational TV shows. Anyway. This year, what Jio wants most in the world for Christmas, what he has, in fact, already demanded of Santa, is a DS Lite game. All of his friends have one, and then there is the barrage of TV and print advertising meant to brainwash seven-year-old boys. After much soul-searching, and also finding out that some of my most-principled mother friends have permitted their children to have Nintendo DS games, I talked Yoshi into getting Jio one for Christmas...only to find that they are not available! I wasted an entire morning last week driving from mall to electronic superstore. Yoshi searched auction sites. He asked his fifteen-year-old niece if she would sell us hers, at a cost above the market price, if we couldn't find one before Christmas. Last Saturday morning, a newspaper flyer announced that DS Lites would be available at the mall. I sent Yoshi to get one, but he was too late. The store opened at 9AM, but a lot of other parents got there before him. We wound up buying a couple of used Nintendo DS games (not the coveted Lite, alas) so I can somewhat assuage my guilt by the fact that we are recycling.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I don't want her to be cut.

My daughter has already endured four operations in her seven years. This morning she told me about a dream she'd had where she was in the hospital, her head wrapped with bandages. I remember how when she was smaller, she used to cry in her sleep, and I always wondered if she was dreaming about the hospital, about being stuck with needles and surrounded by strangers. I shudder at the thought of putting her in the hospital again, and yet, I gave Yoshi permission to e-mail the famous Dr. Matsuo who has developed a surgical procedure that has enabled individuals with cerebral palsy to walk.

When I brought Lilia to school this morning, several other kids were jumping rope together. Lilia watched them while I was unfolding her stroller thingy and getting her bookbag ready. I wondered what she was thinking. Did she feel sad because she couldn't jump rope with them? Does she want to be able to walk? I think the answer to that is "yes."

Yoshi is most influenced by TV, which is where he learned about the great Dr. Matsuo. I am most influenced by what I read. In Life as We Know It, Michael Berube wrote about refusing an operation to have a gastronomy tube inserted into his newborn son's stomach. He and his wife managed to feed their son through a nasal tube until he was ready to take all of his nourishment orally. In Aurelie Sheehan's novel History Lessons for Girls, a doctor advises a particularly gruesome operation to correct a girl's scoliosis. Her parents decide to investigate alternative treatments - massages, yoga, faith healing - and in the end, she turns out okay. Harriet McBryde Johnson, author of Accidents of Nature, also refused surgery to modify the curvature of her spine. One of the characters in her novel defends the right of the disabled to give up on walking and use a wheelchair.

The doctor replied to Yoshi's email by saying that if Lilia wasn't walking by the age of four, we can safely assume that therapy alone isn't enough.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tests and the First Grader

Yesterday Jio remarked that he has a lot of tests. No, kidding. I started to tell him about the days of yore, when I was a first grader, and had no homework at all, not to mention tests. I just ran around outside with my friends or watched "Bugs Bunny." But then I realized that maybe that was not the best way to talk to my son about school. "Do you like tests?" I asked. He thought for a moment, and then he said, "I like spelling tests - a little." Bless his little heart! To date, he has never gotten a perfect score on an English spelling test. Whenever he gets a word wrong, he has to write it ten times. "Did you have to write the words ten times, Mom?" he asked. Actually, I was very good at spelling, but I didn't tell him this. "Uh, no. I don't think so." He sighed with longing. "I wish we lived in America." First time I've ever heard him say that! I'm afraid, though, that American kids now have lots of homework and tests as well.

Lilia has a math test today. Her teacher said that it would be mostly story problems. Whatever. I think that Lilia should learn how to read before she's expected to tackle story problems.