A Day of Rest… (I Wish!)

Sunday usually would be a free day for most people, but it was NOT that today.

Had to be at the community center soon after 9am to get ready for our annual neighborhood meeting at 10am.  (Was asked to help with reception and check-in.)  The meeting ended up being 2 and 1/2 hours, discussing plans for the upcoming year and looking over the budget from last year and this year.  Lots of opinions, not too many clashes… over all, a good one, and about 150 people were in attendance.

After it finished up, 20 or so members of the neighborhood planning committee set things up to have lunch.  We all chit-chatted about everything under the sun, packed up, cleaned up and got home at around 4pm.

From there, I got a call from a ramen shop owner I’m friends with and went to see him.  Stayed for dinner, was planning to come home early, but his wife came and I ended up staying much longer… like until 11pm.  (So much for coming home early!)

So, many apologies for a rather boring blog post.  It’s been a LONG day and I have an EARLY morning and thinking about all those warm, fuzzy blankets on the bed… well, I could fall asleep quite easily right here in front of the computer as I think about them.

To those of you who have just started your Sunday, may you have a wonderful 18th!  To those of you who are in my part of the world, may you have a peaceful sleep!

Good night from southern Japan… 🙂

Graduations Have Finished!! **whew**

The last of the graduations for this week was held today – a total of two kindergarten graduations and one at the local elementary school.  It’s been a long week, to say the least!  🙂

Those of you who have never been to Japan may think it’s strange to have graduations now.  But the school year begins in April and ends in March.  After a couple of weeks of spring break, the kids start the new year.

This is probably my favorite season of the whole year.  (And not just because it’s my b-day month!)  As the school year comes to an end, the Japanese plum and peach trees are usually in full bloom.  Then when school begins again, the Japanese cherry trees (or sakura) bloom… and they are BEAUTIFUL!!

Another reason it’s my favorite is seeing how much all the kids have grown.  The parents are all watching their own children, while the teachers and I are watching ALL the children.  (So, yes, I cried at all three ceremonies… nothing new! 🙂 )  All the kids are full of hopes and dreams and are eager to start the next chapter of their lives.

This year, some of the kids wrote letters of thanks, talking about how much they enjoyed English classes and how they want to continue learning the language in the future.  (I even had a few this time who told me they want to grow up to be English teachers!)  No matter how hectic schedules get and stressful life can become, comments like this from them make it all worth it!!  🙂

It’s my hope that I made a positive impact on their lives just as my teachers had on me!  It’ll be interesting to see what life has in store for them.  🙂

And so, another school year ends.  Am looking forward to seeing the sakura trees in full bloom and all the new little ones who’ll start classes from next month!

My Mama Bear…

Had to wake up a little early this morning to go to the elementary school graduation and while I was still under the warm, fuzzy blankets on the bed, I looked through my email on my iPhone… only to find a message I’d been dreading to see.

My Mama Bear passed away on the 14th.

It’s possible that a lot of people would read the sentence right above and think I’m referring to my grandmother, mother or another female relative.  Well, Mama Bear was not a blood relative at all, but that’s what I’ve called her for as long as I’ve known her.  (Since I was four, if my memory is correct.)  In the city where she lived, most people called her Miss Martha and a few would say Mrs. Fletcher, but to me… always Mama Bear.

Mama Bear was an amazing woman!  She was giving and kind, always had a smile on her face and always had positive things to say about the people around her.  She was a wonderful cook, an excellent writer, an articulate speaker, could make any craft which exists under the sun… and actually she taught me how to cross-stitch.  (I still have the very first thing she taught me… a small panda bear.)

There was one story which she would tell that I LOVED… the story about the big mouth frog.  And no matter how many times I heard her tell it, even if it was three or four times consecutively, I would laugh until my stomach hurt!  I wish I could tell it like she did… actually, I wish I had a recording of her telling it.

Anyway, the story of the big mouth frog was one with a moral:  it’s not good to be too nosy or too curious.  It went something like this…  (Try to imagine this being told by someone with a very strong Southern accent.)

Once upon a time, there was a big mouth frog.  The frog was hopping along and met a cat on the path.

“Hello, Mrs. Cat.  I’d like to know… what do you feed your BABIES?”

The cat replied, “Well, I feed them milk and meat… things like that.”

“Well, THANK YOU VEERY MUUUCH!”

The frog kept hopping along and met a cow in a field.

“Hello, Mrs. Cow.  I’d like to know… what do you feed your BABIES?”

The cow answered, “Let’s see, they drink milk and eat grass and hay… things like that.”

“Well, THANK YOU VEERY MUUUCH!”

The frog went on and happened upon a bird in a tree.

“Hello, Mrs. Bird.  I’d like to know… what do you feed your BABIES?”

The bird said, “I give them seed and worms… things like that.”

“Well, THANK YOU VEERY MUUUCH!”

The frog kept hopping along and met an alligator in the river.

“Hello, Mrs. Alligator.  I’d like to know… what do you feed your BABIES?”

The alligator smiled and said, “Well, I feed them BIG MOUTH FROGS!” to which the frog replied…

“Well, thank you veery muuuch…”  🙂

Oh, how I will miss Mama Bear… as will many, many more people out there.  May she rest in peace…

Wanting to Complain and Then…

It was another long day, full of things to do and chores to take care of.  (I did treat myself to some extra sleep this morning though… yay!)  🙂

Thinking of all the events I have to attend this month and unexpected things that have happened in the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself complaining about lack of sleep and being busy and not having time to just sit and relax… and today, I started to dislike the fact that it’s becoming easy to complain.

Just as this thought was in my mind, I had a chance to check my Facebook page.  There were a few things that put me back in my place.  1)  A dear friend of mine, from way back when, found out that her mom has lymphoma.  2)  A FB friend found out that he has cancer.

And here I was, griping about not having enough time for myself!

So, I’ll do my best to be even more thankful for all the positives I have in my life:  a computer that works so I can keep in touch with loved ones around the world, a vase-full of flowers that I got at the kindergarten graduation yesterday and this big fluffy cat curled up on my lap, just to mention a few things.

Thank you to those who are following me on here.  Thank you to everyone out there who loves me.

(Feel like I’m going to cry now…)

It’s White Day…

No, it’s not a holiday.

In Japan, March 14th is White Day and on this day, all the guys who received chocolates and presents from girls on Valentine’s Day are supposed to give back a present to them.  I’ve heard that this custom has also spread to South Korea and Taiwan and parts of China.

When I was in elementary school, White Day didn’t exist in the part of the Japan I lived in.  I think I remember hearing about it once I was in high school and, by the time I was in my early 20’s, it was part of the culture.

After moving down here to Kyushu, I was surprised to learn that the concept of White Day was started by the president of a confectionery company, Ishimura Manseido, which is a big company here in Fukuoka.  He started selling sets of marshmallows.

Why marshmallows?  Well, his company made sweets which were made with sugar and egg yolks.  The egg whites were originally thrown out.  The president thought that was wasteful and made a new creation using the egg whites with sweet potato paste inside.  (Marshmallows with yummy stuff inside.)

So, when he came up with the idea of White Day, his company used the egg whites and made smaller, bite-size marshmallows.  His idea first became popular in the Fukuoka area and spread across Kyushu, then to the Kanto area (where I grew up).

And, of course, when the company started making money for White Day, other companies followed suit.  One started making special white chocolate.  Another started selling cookies.  (Yes, the sweets and boxes and wrapping paper… all white.)

Nowadays, the guys will buy anything from jewelry to candies to clothing to pottery to give back.  (Pottery is unusual, but it’s what one of my friends got this year.)  And the men probably spend more money on return gifts than the women spend on Valentine’s Day presents.

Maybe that’s true in every country… 🙂

Do You Believe in Angels?

In my last Invisi class today, we watched a few YouTube videos by Ben Breedlove.  Have you seen them?  If you haven’t, you should.  Whether you’re religious or not, I think you should watch them.

(And I won’t say much about them since I don’t want to spoil anything.)

So, I’m feeling a bit somber, thinking about how I shouldn’t be complaining about being tired or being too busy or not having time to eat.  After watching those video clips of Ben, all these things are very, very, VERY trivial problems compared to what he had to deal with.

Guess I need to get in gear, stop griping and be happy that I have SO many things in my life to be grateful for!  🙂

Cramps, Tears and Early B-day Presents…

Sounds like a fun combination, doesn’t it?  🙂

As far as the cramps, that’s something which most females out there can probably relate to… and as far as the guys, well, please be grateful that you don’t have to experience them on a regular basis!  Take my word for it… they are NOT fun.

Moving on to the tears…

There has been so much going on during the past few weeks and I haven’t had much time to just sit and relax and daydream.  (Daydreaming has been a release mechanism for me since childhood.)  With the “zoo” here at home, a bird funeral, classes finishing up and getting things ready for graduations this week, my regular classes to teach, helping friends through difficult situations, doing translation work, getting things ready for my high school’s all-class reunion this summer, preparing for our neighborhood meeting this coming Sunday and going through the day yesterday (March 11th), remembering the earthquake and tsunami which devastated the northeastern part of Japan.

All that combined with the cramps and the fact that I tend to hold things inside, there was a moment this morning when the dam burst.  I was talking with a friend, saying how tired I am and she said, “You have to learn how to say, ‘No,’ you know!”  (VERY difficult for me to do!)  Guess that statement hit me in the perfect place and the tears started flowing.  I think she may have felt she’d upset me, but it wasn’t that at all.  It was more like “I know, I know… I do try” tears.  (If that makes any sense at all!)  🙂

Then early b-day presents…

Another good friend gave me this small package this afternoon, neatly wrapped up with red, white and blue string.  She told me it was for my birthday.  (Which is actually in two and a half weeks.)

This friend is amazingly talented and, in my opinion, there isn’t any craft she can’t perfect!  (For those who have noticed the change in Gravatar picture… she designed this little character for my blog.  A hard boiled egg with the yolk wanting desperately to “pop out” and be free, sakura {cherry} blossom on the head and microphone in hand!  🙂 )  She’s a wonderful cook, an awesome massuese, and above all, an irreplaceable friend!

After getting permission to open the little package, I found a phone charm inside, a handmade resin charm with the boiled egg design inside!  (It’s very cute!)

I promise to add a picture of it on here tomorrow.  For now, the cramps had subsided somewhat… the bed and warm, fuzzy blankets are calling my name… it’s been a long day and I’m looking forward to a long night full of dreams.  🙂

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