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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Author's Return to Japan After 28 Years



After being invited to my alma mater in Kobe, Japan, I was asked to write a piece for the Canadian Academy Review.  Here it is in the Fall Issue.





An Author’s Return

Observing the Sunday morning activity at Hankyu Umeda station brought back those memories that come with so much nostalgia—the kind that almost forces you to abandon your plans, sit on the platform, and write.  That’s what writers do, making non-writers convinced that we’re a peculiar bunch; we carry notebooks and pens with the spontaneity of capturing life onto the page. I wanted to write about what was new since the last time I was in Japan.  My list consisted of cell phones, the Internet, Starbucks, Family Marts, 100 Yen stores, Yodobashi Camera stores, fashion, high-tech toilets, and my alma mater—Canadian Academy.   



When the train sailed into the station right on schedule, I waited my turn and then gravitated toward a seat by the window just as I had done as child. The other passengers were absorbed with their cell phones. Unlike the old days, no one opened a magazine or paperback. 

I reached in my purse for my journal and pen as a young girl with a Hello Kitty bag sat across from me.  Some things haven’t changed, I thought, and made a list of what had not:  Hello Kitty’s hair bow, vending machines that sell everything from cigarettes to energy drinks, student uniforms, the speed of the Shinkansen, the taste of hot takoyaki on a winter evening, and the politeness of train station personnel.

Twenty-eight years was a long time to be away from the country of my birth.  I felt like Urashima Taro, the man in the folk story who goes back home to his fishing village after being gone for three hundred years. I was both disoriented and delighted. I also felt a bit like a dork when I had to pull out my reading glasses. The last time I was in Kansai, I’d come back to visit my missionary parents and ended up taking a job as an ESL teacher.  Back then I was able to study train schedules without reading glasses.  Now I clung to them and just to be safe, asked conductors if I was getting on the correct train, especially when I had to take the JR Line, which I was unfamiliar with.  

There was no time to spend being lost; I had only eight days in Japan as Canadian Academy’s Alumna in Residence.



When I was a C.A. high school student, back in the 70s—about the time that dinosaurs roamed—we had a rickety school building where the floors and stairs creaked and the classrooms had radiators that hissed. Now the new school on Ryokko Island is state-of-the-art with a theater, two gymnasiums, an auditorium, and an atrium where flags hang from all the represented countries.  I was back at my alma mater and yet, I was in a space so new to me that I was at the mercy of ninth graders to get me to my assigned classes.

However, the curiosity of students had not changed.   After I gave a tip on writing for a specific amount of time each day and the value of setting an egg timer, I was asked, “What’s an egg timer?”  The students’ faces showed confusion until their English teacher explained the history of the wind-up device for keeping time, especially in the kitchen.  

“How do you not get lazy?” 

An excellent question!  Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to share all the tricks of the trade, so I made my reply succinct. “There’s only way to stay disciplined,” I said. “You have to plant your bottom on the chair in front of the computer. That’s the way writing gets done.” 

A boy in the back raised his hand. “Can you speak Japanese?” 

“After twenty-eight years of not using it on a daily basis, it’s rusty, but I can.”

I couldn’t help but reminisce about some of the missionaries from my youth who came from states like Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama and spoke Japanese in Southern accents.  A request was made.  “Can you speak Japanese with a Southern accent for us?” 

The thrill of the task was so great, and yes, I could have continued to talk in that syrupy twang for twenty minutes. But that was not what I’d been invited to C.A. for.  Quickly, I put on my glasses, looked over my notes, and finished the lesson with instruction on editing your writing. “You could be the world’s best story teller, but if your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure are flawed, then who is going to read your work?”





Except for Bob Hengal, who is still known after all these years for his terrific baking, all of the teachers were new.  I wondered if a few were actually high school students; they looked much too young to be teaching. One said that I had his permission to include him as a character in my next novel. 
 
“You can kill me off,” he whispered while his class engaged in a writing exercise that started with the line, I knew why the coastal town was haunted.  “Really.” He smiled. “I won’t mind if you do.”

On the weekend, I was grateful for two fellow class of 1979 graduates who met me in Kyoto for a mini-reunion.  After all, I needed to touch base with those who remembered the way things used to be.  Of course, Hanae Hosoda and Ioanna Sillavan recalled the long and tiresome walks up to C.A. when it was on the hill with the picturesque view of Kobe Harbor. They agreed that the school had felt old and creaky, but that it had been the familiar kind of old, like a worn pair of favorite tennis shoes.  Over a lunch of sukiyaki, and later, at a kissaten, we talked and laughed, weaving in the past with our current lives, our kids, work, and spouses.  No one would have guessed that it had been thirty-seven years since the three of us had last seen each other. 

My days back in Japan were a gift.  In the legend, Urashima Taro was given a lacquer box by the beautiful princess from the enchanted paradise under the sea.   Although she told him not to open it upon returning home, it was too late. The desire to peek inside turned Taro from his preserved youth into an old man with a gray beard.  

While I might have felt like an old graduate, there was a vitality that sprung while I was at C.A. In spite of jet-lag and culture shock, I felt renewed and rejuvenated.  I was so inspired that my current work-in-progress is about the return to my home land, the place where my love of writing began so many years ago.
And no, I do not plan to kill anyone off.

~ Alice J. (Stubbs) Wisler, Class of 1979
Author, Blogger, Bread Maker, Business Owner
Durham, North Carolina

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Some Thoughts on Home


Home, for me, is always going to be divided.  I was born and raised in Japan, with periodic visits to the USA (where my citizenship lies). As a young adult, I spent time in other parts of Asia and at age 24, returned to Japan to teach English in a church-run language school.  Osaka is where I met my first husband. My four children were all born in Durham, North Carolina where I've been able to put down roots over the last 28 years.

Recently, I was invited by my high school to go back to Japan and be their alumna author in residence.  Wow, for the first time I experienced culture shock in Japan!  After 28 years of being away, things sure had changed and I'd changed, too.  And yet, on the other hand, so much was familiar.  The coziness of having hot tea and a green tea Swiss roll at a kissaten (coffee shop), the crowds and pace of Umeda, the "calm feel" of the majestic city of Kyoto, the mountains of Kobe in the distance, and the kindness of strangers when I had trouble purchasing my ticket from a very modern ticket dispenser.

For the first time I didn't experience any culture shock when I landed back in the USA after the trip was over.  Being back in Japan made me miss it all over again and I wondered (before I left) how I would resume my life in the USA . . .   But my children, husband, and friends helped me to ease back to life here.

Home is such a strange word for me.  I will always feel that I have two homes.  When I landed in Osaka this past January, the alumni director of my high school said, "Welcome home."

When I landed in Newark, New Jersey, ten days later, my new husband texted me:  Welcome back to the USA. Welcome home.






Monday, September 19, 2016

Grit for the Oyster, wisdom for the aspiring writer




Writers, here's a new book for you to take a look at:


A powerful motivator for aspiring writers, Grit for the Oyster offers wit, wisdom, and inspiration to take that first step and persevere through the writing journey. More than a how-to, this confidence-building book is designed to draw readers to a closer relationship with God, to affirm their calling to write, and to offer pithy practical guidance from successful writers like Terri Blackstock, Martha Bolton, James Scott Bell, Liz Curtis Higgs, Dr. Gary Chapman, and David Kopp.

 "A treasure trove of encouraging words for writers..." New York Times Bestselling Author, Terri Blackstock

 Read about the Authors 

Suzanne Woods Fisher


Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction. Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research. For fun, too.
Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. She has an underlying belief in her books–you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles into your life: simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily, trusting in God.

When Suzanne isn’t writing, playing tennis, or bragging to her friends about her grandbabies (so cute!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Readers can learn more about Suzanne by visiting her website at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.


Debora M. Coty


Debora M. Coty is a popular speaker, columnist, lifelong Bible student, internationally published freelance writer, and award-winning author of numerous books, including Too Blessed to Be Stressed, and More Beauty, Less Beast. She’s also an orthopedic occupational therapist, writing instructor, and tennis addict. Mother of two grown children, Debora lives and loves in central Florida with her husband, Chuck, and desperately wicked pooch, Fenway. To learn more about Deb, visit her website at deboracoty.com



Faith Tibbetts McDonald


Faith Tibbetts McDonald is a contributing writer to Discipleship Journal, Christianity Today, and has written Bible studies for www.christianbiblestudies.com. Additionally, she has participated in writing guides for parents at Christian Parenting Today and is a university writing instructor.



Joanna Bloss

Joanna Bloss is a writer for Christianity Today and Enrichment Journal—A Journal for Pentecostal Ministries. She is also a contributing author to Barbour Publishing’s 365 Daily Devotions for Young Women.



Grit for the Oyster is available at Amazon and other online retailers. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Our own log cabin mailbox!



Once more, I see that I have neglected my blog.  I suppose it means that I'm so fully immersed in our business, Carved By Heart, that I haven't made the time to write here.  Actually, being busy with orders is a good thing.  It's always rewarding when products we sell are ordered and appreciated.  Like our one-of-a-kind mailboxes.

We often talked of wanting our own log cabin mailbox, but the orders kept coming in so that we weren't able to snag one for our own.  And then, determination set in, we made an extra one and before it could be ordered, we claimed it.  As ours!




 We even added a dog log cabin, food bowl, little mailbox and a fence.  On the back left side is a pile of logs.  You can see that we had fun with our mailbox!

To see more photos and more descriptions about our customized mailboxes, please visit our Etsy Log Cabin Mailbox page.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Wishing Well

This past Saturday was a great day to be outside. The humidity was low and the sky was a beautiful blue. I was thinking a long walk or a picnic would be a good idea, but Carl had other plans. Earlier I said I'd help out, so how could I back out?  Saturday was the day we stained and painted our wishing well that sits at the front of our yard by the mailbox.  Carl built the well two years ago and it was in need of some TLC. The wood was begging for paint and stain.





The project took about 5 hours, and at the end, Carl said I should add a sign I'd painted weeks ago --- WELCOME. At first, I wasn't sure the sign would add to it, but then I began to see he was right. I think the sign gives it that extra "accessory" that makes it sparkle.

As we cleaned brushes and put lids back on paint cans, Carl said, "See? We can work well together."

If you are in the neighborhood, you are welcome to stop by and have a look.  Feel free to toss in a coin or two, make a wish.  And if you'd like to purchase the wishing well and transport it to your yard, we're open to that.


 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Random Reflections of a Passionate Neglector



This morning I announced that I'm a Neglector.

I said it aloud: "I am a Neglector," and instead of feeling bad or beaten up, I felt honest and authentic. I had admitted a truth about myself and apparently, that's okay to do.

I neglect so many things from the master bathroom to friends to projects to this blog. I think one of my problems is that I have great ambition but the follow-through is lacking.

Acknowledging that I start things and don't complete them actually frees me to focus on what I have started and have finished. And it brings me to what I want to do, what I would do if I had more hours in the day.

Life can be crowded with all the things you have to do----pay the water bill, buy groceries, earn money, sleep, take a shower-----and pretty soon you realize that you are going to have to make time for the passionate things, the things that call your name when you stand before a sunrise and take in its beauty.

I'm all about lists, especially To-Do ones, so I made a list.  This was not about want needed to be done, but the kind of list to boost my ego.  I jotted down the recent small tasks I had accomplished: cutting old clothes for rags in our workshop (our woodworking business), having family over for Mother's Day, crafting my own recipe for a summer iced drink, arranging for a lawn service to mow our weeds--- er----yard, washing the car (that was on my to-do list for three weeks) cleaning the downstairs bathroom (guests do have to use this one).

As I reflected on my list, I realized that often it's important to have only a few projects at a time.  What's the point in overdoing it?  And is it wise to put whimsical ideas down on a To-Do list?  Learn to play the saxophone, learn to paint like Monet.

As much as I love the feel and smell of the Lowe's and The Home Depot nurseries at spring, I know that I'm not going to be a gardener.  Yes, I love the idea of growing our own tomatoes and have enjoyed sun-ripened juicy Better Boys from a small garden we used to have.  But when I hear my gardener neighbors talk about how they find peace and serenity while working in their beds of lettuce and Swiss chard, I know that right now in my life, gardening is a whim; I am not willing to take the time to dig in dirt and remember to water. That does not bring me any tranquility. I do, however, appreciate the produce from their gardens that my neighbors share with me. I'd like to be passionate gardener, but I'm not going to throw myself into it because I have other things that are calling me in louder voices.

Our business calls me because it allows us to make money to pay things like the electric bill and buy wine and cheese. When a business is new, it takes all your time and then some.  You have to promote it, come up with new ideas, iron out the kinks, make it work. It's both exciting and exhausting (as is working with my husband).

Lately, I ask myself if my desire to accomplish something stands the test of time. This comes with knowing myself and doing some serious self-examining. Is this a goal I really want to accomplish? Is this goal feasible? Do I need another task to neglect?

It seems these days I have few hours in the week to read for pleasure and to write. I dream of spending a week at a cabin by a river and eating chocolate, reading for inspiration, and being creative. Writing my memoir has not just been softly calling me; it's been hounding me  After four years, I still want to do it. Over the years, I've written articles for publications about making time for writing. I made it all sound possible and I know it is, but that was when I was a full-time author.  Now we have a full business and between promoting it online, emailing customers, and helping my husband with crafting the orders, there leaves little time to be creative.

I steal moments here and there to work on my memoir.  I might be 60 when it's finished, but I won't neglect it because it is my passion.  I want to persevere. I just hope I get it completed before I die. 

How about you?  What do you neglect?  What have you given up in order to pursue your passion? How do you find the time/make the time to do what beckons you at sunrise?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Morning with Author Rose Johnson


This morning, I'm glad to have Rose Johnson at the Patchwork Quilt Blog to tell us about her new novel, My Father's House.






Growing up, life is idyllic for Lily Rose Cates due to her one constant – her father’s love. But in her sixteenth summer, all that changes without warning with her father’s sudden death. There begins Lily’s struggle to find herself and a life she thinks is gone forever.   

Marriage to her prince charming promises fulfillment, but their happily-ever-after barely survives the honeymoon. Beneath the sophisticated fa├žade lies a brooding man who hides dark secrets. When all Lily’s illusions of happiness shatter, she must make hard choices – abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about. . . . 

In spite of heartbreak and regrets, will she find the strength to survive whatever comes? Or will her husband find her and shatter all her hopes . . . again. This is one woman’s compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to faith and who she’s meant to be . . . in her father’s house.


 What others are saying about My Father's House:

Fast-paced and entertaining, Rose Johnson crafts a debut novel that is sure to delight readers.
--Alice J. Wisler, award-winning author of Rain Song and How Sweet It Is

Talk about a book drawing me in! I was enchanted by Lily Rose from the beginning and very much wanted to know how her story unfolds. My Father’s House is at once a sweet romance and a page-turning thriller. Kudos to debut novelist Rose Chandler Johnson for a job well done!
--Ann Tatlock, award-winning novelist

Rose Chandler Johnson has written a story that tugs at your memories and your heart. Even when loving the wrong man creates devastating hurt and pain, she shows you can turn back and God will lead you through the darkness into the light. Take the mistakes, bring good out of bad and lead us back where we belong with those who love us, pour joy in our hearts and give us a new beginning.
--Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine.







About Rose . . .  
My Father’s House is Rose’s first novel. Her devotional journal, God, Me, and Sweet Iced Tea: Experiencing God in the Midst of Everyday Moments won the Georgia Author of the Year Finalist Award in 2014. It was also awarded the Selah Finalist Award in the same year. Rose enjoys writing for her blog, Write Moments with God and engaging with her readers. A native Georgian, Rose has lived in a suburb of Augusta for the last thirty years. Before retiring from Georgia’s public school system, Rose taught English and French. She is currently an adjunct English instructor at a community college. In addition to reading and writing, Rose enjoys cooking, sewing, gardening, and spending time with her six children and their growing families. And yes, sweet iced tea is her beverage of choice.


My Father’s House is available on Amazon. http://amzn.to/1oM7DdF
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1S9s2af

God, Me, and Sweet Iced Tea is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart.com, Christianbooks.com and through your local independent book stores.


Connect with Rose:
Blog:  http://www.writemomentswithgod.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rechanjo
Pinterest:   http://pinterest.com/rosecjohnson/boards/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosechandlerjohnsonauthor
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/18188725-rose-chandler-johnson