Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Japanese scenery

Off to the kindergarten today so no time to write. And I've got a few errands that need to be done even BEFORE class, so I AM OUT OF HERE!

Japan is looking green and beautiful. Tomorrow the forecast is typhoon which is a pretty regular occurrence though hard on pear and apple farmers in the area. Sometimes the typhoons just blow over/around us, sometimes we need to batten things down for a few hours. I'd rather have typhoons than earthquakes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More this and that

I was off at the pre-school yesterday. I'm usually there about two hours "playing" with three classes. As I was finishing up with the oldest class, I noticed the younger classes getting ready for lunch. Many kindergartens have the children bring their own lunches. This pre-school is subsidized by the prefecture so lunch is supplied daily. I didn't get a picture of what lunch was yesterday... I think chicken and some egg combination. But I did get a picture of the children (4 years old) serving their classmates rice and soup. Pretty good that these little people can serve and portion equally without too much spillage. And they also carry a tray to the Principal's office for her lunch too!


Someone gave me a box of plastic gold-colored buttons. Such a glittery horde! I know I am never going to sew or knit anything that would use gaudy gold buttons but I don't want to just toss this box either. I'm thinking that they would be good in some craft project... I always try to make Christmas ornaments with my English students and I could see the gaudy gold being used there. Has anyone done any good Christmas project using buttons? I sure would like some input!

And a couple people asked me for the link to the Tessellating Cats pattern. Actually I found the image on the Internet and traced the link back to the McCalls Quilting magazine, October 2009. But I couldn't find a link to buying a past issue then (or now) and asked if anyone had an issue they were willing to part with. Mona responded and sent me the pages for the Tessellating Cats pattern (actually called Kitty Memories). I changed the border (just because I already had a piano key bordered quilt) but the rest is pretty much like the pattern. After I finish quilting this (I am NOT going for machine quilting) I will put strips of ribbons and bells or charms (or some of those gold buttons!) on the necks of the cats. If you still want the pattern you will have to contact me by e-mail (unless you can figure out how to get McCalls Quilting magazine to sell you an issue. If you figure it out let me know!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tetsu's car

Tetsu commented that I have only been blogging about quilting. (He doesn't read the English so he had no idea what I was blogging about yesterday.)

Well, the big news for us, for Tetsu, is that he bought a new car! Actually he put in an order for a car in late June and he was NOT happy about it either. Japan's system of car overhauls that includes extensive fees every two years prompted this purchase... but Tetsu has been grumbling ever since about how he can't afford a new car, a used one would have been fine, he could have found a cheaper car etc. But Tetsu doesn't really like cars anyway so we just went back to our car dealer friend and put in an order for the same car as we bought for me a couple years ago. Different color so that we won't get confused.

I finally got tired of hearing all Tetsu's grumbling and said,

"Why don't you just try to enjoy it? Why don't you just count your blessings that we can even THINK of a new car (even with a car loan)? Why don't you just think that for all your hard work you need a car that doesn't break down on you? Lighten up!"

Tetsu didn't like my tone but I guess he's trying to be positive about the whole thing. (Actually he was trying to give me the new car and he would drive our little lavender one. No thank you! Tetsu, go ahead and get over it! You are going to be the driver of a NEW car.)

The car was ready to pick up this weekend. Tetsu had Saturday off. Good, we'll go get the new car. But no! The dealer said,

"Saturday is not a good luck day. It would bring better fortune if we turned the car over to you on Sunday the 28th. That is a good luck day."

Sigh. We get this all the time everywhere. Things always go by the calendar's good luck markings. I heard somewhere that in the early eras of Japanese calendar making someone just arbitrarily gave names to each day of the month depicting good and bad luck and suddenly everyone in Japan was planning his or her days according to the luck markings. No weddings on certain bad luck days, lottery ticket sales go up on good luck days, surgeries are even scheduled according to the calendar... and the turning over of cars it seems.

So Tetsu got his car YESTERDAY, on a good luck day (which, you do realize both Tetsu and I think is a bunch of nonsense).

Oh happy man! He likes the color, he likes the car and GASP!!! Do you see what is there on the dash? A GPS Navigator!!!! Oh my, Tetsu is really planning to enjoy this car! We are never going to get lost again! I'm sure you will all miss my posts about getting lost on our outings.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Out of stock

I never told you about my quest while I was in the States.

Just before I left for the States the kindergarten principal where I work asked me if I could buy her a Geiger counter. A what?! She explained that because of the radiation threat from the Fukushima nuclear plant, the schools and kindergartens in northern Japan are supposed to have their playgrounds tested regularly for any windblown radiation. Right now there is one small hand-held instrument that is being passed weekly around the city's kindergartens and I guess there are officials that supposedly come at regular intervals to do official testing. The principal really wanted a kindergarten Geiger counter so that she could report to the parents weekly what the radiation levels are at the kindergarten.

I have a feeling that the principal was thinking I could walk into the nearest Target and buy her a Geiger counter. Excuse me, no. (I did try Radio Shack and an electronics store.) Geiger counters are not sold over the counter. And did I even know what kind of Geiger counter I wanted? I seemed to recall that there had been different types of radiation mentioned in the news.

I contacted Leiya's former host father and asked for his advice (he studied nuclear science) and he directed me to a website with very military looking, heavy equipment Geiger counters. But sorry, I wasn't going to be able to carry THAT back in my suitcase. I e-mailed the principal and gave her the information asking her what I should do next. Was THIS what she had in mind? Was THIS what she wanted to spend her money on? (And she was willing to pay a lot!!!) My mission got put on hold while the principal thought things out.

On another day I got my friend Mr. Suga involved and he introduced me to his scientist friend who specialized in air control. Wow! I got a whole lesson over lunch on what radiation monitoring really entailed! And more opinions on what I should buy!

But I failed in my quest because when I finally pressed the button to order a Geiger counter (I figured it could be shipped to Japan), I was given a message that they were temporarily sold out due to "recent events in Japan". I guess a lot of people are concerned about the radiation levels in the world. I came back to Japan with a folder full of information for the kindergarten principal and she decided herself on a Geiger counter and put in an order. Supposedly the kindergarten will have its own Geiger counter sometime in February... Radiation isn't something that is going to go away (unfortunately) so she figures a late Geiger counter is better than no Geiger counter at all.

And in case anyone is interested, Japan is having a hard time dealing with radiation residue right now. All those playgrounds that tested positive for excess radiation have had the topsoil removed and the contaminated soil is being somewhat contained in sheds and under tarps until the government can figure out where to dispose of the stuff (so that it doesn't get into water resources.) It doesn't sound very contained just under tarps... And the ashes from incineration centers for our garbage also register high levels of radiation so the government is trying to figure out some safe way to seal that residue also.

A Geiger counter may be a necessary appliance in the Japanese household someday. I guess I'd rather not know... sigh.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Progress on my UFO's

I started out yesterday morning visiting blogs which I didn't do while I was in the States. Oh, you people are making so many nice things!!! I want to make this and I want to make that! But wait! Don't I have a bunch of UFO's in the closet already? I really need to finish those off before I start something new (or at least move them into another stage of unfinished-ness.)

OK. Marie commented that my Tessellating Cats quilt could be hand quilted and I'd get puffier cats than if I tried to densely machine quilt. How true. And I really do like having one hand quilting project at my TV chair. So thanks to Marie the Tessellating Cats is now getting quilted (with the help of Aunt Becky). Hand quilting is such a relaxing pastime. I really enjoy a quilt instead of always being on the edge of a chair about how the machine quilting is going to turn out...

(Marie, send me your e-mail address if you want this pattern.)

Another UFO was the Tisket a Tasket block of the month that I did last year and all the blocks have just sat in a box with no idea about what I wanted to do with them. Well, they aren't getting anywhere in a box! Do something Tanya! So, instead of striving for perfection or originality I just cut into some fabric and made sashing and then put a border on it. The Tisket a Tasket is now a flimsy! Well, at least it is at a point where I know what the next step will be... quilting. (But the same quandary as yesterday... Machine quilting or hand quilting?)

And I have another flimsy that needs to be basted but my dumb cats peed on it so I had to throw it in the washing machine! Oh my, all those frayed seams! It seems to have come out smelling fresh and clean and I need to do some serious ironing today...

And there are those Star within the Star blocks that are sitting around... I haven't really thought out how those are going to turn into a quilt. Oh my gosh... And I've got those Alabama Beauty blocks hidden away somewhere too!

No. I dare not think of starting something new...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Halloween early

You might think that it is Halloween around here! Last night Y-kun came for English bearing... a Jack O' Lantern! I think he's got his seasons off! He explained that his grandfather's farm has BIG pumpkins so all by himself he carved a Jack O' Lantern. This is one proud little boy! And of course he wanted the world to see it so we had to set it up lighted in my living room window. Yeah, let's confuse the neighbors!

The other boys shake their heads at the crazy things Y-kun thinks up to do but I can't help admire but his creativity and gumption. I guess I'll honor those qualities by lighting Y-kun's Jack 'O Lantern this week. I hope he's left some pumpkins in his grandfather's field for the REAL Halloween.

And though I wasn't thinking of Halloween, I just happened to be working on a few black cats (and other colors) myself yesterday. The Tessellating Cats quilt has been sitting around for quite awhile and I decided to get it basted with Sharon's board basting method. I went out and bought two LONG~~~ boards and set myself up in the dining room. Unfortunately my dining room table isn't long enough to accommodate the width of this quilt but I persevered and in about an hour got the whole thing basted. Yeah!

Now what!?!

Is this machine quilt-able? It's pretty big for a domestic machine. The blurry pictures from the magazine (and website) show some extensive zig-zag quilting on the cats but can I really do that? (As would be expected the magazine's quilt was long-arm quilted.) Or do stitch-in-the-ditch by hand? I'm on a roll. I'd hate to set this aside again for another few months...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cooking (or not)

Alas not too much going on around here. School has started so I went out to the crosswalk in uniform this morning. The kids were loaded down with bags and books. Japanese children have homework over summer vacation. No one looked very happy having to start school again.

One of the great things about going to the States every summer is that I don't have to cook. Just as my brain forgets Japanese while I'm in the States, it also forgets how to cook. Truly! I just wander around the supermarket and can't think of a thing I can cook even if I wanted to (I never want to.) Different ingredients, different likes and dislikes in the household, different daily schedules, different lifestyle... all add up to not being able to cook while I'm in the States.

And I'm not the only one. Though Marcy has a lovely, large kitchen; during the summer she rarely cooks either, or if she does it is out on the barbecue. The kitchen only got used this summer for eating breakfast cereals and making instant coffee.... I guess my brother cooked breakfast four times while I was there.

I'm not complaining. But stepping back into Japan means that I need to put my brain back in order so that I can cook a dinner for Tetsu. (By the way, I ordered box lunches for his dinners while I was gone. He didn't starve. He didn't cook either!)

The first two days Tetsu let me sleep off my jet lag and we ate Japanese fast food (beef bowl, ramen). My first after summer menu was cold, spicy noodles. Tetsu was SO happy! My second dinner was going to be curry rice. Oops. What's wrong with the rice cooker?

The rice cooker is broken, almost to the day of when we bought it! (and some of you may remember that we paid quite a lot for that rice cooker!) So much for THAT night's dinner. We ate out again. Tetsu fiddled with the rice cooker but nope, it is sulking from being ignored for over a month... (or maybe the mold from Japanese humidity has gotten into its components?) Tetsu took the rice cooker to the electric shop and it is being repaired... Which means no rice for a week. I tried cooking rice on the stove with my pressure cooker. Disaster! Burnt, globby mess! I am not so dedicated to being a good Japanese wife as to try to cook rice on the stove every night!

Japan has this wonderful product called "Cooked Rice"! Basically someone has just put sticky Japanese rice in freezable portioned packages that can be zapped in the microwave and eaten as is... or if you want to be elegant, transferred to a proper rice bowl. Between last night's spaghetti (thank you Pat H. for sending me spaghetti sauce mix!) and zappable rice, Tetsu is still getting a home cooked meal every night.

I guess when any of us have too long a vacation; me and the rice cooker, it is hard to get back into the habit of cooking...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Japanese and English language

Yesterday a few people asked whether Tetsu speaks English. Nope. He has never been interested in learning, has never felt a need; until maybe recently. With our children living in the States and with their friends all non-Japanese speaking, I think Tetsu is feeling a bit left out. He found it very interesting to see a quick summer video that I'd captured of the kids in the swimming pool, and hear Takumi and Leiya playing around and talking to each other in English now.

I have never particularly minded that Tetsu doesn't have an interest in English. It was one of things that attracted me to him anyway when we first met... he wasn't looking at me as a potential English teacher. In some ways maybe his lack of English has curbed our relationships somewhat because I tended to keep my friendships with Japanese rather than search out foreign friends. Even now, my only foreign friend in Japan is Marlene and these days she is in Hong Kong!

But all this means that I adapted quickly to Japan and the Japanese language! Thank you Tetsu! More often than not, even when I am in the States, I think in Japanese first, and there are lots of Japanese phrases that automatically come out of my mouth when I can't think of the correct English! But it's true that depending on where I am (in the States or in Japan), my brain goes into that mode.

I have some Japanese friends, the Sugas (Hi Keiko!) and we all used to travel to the States together every summer on the same airplane. We would chat away in Japanese on the way to the Japanese airport. We would chat away in Japanese while flying over the Pacific. We would take our first step into LAX and suddenly we would all be speaking ENGLISH to each other! We would meet once or twice during the summer at my mother's house or somewhere and we would all chat away in ENGLISH. The same for flying back to Japan together... all English. But one step onto Japanese ground and without thinking we would all switch back into Japanese. A very curious phenomenon but that was how our brains worked...


Well, I finished the translating/correcting work I was asked to do. (Remember, the job that was so much bigger than I thought it was going to be.) It has been hanging over my head all through the summer and I got annoyed with all the e-mails and documents and Flash drives that the prefecture was sending me before and while I was in the States. I finally just ignored everything that came about the job and enjoyed my summer, knowing that it would be waiting for me when I got back. And it was!

The last week I have spent about 5 hours a day checking the original translation and rewriting, searching out different websites for more information, gaining knowledge along with my frustrations. For example I had no idea how the Japanese insurance system works and so the round about way the original translator had written things didn't make any sense at all. Once I had a grasp of WHAT she was trying to say, then I could make the paragraph flow a bit more. (Of course, when we met last Saturday, the translator admitted that she didn't understand the system either so she had a hard time translating herself.)

I would really like to turn this all in... but it seems that every time I reread a page I find new mistakes that I overlooked before... Should we be using a comma there or a semi-colon? Didn't we capitalize the word in a different section so shouldn't we be consistent throughout the book?

Aaghhh! And I thought I enjoyed translating! I may have lived too long in Japan. I'm forgetting my English!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Japanese dialects

A couple people asked about the T-shirts from Saturday's post. The T-shirts are 25oo yen, but I'm afraid since the dollar is high now, that that really brings the cost up... Even considering that all proceeds will go to Northern Japan's animals converting it to American dollars ($33), it ends up being a big expense for a simple cotton T-shirt. If anyone is really interested let me know and I can send one for you....


Tetsu and I spent the evening watching a couple of DVD's. I wanted him to see Blindside which I'd seen in the States a couple of years ago. And we also watched a Japanese movie with the story taking place in the Southern part of Japan. Thus it took a bit of effort for me to follow the Japanese.

When you think of Japan you figure everyone speaks Japanese, right. True. But did you know that there are different dialects in Japan? Much like there are accents of English; British, Australian, American and also New York accent or Southern accent; in Japan, it is fairly easy to tell where a person is from even with a short conversation. And not only are there accents, there are different inflections and even completely different words and phrases used. Accents, intonations, inflections, different words, different phrases, it all gets very confusing especially for a foreigner like me. (But even for native Japanese.)

When I first came to Japan I lived in the northern city of Morioka and the dialect spoken there was very countrified, the words blending together and even odd little attachments to certain words. Different from any Japanese that I'd ever studied in college! But most people all over Japan can speak standard Japanese so I was able to get along (and interestingly never picked up the Morioka dialect myself). But a few weeks after marrying Tetsu and listening to him and his mother chat over breakfast, I realized I couldn't understand a word my husband was saying! What had I done! How could I be married to someone I couldn't even understand!

For the next couple of years Tetsu was transferred here and there throughout northern Japan and every prefecture had its own dialect, and I was in limbo every time. In some cities only the older obaachans and ojiichans (grandmas and grandpas) spoke the dialect but in some places that was all the housewives and even children spoke. What an impossible language (and that's not even including the mind boggling writing system!)

Our family has lived in Tochigi-prefecture for the past 20 years but occasionally I can still recognize a difference from standard Japanese. And my children have reported that if they meet people from other parts of Japan that their Tochigi-dialect will be pointed out (but my children can't hear it.)

Even after over 30 years in Japan I stumble in the Japanese language. My conversation is fair, my comprehension good, my reading ability about jr. high level, my writing ability left back in the first or second grade of elementary school!!! At least Tetsu understands me, and me him. That's the important thing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pray for Japan

Yesterday I made a stop at the vet's to pick up more EXPENSIVE cat food.

On the wall were a few goods that they were selling to raise money for the organizations helping animals in Northern Japan. It is painful to think of all the animals displaced by the earthquake and tsunami; pets that lost family, pets that were separated from family, pets whose families no longer have the place or means to take care of them. There are always signs in the vet's office asking people to consider adopting a homeless pet from Northern Japan. While I can't adopt any more pets, I always make a donation to the "Help Japan's Animals" box.

Just before I left for the States, my vet called and asked if I could confirm the English translations for a few phrases and I was glad to help him out. And yesterday I saw the results of the inquiry! With the help of a Japanese designer, Kunio Sato, the Japan Small Animal Veterinary Association has made a T-shirt and a cute handkerchief to raise more funds.

This is pretty close to my heart so of course I immediately bought both. Lots of cute animals on the back of the shirt and the English sentiments are true.

Please pray for Japan. Please pray for Japan's animals.

"But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it."

Matthew 10:30

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Death of a quilt

I think I'm going to lay a quilt to rest.

Nearly twenty years ago my mother brought a quilt kit when she came visiting one summer. Actually I wasn't too thrilled with the fabrics in this but marked the whole thing down as a learning experience and sewed it together. A bit of rough edge applique... I don't think I had fusible web at the time so the big sunflowers were just laid on the background and zigzagged down. Some roller cutting techniques (new to me) and triangle piecing. And then I had to quilt it.

At the time I was a staunch believer that hand quilting was the only true way to quilt. But I knew that there was such a thing a machine quilting... but didn't know about free-hand quilting or using other feet on a sewing machine. I wasn't liking this quilt much anyway so I decided to try a little machine quilting to see what the charm was and also get the whole project done quickly.

Disaster!!! I didn't have a walking foot and the backing kept bunching. I couldn't stay on the seamlines for stitch-in-the-ditch quilting (which actually is fairly difficult when machine quilting). My quilting lines went every which way, I didn't know about retracing quilting lines so there were stops and starts and threads all over the place. Oh how I hated this quilt!!! (Poor thing.)

By the time I was done I couldn't think of ANYPLACE that I would want to use it and it finally got folded and put on the backseat of the car. What anyone would do with it there I had no idea and sure enough it got in the way of passengers and teaching materials being carted around. In the end the Sunflower quilt got put in the trunk.

As the years went by our cars changed and the Sunflower quilt got shifted from trunk to trunk. Sometimes it was a cushion for groceries, sometimes it kept tools from clanking against each other when we drove. Occasionally it was pulled out long enough to make a place for the dog to sit on in the backseat. It got left on the back dash for a long time in one car, and covered boxes in a van we had for awhile. Then it finally disappeared.

A few months ago I discovered the quilt in a garbage bag full of Tetsu's stuff from when he cleaned out his car and then shoved everything in the storage shed. Moisture had gotten in and most things were wet and mildewed. (My private theory is that having a storage shed serves no purpose at all. Anything put in a storage shed will never again see the light of day until it is tossed in the garbage. Storage sheds are the purgatory for unused property that the owners feel guilty about discarding.) I rescued the quilt long enough to throw it in the washing machine but it was pretty far gone even before the wash cycle. Agitation and spinning caused seams to rip and binding to disintegrate. The Sunflower quilt spent this summer hanging over a chair back in the laundry room...

This quilt is not salvageable. It is faded all over (it USED to be black). There are rust stains from cradleing a car jack. Seams are ripping in some areas, FABRIC has turned to dust in others. Batting is popping out of numerous holes. (Did a dog chew it too?)

Alas, not-so-fair quilt, you served a quiet purpose in our lives. Rest-In-Peace.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Three tools

I did a little experimenting yesterday and I think I can claim I know how to use three new tools.

The first set of tools was two long boards (that I'd actually bought before I went to the States but never got a chance to use). These were recommended to me by Katie who introduced me to Sharon Schamber's basting method. I have often visited Sharon's website and have never been led astray yet so I really wanted to try her method of basting. Unique!

First you starch your backing (Sharon really likes starching). Then you lay your backing out and then quilt top on top of that. Then you wrap each layer around a board tightly. Finally you unwrap each layer with batting between it all and baste. No tape, no getting down on the floor.

So I marked a small baby quilt for quilting. And I grabbed some backing. (In this picture the floral is the backing... the light pink is the top.)

I wrapped each board and then took the whole thing downstairs where it was cooler. Yeah! Another plus of board basting! It is portable (at least at this size.)

Downstairs I unwrapped and basted using Sharon's Herringbone stitch which she claims is better for holding the layers. Hey, it works!

Please give a look at the You-Tube video online. Supposedly (Katie did it!) you can baste a king size quilt this way if you have long enough boards. I had to try small first....

So. First tool used and pronounced viable.

Now, if you've got a basted quilt ready for quilting what do you do? You quilt it of course! Or else put it away for months... Well, I wanted to try out the next tool so I started quilting.

This is where the Aunt Becky tool comes in. Erika (no blog) recommended this tool to me for beautiful, fast quilting. I looked for it at the Long Beach Quilt Festival but no luck. Then Liz from Alabama (no blog) sent it to me (along with a lot of other wonderful things!!!)

Aunt Becky doesn't look very exciting. A bent piece of metal that has a logo on it. It looks like something dropped from Tetsu's tool box... I went online and watched how it was used... under the quilt, instead of an index finger thimble. Well. This takes a bit of doing! (I was warned by other blog friends that the Aunt Becky is either wonderful or frustrating.) But after an hour things warmed up and I guess I've got the hang of it. I was a pretty good hand quilter to begin with and the Aunt Becky seems to do the same job as my old thimble (which was getting holes in it). I do not have a recessed top thimble for on top of the quilt as is recommended but I did just fine with my usual right hand thimble... I don't think I have to go out and buy a recessed top thimble just to use my Aunt Becky. I'm not sure if my quilting is better or faster than before but I'll continue using the Aunt Becky with this quilt just to get practice. Okay, I'll give this new tool another "yes" rating!

The last tool to get used yesterday was the Gentle Leader dog "halter". As I've mentioned before, Choco is a strong dog and I often feel like the tail of a kite when walking her. Tetsu blows his top and yanks and pulls her by the choke collar so much that I sometimes felt like we were abusing her. Why can't this dog learn to walk quietly?! It was such a chore to go for a walk and each day a test of who was stronger... me or the dog! And then after my knee mishap, that was the end of walking Choco at all. Her lunges into the forest and wild direction changes just made it too dangerous for me with not much balance. Thus... I bought a Gentle Leader. Oh dear... I don't remember which blog friend suggested this to me.

Let me tell you!!! If there is a tool that has ever given immediate results this is it! Magic! Choco easily accepted having the Gentle Leader put on her and then off we went. A few seconds of "Wait a minute. What is this around my nose?" but besides that Choco walked quietly beside me and by occasionally putting very slight tension on the leash, stayed close. Is this the same dog?! Choco? Are you in depression or something? Have I broken your spirit? You look happy enough. Still eating grass, still bounding into the stream (when I gave slack), still panting and looking around at the world. Just no more jerking (from Choco) and swearing (from me)! If Gentle Leader ever wants a satisfied customer testimonial they can come to me! Tetsu was amazed this morning when we all went for a walk together!

Three tools. Any of them interest you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting back to routine

Well, I managed to stay awake yesterday. And even cooked dinner! And even did some translation work (that has been hanging over my head. And will continue to do so until I finish another 12 chapters... I think I've decided I don't ever want to be a translator.)

Japan is hot and muggy. I find it difficult to get my breath when going for a walk with Choco. And my sandals chaff at my feet from the moisture in the air. We are using electric fans and even the air conditioner in the evenings (shame on us! Most of Japan is trying to save energy. The stores are dark!) As usual I was greeted by mold on my return. And ants. And cat pee. Oh so pleasant a welcoming!

But the cats are happy to see me. Toi and Patora are living in Tetsu's cat house where they have been throughout the month I've been gone. They actually don't seem to mind. They were never very people oriented anyway. I doubt that we can keep them there during the winter months though...

The other four have the run of the house but even that relaxing situation (no Toi bullying them) hasn't rid them of their spraying problems. They definitely are trying to send messages. The first night I went to bed, some cat had peed on my newly washed pillow... Think they are angry at me for leaving them? And some cat made a point to throw up on the suitcase that I was unpacking too. Sigh...

Choco has been happy to get longer morning walks with me. Tetsu did the minimum while I was gone (he was too busy cleaning up after cats!) I have bought her a new Gentle Leader collar which is supposed to help in training dogs to walk quietly. I just watched the accompanying DVD and will try it out this afternoon. Wish us luck!

So life is back to cleaning and cooking and animal care. I have yet to do more than step into my sewing room. Maybe when I get a bit more of the translating job under my belt.

It is nice to be home and appreciated by Tetsu. It is nice to have a kitty sitting on my lap again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Jet lag has hit me hard and my days and nights are all backwards. Let's see if I can stay awake enough today to get something done.

My trip across the Pacific was uneventful. A full plane but I spent the 10 1/2 hours either reading or sleeping.

Once back on Japanese ground I went through the normal customs processes and retrieved my luggage. Nothing much new there. I don't know why but the Japanese airport seems less hectic than LAX. As usual I rolled my two bags and carry-on and computer to the nearest delivery service and sent one suitcase on up to Nikko. From there I hurried to the airport bus service and purchased a ticket for myself back to Nikko. And then I fumbled around in my carry-on for my cell phone to call Tetsu and let him know that I was back in Japan.

The trip to Nikko takes me about 3 hours. I have always used the airport bus because Tetsu gets sleepy driving and I do not trust him making the trip to or from the airport alone. With about 30 minutes before my bus left I sat down and tried to figure out how to use the dumb cell phone.

When I bought this cell phone earlier this year I was very pleased to find that it had global servicing. This meant that I could text or even call from the States, an option I have never had before. But I was warned that fees would be higher from the States and therefore to use my cell phone lightly. Which I did. When I got to the States I switched the cell phone to US region but after that I think I texted Tetsu only three times and a friend once. I never used it to call anywhere.

Once back in the Japanese airport the phone was still set for US region and it took me a few minutes to set it back to Japan region. The second I did, before I'd even pulled up Tetsu's phone number, it rang and there was Tetsu.

"I am on my way. Why haven't you called! I've texted you 4 times and you never responded!"

"What? What do you mean you're on your way? I just bought my bus ticket."

"Why did you do that? I texted you to let you let you know I was coming to pick you up. Why didn't you call me as soon as you arrived?"

Obviously one of us was confused and I wasn't too thrilled about being chewed out within minutes of my arrival. I quickly went back to the bus counter and returned my ticket. They weren't to happy about it either! Then I called Tetsu back to let him know where I was and to find out how far he was from the airport. About 30 minutes later he drove up looking very pleased with himself. For TWO reasons.

One, that he'd surprised me by coming three hours out to pick me up at the airport. He thought that it would be a great surprise to find him waiting at the airport lobby when I came through the doors. Unfortunately traffic didn't cooperate and that was why he was late.

The other reason he was pleased with himself was that he'd grown a mustache during the month I was away! Um. What can I say? I feel like there is a different man in the house. I can think of numerous men that Tetsu now looks like sporting a mustache but he sure doesn't look like Tetsu! I'm not sure I'm so happy about it either but I don't want to spoil his fun. I guess I'll get used to it. Right now I feel like I'm kissing Tetsu's older brother...

So all's well that ends well. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had waited to figure out my cell phone until AFTER I'd boarded the bus. He'd have driven 3 plus hours to the airport and then had to go another 3 plus hours back alone while I was stuck on a non-stop bus back to home. I'd say Tetsu was living dangerously. Is it worth a surprise to risk a disaster?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I have about four hours before I need to go to the airport. Grandma is up and moving. I've been for my last walk in the hills. The sewing machines have been put away. My bags are packed.

My last days in California have been mixed with fun and concerns. Liz sent me some more beautiful batiks to give to my friend who does stained glass quilts. I have had some good, long telephone calls with her! A couple of my English students (children) sent me letters (I assigned homework!) and that brought smiles to my face. Marcy and I went out to the movies and gorged ourselves at the Cheesecake factory. What's another day of indulgence?

But as always in my last days of vacation I feel sad about leaving my mother again. For nearly a week now when I talk about returning to Japan, she asks me plaintively if I really have to go.

"Can't you stay longer? Why do you have to go?"

I take a brisk, cheerful attitude.

"Because Tetsu is waiting for me. Because the cats are driving him crazy. Because I have to go back to work."

That will my mollify Grandma for the moment but a few minutes later she is asking if I can't stay again. It is like salt in wounds. I don't want to leave her either. I want to stay near and make sure someone is chatting with her, feeding her, cleaning up after her, making her stay connected to the world. I fear that a year hence things will have changed too much. But what can I do? Marcy and Keion take care of her as they see fit (maybe they think I coddle her too much). I have a patient husband that needs me too. For all I know Grandma will forget that I was even here for a whole month...

I love this picture of Takumi and Grandma. He looks so tall and strong next to her frailness.

And this one of Leiya supporting Grandma as they walk through a garden. Not such great lighting but they both shine.

It is good for my kids to have pictures to look back on and know they were loving with Grandma and she was happy while they visited.

I need to remember that too.