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.  🙂

♬♪ Be glad that you are free… ♫♩

Well, we finally had a sunny day today and I spent most of this Saturday cleaning, doing laundry, washing dishes… you know, all that fun stuff around the house!  🙂

Also watched a show about slavery and thought how blessed I am to have the freedom to do what I want, eat what I want, go where I want… also thought about how no matter what difficult situation we find ourselves in, we still have the freedom to daydream or think or visualize whatever we want.

And thinking of that makes me think of a Prince song which I love.  If you’ve never heard it, please check for the “1999” album and you’ll find it there.

Free

Don’t sleep ’til the sunrise, listen 2 the falling rain
Don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, don’t worry ’bout your pain
Don’t cry unless you’re happy, don’t smile unless you’re blue
Never let that lonely monster take control of U

Be glad that U r free
Free 2 change your mind
Free 2 go most anywhere, anytime
Be glad that U r free
There’s many a man who’s not
Be glad 4 what U had baby, what you’ve got
Be glad 4 what you’ve got

I know your heart is beating, my drummer tells me so
If U take your life 4 granted, your beating heart will go
So don’t sleep until you’re guilty, ‘cuz sinners all r we
There’s others doing far worse than us, so be glad that U r free

Be glad that U r free
Free 2 change your mind
Free 2 go most anywhere, anytime
Be glad that U r free
There’s many a man who’s not
Be glad 4 what U had baby, what you’ve got
Be glad 4 what you’ve got

Soldiers are a marching, they’re writing brand new laws
Will we all fight together 4 the most important cause?
Will we all fight 4 the right 2 be free?

Free (Be glad that U r free)
Free 2 change my mind (Free 2 change your mind)
Free 2 go most anywhere, anytime (Free 2 go most anywhere,anytime)
I’m just glad, I’m just glad I’m free, yeah (Be glad that U r free)
There’s many a man who’s not (There’s many a man who’s not)
Glad 4 what I had baby, (Be glad 4 what U had and)
Glad 4 what I got, oh yeah (for what you’ve got)
Oh I’m just glad, I’m just glad I’m free,yeah (Be glad that U r free)
Free 2 change my mind (Free 2 change your mind)
Free 2 go most anywhere, anytime (Free 2 go most anywhere,anytime)
(Be glad that U r free)
(There’s many a man who’s not)
I’m so… (Be glad 4 what U had and for)
(what you’ve got)

Carole King on my mind…

Had a busy day and guess there would be a lot to write about today… but I’ve had a certain Carole King song running through my mind all day.  So, here are the lyrics to the song, “Tapestry”.

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

Once amid the soft silver sadness in the sky
There came a man of fortune, a drifter passing by
He wore a torn and tattered cloth around his leather hide
And a coat of many colors, yellow-green on either side

He moved with some uncertainty, as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go
Once he reached for something golden hanging from a tree
And his hand came down empty

Soon within my tapestry along the rutted road
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
It seemed that he had fallen into someone’s wicked spell
And I wept to see him suffer, though I didn’t know him well

As I watched in sorrow, there suddenly appeared
A figure gray and ghostly beneath a flowing beard
In times of deepest darkness, I’ve seen him dressed in black
Now my tapestry’s unraveling, he’s come to take me back
He’s come to take me back

Dreaming of Warmer Weather and Clearer Skies…

It was another gloomy and dreary day today.  Got up, had to pass out some information about an upcoming community meeting to the households in two blocks I’m in charge of (another thing I’ll have to write about someday)… came home to take care of the “zoo”.

After giving one of the birds some medicine, it started acting strange.  Poto started fluffing up, shaking his head back and forth, opening his mouth… then he threw up once, then again and again and again…

Yes, at this point, I was freaking out!!  I was PRAYING that there wasn’t going to be another bird death… if that happened it would be another in less than a week!  😦  While being in panic mode, it was odd because I’d never seen a bird throw up before.

Anyway, Poto needed to go to the vet for his medicine refill.  So, got his cage and off we went.  He actually started singing in the car, so I felt a little bit better.  (Only a little…)  Arrived at the vet, only had to wait a few minutes before we were called in.  While Poto was getting weighed, I explained about his nausea.  The vet said it sounded like he had just eaten too much just before I gave him his medicine.  (Whew…)  She proceeded to check inside his mouth, his ears, the color of his beak, his wings, his heartbeat… then his one foot.  He had had a wound on it, but it was clear and the vet gave him a clean bill of health.  (BIG sigh of relief!!)

After getting home and getting settled, I sent an update text to his “mom”.  She was happy to hear he’s better.  (I was just happy that I wasn’t having to send a, “Something terrible has happened to one of your birds…” message!)

So, today hasn’t been as blue as yesterday, but as I sat down in front of the computer, I started to think about my mom whose is in Hawaii at this very moment.  Kept thinking how simply wonderful it would be to be able to blink a few times and instantly be there, zooming on the freeway, listening to some great classic rock tunes (maybe some Cream or Fleetwood Mac), driving up past Schofield Barracks, up to the North Shore to Giovanni’s to get some garlic shrimp.

Man, I need a vacation…  (~_~;)

An Early Morning, A Cloudy Day, A Buddhist Funeral Service for a Little Bird

I think I wrote about my friends’ animals that are presently here at my house… and one of the parakeets that died in my hand the other day.  (Not my pet, but a sad day regardless.)

My friend had sent me a text a couple of days ago, asking if I could contact a local pet funeral home about a service.  The service was this morning.

Had to wake up rather early.  Went by to pick up another friend before going to the funeral parlor… she’s a friend of this other friend, too, and wanted to be there to kind of stand in.  We got there and the service started at 8:00am sharp.

Yes, a Buddhist funeral service for a bird.  For some reason, it didn’t seem so off-the-wall.  (Am wondering… are services held for pets in other countries?)  As the smoke from the incense rose and filled the room, the Buddhist sutra was chanted by the others there, including my friend who knows it all by heart.  (Her parents are very faithful Buddhists.)

As I sat listening for those few minutes, my mind drifted… thoughts of life, my own pets, pets I’ve had in the past, thoughts of how I can recite The Apostle’s Creed in Japanese, but have no clue how it goes in English.

The short service ended, we chatted for a while and then the funeral parlor owner and his wife took us to another house they own on the side of a mountain nearby.  There’s a house and, next to it, he built a crematorium.  (Explained that they built one there instead of their original neighborhood because of protests from local people.)  The tiny little bird was placed on a metal net, more incense was offered and then Pon (the bird) was slowly put into the furnace.

My friend and I were led to the house next door, into a small living room.  We were asked to wait there for about 30 minutes.  Usually she and I would be chatting about everything under the sun, jumping from one topic to the next.  But we were both rather quiet and she kept talking about how sad she will be when her own cat passes.  (No, he’s not sick or anything… is still young and as healthy as any strong, young cat might be!)  I kept trying to change the subject and was successful most of the time.  Not sure why she was being so blue about her healthy cat… perhaps that’s what funerals do to people sometimes.

After the 30 minutes, we walked back over to the crematorium.  The metal wire was out of the furnace and the only hint that something had been there were the tiny, TINY bones… a perfect little skull and a tiny beak.  The owner took tweezers and gently placed the bones into an urn.  The urn into a box, the box into a bag, the bag to take home until it can be handed to my friend who is away.

We rode back in the car with the owner and his wife, got back and they served us some coffee.

It was nice, all in all.  Just somber, which is normal, right?

After I got back home, I saw my neighbor from across the street, standing in front of her garage.  She looked a bit teary-eyed… my stomach did a flip… not a good flip since I knew their dog, Chappy, had been very sick.  Sure enough, I walked over to her garage and there he was, lying on a blanket, covered in another, breathing weakly.  She told me she had called her husband and he was on his way home.  The two of us sat next to him on the concrete, petting his cool body, telling him that daddy was going to be back soon if he could hold on a little longer.

I later learned Chappy had passed away about 30 minutes after that… and, yes, he waited until his daddy got home.  He was such a good dog and will be missed…

A Steak Lunch and Songs from the Past…

Well, it’s another rainy day here in northern Kyushu.  Saturday was the only day in the last week and a half that was actually nice and sunny.  Yesterday, rain.  Today, rain.  Forecast for tomorrow, rain.  Not great weather when one needs to get laundry done.  (And, no, I don’t have a clothes dryer.  They aren’t common like in the States and other countries.)

Yesterday, I got a call from a good friend of mine.  She knew the weather was going to be bad today and asked if I could take her around to the ¥100 shops to look for pieces and parts for handmade jewelry.  (This girl has more talent in the tip of her pinkie than so many people around me put together!  I’ll have to write a post about all the things she can do one of these days…)

So, we drove around to several ¥100 shops (or Dollar stores) and she found what she needed.  Seems she’s going to be teaching a class about making resin jewelry and needed supplies.

Once that was done, we decided to go and get a bite to eat.  We did the usual, “Where are we going to go?”  She and I tend to go to the same four or five places, which doesn’t bother either of us in the least, but today, she said she wanted to eat steak and had heard about a rather good place nearby called Western.

One step inside Western was like taking a step back in time.  There were empty beer bottles on the window sills.  There were American flags hanging here and there… wagon wheels were used to divide sections of the restaurant.  Framed photographs of cowboys and Old West towns were hanging on the walls.  The only odd thing about the place was that the utensils we were given were chopsticks, which my friend and I giggled about.

And the background music was mostly, of course, country and western music.  🙂

We ordered lunch specials and waited for our food.  As we chatted about this and that, I realized I recognized the melodies of every song.  My friend asked what the titles were and I told her I didn’t know.

“That’s unusual for you.  Plus, you’ve been humming along to almost every song!”

Then it struck me.  They were all familiar because my dad had known them!  🙂

I told her that so often he would hum or sing around the house, whether he was cleaning his desk (or more like rearranging the piles on his desk 🙂 ), chopping firewood out in the yard, checking on the veggies in the garden, or organizing receipts for the month.  And it was a very, very wide variety of music, everything from jazz standards to country & western to barber shop quartet songs to traditional hymns to music I listened to on the radio!!

As the music in the restaurant changed to the next song, my friend and I looked at one another as we both recognized the song… “Tennessee Waltz”.

“I’m sure he used to sing this one… right?” she asked.

I nodded and started to get teary-eyed.  (I still miss him something terrible…)

She smiled and said, “You’re so lucky to have had such a strong relationship with your dad.”

I nodded again… because I completely agree with her.  Memories of him are ones I would not trade for anything in the world!  🙂

Sunny Days Which Aren’t So Sunny…

Today is Girl’s Day (Hina Matsuri) here in Japan.  I was all set to write about some of the history of the festival and how people celebrate…

… and once again, life threw a curve ball.

One of my friend’s pets (a parakeet, to be exact) died today.

It would be a sad thing if she had called me up to tell me the news, but the fact of the matter is, I’m taking care of her pets for her.  And this is the third parakeet to pass.  😦

My friend and her husband are WAY up north in Hokkaido right now.  She’s originally from that area and both of her parents are in the hospital right now.  Before they left on the 9th of January, they asked if I could take care of their three cats and eight birds.  No problem!  (Had done that for them in the past when her husband was admitted into the hospital and she was having to be there with him most of the day and night.)

It was about a month ago, I guess.  One morning, I went into the room where the birds are and noticed that I couldn’t see the birds in one of the cages.  (The cages are all hanging from the ceiling.)  I stepped up on my step-ladder and looked inside… one bird (later found out it was the mother bird) was lying completely still and the other one (the child) was standing nearby, looking at her.  My heart sank and I took the cage down to take the one bird out.  I put my hand in and the other parakeet hopped into my hand… as I spoke to it, saying I was sorry about the loss of the other, the bird snuggled low in my hand, started shivering and became still.  It had died in my hand.

I sent my friend a text message right away and she called me back, saying not to worry… that the two birds had had health problems in the past.

That was tough enough and now this.  I know all things which have life must pass some day… I just wish my friends’ pets would stay alive at least while they’re at my house… 😦

The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye…

Graduation season is fast approaching in Japan.  Many of the local high schools had their ceremonies yesterday and today.  The junior high schools will have theirs next week (I was told) and the ones at the elementary schools & kindergartens will be during the week of 11th.

Yes, graduation is held right before cherry blossom season… just before the buds on the trees burst open and you can sometimes see a little hint of pink.  The start of the school year is at the beginning of April when the cherry trees are blooming and the world is ready for a new chapter.  🙂

We had the final classes of the school year today at the elementary school.  The 5th graders made ice cream sundaes, following simple instructions in English… then eating their “original” sundaes in silence with big smiles on their faces.  🙂  (It’s not like they are allowed to eat fruit and ice cream at school on a daily basis… so, yes, they were quite happy!)

The 6th graders gave short speeches in English and I made popcorn for them as a “Good job!” treat.  They had all been practicing so hard for the past two weeks.  Some had to take their notes up to the front of the class with them, but 85% of the kids had memorized their speeches word-for-word!

Watching and listening to them today, my heart was filled with so much pride!  Many of the ones who would gripe and complain during class about how hard it was to pronounce English words or what use was there to learn another language if they couldn’t use it every day… they were the ones who tried their best and were beaming when they said their final, “Thank you!”  (Yes, this cry-baby almost lost it a couple of times…)

After all that was done, I went back home for a quick lunch and then went back to the school… I had been invited by the kids to attend the “Sawakai”.  Not sure what this would be in English, but it’s a special event/party held by the 6th graders for their parents and teachers to show their appreciation and to say thank you.  There are games, the kids sing songs, everyone eats a snack together, there’s usually a video presentation and today the kids gave a performance using Japanese taiko (drums).

There were very few dry eyes in the crowd during that show… watching the kids work together as a team, keeping in sync with one another, listening to each other… it was VERY moving!

So, their graduation will be in two weeks.  Several of the kids asked me today if I was going to be there, to which I replied, “Of course!!  It’s your special day, right?  I wouldn’t miss it for anything!”

I’ll have to be sure to take a couple of handkerchiefs… 🙂

Duck, Duck, Goose and other fun games…

Whew… what a busy day it’s been!

Since it had snowed with full force on Tuesday night, my kindergarten classes on Wednesday morning had to be changed to today.  If it had been any other season, they probably would’ve been canceled altogether, but graduation season is getting close and today’s classes were the last ones for this school year.  (I’ll explain the Japanese school year in a separate blog soon…)

Anyway, since it was the last time with the kids, I’d told them we’d have “Request Day” today.  “Request Day” is just that… they decide what we’re going to do during class, but it has to be something we’d done in English class during the year.  (English songs, games, crafts, etc.)

Three 30-minute classes… told them we’d be able to play at least two games during class time.

One class wanted to do “Color Touch” which is a simple game… the teacher calls out a color and the kids run around the room, find the color, touch it and go back to their seats.

Two classes wanted to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” and wanted Roberta-Sensei (sensei = teacher) to join in, too.  Needless to say, I was “it” quite a few times!!  An almost 42-year-old trying to compete with the energy and speed of 6-year-olds… there’s NO way!  😉

A cute note:  There are a few of the kids who can’t remember to say “goose”.  So, there were other variations…

  • “Duck, duck, moose…”
  • “Duck, duck, boots…”
  • “Duck, duck, blue…”
  • “Duck, duck, goo…”

As far as the second game, it was one that all three classes wanted to play… and one that ALL of my kindergarten students LOVE… Fruit Basket!

I do remember playing Fruit Basket when I was in elementary school.  Sure, it was fun, running around, trying to find an open chair when your fruit was called.  But I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as my little students do!  🙂

As the person who is “it” stands in the middle of the circle of chairs, thinking of which fruit to call out and the instant before the word comes out of their mouth, all the rest of the little ones sitting on the edge of their seats, not knowing for sure if they’re going to have to run or not.  That moment when someone yells, “Fruit Basket!”… the squeals and laughter fill the room and one can’t help but laugh along with them.

Can you tell I love my job?  🙂

I wish I’d taken some video of them today, but the kids wanted me to play, too.

So, I’m curious… what games did everyone like and play in elementary school?

Some Happy Words on this Leap Day…

TrishaDM (aka “At least we made it this far…”) has nominated me for an award!  It’s a very nice Leap Year gift… if there are such things.  🙂

Honestly, there are some days when I’m so focused on the Stats page and get kind of down when the numbers fall.  Then there are such uplifting moments when a note will come from someone or during a conversation with a friend, they will say, “You know, I really enjoy reading your blog!”  (And inside, I’m feeling like, “WHAT?!  You read my blog?!!”)

So, first and foremost, many, many “arigato”s must be given to TrishaDM.  Please take a moment to check out her blog.  Her words always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart… am sure it will do the same for you!  She has given me another reason for wanting to go to visit Canada.  🙂

Okay, here are the rules which are to be followed:

  • Nominate 10 fellow bloggers.
  • Inform said bloggers about their nominations.
  • Share 7 random things about yourself.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Put the Versatile Blogger Award picture in your post.

So, I nominate the following blogs, in no particular order:

All these people have probably been nominated for this award and others many, many times… but they deserve them many times over!  🙂

Let’s see,  seven random things about me:

  1. I LOVE popcorn!!  (Okay, maybe that’s not very random… hee hee)
  2. I fell out of a second-story window when I was about two years old.  No broken bones, no bruises… just a very freaked out mother… or so I was told.  🙂
  3. I can touch my nose with my tongue.
  4. I have an allergy to shellfish.
  5. I love the smell of strange things like gasoline and exhaust from taxi cabs.
  6. I used to stand and balance on my dad’s hand when I was very, very small.  (Will have to look for the photo of that…)
  7. The year I turned 39, I felt like I had turned 16 again!  Loving life, one day at a time!  🙂

So, that’s that… guess I need to write to the ones I nominated… off I go… 🙂

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