Apparently I am incapable of being a regular blogger. But, two Fridays in a row of introducing you to new awesome women - I’m winning!
When I was trying to come up with the overall theme of this interview, I just kept having the thought that this woman is Faith in Action. I think you’ll see why as you read more about her.
(1) Tell everyone a little bit about yourself - whatever details you want to include
I am a wife of over 20 years, and a mom of two children we adopted from birth who are now 16 and 15 years old. I have journeyed through racism, years of infertility, miscarriages (one ending in a d&c), adoption of our two beautiful children, and a failed adoption of a child we had in our home the first year of their life. Our daughter does have multiple physical and mental special needs, but physically looks “normal” so it’s tricky when others see her.
(2) What is your educational/career background?
I have not completed college; I am about halfway through, but mostly worked to support my husband through college. I visited one woman in my church and she was in her 60’s. She said it had taken her 40 years to complete her degree and she inspired me to not worry and stress about it with everything else we had going on. I worked at a children’s hospital in Canada for many years doing their events, and then worked to support my husband through school. One position in particular was a personal assistant for a world-renowned acupuncturist and I did put together all his special events and conferences.
(3) What is the biggest lesson you've learned from each of your children?
This is a hard question because I am continually learning from them almost daily. With our son, Isaac, I have learned to be positive, work hard, and be kind to everyone no matter what. I actually look up to him quite a bit because he was born with such a positive and kind spirit, I can count the number of times he’s been grumpy on one hand. He studies his scriptures and goes above and beyond serving without being asked. He truly loves others and is so sensitive to their needs and being kind to others, which makes him the perfect brother for our daughter. With Eden I have learned determination, never being afraid to be myself, and a desire to do what is right. Eden is my hero. Her life is full of challenges, but she never complains. She has ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, some brain damage, and low functioning Level 2 Autism. She also has severe allergies to everything in nature and animals (and loves nature and all animals), asthma, scoliosis, and severely steep cornea (she may need both cornea replaced if it continues to worsen). But she lives each day creating, and wanting to choose the right. Just the other night in our “night time talks” (we talk to each of our children individually at night. It’s their safe time to tell us anything about their day, good or bad, without judgment. We’ve done this since they were very young) Eden said to us that she said a bad word when she played her game. She said she was mad and so she said “damnit”. She needed to tell us that because she felt bad and wanted to choose the right. I am pretty biased, but we are so blessed.
(4) You are probably the biggest cheerleader for other women that I've ever met. Where did that come from?
This is the best compliment ever! My parents emigrated from Japan just after they were married. They had a civil marriage in Japan, stopped in Hawaii to be married for time and all eternity in one of our religions Temples, and then over to Canada with nothing. No money, no understanding of the language or culture. Just themselves and a desire to raise a family there. They were both very young, my mom just a baby at the end of World War II. My father had to live on his own at age 14 and put himself through school while working two jobs. One of his jobs was in a steel factory and his arms still bear the scars of where the liquid metal splashed onto his skin and permanently burned him. Because they had left everything behind in Japan, including family, they could only rely on themselves. They worked a day job, went to evening classes to study English, and then worked night jobs as janitors. After a few years of infertility, my mother had five daughters; I am the second youngest. My sisters and I are very close. I would do anything for them. But growing up in a Caucasian community and church I saw people refuse to serve, help and even shake my parents hands. I also saw my parents live what they believed and love those same individuals in return. They give selflessly, and would welcome anyone into their home. They taught me to love and serve others. My mother taught me the most valuable lesson. She opened one of the largest private owned English as a Second Language schools in Canada and she told me never to judge anyone. She pointed out that the students who were trying to learn English, who were janitors and cashiers in Canada, were brilliant scholars in their own country. These were doctors, lawyers and scientists. I learned from my parents how to truly desire to help others. To be happy for their successes, and to lift them in any way I can.
(5) What made you decide to venture into event hosting?
I am a closet writer. I have written for the past 25 years, and have over 15 books that may or may not be read by anyone else, I don’t know, my journey isn’t over yet. A few years ago I felt I needed to share and connect with other women. I was busy and dismissed that thought. It’s funny I kept getting the same thought year after year, until finally, last year I was at a point in my life where I could entertain the idea. So I did. I began Instagram, and after a couple of months learning it, I was really blessed to have several key women cross my path. These women have mentored me and encouraged me all last year. (7) 5 days 5 women came to be because of Michelle and Sarah (The Women with Fire) but it was in October that things really hit me hard. I was listening to a bi-annual conference my church has, where our Prophet and apostles and other church leaders speak to us. While listening to the women’s session, President Nelson asked the women of our church to step up. To “Help gather scattered Israel” and I knew. I knew it so strongly that living in Utah, and having the opportunity to attend a different event, gathering, retreat or conference almost every weekend that women who were members of the same church as I am needed that opportunity. They had voices and stories that need to be heard and shared. So I began Distinct and Different and with my background in running events and conferences it was easier than I expected. Plus, nothing makes me happier than seeing women I’ve introduced connect with one another.
(6) What has been the biggest hurdle you've faced in pursuing that dream?
My biggest hurdle is that no one in Canada that would be interested in this Conference is on Instagram, and I am the worst at Facebook. Like the absolute worst. If it were a class, I would receive an F. So trying to get the word out while living in Utah has it’s challenges, but I have learned and figured out ways around it and now have a pretty decent email subscriber list and several people helping to spread the word.
(7) I love your 5 Days 5 Women series on Instagram. What made you decide to start doing that?
5 Days 5 Women came to be because I did not want to play any of the Instagram games. I am in my 40’s and don’t have time or patience to figure out the algorithms. I also wanted to grow my Instagram very authentically. I did not want to follow a bunch of people one day only to unfollow them the next just to gain followers. I wanted to follow people who inspire me. Who lift me and help me to fill my life with goodness and light. I wanted to make real connections no matter where we lived. Talking to Michelle, she gave me some ideas of things I could do, none of them really clicked. That week while I thought about it, one of the things she said sparked an idea. Instead of inviting people to “Follow”, I wanted to share women who are worth mentioning and quietly doing good for two reasons. One: to let them know they are noticed and inspiring someone out there whether they have 10 followers or 10,000 followers. Two: this wasn’t a follow train; this was highlighting women that my followers and other women’s followers may find a connection with. So it began, and it’s been so amazing to find women and be so uplifted and inspired. The best part of it all is the response from the women highlighted because they have no idea, so it makes their day, and that totally makes my day.
(8) Top three habits that help you to stay positive?
I think the top three for me is definitely my spirit, my spouse, and my down time. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so I make sure every morning I am connecting with God before I connect with the world. I study my scriptures, say my prayers and read and study different talks first thing every morning. I mean I am not perfect, and the days I miss this are definitely not as smooth or productive. My husband is my very best friend. We do, literally, everything together, and we have been so blessed. When I say he is my rock and my best friend a lot of women groan or roll their eyes, but it’s true. We went through so many years of trial. Things that can actually tear couples apart. But instead of tearing us apart, it brought us so much closer together. I learned very quickly how blessed I was to have him. He grounds me, balances me and loves me regardless of my mood or shortcomings. And my down time. My down time is my time away from social media. When I began Instagram a year ago, I promised I would unplug every evening and weekend. So I do not get on until after my scriptures and prayers in the morning, but I also unplug to be with the most important “real” life around me. I don’t’ want my children to see me on my phone in the evenings when I could be with them. I also unplug every weekend. I get off social media Saturday afternoon or evening, and don’t get back on until Monday morning after my morning routine. It helps me stay balanced and it’s easier to stay positive when I feel balanced.
(9) If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
That’s easy, it would be the Book of Mormon. Again, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we have been asked to read it. More than that, each and every time I read it I learn something new. Whether it is how to be more Christlike, how to serve others better, how to be more mindful of others, or how I can draw closer to God I learn. I have read those verses of scripture so many times and every time I think, “where did this verse come from?” It constantly teaches me what I need to learn in that time of my life.
(10) How do you keep your family relationships strong?
I think the trials we faced were definitely what kept us strong at the beginning. Also learning to rely on my husband. We moved a bit farther away from family early on in our marriage, so we were not able to be around them as often as some. So during all those trials and hardships we really grew close. Then waiting so long for our children, it was easy to love them and stay close with them. We have learned how to be more open with them because of adoption. And because we live so far away from family for the past over 11 years, we’ve grown closer again. I know we have been very blessed. Life isn’t easy, and we have trials, but our marriage and our children are not part of those trials, they are only part of the blessings.
(11) Do you have a personal manifesto/motto?
Honestly, no. I know there are some amazing mottos, or self-affirmations out there right now, and I love that, but for myself, I just try to live each day in a way that would reflect my beliefs and standards. If I can take care of my family, and lift someone each day, then I am happy.
(12) If you could go for a walk with one person, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Honestly not knowing any of my Japanese relatives at all, I would love to walk with any of them. If I had to choose just one I think it would be my maternal grandmother. Not knowing any of my grandparents, I did have an opportunity to meet my maternal grandmother one time for just a couple of hours. I know there are stories there I don’t know. I want to know what life was like for her raising 9 children during the war. I want to know what it was like to say good-bye to my mother when she was baptized into this church and left for a foreign land and not return. I want to know what it was like living such a simple life. I want to know her hardships and trials.
(13) What are two things you make sure to do every single day?
Tell my husband I love him and how grateful I am for him, and thank my Heavenly Father for all the blessings that day.
(14) Any practical tips for someone wanting to be a better cheerleader for other women?
Be genuine. Truly just be happy for another person because you love them. Figure out how to look past any differences and just see the similarities you have with other women and love them. There are so many amazing women out there that I love and am so grateful that they influence my life for the better every day.
(15) What is the best compliment you've ever received?
When people tell me I am the best cheerleader for other women. That truly makes me so happy.
(16) If money and time were no object, what would be your perfect vacation?
I would take my family to Japan. To discover my ancestry and for them to experience the culture and the people. One day it will happen.
Do you feel inspired now? I was being completely serious about Kay being the biggest cheerleader of other women. If you need more proof, you can follow her on Instagram @aworldwidesisterhood . And if you’re going to be in or near Alberta in September, I highly recommend checking out her conference Distinct and Different.