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Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


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Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


Where did January go?!

"Welcome 2010!" is old news by now but I continue to welcome it anyway. I also welcomed some happy news about my knee last week. An orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser informed me that I have no evidence of a rip or tear; my right knee has a "pre-arthritic condition." Most likely brought on by playing too hard. But it has so improved over the last six months that I'm apparently taking good care of it. My swelling is gone. Gone! My range of movement is greatly increased. He said it's even possible that I had a minute tear that didn't show up on the MRI and it healed on its own in the meantime. But there are pre-arthritic changes, so I need to take good care of my dear knees. No running/high impact/jumping, etc. He was impressed with the improvement, though, and no need for surgery. Not for many years, or perhaps never! I was one happy mama when I left that office, practically skipping, I tell you. 

Best of all: I hiked Cowles Mountain again with no difficulty. Yay! We had storming rains for many days and afterwards the waterfall (we can see it from our front door) was rushing. It was too irresistible; I had to try hiking up. I decided to play it safe and return at the mid-point loop, but next time I may to all the way to the summit. I wasn't sure if I would ever get up there again, so it was quite the sweet celebration. The waterfall is such a rarity here in our dry East County landscape- I'm elated that I was able to hike up that day. 

So instead of high-impact aerobics I now do Tai Chi (beautiful form of midlife dance!) and yoga and Buddy is such a happy dog; lots of walks! It all feels good. I also take Zyflamend, an herbal anti-inflammatory.  

Why Cheese and Bees, Please? Well, because I still adore cheese. I don't eat a lot of it, but I have fond memories of it when I'm not eating it. About a week ago, I had a delectable roasted pecan/pear/arugula salad with bleu cheese crumbled on top. Just the right amount of cheese. Not too much. And God forbid, not too little! At ClaimJumper with Roy to celebrate his Good Citizen award. So proud of him! Proud of Leo, too, who received 4 out of 6 smileys today. Sweet pies, the two of them. 

Why Bees, though? I planted Sweet Peas, arugula and kale, and I'm visualizing happy bees in the vicinity to help all grow well. Please.



Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

Knobby Knee Update: I had an MRI last Wednesday, 12/2. All went well. As soon as I entered the room I eyed the big creepy tube. "My head will be out, right?" Thank God the answer was yes; otherwise I would have needed sedation. The process was fine but I was amazed at how loud it was! Why does it need to be so loud? The tech gave me earplugs but wow...

So I should have some knews on exactly what is going on with dear old Knobby Knee by Friday or Monday. 

Meanwhile I'm thrilled to be able to walk Buddy and also have gone to a Pilates class and Tai Chi. Loved them! The quick side-to-side footwork of Jazzercise may be a thing of the past for me. But I've come to accept it, and I can still do low-impact everything. 

Love my knees!





Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

I’m honored to be taking a writing class through San Diego Writers, Ink with Drusilla Campbell, who has published a number of well-selling novels, including Wildwood, Blood Orange, Bone Lake and The Edge of the Sky. The class is called "Novel Read and Critique."

I’m working on my novel, which has been perking around in my head and on paper in various iterations since 1995. How long is that now? Wow, 14 years. Unbelievable. Many people would probably say, Get off the pot already! The thing is, I’ve tried to get off the pot and this story will not let me go. It’s definitely a case of the story choosing the writer.

My life has volleyed on with this story dancing like sugarplums (well, maybe dancing like skeletons- it's on the dark side) even when I wished it would leave me alone. The kernel of the story is downright scary- the murders of hundreds of women in Juarez, Mexico- even though my characters are filled with light. The scary factor has definitely challenged my resolve to continue at times.

But my characters won't give up on me. They peer over my shoulder while I'm busy with other things, with life in general. Since Marisol, Liseta and Alma first entered my mind, John and I have gotten married (1998) and we now have two very active sons (7 and 9). I transitioned from social work to a number of jobs; I taught ESL for a while, I started my own business, Memory Quilt Memoirs, which included a subdivision, Wedding Day Story Book. I even did Welcome Wagon for a stint. One thing I learned for sure is that I am not a Welcome Wagon Woman.

Writing continued as my comfort space, but I was not confident enough to try it as a means of earning money. But my husband John saw that my inner being ran free on the written page- writing was where I found creative flow- so he encouraged me to try my hand at freelance writing. So I did, and have been freelancing since my first published piece in January 2004.

To accomplish something I was never sure I could manage, and yet always hoped to, has been gratifying. My articles have appeared in San Diego Family Magazine, Today’s Local News, San Diego Magazine and The San Diego Union-Tribune. I've also completed online city guide projects in collaboration with MSN, Ford and Toyota. For the past three years I’ve been a contributing writer for Living in Style Magazine, a fantastic experience which included ongoing "Live Your Dream" profiles as well as health and wellness features.

Living in Style Magazine has recently folded- something I’m still mourning. But with every closed door… you know that little cliché. Optimism works, though. I see this chapter as a chance to focus on finishing my novel, which has evolved to rough draft stage over the years.

I have the courage now to offer it up to be poked at and prodded- and the determination to wrestle with it until it is an actual full-fledged, flowing story with strong legs to walk forward on its journey into the world. So my draft is in the poke and prod stage in Drusilla’s class now.

My novel’s working title is Sisters of Aguamiel. It is the story of three sisters living on their ancestral farm, Aguamiel, in murderous Ciudad Juarez. Things happen. People cope, sometimes well and sometimes not well at all, leading to wretched moments and hurdles of all kinds.

More to come…

Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

My mom, a physical therapist, gave me a set of quadriceps strengthening exercises as soon as my injured knee began to swell (July 10th). I've been doing them faithfully and my swelling has come and gone with the rhythm of whether I overexert myself or not. Of course, I've been icing and elevating my knee, too, when at all possible- at night mainly; I have two sons, Roy, 9, and Leo, 7, and summer days are very busy at a boys' pace.

Anyway, at the last swelling, I asked my mom to look at how I was doing the exercises to be sure I was doing them right. So she watched me do a set, a bit taken aback. "That's what you've been doing all these weeks? Uh, it's supposed to be a gentle strengthening exercise."

I say, "Yeah?"

"What you're doing isn't gentle. You're tightening all the muscles in your leg with as much force as you have." My mom is shaking her head and sighing. "You're supposed to focus on isolating the quadriceps just to the extent of engaging them- you can see it when your knee cap pulls up slightly- that's how you know you're doing it right. You've been just going whole hog, tightening your entire leg. It's not helping you."

Whole hog? Me?

I feel the tears well up. Am I capable of proceeding with caution? How did I get this way? God, I don't want to pass this on to my kids, this Whole Hog MO I've developed.

So. Time to be gentle on myself. Gently isolate the quads. Don't go Whole Hog. Try mini-hogging it for a while. Or no-hog, how about? Focus instead on something smaller. A frog, maybe. Embrace your inner frog. Where have I heard that before? That's what my bumper sticker says! It's been on my car for over two years, it's even starting to fray, but still it pleads "Embrace your inner frog."

I've never really known what it meant- it always just made me chuckle and at the same time it sounded like something important. But now I know- now I know what it's all about. Why did it take me this long to figure it out? I don't know, but at least I'm listening now.

Yes, that's key at this juncture- time for me to embrace my inner frog instead of going whole hog. But where does that leave Werewolverina, my wild inner dancer-writer? Does she transform into Frogella? Or perhaps Frogella is Werewolverina's wise older- or younger- sister? Is she older or younger? She's ageless, actually. And she's worth listening to.

Frogella likes to be safe and create a cozy environment for herself- a little pond nest where things are tranquil and meditative. Werewolverina likes to push the envelope of what's possible. She pushes the envelope of ladylike behavior- she has no patience for etiquette. She is wild and free and sometimes dangerous. Werewolverina can benefit from slowing down long enough to hear what Frogella has to say. And maybe Frogella can shed her reserved, lady-like manner now and then and learn a few things from Werewolverina, too.

Posted By Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

I don't regret the Cowles Mountain hike- where I first tweaked my knee (on a beautiful June 28th)- or my mid-life novice adventure to hip-hop class (on July 8th)- where I caused further tweakage- or my hike to Upper Sardine Lake in the Sierra Nevadas (on August 7th)- where more havoc was wrought on dear old Knob Knee.


On the latter hike I loped along with Roy, Leo, John and Ulli, Buddy and Diego in the pristine pine-filled air. I heard the rushing cold water coursing through Young American mine and I felt again like that young American. I lay on the rocks and watched the clouds gather dark and pregnant with storm and the water chop onto the shoreline of Upper Sardine, with the memory of sprawling in a rowboat 20 years ago there, in the black of night with the milky way at arms' reach, the stars so bright and close I could feel their white hot breath.


These memories were worth every moment and the swelling that came afterwards. But I don't want to permanently injure my knee. I want to dance again. I am not so Zen that I have completely detached from those desires.


Amazingly, though, and oh so reluctantly, I have learned to enjoy these days of restricted movement, something I was not sure I was capable of. I've become grateful for this opportunity to slow down and see things from a slower pace.