A time to grieve and a time to grow...

While usually this space is reserved for happier times of my photo adventures, sometimes it’s important to stop and reflect on the not-so-happy moments of the past to see where you have been and figure out where you want to go. This entry is about life.

It’s been a year since my mom passed away. Christmas music played as the nurses and technicians slowly took her off life support. A year ago today, I held her hand as she took her last breath. I will not lie, it’s not a pretty sight.

But that is life.

This past year, many of my friends have lost loved ones. Some were expected, some were not. It is during these difficult times that we discover our inner strength. Life is unpredictable. Life is ever changing.

Life isn’t always going to be a pretty yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City. We sometimes have to do things that we would rather not. Saying goodbye to a loved one is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. Dealing with it is even more difficult.

A myriad of emotions and thoughts flow through your body and your mind. Questions that may never be answered. Sadness, grief, guilt, stress, disbelief, denial, confusion, anger are just a few of the many emotions one may experience after the loss of a loved one.

No one can really prepare you for the journey ahead. It is a difficult road to travel. There are no road signs or Mapquest or GPS to show you the way. Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone deals with death in their own way.

I suppose the ultimate goal is to find peace. Peace in knowing that everything will be ok.

My mom wrote a letter for me to read after her passing. She kept it with all the important papers that she knew I would go through after she was gone. She wrote, “Do not be afraid to reach out for guidance and friendship.” Mom’s are usually right. While the journey may be difficult, with friends and family to support you along the way, you will get through it.

There is a time to grieve and a time to grow. Life will never be the same. There will always be that feeling that someone is missing. As time goes by, dealing with that emptiness becomes easier, but it never completely goes away.

Having lost my dad, mom and brother, I have learned to accept life’s losses and move forward knowing that they would never want me to be sad or unhappy. They only wanted the best for me. I am who I am because of them and now I must carry on the values that they taught me so that they can continue to live through me.

I have found peace knowing that they are always with me.

December 28, 2009 : Mom’s Eulogy

“Nice things come in small packages.” That’s what mom used to always say. At 4’ 9-3/4 ” she knew what she was talking about. And that 3/4 of an inch was important. I remember asking her “Why don’t you just say 4’ 10”?” and she said, “because that would be a lie”.

To this day, the only two lies she was ever caught in was her age, because apparently I had a big mouth and would talk to anyone about anything. I must have been traumatized because I know exactly where I was when Garrett saw her driver’s license and did the math. We were sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office waiting for a check-up. And Garrett exclaimed “You’re not 29!”

The other lie, I can’t tell you because there are kids present and I don’t want to be on Santa’s naughty list next year.

Mom taught me a lot of things. She taught me my first Japanese words. Abunai, kitanai, urusai, yakamashii and bakatare. Which mean dangerous, dirty, annoying, loud and stupid. Boy, I used to hear those words a LOT! Of course, it was always in that loving, authoritative way that only moms can do.

She told me not to brag, so I learned humility. She told me to be nice to others, so I learned compassion. She told me not to do anything bad because people would remember me because of my last name, so I learned to do the right thing. And she taught me how to be strong without even saying a word. Although she couldn’t lift heavy things or open the jar of mayonnaise, her spirit and determination were strong as a rock. With the exception of dad and Garrett’s funeral, she never cried in front of me. She didn’t want me to worry, even though I did.

When dad was disabled, she went back to work to put food on the table, clothes on our back and keep a roof over our heads. She never complained. Back when most women stayed home to raise the kids, she worked 9-5 for the LA Unified School District as a “secretary”, because that’s what they called them back then.

I remember going to work with her during the summer at Farmdale elementary. I’d go to class during the day, then after school I’d hang out with the janitor, Mr. Graham. The highlight was when they let me make copies on the mimeograph machine. I can still smell those chemicals!

She worried about me too. I heard from one of her friend’s that she thought she was holding me back, but the reality is that I was allowed to pursue the things that I wanted to do – to be creative and help others. I am who I am in large part because her love, generosity and patience gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams.

After she retired, she watched a lot of tv. Mom’s hearing was going, but of course she was in denial about that. So even though I don’t watch a lot of tv, I heard a lot of tv. I could always hear whatever tv program she was watching while I was working in my office. I knew a lot of what was going on in the world because mom would watch Oprah, Leno, Anderson Cooper and Larry King.

Mom loved watching sports too. Tennis was probably her favorite. Anytime a grand slam tournament was happening, the tv would be on tennis 24/7. Sorry Oprah, Roger Federer ruled the house during grand slams.

Now that she is gone, the house is eerily quiet and while I am thankful that I don’t have to listen to the Kardashian’s bicker over a handbag, I’ll have to tune in to Jay Leno, Larry King, Anderson Cooper and Oprah so I can keep up with what is going on in the world.

Life will be a little different now. While I don’t know what my future holds, I know that mom will still be spending the holidays with the people she loves. I will forever be grateful for the gifts that she gave me and I hope that you will too.

So next year on Christmas day, when you’re looking for that extra special present to open, don’t go looking for the big box with the fancy wrapping, because if you ask me – wonderful and amazing things come in small packages.


my new toy...

Alain and Eva's wedding : Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel

So earlier this year, I had one of my Canon 7Ds converted to infrared and have been playing around a little bit with it. I have a lot more experimenting to do to see how far I can push the limits of infrared, but for now, I have just been shooting landscapes.

So far, without much experimentation, it’s a fun toy. Making trees go white like they are covered with snow is an interesting effect that can’t be done in photoshop, even if there is an infrared filter that makes you think you can. It’s not the same.

Perhaps I should have converted a full frame camera, but I wanted to really use this for portraits rather than landscapes. So I’ll do some tests and see what I can create. In the meantime, these are just a few sepia toned pics from Japan and Hawai’i.


Diamond Head : Honolulu, HI

Himeji Castle and Cherry Blossoms : Himeji, Japan

Kiyomizu Temple and Cherry Blossoms : Kyoto, Japan

Palm Trees : Honolulu, HI


Tokyo : the amazing city, part 2

Ok, so it’s been over 55 weeks since I wrote part 1. Sorry. Hopefully it won’t be another year for part 3.

In part 1, I mentioned two of the three must do’s in Tokyo. The third thing you must do when you’re in Tokyo is actually get out and go south to Yokohama. While it’s not in Tokyo, it's only a short 30-minute train ride from Shibuya or Tokyo Station on a limited express train. Make sure it is a limited express or express train, otherwise you will stop at every station and it will take twice as long.

Yokohama is to Tokyo what Orange County is to Los Angeles – a good sidekick. It’s all relative, but Yokohama is less congested than Tokyo with only 3.6 million people versus the nearly 13 million in Tokyo. The Minato Mirai 21 district is where you’ll find some of Yokohama’s best attractions. With an amusement park, convention center, hotels, museums, shopping malls and Japan’s tallest building, one can spend a whole day here and stay within a quarter-mile of the Minato Mirai train station.

Cosmo World is Yokohama’s ala carte amusement park. Pay as you go. While it’s no Six Flags Magic Mountain, more like two flags, Cosmo World is still an exciting place to bring the family or go on a date. Complete with food, kiddie rides, arcade games and two roller coasters, one that spins 360 degrees and the other disappears underground amidst a spray of water. There is something for everyone.

The centerpiece of Cosmo World is Cosmo Clock 21, a 369-foot tall ferris wheel with a digital clock in the center. A single trip around will take 20 minutes and set you back 700 yen. The view from the top is worth it, but doesn’t compare to the view from the Landmark Tower observation deck located just a stones throw away.

Towering over Cosmo World and Cosmo Clock 21, is the Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building standing in at 970 feet tall, and home to a five-star hotel, restaurants, office spaces and shopping mall. From the observation deck on the 69th floor, the 360 degree view is breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. The view will set you back 1000 yen, but you’ll get a coupon for 200 yen off of a light snack or drink at the Sky CafĂ©. Have a drink and enjoy the view. Discounts available for seniors and students. Children under 4 are free.

A 10-minute walk along the waterfront will take you to the Yokohama Akarenga (red brick) Warehouses where you can eat and shop. Another 15-minute walk and you’ll be at Yamashita Park. Head inland and you’ll discover Chinatown.

There’s a myriad of things to do in Yokohama, more than I can write here. And since this is supposed to be about Tokyo, back to Tokyo we go.

While you're in the northeast part of Tokyo, venture down to Ryogoku and visit the Edo Tokyo Museum to see the amazingly detailed scale models depicting Tokyo during ancient times when it was known as Edo. The details will blow you away. When you’re done marveling at the models, go next door to the Sumo Museum. Check the schedule before you leave because it was closed the day I went, so I can’t tell you what’s inside.

There are a number of other areas to explore. Akihabara is where anything electronic can be found. Everything from diodes to iPods to plasma tvs. Anime characters roam the streets enticing passer-bys to shop in certain stores. For late night outings, Roppongi is the place to be. With plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants open until the wee hours of the morning, it is the party center of Tokyo.

Roppongi Hills is home to the Mori tower, with it’s own observation deck and art museum on the top floors and shopping mall on the bottom floors. You’ll also find the eight-legged sculpture “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois guarding the entrance to Mori Tower. It’s a good meeting spot. Tell any Japanese person to meet you at ‘the spider’ and they’ll know exactly where to go.

For people watching, nothing beats Harajuku, the anime center of Tokyo where people come dressed in full costume of their favorite characters. Next to the Harajuku Station is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, located in the middle of the serene Yoyogi Park. A great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. For just sheer mass of people, Shibuya Crossing is where you’ll find the young and hip at one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world.

For the artsy fartsy, there are plenty of museums to go see. For photo enthusiasts, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography on the ground floor of the Yebisu Garden Tower in Ebisu has rotating exhibits, a theater for viewing short films and a gift shop where you can buy cards, books, lomos, 3D and pinhole cameras.

Ueno Park is home to the Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Western Art and the National Science Museum. If you’re lucky enough to be there in the spring time, it’s also a great place for viewing the cherry blossoms as long as you don’t mind seeing them with thousands of other flower lovers. The Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, near Roppongi, is one of the newest museums and the undulating glass facade is a work of art in itself.

Tokyo is a vast city covering over 600 square miles, twice the area of New York City, and a population of nearly 13 million people. There is plenty to do for everyone. They even have the happiest place on Earth, Tokyo Disneyland.