It was one of those weeks. Without even going into details, you know exactly what I mean. A crappy Monday that progressively got crappier each day.

My cat would not respond to me nor eat her food, and this was a cat that would steal saltine crackers from your hand. She required an emergency visit to the vet.

I made a mistake in my data for work. No, a mistake implies one. I made 44 mistakes, and had to issue corrections to frantically make the 5:00 pm deadline, but I got it done.

The next day a technical glitch in the office informed me my numbers did not upload. The square on my computer monitor informed me I was in read only mode and can’t do anything.

I went back to the document, a bit befuddled on how I switched to read only mode when there it was, glaring at me from my computer screen, a typo. How did I miss that? Thank goodness the upload failed. With a clickety-clack of my keyboard, the number went from 10.52 to 10.25. Done. All I needed was to close out, reopen and click “stage.”

“Numbers failed to upload.”

Again.

Frustrated, I reached out to my boss to see if he had any insights on to what was happening.

“Your numbers are there.”

Oh good. They staged the second time.

Only they didn’t, they staged the first time, with the typo. I didn’t notice (I can’t look at the uploaded numbers), my boss didn’t notice, but the proof-reader noticed. You do not want to force your boss to work late in order to issue a correction to your mistake. It’s a bad feeling.

The next day my boss sent a meeting invite to the team about mistakes and corrections. Everyone knew this was directed at me.

I missed the meeting.

I saw the email invite to it, too late – after it happened.

We’ve all hit that point at work where the urge to grab your favorite coffee mug, your keys, and walk out without saying a word, and not come back on Monday, or Tuesday, or, well, ever. That Friday afternoon, I had hit that point.

With a few deep breaths, I finished my work, and used logic to talk myself in to returning next week.

Next week would be better.

I hoped.

But there was something at home that would make all the work tension fade away, forgotten until the day after Labor Day.

The Advanced Reader Copy of Whiskers Abroad: Ashi and Audrey’s Adventures in Japan was delivered! Years of work would suddenly materialize in my hand as a real physical book.

I burst into the house, immediately in a better mood than when I left the office.

“Any packages delivered?” I asked my husband.

“No.”

My shoulders sagged. I didn’t know if I had it in me to wait one more day.

I texted my publisher, “no book delivery today.”

“But Amazon said it was. They sent me a picture.”

She showed me the photo, a photo of a cardboard box in front of a white door, white siding, and a sign to the left that stated “beware of dog.”

I didn’t have a dog.

Or a white door.

Or white siding.

My heart sank. My package had been misdelivered and who knew where. I didn’t recognize the door.

My husband sprang into action, declaring he’d go door to door to find it if he had to.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to. The publisher texted the address the delivery driver left the package.

We walked across the street (across the street I said, which means I didn’t even remember what my neighbor’s door looked like! What is wrong with me?) and fetched the book.

Unable to wait until I got home, I tore into the package and showed her the book.

I glanced at the dog sign.

“Do you have cats?”

“Two,” she said and waved at the sign, “I’m more of a cat person. The sign is there to, you know.”

I did know.

I thanked her for keeping the package save and returned home. She promised to buy a copy.

I sprinted home.

In my hands was the book.

A bit surreal.

And all the week’s worries forgotten.

P.S.  My cat was fine by evening time, and her blood work came back showing she’s a healthy feline. We suspect she ate something she should not have.

Whiskers Abroad celebration
Celebration time!

Recently,  I’ve been getting questions from fans about the book, Ashi, and Japan.  In the next few months,  I will attempt to answer them.  If you have a question of your own, please put it in the comments section.

Do you (the author) like Anime?

I was a huge anime fan in college and while at the University of Texas attended the anime club on Fridays.  Sadly, I haven’t watched any in a while so I’m not up to date on recent stuff, but what little I have seen,  I have enjoyed.

Do you play video games?

I’m not much of a video game player.  If given the opportunity, I’d much rather read a book, or bake bread, or dance around the living room to World Order. I hope one day to meet Genki Sudo and the rest of the group in person and that we will dance.  If you don’t know who World Order is,  check them out here – World Order

Would you ever move to Japan?

Absolutely!  But I do think it would be difficult, especially leaving behind my family and friends. I’d have to figure out how to bring Frenemy along, and to find an apartment that would allow her.  I also suspect that the Japanese work ethic and I might have some issues. Long hours at a job I don’t have much passion for scares me. I know there would be an awkward transition, but ultimately, I think I would like it.

Do you have any pets other than your cat?

Right now, all I have is the one cat, Frenemy. She’s cute, an awesome hunter, and friendly towards me and Jim (my husband). I wish she’d get more comfortable around strangers though. She is terrified by them. My previous cat Asti loved people. It didn’t matter if she had met them before or not. If they would pet her, she was happy.

Do you drive a Japanese car?

Right out of high school I did.  A Nissan Sentra that got amazing MPG. Then I switched to a Korean car, a Hyundai Accent.  Now I have a convertible mini-cooper.

Will Audrey and Ashi continue to other locations?

Yes! They are curious about many other countries, not just Japan.  Perhaps South Korea will be next, and naturally, more about Japan.  You can’t cover it all in one book, or even a dozen books. Look for more Ashi and Audrey books in the future.

Will there be a recipe book?

I haven’t thought about doing one, but if the demand is there I will. Maybe I’ll feature a recipe once a month on the blog. I do love Japanese food and cooking.

To leave a comment, click on the title to take you to the blog post with the commenting option.  There has to be a better way than this,  but I don’t know how right now.  I am working on it.

Molly & the Ringwalds plus Jumbo Ashi

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you managed to schedule spending time with family and friends, or doing something that you enjoy. This holiday should lure you outside to grill up burgers, veggie or the muscle kind, while swatting away mosquitoes or you could just chill while watching the colorful fireworks explode against the night sky.

I will be doing none of the above. I made the decision to remained holed up inside so I can work on my costume for the Comicpalooza panel I was going to lead. Who needs fun outside when you can make a costume?

To create the base of the costume, I needed a pair of white leggings. Perhaps I should have ordered them online a few weeks ago, but the local stores in Houston assured me that the unflattering pants waiting for me on the shelf.  All I had to do was drive to the store. It would only cost $10.72 in gas for the round trip, my time, and sweat lost because of the 100-degree heat.

This way I could check out the thinness of the fabric, and determine if the waist band would come up to my arm pits. High rise pants and a short person is not a winning combination.

None of the stores had them in stock. I scrambled back to my house and got on my laptop, (I’m not a google-search-on-your-phone kind of gal.) and I found myself out of luck.

Too sheer. Too expensive. Too long to ship. Too small. Too big. My inner-Goldilocks must have gone on vacation, because I did not find anything “just right.”

A sinking sensation filled my gut. Without my base, how would I pull off the fabulous costume?

What would the host of “At Home With Amy Sedaris” do? She would wrap paper around her legs, and tape them to make pants. They’d be stylish and functional and would make crinkling noises when you walked.

I don’t have tape. Besides, once you get them on, how do you get them off without ripping them?

Wait, I could purchase gray leggings and bleach them white.  That should work.

Don’t comment on that.

In any case, I will make my costume, however good or bad it turns out, and pictures will follow on my website and social media pages. Stay tuned!

white leggings

Thank you everyone who turned up for the party this past Thursday! It was great to talk to you. My heart got gooey-ooey over the support, and my eyes a bit misty. It meant a lot to see how many people are supporting me. Now, go out and convince ten people to buy a copy. 🙂

Make a list of things you’d like to do,  but understand,  you cannot do it all so don’t even try.

Things to do in Tokyo, in no particular order.

  1. Go to a department store and go to the basement.  Here is a world of wonder all dedicated to eating.  Sometimes there’s samples.  It’s packaged foods,  a grocery store, green tea,  a few casual restaurants…. It’s amazing.
  2. Watch the Shibuya crossing – over 1000 people cross with each change.
  3. At the end of Nov,  the Christmas Illuminations will light.  You can see them in Ginza, Shinjuku and I’m sure a few other places I’m not thinking of right now.
  4. Shinjuku Robot Show is a must!  Book your ticket through a concierge or Japanican (often the cheapest).  Do not get the ticket that includes the meal because the food there sucks and there are too many amazing places in Japan to eat at to waste a meal.  Also,  go to the location early to see where to go.  It’s a bit confusing.  You go to one location to get your ticket and another for the actual show.  Do not read up about it, or watch videos or look at photos before hand.  You want to be surprised and delighted when you see it.  Not knowing about it before hand increases it’s charm.  I will say this,  it’s kind of like animae on LSD. And bring earplugs. It did not survive the Pandemic.
  5. Buy some clothes!
  6. Shop at Uniqlo for affordable clothes
  7. If you are into creating art,  one of the world’s largest art supplies store is in Tokyo.  If interested let me know and I’ll get the address for you.
  8. Go to Yodabashi or BIC camera to check out the latest electronics. If at Yodabashi,  bring earplugs.  Their jingle plays on repeat, and it’s awful.
  9. Spend a decent amount of time exploring Shinjuku station.  It is its own city.  There’s over 120 exits.  And don’t feel bad about getting lost there, even people living in Japan say they get lost.  It is the busiest station in the world.
  10. If you like kitchen stuff,  go to Kappaboshi. It’s the restaurant supply district but is open to the public – you’ll find knives,  fake foods,  plates, etc.  Also the Panasonic home stores have kitchens set up to view.
  11. Eat at mister donut
  12. Try some Japanese wine,  but you are warned – it’ll give you a nasty hangover so just drink  a little.
  13. Go to Odaiba.  Also, there is the Toyota Showcase with their latest cars and their concept cars.  There’s a huge ferris wheel too (the Japanese LOVE ferris wheels),  a mock statue of liberty,  the science museum, and an onsen theme park.
  14. Pick a train station/stop,  get out on foot and explore
  15. Eat ramen at Shinagawa Ramen Row. – Ramen shops are operated through a ticket machine as a lot of casual restaurants are.  Select your choice (most likely it will be random unless your kanji and hiragana reading is amazing), put your money in, out comes the ticket, hand it to the host and wait for your food.  They tend to be crowded and not a place people linger but oh so fabulous food. – shinagawa ramen row is now closed.  There is a ramen row inside Tokyo station.
  16. Yoyogi park and the temple there- If you go on a Sunday,  you can see teenagers in wacky outfits and maybe see a wedding at the temple.  If you are there during Thanksgiving,  you might get to see the 7-5-3 celebration.
  17. Pick up a good Tokyo subway map.
  18. Saturday night go to Shinjuku’s kabuchiko (red light district) – and watch the host boys strut their stuff.  To get a glimpse into this sad world, watch the documentary the happiness space: tales of an Osaka love theif,  before you go. Also wander around and check out the different love hotels. 
  19. I haven’t done this yet but it’s on my radar for my next trip – the 3d/VR video arcades.  Currently there’s about 6 in Tokyo
  20. If you like cats,  a cat café.  Pay a small fee to hang out with cats.  There’s a lot of rules… but then again… it’s Japan.  They love rules.
  21. Drink coffee in a kissaten – an old school coffee shop
  22. While it may be tempting to go to an Izakaya – Japanese style bar – very few have English menus or people that speak English. And for some reason,  communication just breaks down in these places.   I’ve been to one that had an English menu, but it was a chain and felt like going to Bennigans to experience a “ real” Irish bar.   If you do want to go to one,  either make sure your Japanese is semi-decent or go with a local. All the food and drink items are written on paper taped to the walls.  In Kanji. 
  23. While not the best quality sushi,  it is a lot of fun – a rotating sushi restaurant (there’s a bunch in Shinjuku)
  24. Go to the top of the government building – great view and it’s free.
  25. Go to the Toto store to check out the latest toliets.
  26. Have a drink at the top of a skyscraper building – the Park Hyatt is the most famous but does charge a $20 cover to get in, plus your drinks.  The Top of The Shinagawa – at the Shinagawa Prince hotel  has no cover.
  27. There are lots of tiny weird museums in Tokyo like the samurai sword museum, the kite museum,  the fire museum,  the Edo Period museum, the currency museum, etc etc.   But they can be hard to find.  Addresses don’t make sense to Americans.  Building numbers are based on when they were built,  not in the order they line the street.
  28. I’ve never done this but always wanted to.  You’ll probably need a translator though.  There’s a natural disaster museum, but it also has a fire simulator, where they stick you in a stairwell and fill it with smoke and an earthquake simulator to feel what a major earthquake is like.  I think it’s free but you need reservations.
  29. The parasite museum – all exhibits are in Japanese but you get the idea.  I found it fascinating.
  30. Repeat #14 using a different stop
  31. Kijichoji neighborhood has a different feel to it. Explore, eat, and stop in the Inokashira park for some greenery,  maybe take a ride in the duck boats.
  32. There’s a ramen museum in Yokohama.  It’s OK.  If you are in the area, check it out, but I’m not sure I’d go out of my way for it.
  33. The park in Shinjuku near the Government building has a yard sale on Saturdays. 
  34. Ueno area has a more old school feel to it.  Explore the back streets and buy some crackers from a store that has been selling crackers for 120 years.  Also check out the shops near Ueno station.  It used to be the black market.   And there are stores between Ueno and Asakusa that sells only red underwear to old men and ladies.  They think its lucky underwear. Ueno park often has live concerts at night.  Sometimes they are idol shows.
  35. Stop in a pachinko parlor and even play if you think you can stand the noise. 
  36. There is a bamboo valley in Tokyo.  Really cool,  a bit tricky to find.
  37. There’s a random Godzilla statue in Ginza.
  38. If you like watches,  there’s a watch store next to the Takashimaya department store,  Nihonbashi location. Owned by the Takashimaya.  Be prepared to have the staff handle the watches with white gloves on.
  39. Check out the oldest department store – Mitsukoshi Honten in Nihonboshi.; Although the Daimaru is right behind it in terms of longevity.
  40. Go to Akihabara for the otaku culture,  but honestly,  otaku culture has moved to Nankano, or so I have been told. Still, in Ikeburo you’ll get to see maid cafes,  nerds,  etc.
  41. I haven’t done this but people who live in Tokyo says it’s the best thing for  tourists to do – take a boat ride through the river system.
  42. Before going see what kind of interesting art exhibits there might be.  Hahaha.  I went to the goldfish exhibit.
  43. Eat at Iron Chef Kenichi’s restaurant – he has a casual tantanmen and mappo tofu restaurant in Yokohama and a more upscale one in Tokyo proper. 
  44. Eat Mexican food and be…. Puzzled.
  45. If you are a Ghilbi fan,  then get tickets to the museum in the USA,  a minimum of three months in advance.  Tickets are not sold in Japan.
  46. See an idol concert!  I haven’t done this, but I want to.  And I need to figure out how to make it happen. 
  47. Lots of people like the Skytree.  It’s  a bit pricey to go to the top and the restaurants inside are expensive but the surrounding neighborhood is interesting with a different feel to it.  Also by the sky tree is a Life Grocery Store, which is fun to poke around in and has great cheap sushi.
  48. Stop in a grocery store (not a department store one).
  49. Stop in the Family Mart, Seven-eleven or a Lawsons. Fascinating places. No, seriously.  The egg sandwich is amazing.
  50. Buy Japanese sunscreen.  It is the best.
  51. Explore and see the major neighborhoods – Shinjuku,  Shibuya,  Ginza, Ikeburo, Akihabara, Ueno and Asukasa,  and a few of the ones less likely to be on a tourist radar, Nankano,  Kichijoji,  Jiyugaoka
  52. Get a custom pen made based off of how you write.  I have no idea what this costs, but I’m sure it’s not cheap. It seems really cool
  53. Shopping is Japan’s national sport.

I’m sure I can think of more.  This is just a list of ideas.  The must do ones are – the department store basement,  random exploration of a train stop; exploring Shinjuku station; eating a donut at mister donut (unless you don’t like donuts) and going somewhere high up to have a drink or two.

Choose Your Cat Models Wisely

So you want to do a project, maybe a children’s book, a novel, or an advertising campaign, involving a cat. There will definitely be photos of the critter. You need a feline model.

Sure, you could use your pet black cat Zoey that looks like every slightly over-weight black cat, or you can select your other fur-child, who has purple eyes and a white and orange patch of fur on his forehead in the shape of a cupcake.

Definitely Mr. Purple Eyes, you think. He’s an interesting looking cat that will become an internet sensation. He’s so adorable that your heart aches in your chest when you see him.  Others will feel the same.

So how long term do you think your project will be? Is it a brief spark in the darkness, only to fade a month later? Or do you see this being a long-term project, something, hopefully, you will dedicate years to creating, refining, and releasing new projects about on a regular basis?

If it’s long term, the cat that looks like no other cat in the world might be a hindrance. 

While animal-lovers dote on their pets, we know that their time on earth is finite and precious. They do not live forever. They pass away, and we are left with our grief and a missing spot in our lives.

The harsh reality then becomes, your abnormal cat model is gone, and you can’t easily replace him with a look-alike.  Under no circumstances am I devaluing Mr. Purple Eyes life, but in terms of marketing, now your project comes to a halt, or you must make due with old photos. Now you have to resort to pulling out  photos that you took in bad lighting with a crappy camera.

If you had selected the black cat, another black kitty could step in as model #2. 

With acknowledging the realities of life, choose your cat models wisely.

When my niece prepared her college applications, she made wounded animal sounds and slammed shut the laptop. How on earth could she write a college essay when her life was so boring? What would the school think when she had no talents to brag about?  She knew whatever she wrote would convince universities to reject her, and she’d be stuck attending an educate-them-for-a-profit school that had a mosquito as its mascot. I still don’t know what school that would be. WyoTech?

“Let me write your essay for you,” I told her. 

She rolled her eyes.

I whipped something up and showed her. She was NOT AMUSED.

“You want me to tell the selection committee I smell like cat pee?”

Well, when you put it in those terms . . .

Here is the offending essay.

I love cats.  They are quirky, furry critters that rumble when you run your hand down their back. No, I’m not a crazy cat teenager destined to be an old lonely crazy cat women with 50 cats in her largish house that is in desperate need of repair.  We all know crazy cat ladies are more sophisticated than that, and we know they aren’t crazy, just passionate.  For felines!

 No, I am defined by cats by the ammonia based, foul liquid that comes out of them aka cat pee. With so many cats and fosters living and playing in our house, it is inevitable that animal urine becomes a part of my life. A lower ranked cat gets picked on by a higher ranked, and to express his or her fear and displeasure, pees outside the cat box. A cat may have a urinary infection and pisses at random. One cat is old and senile, and sticks her tongue out to say, “what is a catbox?” Every other week, I have to clean the catboxes before I go to school, a disgusting but necessary chore for the day. I switch off every week with my brother. He is sloppy when he does it, only cleaning every other day instead of every day. This increases the incidences of out of the box accidents.

 I go to school, and then the dreaded happens. I call it The Whiff. That faint, there it is and gone, odor of cat pee.  I panic. I do not want to be known in school as the smelly one.  I slide back in my desk and casually lower my nose to my shoulder. No, all is good there. Check the other side. Fine.

 I drop my pencil on the ground so I can sniff my knee when I pick it up.

 Bingo!

 Cat stench on my pants!

 It is a mortifying realization. I raise my hand and ask the teacher if I can go to the bathroom. She waves me on.

 What am I going to do? I can’t sneak out of the school. I can’t change my clothes.

 Febreze to the rescue. I keep a small bottle in my back-pack.I  drench myself with it and cough. I pray this stuff doesn’t get banned from school.

For now, I am OK.

No one should think about cat bodily elimination. It’s not good for your mental state. And yet, here I am thinking about it.

I do admit, the cats put me in a secret special club. A man passed me in the Target, a distinctive smell lingering behind him. I looked at him. He looked at me. A hint of fear shimmered in his eyes. He knew I knew. I gave him the nod, the one that said, I understand. He relaxed and gave a semi-smile.

We are members of the cat pee club. 

I long for the day I move out of the house into dorms sans felines.

Although, as soon as I get my own apartment, I’m getting a cat.

 

 

 

lots of cats