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… 🙂

Brownie Points from Beloved Bloggers (^^)/

Oh, happy day!!  Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen!!  🙂

The “ping” sound of a new message in the inbox made me look.  I saw there was a new blog post by a new favorite of mine and the title of it was, “And the award goes to…”  My first thought was, “Yay!!  Someone gave her an award!!” and I proceeded to check it out.

Krystal (aka Unabashedly Poetic) had followed the instructions for the various awards she had received and had made a list of 10 bloggers she wanted to nominate.  I skimmed over the list, clicking on a few of the links to see who see likes to read, then went back to the list and saw a smiley face next to one… “Birdie, the hard boiled egg“.

She nominated me… not for one or two awards, but four!!  😀

And since I will have a chance to say a thing or two about Krystal later, let’s move on to the main event!  🙂

First Award:  Mrs. Sparkly’s Ten Commandments – A list of 10 questions to be answered by the nominee… and a list of 10 bloggers you’d like to nominate for the award.

1.  Describe yourself in seven words.   Weird, Bi-lingual, Happy, Musical, Affectionate, Smiley, Empathetic

2.  What keeps you up at night?   Thoughts of my future, worrying about my loved ones or a mind full of really, REALLY good daydreams!  (Or would they be called “nightdreams” when they happen at night?)  🙂

3.  Whom would you like to be?   Well, to be honest, I’m  happy being the person I am!

4.  What are you wearing now?   Black sock, blue jeans, a blue long-sleeve shirt with white stripes and black & white fuzzy slippers.  (Yes, I live in Japan! 🙂 )

5.  What scares you?   Falling, losing loved ones, not being able to say words of farewell…

6.  What are the best and worst things about blogging?   Best thing:  Writing and sharing all these thoughts which swirl around in my head.  Worst thing:  Sometimes feeling pressed for time on days when the work schedule is extremely busy.

7.  What was the last website you looked at?   The Zama Alumni Association website  (A site for the school I attended… I’m privileged to be a part of the team working on the site with special people.)

8.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?   I’d like to be less of a worry wart.

9.  Slankets, yes or no?   Well, since I have no idea what a slanket is, let me look it up.  ** A few moments later **  Mmm, no.  Comfy ole blankets and throws don’t need any other competition.  🙂

10.  Tell us something about the person who tagged you:  She is like a bright ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds on a gray day!  Her words put a smile on your face and her positivity is infectious.  (Could be because she’s very happily engaged.  🙂 )  And her stepmom went to a rival school of mine here in Japan… small, small world!  Please check out her blog:  Unabashedly Poetic

Krystal, thank you so much for the nomination!  I hope there is a day when I can repay your kindness in full!  🙂

Now for the 10 bloggers I’d like to nominate:

These nominations are for this award and for the three awards listed below.  (Apologies to those of you who have already been nominated for these awards before… just wanting to share and show some love!)  And if I read Krystal’s words correctly, the nominees are automatically winners of all the awards on this page!  Congratulations… or “Omedetou gozaimasu!” in Japanese.  🙂

   Second Award:  The Sunshine Award – Rules:  Thank the person who gave you the award.  Write a post about it.  Answer the questions that come with it.  Pass it along to ten people and let them know they’ve received the award.  (The nominees are listed above.)

Favorite Color:  Purple

Favorite Animal:  Otter

Favorite Number:  Eighteen

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink:  Water

Facebook or Twitter:  Both, but probably use Facebook more often.

My Passion:  All things music!!  🙂

Getting or Giving Presents:  Definitely giving!  It’s priceless to see the emotions which spread across people’s faces when they open a gift!

Favorite Pattern:  Smileys  (Is that considered a pattern?)

Favorite Day of the Week:  Tuesday

Favorite Flower:  African Violets

  Third Award:  The Liebster Blog Award – Found an explanation on The Mirth of Despair.  There are also a list of rules on the blog, As The Pendulum Swings.

“Liebster” is a German word which means dearest, favorite or beloved.  How touching it is to be thought of in this way!  🙂

  Fourth Award:  The Candle Lighter Award – To learn more about this award, please click on the following link:  Believe Anyway




Such a happy day, all thanks to Krystal!  And once again, please take a moment to check out her blog, Unabashedly Poetic.  You’ll be glad you did!!  🙂

♫♩I Enjoy Being A Girl ♬♪ (I’m Just Not Very Good At It…)

Because of a class/work schedule change tonight, I’ll be able to go out and join a party with a friend, his wife and their friends… about 15 people total.  Participating in get-togethers like these is not common for me since most of my nights are filled with English classes.  (And the “partying mood” is not alive and well when one is getting back home at anywhere between 9:30pm to 1:00am.)

Since there’s excitement in the air, I thought I’d do something different and use hot curlers in my hair.  ** Insert LOTS of laughter here!**

Those who know me well know that I’m not really a girly girl.  I don’t wear makeup.  I’ve always been a jeans and t-shirt type of person.  (Wore overalls for my 8th grade school pictures… my mother wasn’t thrilled about my choice.)  Hair care includes washing, conditioning and if the weather is cold, blow-drying.  If it’s really hot, the hair goes up in a ponytail.  If it’s really cold, a hat is added.

It is fun when someone wants to put makeup on me, but after a while, the skin feels like it can’t breathe and 9 times out of 10, I totally forget about the mascara I’m wearing and rub my eyes, as I normally would.  This is always followed by, “Oops…” or “Uh, oh…” after noticing there’s black stuff on my hands.

Anyway, back to the hot rollers…

At the moment, there are nine of them still in my hair.  I haven’t gone to get my bangs cut recently, so one hot roller was used for my bangs, too.  About an hour ago, this particular one started to fall out, so I took it out and was going to re-roll.  Curiosity got the best of me… a trip to the bathroom to check the mirror… a huge laugh burst from me.

Half to the left, half to the right!

My bangs looked just like Charlie Chaplin’s feet!!  Right at that moment, a good friend called and I couldn’t stop laughing to say, “Moshi moshi,” (“Hello” in Japanese) and she asked what was going on.  When I explained the above, she also began giggling and said, “Why are you doing something you never do?!”

Touche’!!  🙂

So, here I am… bangs have been sprayed with water to help “calm” them down a bit and now dried to straighten them out again.  A big round-brush is standing by, ready to work along with the hair dryer.  We will see if the second attempt at the bangs will be a success or not.

Am thinking that the makeup will stay OFF today… the extent of it may be some Carmex lip balm.  (LOVE the stuff!!)

I mean, what could go wrong with some lip balm, right?  🙂

Fingers crossed… 😀

Passwords to the Heart

We have so many passwords we have to deal with every day.  Passwords for our bank accounts, email accounts, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (haven’t used that one in a while), iPhones, personal safes, computers…

Do we have passwords that can open up our hearts?

Is there a special word or phrase, a certain look or smile that helps you to open up to someone?  Does it take a glass of wine… or two or three… for you to open up to a stranger?  A sympathetic expression?  An empathetic nod?

No, this isn’t what I was planning to write about today, but as I was walking the dog tonight, I started wondering about what it is that makes people express their inner thoughts to others.

That thought spurned into another:  Why is it that a lot of people are so quick to share their deepest and almost confidential thoughts on blogs or to complete strangers out here in this world we call the Internet?  Their own family members may not know what makes them tick because it’s not discussed, yet ones in this virtual world might know everything about the person.

Who do you let into your heart?

Do you have a special password?

Do you let anyone in?

Do you think people are too open on the Internet?

Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions…

When I Grow Up…

This morning, I had to drive across town to one of the kindergartens where I teach.  English classes are held there for the oldest kids (5 and 6-year-olds) and we see each other once a week.

March is graduation season in Japan and the kids will be starting a new chapter of their lives when they begin 1st grade at the local elementary school.  There were only two more times left for English classes (today and next week) and I had told the kids that for the last class, they could have a “Game Request Day”.

Today, I told the kids to go and get their sketchbooks and crayons.  While they were all settling back into their places, some on their seats and others on the floor, I wrote, “My Dream” up on the blackboard.  When I asked what they thought it said, most of the kids were trying to sound the words out and a few could actually read it with no problems at all.  (Yes, I was happy!)  The task was to write those words at the top of the paper and then draw a picture of what they want to become when they grow up.

Most of the little girls wanted to be models or idols or cake shop and flower shop owners.  Most of the little boys wanted to be soccer players, baseball players and train conductors.  There was the occasional Kamen Rider (an action hero over here) or a Pokemon Master, but most of the dreams were very realistic.

When I was their age, I wanted to be a singer.  As my friends and I got older, their dreams changed and mine didn’t.  All through elementary school, middle and high school, becoming a singer was the only dream I had because singing was like breathing to me.  I was always a part of the school choir, I sang in the choir at church, I sang in my bedroom, while I was in the bathtub, in front of the mirror… music was (and still is) my passion.

But I didn’t necessarily care about being in the spotlight.  If I was singing harmonies while someone else was taking the lead, that was fine by me!  I simply wanted to be singing!  (And that feeling hasn’t changed… and I still want to be a singer when I grow up!  🙂 )

A lot of the kids today asked me what my dream was when I was little and after telling them, I also said that they should never give up on their dreams.  One little boy said, “But, Sensei (teacher), you’re an English teacher, so your wish didn’t come true.”  But I explained that I also sing songs for commercials on TV and radio and have done back-up vocals for local artists.  I told him that anything is possible.

After hearing this, the little boy went to draw his picture.  When he came to show me his completed drawing, there were two separate pictures:  one of a soccer player and one of a baseball player.

“I want to be both!” he said with a grin on his face.  “Anything is possible, right, Sensei?”

Wanted to give him a big hug and cry, but instead, I held his soft face in my hands, nodded and said, “You’re absolutely right!”  (Precious, precious kids…)

So… what do you want to be when you grow up?  🙂

That Yummy, Fluffy, Puffy White Stuff (^^)/

What is something (an edible something) that you could not live without?  Some type of food that if the doctor told you, “I’m sorry, but if you keep eating (fill in the blank), you will experience major health issues!” you’d continue eating it anyway?

For me, it’s POPCORN!!  🙂

That Yummy Fluffy White Stuff

That Yummy Fluffy White Stuff!!

I have loved popcorn for as long as I can remember!  Growing up, my mother made popcorn every Saturday night.  From 7:30pm, we’d be watching a show called “Quiz Derby”.  It was a 30-minute quiz show that we’d watch as a family every week.  It was a show like this…

At about 7:45, she’d go into the kitchen and start cooking.  You could hear her shuffling around, the “clank” of the lid on the popcorn pot (which was actually a tempura pot that she used for popping popcorn) and a few minutes later, you could hear pops… a few at first and then continuous stream of sound.

The quiz show would end and, just like clockwork, my mom would walk into the living room, sit down on the floor next to me with a BIG bowl of popcorn and our favorite Saturday night show would begin.

In my mind, it was like this:  popcorn = “Hachi ji Dayo! Zeiin Shuugou!” (“It’s 8 o’ Clock! Everyone, come together!”) and vice versa

For those of you who grew up in Japan, here’s a nostalgic clip for you.  For those of you who grew up in other places, this is the variety/comedy show we watched every Saturday night at 8pm.

So, through the laughter and singing along with the top-selling hits of the time, you could smell that wonderful warm smell and hear the crunch of popcorn!

Nowadays, there are so many different types, so many different flavors.  But for me… put it in a big bowl, just sprinkle a little salt on the top and… perfection!  🙂

Do you have a popcorn story/memory?  What’s your favorite flavor?

No Hands, No Flow

You know how when some people are singing on a TV show or at a karaoke bar, they move and wave their hands up in the air as they sing the melodies?  Have you ever thought that was strange?

I thought it was slightly… well, “fake” is not the word I’m thinking of… maybe over-doing it?  It would often seem like the person was acting and I would wonder, “If the person’s hands were tied together, would they still be able to sing?”

I used to think this way… until today.  🙂

This morning, there was a narration job in my schedule.  (A two-hour job at a recording studio in town)  I’d gotten home after 4am from a separate recording/singing job, slept as long as I could and took off to do my best with narrating.

Got to the studio, called my contact, he showed up a couple of minutes later, had a short meeting with him and the mixing/sound engineer, and into the recording booth I went.

Things started out a bit rough.  For some reason, there was an echo in the headphones as I read.  Told the sound engineer about it and he thought it was something to do with my volume controls in the booth.  Tweaked things a bit… no change.  Continued with the narration and just couldn’t get into the groove at all.

Finally, the sound guy found it was a control on HIS side.  (And the echo disappeared… yay!)  We re-recorded some of the beginning and it all began to flow smoothly.

It was then that I made a new discovery.  As I read a phrase like, “This process will be harmonious to our natural environment,” with as much feeling as I could, I noticed my hands.  They were moving and flailing about, as if they were attempting to be as descriptive as the words on the page!  It was SO comical!  For the next several sentences, I put my hands on my lap and guess what happened?  It was as if the gentle flow of the words started to bump and bounce around.  What?!!  Why?!

I asked the engineer if we could record that part again and once the red cue light flickered, I began to read and let my hands do what they wanted to do.  Once again, they were moving, explaining, describing… and the flow was smooth.

So, to all those people out there who flail their arms around while singing, I apologize for my former opinions and won’t doubt you from this day forward.

Lesson learned!  🙂

What to say, what to say…

Wow!  It seems like there are days when a specific topic pops into my mind while I’m teaching a class or on the way to/from work.  Then there are days like today when there are SO many subjects whirl-pooling and flooding the brain, it’s hard to pick just one from the rapid current!

We’ll go with a moment when I was surprised by my mother two days ago.

The first part of the surprise was to find a big pink envelope in the mailbox from my sweet Okaa-san (mom).  It amazes me how letters from her seem to arrive on the day of the holiday or a b-day or some other special occasion.  It’s as if she sprinkles magic time dust on the letter and *poof* it gets here on the day!  Okay… surprise part 1.

Surprise Part 2… it was addressed to me (of course), but she had written my first name, middle initial and maiden name.

Yes, I used to be married.  Seems like it was a lifetime ago… the divorce happened just over 10 years ago.  (Guess that would be a lifetime in the opinion of a 10-year-old, right?)  And blogs about the marriage, divorce and everything in between will come in the future, I’m sure… but not today.

So, even after the divorce was finalized, my mother wrote my married name on packages and letters.  It made sense… I mean, the American consulate told me that they couldn’t do anything about name changes and that I’d have to do so in the States.  (The consulate handles marriages but not divorces… a real pain.)  And since I never spend that much time in one city while in the U.S., my name is still as it was when I was married.  And as mentioned above, that’s name my mom wrote.

Until two days ago, that is.

Not sure if it was a fluke or if she did that on purpose, but as soon as I saw what was written, I smiled.  It was like I was being told, “THIS is who you are!”  Isn’t that strange?

I wonder if there are other people out there who’ve felt the same way…

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