A Day Off!

After a LONG day today, I found out I won’t have any classes to teach tomorrow.  YAY!!  😀

Tomorrow is Spring Equinox and here in Japan, it’s a holiday for most of the country.  The thing is just because it’s a holiday for everyone else, that doesn’t mean it is for me.

I’m the type that if my students want to have class, we’ll have class.  I figure if I don’t work, I’ll just be sitting at home doing nothing.  (Though there are TONS of things I could be or should be doing!  LOL)  If I teach a class, my students are happy and they don’t have to be alone on their day off.  (Yes, there are lonely people in the world.)

But last week, one of my Tuesday evening students told me her sister was going to be visiting tomorrow since it’s a national holiday.  (No 8pm class.)  Then I had a phone call about an hour ago from my friend who organizes the other two classes on Tuesday nights.  He said that since it’s a holiday, we’d have no classes.

So, do I have any plans for tomorrow?  No, not really.  It’ll probably be the usual stuff.  If the weather is nice, there’s laundry to do, dishes to wash… need to clean the cats’ litter boxes and organize my work expense receipts from last month.  There’s never a dull moment around here.

OR I could skip all that and actually take a full day off.  Wake up late, watch movies on cable, pop some popcorn and enjoy my holiday, right?

Guess I’ll decide what to do tomorrow!  **happy sigh**  🙂

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…

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)

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… 😦

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries