grey cat

Spring snow

Wednesday night on the way home I was singing Jingle Bells. This is not a Christmas carol as some may believe, it is a snow song. There is not one mention of Christmas and so I felt it was an appropriate song for a snowy April evening when everything looked just like it ought to have looked at Christmas but it was actually well past Easter.

As someone employed in the regulation of water in a very arid state, I am fully aware of how badly we needed every snowfall we have had in April and still more. I don't want hot summer weather any sooner than is absolutely necessary but still I find this spring snow to be, for lack of a more poetic word, weird.

Others share this opinion I realize. Here in Colorado I have grown accustomed to people wearing shorts in the winter, with a sweatshirt to balance things out I guess. I shake my head in amazement at their fortitude but I am no longer surprised by their attire. I must have been made of somewhat sterner stuff during my Michigan childhood because I remember my mother had a rule that my sister and I were not allowed to wear shorts until the temperature reached 70 degrees. Now I never wear them at all and at 70 degrees I may wear a windbreaker because with wind chill that can be pretty darn nippy.

However even I, in flagrant defiance of the weather and the temperature, refused to wear gloves or a hat during this last snowstorm. I admit I did wear a scarf one day but I usually didn't even zip up my coat when I went outside and everyone was acting the same way. I saw little old ladies without hats, gloves or scarves. We would admit that with the temperature well below freezing and snow falling constantly for over 24 hours and the wind whipping about we might need a coat, even in mid-April, but we surely didn't need gloves!
grey cat

10 years on here, really?

I have a friend who is just now studying in Japan and I gave her the link to this journal to let her see my take on my time in Japan (not as a student however, that predates LJ). I thought I should look and see if there were any useful insights about my life in Japan back when I was living in said country and so I started with my earliest entries, January 2003. Yipes!

Although I do have melancholy entries on leaving and missing Japan and on my adorable students it appears 80% of the time all I did was gush about bands. I love SMAP/Sclatch/Dear Loving blah blah blah... This is almost painful to read. How very like a real journal.

However in stumbling through my carefully transcribed days of youthful infatuation I came upon one of those quizes one gets from time to time and here is what I wanted my life to be like right now:

42. In 10 more years, you want to accomplish: I'd like to have a healthy marriage and be raising happy kids. I'd also like to have a job I love that leaves me with enough free time to enjoy life and pays well enough to give me money with which to enjoy life.

Well, okay then. I am happily married. I am not sure if I'm healthfully married. My husband and I have so much in common and also almost diametrically opposed life energies. I am happy (it takes practice, but I generally am) and he is an Eeyore -- "Knowledge for the sake of Complaining About Something."

It can be draining to be with a pessimist who calls himself a realist and our biggest arguments stem from my insistence that quantifiably "true" or not being positive makes life better while he asserts that nothing is more important than knowing and living the Truth (yes, with a capital T) and even if he may not have grasped the Truth in all its completeness just yet, he will trudge through muck and mire, bleed from a thousand weeping wounds, and press ever forward until he grasps Truth.

He is a philosopher and I am a poet. I think truth is in a moment perfectly captured -- displaying the essence of life in its very minutia. However I am, admittedly, not seeking Truth.

Is that a healthy marriage?

I honestly don't know. I honestly don't know just what my 25-year-old self meant by "a healthy marriage." Probably she was using the phrase to stand in for "perfect" in a societally appropriate way. I want a marriage where we are what all writers writing about ideal marriages in the abstract say we ought to be. Always understanding, supportive, loving and respectful. We would always speak in I sentences, "I feel underappreciated when you don't say thank you for the cupcakes I baked." And we would be world-class listeners, "I hear you saying that you feel underappreciated." We would have dealt with every bit of baggage and all family of origin issues. We would be emotionally mature, fully self-realized individuals striving toward the upper reaches of Maslow's hierarchy of needs together.

Certainly in a "healthy" marriage we would never find ourselves yelling at each other because he said I could watch another episode of "Inuyasha" and now I can just feel his annoyance at watching another episode as he slumps beside me on the couch and plans strategies for some RPG and it's not my fault that he doesn't understand Japanese I want to watch it subtitled because the English voices sound all wrong!

However it is my marriage and every day we say thank you and I love you and every night we cuddle together and I can say in all honesty being with him makes life better.

We don't have kids and I don't think we will for at least another two years but we shall see.

I don't love my job but it's okay. I like my coworkers and I have a great boss and that counts for a lot. I am helping the public and the environment and that's good. Plus it's not so taxing that it burns me out so I do have free time to enjoy life along with money with which to enjoy life.

Self of 2003, I think you would be startled by the happiness your 2013 self has found but I also know you would be pleased that happiness is still within your grasp.
grey cat

Grapes and CC Lemon

I miss the balconies that every place I lived in Japan had. I miss airing out my bedding and drying my clothes outside and just having this little space in the outdoors that was mine. I never had enough space for a chair or anything like that but I miss just standing out on my balcony. From my balcony at my host family's in Hirakata I could see the mountains. Later from the balcony of my own apartment in Hirakata I could watch the parade that passed by one random day.

During my senior year, I danced the memory of standing on the balcony for my modern dance class. I have no idea what moves I used but I remember snippets of the essay I wrote about what I was expressing. I wrote about the sound of the baseballs being hit in the nearby batting cages and about the bats that swooped by and the purple mountains in the distance at twilight.

One of my very first memories in Japan is eating tiny champagne grapes and drinking CC Lemon on the balcony of our room at Kansai Gaidai's Seminar House. Kitsune (obviously a nickname but she has red hair and back then kept all the boys' eyes on her -- now she's happily married) and I went to a store near the Seminar House and bought random stuff for dinner our first night on our own. I think we may have gotten snack bread and possibly a Crunky bar or some yogurt but I remember the grapes and the CC Lemon because we had too much of both and no refrigerator so we tried to finish them off and burnt ourselves out on CC Lemon for a while.

It always surprises me how many memories can be rolled up and tucked inside one instant. The grapes and the CC Lemon remind me...

The first time Kitsune and I had CC Lemon was at Kansai Airport. Fresh off the plane we wanted something to drink and were so amazed by the vending machines that dispensed soda pop into a cardboard cup. We chose CC Lemon because we had a fairly good idea of what it might taste like versus Pocari Sweat or Calpis.

I remember rolling our luggage to the Seminar House and how I almost fell into the drainage culvert because the roads were so frighteningly narrow in the lowering dusk.

I remember that I bought Detective Conan popsicles every chance I got because they included a collectible sticker and the soda flavored popsicles with the shaved ice center and the traditional outer layer were fascinating and delicious. In the summer and the spring my lunch was almost always milk and cookie bread (never found it again when I came back to teach) and apple yogurt although sometimes I'd splurge on food from the cafeteria and became known as that girl who drank the broth from her ramen even though the bowl was as big as my head. In the fall and winter I had a pizza or curry man (steamed bun) with my yogurt and I still remember how shocked I was one March day when I was informed they were gone for the season.

I remember the little gardens in front of the nearby houses when Kitsune and I would stroll around the neighborhood after our classes. I confused kirai and kirei the first time I was brave enough to try out the Japanese I was beginning to learn on a gardener. It's been fifteen years and the thought still makes me cringe.

I kept a scrapbook during my year studying abroad. I never quite finished it. The last few unused pages have random things just stuck between them. Every time I find myself holding it in my hands I tell myself I am going to finish it off and also the one I never started from my time teaching in Japan. I have the scrapbook (Muji), I have stacks of things to put in it... but I never do. I'm not quite sure why. Will it feel too final? Am I afraid that my memories will engulf me? Am I too busy living my current life to sift through the chapters I finished years ago? Am I scared to find I already have forgotten why I kept that random straw wrapper, that ticket stub?
  • Current Mood
    nostalgic nostalgic
grey cat

I can feel the past overtaking the present

I, as you may recall, got rid of a lot of Japanese pop culture goods last year. It was disorienting going through everything.

In school, life was so neatly separated into years. Looking back you didn’t expect third grade to be like fifth grade. Now however I am absolutely startled to find that 1) things change, 2) I have changed, 3) a lot of time has passed.

Long after I got rid of later volumes I kept the first three volumes of Ranma ½ because they were so much longer and also I think because I thought of them as pivotal somehow. They sat in a box of Japanese flotsam and jetsam in storage for years but as I sorted through all my stuff I took them out and holding them in my hands I remembered.

Collapse )
grey cat

Rummage sale

I am selling a vast quantity of goods I brought back from Japan. I have promised myself by the end of April they will be out of my home even if I have to give away some items. Now I'm not posting about this here as an advertisement but rather because I don't want my few and patient readers to think I don't love Japan any longer if they stumble upon one of these sales posts.

I had a wonderful time collecting SCLATCH, PLASTIC, Dear Loving, LAID, Amaterase, Daigo Stardust, KiNG, SMAP, V6, Arashi, Hikaru Genji, Shounentai, L'Arc~en~Ciel, Gackt, Oikawa Mitsuhiro, Pool Bit Boys, KinKi Kids etc. goods, and wearing Japanese fashions and even farther back collecting Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Mama wa Shougaku Yonnensei etc. goods but they no longer bring me joy. Rather they are sitting in boxes taking up space. That isn't to say I never listen to Japanese music, I do. The songs are on my iPod, my computer and a flash drive I take to work every day. I do not however need to have every single ever released by 50 different Japanese performers. (I exaggerate, but not by much.)

I am a firm believer in creating space for newness. It is time to clear out these objects to allow new loves and new adventures to take their place. I am keeping some mementos, fear not, but I don't need seven boxes or so of mementos. If you come to visit, Japan flavors much of my home so you will never wonder if I have forgotten a place so dear to my heart -- but today it's largely artwork, ceramics, tea utensils and the like instead of walls full of GACKT and Indies bands.

If you, dear reader, are interested in what will be going up for sale, here are my preliminary pictures: http://s245.photobucket.com/albums/gg65/Candied-sumire/. I have a lot more to photograph and am dithering about what to do with all the full-size CDs and DVDs which (in order to bring such a large number of them home) I put into CD wallets, stashed their paper inserts, and threw away the jewel cases. I'm also flummoxed by pricing everything so if you see something you want in amongst the photos; let me know and if you really want to endear yourself to your beleaguered friend, suggest a price as well. ^_^
  • Current Mood
    productive productive
grey cat

Phone/電話

Recently I checked my messages on my house voice-mail only to find that I had not done so in about a month. I also realized from one of the messages how odd it sounded that I hadn't changed my voice-mail greeting since I first recorded it.

I hate recording messages so I coerced my husband to do the new one. I always have to erase and record about ten times before I decide my voice doesn't sound too goofy and I'm not breathing too loudly and I sound mature but friendly and on and on.

While he was doing the recording (in one shot), I was recalling the message I created while living in Sanjou. Since I taught at elementary schools, I had to use vastly more Japanese than I had needed before and it became quite possible that a coworker could phone me who would find an English greeting totally incomprehensible. Thus I decided that I needed to record a message in Japanese and as, at the time, I was without any other resource I had to create one out of my own Japanese knowledge.

I don't recall it exactly... I think it went something like: アン・マリーはどこかな~?知りたい?ピーと後でメッセージをど~ぞ! A* M***- wa doko ka na~? Shiritai? Pii to ato de, messeji o do~zo. (Where is A*** M****? Do you want to know? After the beep, please leave a message.) It was a pretty cutesy message, I admit, but I was fairly sure it made sense, which was my main object, plus cute is never a bad thing in Japan... or so I thought.

I still recall coming home to an angry message from some Japanese woman. I didn't catch all of it but I did get that she was complaining about people who let their kids record the message. Instead of being chastened, I was ecstatic! She thought I sounded like a kid, but she thought I was Japanese! The memory still makes me smile.
grey cat

Music and memories

July 19, 2004 I wrote, "Of course when I think of a future that involves living in America, even with the "the man of my dreams," and not going to Dear Loving/Sclatch/Plastic/KING concerts and Off-Houses searching for an elusive Hysteric Glamour shirt that doesn't offend my delicate sensibilities... I want to cry."

I remember writing to someone back then that I couldn't imagine anything sadder than chopping up carrot sticks for kids' lunches while listening to Dear Loving. I thought I would never get over putting my "exciting life" behind me and settling down. I no longer find the idea remotely sad. (I find the idea of having kids fairly terrifying - why do people need to share morning sickness and labor pain stories with me? Isn't the idea of never being able to be selfish again enough to work through when it comes to having kids?) In fact, it amuses me to be typing up something at work and find a Dear Loving or King song come through my headphones. It's nostalgic but it also reminds me how happy I am to be me here now versus the starstruck girl who wrote lines like the one sited above.

I remember my last year in Japan, sitting in a restaurant in Tokyo (Good Honest Grub, I believe) and listening to the classic rock they were playing. I was singing along to some song I've known since I learned to walk and suddenly I thought to myself, "This is my culture and it is pretty cool." The "rock stars" I mooned over were impressed by my ability to name old Aerosmith songs or recognize the guitar riff from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. They were in awe of my culture.

This music wasn't just a part of my culture though, this was the sound of home to me. My parents were hippies. Classic rock and golden oldies were all I knew growing up. I may not have known that Sting was a man and not a rock band back in the eighties but I knew my mom had seen both The Doors and The Beatles perform.

I think that may have been the moment I decided to return to America. There were a lot of things that led up to it of course, but I had never been nostalgic for America before then. I visited as many shrines and temples as I could and snapped up lovely Japanese housewares and rode old trains in Chiba prefecture with my dear friend Atsuko because I love Japan and I wanted to take as much back with me that was beautiful and good as I possibly could but I was preparing to go home. I could use 帰ります without flinching.
grey cat

I had to update my profile

This was because it spoke of wanting to get married and I am now in fact married. Yes to the same man I have spoken about in my very sporadic entries. I apologize for never writing on here in the entirety of 2010. I hate to say I use LJ mostly to aggregate comics and read friend's updates. I am still writing but I'm also playing around with mixed media artwork and enjoying that a great deal. I do hope to make more appearances online in the not too distant future but wedding planning stereotypically took over my life and then this summer heat has left my brain a melted mess but meet me here come the winds of autumn and we'll see what we can cook up!
grey cat

Family

Last week I left the apartment and rushed to the bus stop only to find the rain had turned to snow and without much thought I grabbed my cell phone and called my fiancée and told him that it was snowing.

He could look out the window and see that. I had just kissed him goodbye as I shoved my feet into rose covered galoshes before hurrying off. Still, the person I thought to share the surprise of the first fleeting snowfall of the year with was him.

I thought later about what that exchange meant. At one time I would have had my mother right behind me and would have turned to her to beam my joy at the year’s first snow. Later, it may have been her or my sister or a friend who would have been tapped to share the moment.

As my friends and family aged alongside me we parted ways, at least physically. The first snowfall in Japan would hardly affect my family in Virginia, but perhaps I would call anyway just to share my life.

Then our lives got more complicated. My sister started working, expanded her menagerie, got married and now she wasn’t available at all hours of the day for everyday wonders. Friends got married, got careers, moved and moved again and still I wanted to share these moments. I learned to judge who was least likely to be harried (sorry if I never remembered TV schedules!) and called to tell the chosen person about the little moments in my life.

So these bonds shifted and stretched – the bonds of sharing the everyday. Sometimes it felt quite lonely and sometimes I had multiple calls to return. The level of interaction waxed and waned with relationships starting and ending and jobs and new hobbies and new friends and that was okay.

Then someone entered my life who started to share the everyday again – someone to comment to when I over-spiced the soup or when I read something interesting in a magazine or if my cat looked especially adorable.

This, I thought in the tiny evaporating specks of snow, was family. No doubt moments come when my mother, sister or friends wonder if I have been enjoying the autumn leaves or if I need reassurance over a mistake at work and wish I called about these things more often. On the other hand, when life gets chaotic – a friend needs to be moved, a lover wants to take a road trip, a boss expects overtime for the foreseeable future – they need not picture me telling my cat about my day.

This reshaping of our everyday is growing up and it’s a bittersweet thing, but it’s good.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative
grey cat

Red String of Fate

In my few sparse entries I think I have written more about love and loneliness than any other topic so, loathe as I am to end it like this (the topic, not the journal), I must profess that I am head over heels in love. There, it is written. It's there in black and white (your colors may vary) in all its glorious improbableness. It sits there looking for all the world like something trite and fake and I fear I have no prose up to the task of making it more believable to you, my discerning readers. I, your relatively clear-eyed daydreamer, have succumbed to the ultimate harebrained idea. I am one of those fools who believes in the red string of fate, a media naranja, a soul mate.

I love romantic movies; lines like, "I just knew. You touch her for the first time, and suddenly... you're home. It's almost like...magic." I love romance novels; fantastic set-ups where you meet and fall in love in three amazing weeks and it all ends happily ever after. I love love-songs; where it's okay to say you'll be someone's everything because it's set to music. But everyone knows that's the "razzle-dazzle" entertainment dishes up. It's not real. No one "just knows." You need a lot more time to be sure than a whirlwind three weeks and no one, for the sake of sanity, ought to be everything to you.

We spent almost 12 hours together on that first date; going to a museum, strolling through a rose garden, playing on swings, eating ice cream, perusing a bookstore... It was darn near perfect. All well and good but why did I feel like this was someone I had misplaced and joyfully found again? "Oh, there you are!" my heart exclaimed and all my rational and reasonable thinking never diminished it's belief that somehow or other this person I had just met belonged with me.

So, as my sister once warned me, love has humbled me. I am a foolish believer too.