japanese

I’m turning Japanese.

As you read this post, I’m staggering around Tokyo after a fourteen hour flight. We’re turning Japanese. No Family Holidays With Family took MTM and me to Asia this year.

Well, that and a 60,000 medallion mile special on Delta.

Which was a sign.

For ages, I couldn’t write about my toxoplasmosis gondii diagnosis. And why should I share it? Nobody cares about my problems when they have baskets piles abundances of their own.

But everybody’s looking for ways to feel better. We’re crying screaming dying for peace. Everyone I know is out of sorts, confused, scared, angry, or hurting. In the quagmire of uncertainty, we’ll crawl toward any oasis of calm.

Japan is something of an oasis for me.

MTM read the signs and booked the almost-free flight. It’s up to me to undertake my pilgrimage to Nagano. To meet with the Zenkoji Temple monks at daybreak. To gain another layer of peace about my impossible health situation as I touch a statue older than Time.

Binzuru Sonja cocks his head and regards me with sightless eyes worn smooth my millions of fingers. His mouth is welded shut by a millennia of touch. “Do not let my warped head of my lacking features frighten you.” A voice pings inside of my skull. “I’ve healed more hopeless cases than you.”

For 1,500 years, pilgrims have traveled to Nagano to commune with Binzuru Sonja. When it’s time for us to meet, I hope his formless lips will smile, his misshapen head will nod, and he will let me join millions who’ve trekked to his mountain quarters seeking a measure of peace.

I’m working on a travelogue/memoir about finding peace with an incurable disease by studying human rituals throughout history. In March, I submitted to a Native American healing ceremony in Ecuador. Last July, I trekked to St. Ilga’s Well in the Austrian Alps.

Nagano is my third study into how mankind has sought peace with hopelessness. EVERYBODY’S STRUGGLING TODAY. I hope to find something to give you peace, Dear Reader.

HAVE A LITERARY THANKSGIVING. BUY MY BOOKS AND GET READING. CLICK HERE.

thankful

Having spent much of the past eighteen months wondering whether I’d go blind or lose my mind, I’m thankful for what eyesight I have. Others may argue I lost my mind long ago.

Whatever.

Being thankful is the cornerstone of a happy life.

Here’s my short gratitude list for 2017:

  • MTM didn’t divorce me over my illness. He’s still steadfast. He loves me. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
  • When I was at my lowest, unexpected souls stepped in the chasm. I’m thankful for friends in unexpected places.
  • I’m finding my writing voice. The worse-than-chemotherapy-like drugs I took for almost half-a-year made me a mush-brain. These days, I’m hearing characters again.
  • I’ve only lost 25% of my vision in one eye. I’m thankful for what remains.
  • I found a publicist!
  • My assistant didn’t quit, no matter how trying I’ve been.

And if that’s not thankful enough:

  • We’re fielding some really interesting appearance opportunities for 2018. If you aren’t one of my elite readers, you don’t know what they are. Email assistant(at)andrawatkins(dot)com to be added to that super-special group.
  • I’M THANKFUL FOR EVERYONE IN MY ELITE GROUP. SERIOUSLY, I’D SLOPPY KISS EVERY SINGLE DANG ONE OF YOU.
  • Despite all sorts of online changes that have decimated my income and reach, my stories still find readers. People make memories EVERY DAY because of my work. I’m grateful for every person who gives my stories a chance.
  • I’m glad Dad still finds joy in going out, bothering strangers, telling stories, and selling the crap out of THE DAD BOOK. Having my parents in my life, still healthy, is a blessing.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT DESERVES YOUR GRATITUDE THIS THANKSGIVING WEEK? PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORIES IN A COMMENT.

Haven’t read my books? Curl up with the best reading material you can find this holiday. MINE.

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travel

NOT our 2015 destination.

MTM and I devoured the news. Brussels, Belgium was on travel lockdown. The US Embassy warned Americans to stay indoors, to avoid crowds. US military travel was frozen. Troops with submachine guns roamed cobbled streets already spit-shined for the holiday.

We had two airline tickets for Brussels. Leaving the day before Thanksgiving. After twenty-four hours of deliberation and debate, we called our airline. No, not to cancel our trip. We wanted to review our options for both near-Brussels and alternative travel.

It’s easy to find the nearest bunker in this terrorist age. Parisian-style attacks can (and probably will) happen anywhere, anytime. MTM and I decided to pursue our annual “No Family Holidays With Family” Thanksgiving trip as normal, because if we didn’t, the terrorists win. We came up with five reasons to keep traveling. We hope our list will help you see the world while staying smart and safe.

  1. Book your tickets, and don’t worry about what *might* happen. Statistics still show you’re more likely to be injured or die within a few miles of home, right? So why miss experiences because of fear?
  2. If you’re patient, airlines can be very accommodating. Even though the US State Department still had not issued a Brussels travel alert, Delta vetted options and rebooked our flights without the usual change fees. The customer service representative even went to bat for us with her supervisors and won us a drastically reduced fare.
  3. Travel builds understanding. We’ve been in touch with both strangers and friends in Europe throughout this crisis. The Belgians are unflappable, resolute, and warm. We will definitely visit Belgium soon to help shop owners, restauranteurs, and hoteliers recover.
  4. Travel encourages flexibility. We’ve been planning our trip to Brussels since summer. Imagine what it’s like to hold a ticket to a different city, a place about which I know virtually NOTHING. And we still depart on Wednesday. With no time to research or plan, we’ll wing everything. Am I stressed? Nah. This trip will be a true adventure. How often does adventure come our way?
  5. We can be smart in the face of terror. For the first time in several years, readers won’t find me online during my trip. I’m not broadcasting our new destination on social media (and if you know it, please don’t mention it.) I won’t post photos, geolocate anything, or chronicle our whereabouts while we’re away. Terrorists can easily track those markers, and they’ve used them to target Americans overseas. We’re taking a genuine, unplugged vacation.

I. Can’t. Wait!

Do you have any travel plans? Please share your VERY GENERAL plans in a comment.