Sunday, December 31, 2006


Good Lord. Mom and Dad gave me one of those tiny tiny new ipod shuffles for Christmas! It's so small I'm freaked out that I'll lose it/put it in the laundry/stuff it in a chicken and cook it. . . Too completely cool for someone who only recently got rid of the vinyl and remembers when 8 tracks were the newest thing. I got home yesterday and today spent a good deal of time buying music on itunes. They say the music you have on your ipod says a lot about you. What I have so far:

plenty of The Clash
99 Luftbaloons (don't ask)
Kylie Minogue (also don't ask)
ELO Twilight (God forgive me)
The Fray
Five for Fighting
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (Somewhere Over the Rainbow - about the greatest recording ever)
MC Hammer Can't Touch This (God Forgive me)
Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes)

I'm looking forward to loading this thing. I don't listen to music a lot mostly because I like this and that but not many full CDs (I DID NOT say ALBUM). So it's great to buy one favorite song at a time. And I realize about 99.9% of you know this but I'm new to it so this is a toy I will have fun playing with for a long time.

If you have musical suggestions please post them! I can use all the help I can get.


gagaijin the foreigner

Saturday, December 16, 2006

C H R I S T M A S !!!

Despite a bad cold and weird back thing I am in the spirit this weekend! I got up and started doing a bit of cleaning and straightening and later I will go to the grocery store and fill a cart with baking supplies. I found a great and easy Rachel Ray recipe for a fudge wreath and I'm going to make one for my wonderful vet and one for the office plus some gingerbread cookies and potato candy. I've already done 2 1/2 pounds each of cinnamon, wintergreen, lemon and orange broken glass candy and I bought some festive and very inexpensive tins at Big Lots so this should be a very fun weekend.

Here are a few photos of my decorations. Above is the front of my house, and here is the back entrance:

No, I don't have a dog (the sign came with the house) but I leave it up. There is a lot of power in a sign like this.

Next my kitchen:
You know, I think this is the most wonderful kitchen ever, despite the trim color. I really am going to re-paint some day! For now this has become my favorite room in the house. I am now in the habit of coming home and sitting at the table to watch the evening news. I just enjoy being in there.

Of course let us not forget the tree. This photo was taken very quickly after I re-decorated for the umpteenth time. Phoebe loves to un-decorate and then chase the ornaments all over the house. Not quite as bad as Fern and Iris but she's still just a baby and has years to hone her craft.
Of course it wouldn't be Christmas without stockings hung by the chimney with care . . . Or a kitten sleeping in a big pile of garland . . .

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good Lord! If anyone is still reading this garbage of a blog I promise I haven't abandoned it. I just got really busy with Christmas shopping and decorating and then I came down with this nasty cold - my first since 2003. I forgot what it was like to have a cold and it stopped me in my tracks. Today, although I blew my sore tired nose all day and sneezed quite a lot, was the first day I have felt normal since last Thursday.

Lots of stuff is going on at work with the "restucturing" and all. I can only say (and I say this knowing I could well be the next to go) that what goes around comes around. Eventually. There are a lot of people in my department dancing for joy this week. And in case anyone at corporate is reading I won't say more - but it looks like our department might be on a good track now. We'll see.

Outside lights are up, mantles are decorated, tree is up, lights are on tree. I keep trying to put the final few decorations on and I swear this time tomorrow it will be done and I'll have a photo before Phoebe takes them off. Honestly I think I stopped the other night because she was taking them off as fast as I could hang them! Ah well, Christmas is for kittens too and if she has fun it's worth it!

Will check in again before the end of the week with pics . . .

Thursday, November 23, 2006


What a great day! The weather here was sunny and in the high sixties, I spent the day cooking and enjoying my kitchen and then packed it all up and drove it to Grady Hospital where I finally met Sally and Dan and enjoyed a nice meal and good company.

Dan is a very lucky man. He was walking across a street in midtown Atlanta last Sunday - he was in a crosswalk and he had the right of way - when a speeding SUV hit him. Luckily he was carrying his photography equipment in a bag and this could well have saved his life as he was carrying it on the side where he was hit. The impact threw him 30 feet and knocked one of his tied sneakers off. He landed under the bumper of a parked car. Truly it is a miracle that he wasn't killed. Luckily he only has a few pelvic fractures and many bruises and something strange going on with his shoulder (which they won't x-ray because it isn't life-threatening).

He is also lucky to have a wife like Sally who has been by his side at Grady watching out for his best interests minute by minute. Grady is maybe the best trauma center in the southeast but they are in the business of stabilizing patients and do little else once this is accomplished. Dan has a nasty wound on his forehead and today I found out that this wound wasn't even cleaned! It was a bloody and his hair mat matted on it but Grady didn't so much as wipe it off. Sally finally did this. Grady lost his personal possessions (wallet, keys, etc.) and so Sally has had to go through the additional hassle of cancelling credit cards and all the red tape that goes with a situation like that. Seriously, if you are in a trauma situation Grady is probably the best place you can go but once they do their work if you want continuing care you need to transfer to DeKalb or Emory or St. Joseph's. Unfortunately because of the holiday this has been delayed for Dan.

Anyway, I hope you'll keep these two in your thoughts and prayers. They are just the nicest people and are going through a pretty rough time right now.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My Thanksgiving Plans

They have just changed. I read several blogs every day. One is a local woman who has survived cancer and is a newlywed. A couple of nights ago her husband was hit by a car in downtown Atlanta and is now in the hospital suffering from many fractures and bruises. He was thrown 30 feet when he was hit. Frankly he is lucky to be alive.

I have been following the news as she posts. He will be in the hospital for a while, and will certainly be there tomorrow. I just called her and asked if she needed anything and also asked if they had any kind of Thanksgiving meal lined up. They don't. And so I am going to cook this turkey I bought and take them a real non-hospital Thanksgiving dinner.

I feel useful, and this turkey won't go to waste. I had not planned to do any of the trimmings but am about to re-evaluate and go shopping. These people could use a bit of holiday and I plan to provide it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Autumn Pumpkin Apple Bread

I made this today and have had one slice and it's delicious! Except for having to pare, core and chop 2 Granny Smith apples it's really fast and easy.

For Topping:
1 tbs all-purpose flour
5 tbs sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs unsalted butter, softened

For Bread:
3 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
3/4 c vegetable oil
2 1/4 c sugar
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 Granny damned Smith apples, peeled, cored and freaking chopped (2 cups)

MAKE THE TOPPING: Blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter in a small bowl with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

MAKE THE BREAD: Preheat oven to 350. Butter 2 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice into a medium bowl.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl. Add flour mixture a bit at a time until well combined. Fold in apples.

Divide batter between buttered loaf pans. Sprinkle half of topping evenly over each loaf.

Bake until a wooden pick or cake tester comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack for 45 minutes then turn out onto rack and cool completely, about 1 hour.

I really love to bake and I haven't done it in so long. Seriously. I used to be known for my desserts. I have 3 sizes/shapes of cheesecake pans - two sets of mixing bowls - 2 sifters - a kitchenaid mixer that has been basically unused for 7 years. I need to get back to doing this thing I so love, even if I take it all in to the office so it's out of my house!

I purchased a Chirstmas-themed vinyl tablecloth for the kitchen table last week! It is so horribly wonderful and I can't wait to put it on the table. Also went to the cake art store and got the flavored oil I need to make some hard candy. I'll probably do hard candy in wintergreen, cinnamon, orange and lemon; some fudge; maybe some buttermints; most definitely gingerbread cookies! Will bake some orange-cranberry bread in mini-loaves and this will be my gift to neighbors and co-workers.

I have no earthly idea what has gotten into me. Between baking and cooking and on-line sudoku I fear I have become my own worst nightmare!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Christmas Prep

Five years ago this month my marriage finally ended. The first year I was in a stupor and unable to really decorate. The next few years I was still depressed and on top of that very busy with this new job and just did the minimum and that only to make me feel better. Last year I returned to my house on December 10 after being in Japan for a year and was too jetlagged to even go through the motions of getting a tree. This year is my coming out party!!!!

I don't think I've ever had my Christmas act together before December 8 or so but this year is different. I spent the year decluttering and making my little house a comfortable home and this year I am on top of it. This evening I crawled up in the attic and brought down a huge rubbermaid tub full of the "outside lights." I have plugged them all in to test and replaced the necessary bulbs and have made a list of things I need to get this week. (In the photo the tub looks empty because I have already tested and removed the C-7 strands and the icicle strands to the front porch)

Next week I really have no Thanksgiving plans but I've arranged to take the first 3 days of the week off so I can have a full week's vacation and I plan to spend those 3 days putting up outside lights. When I'm finished you'll be able to land small aircraft on my street. I want colored bulbs on shrubs and icicle lights and white lights on the crape myrtle and I want to make it a wonderous and beautiful sight. I think my prep work tonight will cut a number of hours off my task next week.

Phoebe kitten is just in awe of the lights. She loves them and when I plug in a strand to test her eyes get huge and she sits as close as she dares. I can't wait to put up the tree. Every year the cats love to sit under the lit tree and with a 6 month old kitten I am sure we will all find new and fascinating tree decorating ideas!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sorry to be away so long . . .

I've been dealing with this weird health issue for the past two weeks. Two weeks ago tomorrow I started feeling this weird non-specific pain in my upper left chest just below my collarbone. It hurt in general constantly but when I sneezed or coughed or blew my nose or laughed it was sheer agony. I figured I might have strained something moving the table around during the last stages of refinishing and didn't think too much about it. By Thursday of that week I was in agony with it and went to the doctor. He decided it must be a pulled muscle very deep and put me on mega-ibuprophen and a muscle relaxer and told me to rest it and I should see improvement and to come back Tuesday. By Sunday morning when I got up I thought I was going to die and went to the urgent care place. They were also mystified and thought it certainly could be a pulled muscle but also possibly pleurosy (sp?) and put me on a prednisone dose-pak in addition to what I was taking. Nothing got better and by the time I had my followup with the first doctor Tuesday afternoon I was almost in tears I hurt so bad and so consistently. He finally decided it must be shingles and my angel of mercy gave me some painkillers and told me to come back today. I immediately went and got the lortab prescription filled and took the first one sitting in the parking lot of Eckerd. Within 2 hours I was finally feeling relief.

I had shingles about 6 years ago - never had the typical rash and break out associated with shingles but when I was treated for them it went away. Today when I went back there was still no rash but he decided to treat me as if it were shingles and so now I am on the fifth medication - me - who takes Tylenol every now and then and nothing else! It's so much to keep up with but I am convinced I will be 100% by this time next week.

Anyway, that's explanation for being away so long. My main reason for posting tonight is that the table is in the house now:

For the first time in 8 years I really enjoy being in my kitchen. After so long without really cooking I am beginning to actually make dinner for myself rather than nuking a frozen dinner. I sit at the table and eat rather than lugging a plate to the living room. I'm starting to look up recipes on the internet and read my cookbooks again and for the past two weeks I have actually planned a weekly menu and made a shopping list from it rather than hit the store and buy the easiest thing. Just imagine how wonderful it will be when I finally repaint the pepto-bismol pink trim!!

How funny that something so small can make such a wonderful change in one's life. I know old people in this town who grew up eating collards and cornbread in this kitchen and I've always known it was meant to be a gathering place in my house, even if I'm the only one who gathers there. This table has finally made it so. It is now my favorite room in the house. I hope I can do it justice!

And if you ever find yourself in Stone Mountain GA look me up, stop by, and set a while!

Monday, October 30, 2006


Every month since Sister Susannah the New Age Nun turned me on to it I've been making a monthly "To Do" list on Sometimes I do weekly or daily sub-lists and I've even done a couple of special project lists - just a really cool way to keep track. Anyway, there has been this nagging issue for years - literally - and it's been on my monthly list for a few months now. Tonight I got around to it.

Widdi and I talk all the time about how we have these things that need to be done and they get bigger and bigger in our brains until we just avoid them for all the time they could take. In reality I think it's the unknown. I have had this 2 foot piece of board trim in my mudroom for years now with horrible (and thankfully very old) termite damage. I've measures it about 20 times. About a month ago I went to Lowe's and got a piece of replacement trim. I even cut it to size the same weekend. And then it sat. Tonight for some reason I was getting things done and decided to remove the old piece. I took a blade to the caulking around the old piece - it just crumbled. So I decided to just remove the darned thing. It came off easily. I pulled the recently used shop vac in from the porch, plugged it in, and cleaned up the debris. OK, between the measuring, buying, cutting, and removing and cleaning up the old piece I have now invested about 20 minutes in this project which has been put off for years. I decide to go the distance! I get my hammer and a few finishing nails and in 3 minutes the new trim is in place. So I spent 23 minutes doing a project I avoided for so long just because it seemed like something that might be beyond me. Widdi and I are Mutt and Jeff twins when it comes to things like this.

Granted it's a piece of bare wood now but the mudroom, like 4 out of the five rooms in my house, needs some work and a bit of painting and upkeep anyway. This is HUGE progress! Eventually the textured ceiling (totally inappropriate) will be removed and the woodwork sanded and the room painted and the flooring replaced with new sheet vinyl.

This might seem strange to most of you out there with "real" houses - mine is between 100 and 130 years old - four rooms plus a bonus - no hallways, and so small I have taken off all interior doors. They seem somehow ridiculous to me and also I am a bit claustrophobic. So when I do work on a room like sanding, etc., I have to get as much as possible out of that room into the rest of the house and then seal it up with duct tape and plastic sheets and work as fast as possible because I do use every bit of space I have. Every undertaking requires logistics planning.

Someday I will live in a house that requires no work. I think I will not be happy when that happens. I hate my projects. I love my projects!


Finally today the table project is officially finished. The final coat of poly is drying and it looks so great. I can't wait to get it in the house. I talked with Widdi today and she asked me if I could do her a huge favor and come by her house sometime this week to help her move a table that she can't lift by herself and I told her I could do that if she would come over here and help me get mine into the house! So it will be a table-moving week. Here are a couple of shots. It looks very shiny because the poly is still wet.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It has been a long couple of weeks.

Every year late in the year Delta does their annual audit of the physical inventory the Atlanta office has managed all year. This is that time of year. This past wekeend, after working all week, I was assigned to "count" during the pre-count, which is for the purpose of making sure we have it all together before Delta comes to count in November. So Saturday and Sunday we were counting from 7 am until 5 pm. It was good. It turned out great and we are in great shape - much better shape than I understand they were last year at this time. Chou tanoshi!

So now it's 2 weeks since I have done any decent cleaning in the house which is problematic if one has four cats. I managed to get my laundry done and this morning woke up and put my sheets and duvet cover in the wash and just pulled them out of the dryer and back on the bed. I must get another set.

I have four distinctly different cats. Sonny, 16 going on 17 is the grumpy old man. He has his special places he likes to sleep and no matter how much I pet and love on him and beg he will not sleep with me - he has his own personal spaces. He will come and sleep in my arms when I am sitting but sleep time is personal for him. I respect this.

Dylan (9 going on 10) is my neurotic purebred Maine Coon Cat. He is very underweight and despite my sneaking canned food to him he just doesn't gain. He also has bad hairballs despite all the laxatone I can get him to eat. Today when I stripped the bed at 7 am and put the sheets in the wash and left the down comforter folded neatly at the end of the bed he got up on it and coughed up a hairball. Fun stuff to deal with after a day at the office. Thank goodness for Oxi Clean and a good dryer.

Camillle is the boss of the family and also the tattletale. She keeps tabs on everyone. She is the Drill Sargeant.

Phoebe is the spoiled rotten baby who cries and whines when things don't go her way. I am starting to ignore it so I don't have a crying, whining spoiled cat.

Mom told me about something called Feliway - a synthetic feline pheremone in a diffuser like a Glade plug in (although a bit more expensive). Supposed to even out territorial behavior like scratching and all. I ordered 2 diffusers last Thursday and they arrived today. They are plugged in and I am hoping at least the scratching Dylan does will be helped. Maybe also Camille will chill out.

More later . . .

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I just hating posting things like this, but if you don't watch Dancing with the Stars you are losing out on a couple of hours of wide grins every week.

Such a complete wonder to watch people dance, especially when 50% of them have no experience and give their all and train all week to do it to their fullest. It really is something to watch.

Jerry (God help us all) Springer is a contestent this time. And he should have been gone right away. He has no talent for dancing but is loveable because of his self-deprecating nature - a total surprise to me. He kept putting himself out on a limb and somehow he has made it this far. Last night he had to do the Samba, something entirely beyond him, and he just decided "Fuck it. Just do it." And in his dance I thought only of my own father, who gives everything at every moment whether he is capable of the feat or not. If you can't do it wing it with everything in your soul. Jerry was willing to go out on a limb and be a ham and make a joke of himself and he came out entertaining the audience so completely. Same as Dad. My Dad is so very talented - an actor and director and he knows how to use a shovel. And when the rest of us are unwilling to take a risk he is alway there to do so first. A contestent I so despised at first has come to own my heart. Sometimes, even when there are strict rules for entertaining an audience, one must do so within their own abilities and talents. This I promise will be the only time I ever compare my Dad to Jerry Springer. But if you have been watching surely you must love my Dad as much as I do.

I hope this made sense and I hope Dad that you aren't offended by this comparison.


Friday, October 06, 2006

I Have Nothing On My Mind

Yes I do. The Amish school shooting? Far too awful to have anything to say that has not already been said more eloquently by real journalists. The Republican page sex scandal? Family values at it's Republican best. Nothing more to say. Somehow tonight I am just very tired.

OH! The Grey's Anatomy thing - yeah - you GO Mer! Date those boys and make them date you! You GO GIRL!

Blah blah blah - sometimes it's best just to check in and go to sleep. This is why I truly love being single.

Monday, October 02, 2006

On Religion

Found this very funny and uncomfortably true thing on the Best of Craigslist:


10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


There is only one thing that bothers me about the aging process. I'm OK with the wrinkles. I'm OK with things starting to sag. I'm even OK with the changes in my metobolism that now makes it such a struggle to lose weight. What really bothers me is losing my ability to read things without holding them as far away as my arms will reach.

I went to the eye doctor this past week. I have a bad recent history with eye doctors. About 3 years ago I had my eyes checked and ordered the glasses in the prescription written for me and when I got them I was sure the lenses had gotten mixed up. When I took them back the doctor told me she figured I would need reading glasses soon so she went ahead and wrote my prescription based on that! I was not amused but got my money back for the glasses. Six or eight months after that I went to another eye doctor because I still needed a new prescription. He spent a lot of time with me and I feel that I got a good prescription.

In the past 2 1/2 years since my reading ability has simply gone. I'm OK when I wear my glasses but with my contacts I always have to wear reading glasses - to work at my laptop, to read a menu, to sign anything . . . it's just a pain and I refuse to wear one of those strings around my neck with the reading glasses attached.

When I went this week I explained my situation, and I was given a couple of options. One, I could wear one contact for distance and one for up close. Not good enough. I think it would drive me crazy. OR I could wear bi-focal contacts but evidently they are not perfected yet so nope to that one. Finally, she gave me a weaker prescription, the logic being that my distance sight would be a little fuzzier but I wouldn't need my readers as much. She told me to give this a chance for 10 days and then come back.

I've been giving it a chance and I'm not real thrilled. While it isn't nearly as disorienting to try to read close up I still have to hold things away from me unless the writing is very small (like labels in the grocery store and credit card receipts) in which case I still need to haul out the readers. And my distance is far fuzzier than I am comfortable with (for instance, I have to be right up on an intersection to read a street sign and I can't even read billboards until I am practically past them).

I still have some time until I go back Thursday to make up my mind but it seems to me I'm going to ask for the stronger prescription. If I'm going to have to be tied to the readers anyway I might as well have crisp distance vision.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dead Teddy (warning - explicit, icky photos below)

Are you getting a theme here?

Today is the final day of my vacation (weekends don't count). I have spent the week doing those annoying little tasks that are so hard for me to get to on my weekends and so easy to put off in lieu of other things. Mostly I've continued to list and give away a lot of stuff on freecycle, and cleaned/organized things like the laundry room which are largely ignored.

Today I put a pillowcase full of dusty stuffed animals into the washer. Most of them will be donated and I wanted them to be clean but there are a couple that have too much sentimental value and I just wanted them clean for me. Among my keepers are the weird cross-eyed cat with a zipper compartment for "valuables" that Dad gave me many Christmasses ago. And of course, Teddy.

Teddy is the Teddy bear I got when I was born so Teddy is a true antique now. He has had eyeball and nose replacements and many surgeries, including a vasectomy and heart valve replacement and one of those jugular thingies. Also some back surgery. He was so well loved all my life. So thoughtless of me to put him in the washer, although what else would I have done? When I opened the washer his guts were all over the others and he was in pretty poor shape:

He's pretty wet now but I'm going to put him in the sun and let him dry and then I will stuff his guts back into him and stitch up his dry-rotted parts and maybe even give him some new eye-buttons. There aren't many things that would cause me to make such an effort for something so far gone but Ted was an icon of my childhood and he is worth it. He'll be a bit lopsided but will still be my Teddy.

I suppose like me my Teddy has been through a lot. Doesn't make us any better or worse than the normal human or stuffed animal. There are scars and some stuffing has fallen out and certainly he isn't perfect. He's moved more times than I care to think, been stuffed into drawers, slept on by cats, and generally suffered bad times along with the good. Maybe some would think it is time to throw him away in this condition. But in the end I think scars, both internal and external, are a sign of a life well lived, and of a life well worth continuing to live fully. We are both survivors and I will fix him as best I can so that once again the cats can sleep on him and he can get dusty and fall apart and get fixed back up for a few more decades. Unconditional love is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dead Kitten

Yeah, I know, weird topic but follow me on this one people.

In Japan, since space is at a premium and since it is the traditional way to sleep, most everyone sleeps on a thin futon mattress on the floor that can be folded up in the morning and stored in a special cabinet to provide extra daytime space. As such they do not use the traditional bed linens that we know here in the west. The futon is usually covered with a removable, launderable, zippered case and of course it would be silly to try to put a flat sheet on every night so the (usually down) comforter also has a removeable and launderable cover. There are no sheets and none are necessary. Just the covered futon mattress and the covered down comforter. Even for people who have a bed this is the way they make it up (so easy in the morning!)

I really got used to sleeping like this. OK, the floor part I embraced as part of my experience but I never really got used to it. It was good to get back to my US mattress and box springs raised well off the floor. But I held on to the idea of only the covered duvet and a fitted sheet and until the summer this is how I slept. Once the heat of summer came it was more comfortable to have a flat sheet and light blanket as the down was simply too hot.

Follow me here.

Phoebe kitten came in May, and every night she has slept pressed against me. If I toss and turn she tosses and turns so the physical contact is not broken. When I wake briefly during the night I pet her and she purrs and we gently drift back to sleep together in our little shared night world.

Yesterday I decided the nights are cool enough now that it is once again time to lose the flat top sheet and light blanket and so I put the cover on the down comforter and when I went to bed it was sheer heaven.

During the night last night I woke up and as usual reached down to pet my sweet and rapidly growing kitten. What I felt was a non-breathing, non-purring, non-responsive body. In a panic I sat up and began shaking her and calling her name loudly. I lifted her up and she was just dead and so limp she flopped around in my hands. In the split second before I began feline CPR she shook her head and looked at me like I was crazy! She was so totally into the down comforter - so warm and happy - that she literally was sleeping like the dead.

So I do highly recommend that you get rid of your feet-flattening, body-confining top sheet and invest in a simple down comforter and duvet cover (available on the cheap at If it can temporarily kill a trouble-making kitten for a few hours I guarantee you will get a good night's rest.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fish and more fish!

A couple of days ago I posted about my plan to buy a couple of koi at Japanfest for my small backyard pond. My pond was filthy at the time - it has been a bad summer for algae and it was due for a thorough cleaning. I was not about to bring home new koi and put them in a murky pond so Saturday when I got home at 5:30 I started cleaning.

While I was in Japan last year I just let the pond go. I didn't arrange for anyone to feed the fish because I figured they needed to be fed every day anyway and who could I possibly get to do that. I had 3 goldfish that were five years old anyway so I figured they would just expire. Turns out they thrived during my absence! This spring when I cleaned the pond I decided to remove them so I could clean more thoroughly. I took out the 3 big goldfish and started draining. Lo and behold I came across a baby goldfish! Not only had my goldfish thrived they had reproduced.

Saturday night I did the same thing - I removed the goldfish and put them in a big bucket while I cleaned. And this time there were another two baby fish - one a tiny goldfish and one a bit bigger and totally black! So I have 3 adults and 3 babies.

Yesterday when I left the festival I went to pick up the 3 for $5.00 koi I had purchased before the gates opened. The really nice man from the koi farm allowed me to pick out the ones I wanted and then he put them in another tank until I was finished for the day. Turns out his brother inadvertently sold one of the ones that were mine so when I picked up I was given a replacement plus another one because he was sorry! So I now have 10 fish in my tiny pond . . . and I'm feeling like I will spend some time this vacation week cleaning up the plantings around it so it is as beautiful as these lovely creatures inside it.

They are so interesting to watch as they get to know each other. When I first put the new fish in last night the goldfish were swimming in one school and the koi kept to themselves in another. Today they are beginning to integrate.

Last week I posted a wanted message on freecycle for a fish aquarium and almost immediately got a response. I picked up the aquarium Thursday, along with some accessories (heater, pump/filter, nets, thermometers). I need to clean it out and figure out where to set it up. I'm so excited! It has been 20 years since I last had an aquarium and I look forward to being able to enjoy fish inside as well as outside. I would love to do a salt water aquarium someday and have seahorses but for now I will get this thing set up and buy a few freshwater fish and enjoy them. Nothing as relaxing as watching fish.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ojisan got me back!

It was a long day. I was at the festival at 8 and was put to work immediately. I ended up in the ticket booth and felt so proud to be able to greet people in Japanese and English! It really was a hard day of work - I had about sum total of an hour to walk around and even then I was monitoring as a volunteer. I was stinky and sweaty an hour before the gates opened and am now washing my whites so I have a fresh volunteer t-shirt to wear tomorrow morning.

I have a new found Japanese boyfriend! Hiro is the man in charge of the logistics of this event and yesterday we laughed together and joked around. Today we finally exchanged names and in our downtimes we had a chance to talk just a bit. Hiro is maybe 60. He is retired from JAL (oh, the serendipity) and though we were busy we had several opportunities to exchange pleasant small conversation. He is my buddy now. He asked me if there were any Japanese foods I did not like and I told him no - I even like natto (natto is a smelly, disgusting, slimey fermented soybean and it's delicious but all westerners and even some Japanese detest it). He told me I am cute. This is terribly funny because if you know me you would describe me as big, strong, stubborn, task-oriented, terminally independant and a bit off the wall. My hair is cute, especially when it's humid and I sweat, but other than that the best you could say is I am statuesque and vaguely memorable. Hiro thinks I'm cute. Hiro is my hero today.

The most fun I have had so far is making the Japanese people laugh. For instance with the ojisan (grandfather) thing from last night. Now this guy watches every step I take and if I so much as falter when I bend over he calls me obaasan (grandmother). And I will sit with the Japanese staff and hear them speaking crazy rapid Japanese and then compliment them on their ability ("Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne?). Late this afternoon I was doing a ticket audit with a man who spoke very little english and after the 1800th count I asked him if he would like to go drink beer at my place. This is one of those really useful phrases I learned from my language CD. I think he peed his pants. My Japanese language CDs rule!

My english comedy is becoming stale. My comedy as a gaijn grows.

I dearly love the Japanese.

Friday, September 22, 2006

JapanFest Atlanta!

JapanFest is an annual event in Stone Mountain Park, just about a mile and a half from my front door (the festival, that is. The park entrance is only about 4 blocks away). Of course I never had an interest in it because who cares about Japan, right? But early in the spring I looked it up, figuring I would only get some good takoyaki (octopus fritters if you will) at a good japanese festival. Turns out they were looking for volunteers and I signed up.

Today I reported to the festival set up at 1 pm. It started out a bit weird as the volunteer coordinator could not be bothered to be on time. But soon we had our information and "assignments" and we all talked and bonded a bit as we worked hanging paper lanterns and banners and moving heavy tables and stacks of chairs. We volunteers were a funny mix - me, two college age girls who were studying Japanese in college, one guy, married to a Japanese woman, who was totally into sumo (we had a grand discussion about it and my honey sweetie sumo-babe Koto Oshu), one lady in her late 60s who had just returned from an elder hostel trip to Japan (her first), and a big, hugely obese New Yorker-type woman who did nothing but complain and talk about how she was a "planner", not a "doer." Oh yeah, and this 20-something african american guy who didn't know a step ladder from a hole in the ground! He kept trying to step up on the side opposite of where the steps were and didn't know how to brace the ladder!

The staff, mostly the Japan Chamber of Commerce people, were wonderful. They all had walkie talkies and were spewing out Japanese all day mixed with english. Language abilities varied on both sides but as always seems to happen we communicated on a level beyond language. It was a bit hot, the work was physically demanding, and we all managed to laugh all afternoon except for obese yankee complaining woman who was just a total pain in the butt. One Japanese man asked me to pick up a box and carry it to a table nearby. He told me he was old and had a bad back so the rest of the day I called him ojisan (grandfather) and he laughed and laughed.

The volunteer coordinator (American man, maybe mid sixties) really got under my skin. He sat on a table all day drinking water and watched us work. There were maybe 9 of us but he didn't bother to learn our names. In fact, in all prior correspondence with him (we all exchanged notes) he never bothered to say thank you for volunteering and all in all it seemed a poorly put together plan of how to use willing free help. About 3 pm I was working with an American guy, staff with the COC, and he thanked me for being there as a volunteer. I told him it was my pleasure and I signed up and looked forward to it for several months. He told me maybe I should be the volunteer coordinator next year. I told him I would be honored to do so. That would be pretty cool. In defense of the current volunteer coordinator I overheard him telling someone how he and his wife started doing it in 1992 when the festival was still very young and very small and he thought they asked him back this year because of that. After 14 years I would imagine one could get pretty sick of it.

On the bright side (????) I have a feeling I will spend money this weekend. Today I saw much of the set up and there will be Japanese koi at varying sizes priced from $1.00 to $2.00 to $3.00 to $5.00 to $30.00. I want at least a couple of small koi for my pond. Also bonsai. I have not yet killed mine purchased 2 months ago. I hope there are some affordable ones. And I saw the most beautiful kimono and silk scarves being set out! And of course octopus fritters!

Maybe I will take my camera and catch some photos this weekend. Certainly I will post more about it. We (the volunteers) will get a t-shirt tomorrow to wear officially but I'm thinking I will show up tomorrow in my kanji "Gaijin" ("foreigner") t-shirt before I change. Maybe I can get ojisan to laugh some more!

I do love the Japanese. I was reminded today that efficiency is not a part of the culture but laughter is. It warmed my heart. It's kind of a different perspective to have these experiences on my turf this time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - awesome site

After my rant last night I need to give something positive to the world so want to introduce you to this very new website. It was tested in beta in July and only went live in early August. You sign up, enter books you have available to send to people, and earn points. You can request books that are available and even import an wishlist. Today I added about 20 books and already one has been requested. I've already wrapped it up. It will cost me about $1.50 to send it media mail but I know I will get books I have requested for free so it's a bit pricier than the library but you can keep what you get if you want! When you send a book you get more points. Yes, postage is involved but what goes around comes around. It sounds to me like a fun way to connect with other readers. It's in that infancy stage now and I am sure there will be enhancements (for instance I would love to have the option of random browsing and now you have to enter a title or author to browse specifically). In other words you have to know what you want to do a search but in that way it's not unlike any online bookstore.

If you are the kind of rabid reader that I am I urge you to check this out. It just makes sense to me. How cool is it to share good books with strangers around the world?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dear Pope/Dear Islam:

Would you guys just get the fuck over it already?

Hey Pope - if you would just raise your head for a second you would realize a few of the reality things that real people have to deal with every day. If you would live one day outside of your bubble you would see some of the ills of the world that your reality cannot deal with in the old ways. You need to change. Now.

Hey Islam - have a freakin' sense of humor already. Here in the US we intelligent people can listen to George Bush and laugh and know he will get his day and he does not define what we are as a people. As a people we have far more class and intelligence and humanity. Yeah, it makes a whole lot of sense to protest the freakin' Pope reading a quote by someone hundreds of years ago that refers to your violence and then answer to it with violence. Oh yeah. That's really fucking level-headed. Surely I will follow only Islam now.

It's all just hate and ignorance and I am so sick of it I can't stand it. I will sit tonight and try to breathe and my own hope for myself is that I will never expect anyone to believe what I do or do not believe.

Why is this all such a mess?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My Last Yard Sale!

I will never do it again. Today was a bust. I'll bet I didn't clear $20 total. I've only had maybe 4 yard sales in my adult life and this by far was the least successful. So tomorrow I will take a truckload for donation at Goodwill and then will methodically make sure everything finds a good new home. I'm taking the last week of September as a vacation week to do some fall yard and house maintenance so by October 1 things should be back to normal around here.

Wow. I'm in a bad mood tonight and I can't remember the last time I was in a bad mood!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Why do I do this to myself?

Except for a couple of tiny things which can be taken care of in the morning I am ready to do this yard sale. I guess. I detest yard sales. I detest going to them and I detest having them. But this one is a necessity. I started preparing for it in the spring of 2004 and planned to have it about this time 2 years ago but of course I ruptured those pesky achilles and just about the time I recovered it was off to Japan. So this has been delayed a long time.

My BNU Money Management for Women class back in the spring suggested having a yard sale to get a little nest egg to put in savings or invest. Then my BNU Feng Shui class this summer got me positively rabid about decluttering all the useless junk. So I'm kind of finishing my assignments for two classes this weekend.

You know how there are hurdles in life where you think "When I get through this it's gonna be smooth sailing"? (Or maybe that's just me) Well, this is one of those things for me. This junk has been taking up valuable space for so long, not just physically but spiritually and emotionally. I will be selling off some of my ex's stuff that he forgot to include in the 5 pages of things he wanted when we divorced. I'm tired of looking at it and no longer get that smug satisfied feeling when I see it. (I will however get a smug satisfied feeling when I sell it on the cheap!) And when it is finally gone I will be able to focus on the painting and scraping and other home improvements that are nearly impossible when one lives in an 1100 sf house that is crammed with crap.

Everything to be sold has now been moved out to the front screened porch and already the house feels cleaner and lighter. Most will be donated immediately if not sold. There are a couple of things where the price is firm because if it doesn't sell that's OK - a chair that needs a little repair, a dirt devil hand vac, etc. But everything else is OUTTA HERE BABY!

One funny thing. This little historic town I live in thinks quite highly of itself for some reason. I live on a street where the speed limit is 25 MPH and for almost 8 years I have written letters and emails, made phone calls, and complained at city council meetings because NOBODY except me goes 25 on this street. I have been told point blank that the city doesn't have the resources to help. Last year however the city council voted to make ALL the streets in the town 25 MPH. Like everything else here it is a show. So last night after dark I posted the yard sale signs. They were discreet and although handmade I spent time making them neat. I posted one at each end of the street. Today while I was at work they were removed. I guess they were not in keeping with the town's view of itself. But it's OK to keep political candidate signage up. Where is the logic? So I'm hoping I get some traffic. On weekdays hundreds of vehicles use my street as a cut through to avoid the main street which gets backed up. On weekends not so much.

Will check in later this weekend with news of the millions I have made and ideas about how I want to spend my early retirement. I'll take some pics too if I remember.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

TV and Yard Sales

I really am not a TV Freak. In fact I despise people who live their lives by the TV. I do however have a few shows I love and now we're in the middle of premiere season and so I'm drawn back to the couple of shows I love and also to some I got curious about through the commercials. All in all it will even out to about 5 hours a week during which I will knit and do other things because I can rarely sit still.

I will have a yard sale this weekend. I've gotten it together in the past 4 nights - pricing things, making and posting signs, etc. It's gonna happen finally and I will have a big part of my house back!

But I can't talk more now - I think tonight is the final episode of last year's Grey's again and I need to torture myself by watching Izzie lie in dead Denny Duquette's arms again - I need my weekly small weep to remind me I am, after all, a girl.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"The authorities don't want to stamp him as insane because that makes it impossible to execute him. I think the court deliberately avoided a mental evaluation that would lead to that possibility. " Hisataka Kogi, a psychiatrist hired by the defense for convicted Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara. Asahara is said to suffer from delusions, hallucinations, incoherent speech and disorganized behavior. (AP)

A quote from Crisscross News, a Japan Daily news in English. I though at first it was in reference to the US President.

Bold text added by gaga.

I am on a roll.

Tonight's "Presidential" Address

I want to vomit. All day he was stately and appropriate and kept his mouth shut and then he had to go and ruin it all by blowing his own 2" horn on primetime TV at 9 pm. How dare he. How dare he use this day to impose his limp, old, worn out and losing agenda on the very graves of people who had no agenda and only were victims of the same fundamentalism he spouts as hope against the threat. The same agenda that continues to kill our people in Iraq and Afganistan while inflaming not only the terrorists but the rest of the world to hate our country.

"Thank you. God bless you".

Yeah. You too. Asshole.

(Not feeling real Zen tonight)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

No End to Projects!

Today I'm working some more on the table. It's already September 9 and if I don't get this thing going big time it won't be in the house in time for the great Christmas Candy making!

I might just be in a position to begin sealing it in the upcoming week if I can keep myself going on it. I want to clean my porch and get my yard sale together before the end of the month.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Zen and the Art of Refinishing Family "Heirlooms"

I am taking a new class on BNU - this time in Zen Miracles. The class just started Tuesday and already I have learned so much and have even had my first zazen sitting, which typically for me, ended with a cat making me laugh!

What I have learned so far is the importance of allowing thoughts to enter my mind and then letting them go - letting go of control over them and not latching on to any one of them and turning them into a worry or anger or obsession or anything else disruptive to the natural flow of thought and being.

This afternoon after work I decided to make a bit more progress on a piece of furniture I inherited in June. This is a wonderful, excellent piece of furniture. It is the picnic-style kitchen table that sat in my paternal grandparent's kitchen for as long as I can remember and before. After my grandparents passed away the table went to my parents' house and very appropriately sat on the front porch. As a young adult I remember summer dinners eaten out there around it. A whole lot of iced tea has been consumed at this table! Because it is a bit heavy it ended up out on the front porch of that house for a few winters, unprotected from the elements, and when it finally made it inside it was banished to the damp basement.

When this albatross was loaded into the back of my truck in June for the drive back to Atlanta I privately wondered what in the hell I had gotten myself into. This bedraggled, bruised icon of my youth was nothing like the fine country kitchen table that lived in my memories. I knew for a fact that this thing could not enter my house until it had been thoroughly refinished. It went directly to my screened front porch as I have no other place for sanding, etc.

I did work on it quite a bit at first, doing the first round of rough sanding within the first 3 weeks. Then it got oppressively hot and I stopped. In the past few days it has cooled off - enough that I have been able to turn off the AC and open the windows, so today I decided to begin the fine sanding.

My goal has been only to sand off the badly weathered finish and preserve the history of the table, not to make it look new, and I think I have done this successfully. Scratches and marks from my father's childhood remain, and that is the way I wanted it. As I work thoughts enter and leave my mind about the history of this fine, simple piece of furniture. I think of my grandmother in her kitchen, preparing this shrimp/rice/black olive dinner - what was that called? We didn't have the best of relationships but I believe this was resolved before she died. At least it was for me. I think of my grandfather, who told wonderful stories and the more he told them the better they got. After Gran died Grandaddy would latch onto one food and eat it until he was sick and tired of it and then latch onto another. As I sand I see the pecan twirls and strawberry shortcake that sat on the table waiting to be consumed in his latest food kick. I remember the medications that sat there on a tray, and the small TV. I imagine my father and his sister and brother sitting there for supper as children and my memories take me back to all the stories I heard while growing up - stories like when Aunt Kitty would have a date and Dad and David would "rig" the front yard rope swing so when the date inevitably sat to swing he would fall on his ass! I remember sitting with Grandaddy on a trip while I was in graduate school and when it was time for me to get back on the road he would put a $20 bill in my hand and tell me it was to ensure that I got closer to my Dad than I was to him before I needed money again!

It is literally impossible for me to put a minute of work into this project without my mind meandering through my past. It is what it is. I breathe the fine sawdust of the sanding process and relive my childhood. I want to complete this project and have this wonderful table and benches in my own country kitchen and yet I want to continue working on it forever, just to have these moments of memories.

Truly this is a Zen project.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Katie Couric and George Meegan

Tonight was the big night! Katie - the first solo woman to anchor the evening news. It's been about 15 years since I last watched the CBS evening news but I went back tonight. Bad eye makeup - totally. Far too dramatic for her fresh clean look. And she was obviously a bit nervous at first but got into it by the end and was a joy! At the end she said she needed help coming up with a catchy sign off and you could submit ideas at so I logged own with my idea - "Thanks for watching America. I'm Katie Couric, stickin' it to the man!"

Honestly I am still nursing this jet lag thing. I know that sounds ridiculous after a week back but it's true. Air travel is such a convenient miracle but when you fly so far it depletes every bit of energy. No matter how early or late I make myself go to bed I wake up at 3 am. This too shall pass. I joke that I get jet lag flying from Atlanta to Pittsburgh (same time zone for those who don't know) but it's true. Despite the convenience the human body was not designed to traverse so far so quickly. I far prefer train travel. Unfortunately Amtrak doesn't go to Tokyo.

Which brings me to my second topic of the night.

Several posts back I posted the link to a google movie called Kintaro Walks Japan - the account of a young man who in 2004 spent 5 months walking from the southernmost tip to the northernmost tip of Japan. He made the most beautiful documentary of the trip and you can see the whole thing for free on Google Video. And then go to his own website and buy your own copy for CHEAP! Support this guy! He did this because he was trying to impress his girlfriend and his girlfriend's father just happens to hold 8 world's records for walking. From 1977 through 1983 this man, George Meegan, walked the entire Western hemisphere! 19,019 miles and over 3 million steps over 7 years. He started at the southernmost point in South America and spent 7 years walking to Alaska! I ordered and have just finished reading his book - The Longest Walk - and it is fascinating and moving and I am just living every day in awe of such an achievement. His sheer exuberance for life and complete love of the human race has inspired me beyond belief. We should all surround ourselves with people like this. A reminder of why we should never sit on our asses and become complacent, not even for a minute. Highly recommend the Kintaro movie and highly recommend George's book. Both will remind you of the resilience and sheer excellence of the human spirit that dares to imagine what if.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Love, Actually

This is one of my favorite movies. Oddly enough Dad has now adopted it as his favorite Christmas movie. I had seen it several times and last Christmas he had a formal screening Christmas Eve in honor of the holiday. I knew it was going to happen and kind of dreaded it because I tend to shed tears from the opening. But I held it together and only got sobby during the carolers/cue card scene (Dad did too - I heard him).

Watched it again tonight. This is a movie well worth seeing. Romantic and sentimental but a good reminder of what is important in life. Good to watch it alone where I can cry openly and with abandon without feeling like a silly jerk!

Would you please pass the kleenex?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Balance, Air Travel and Other Random Thoughts

Thanks to Suerk's comment on the last post I have come to a grand realization. The past week's trip to Nippon was one of balance. I love the idea of balance and for my own life it is something I do strive for but most of the time I move very quickly back and forth between the highs and lows and call this balance instead. And I do think now that I have achieved a bit of emotional balance, at least as far as Japan is concerned. My 2005 was a year of education and experience and once I learned it I had to leave it behind. This trip back reminded me that this was indeed a lesson learned and not one I need to continue learning forever. Today when I watched the country disappear from the window of the airplane I felt good. I want to return but for now I need to move on to the next new experience! Thanks Suerk for putting words to what I was feeling.

Suerk, by the way, taught me English in high school - and he continues to teach me even 30 years later. He also directed the best damned production of Godspell that has even been.

It's almost 2 am. I had 5 hours of heavy sleep after being awake for 26 and am in the getting over jet lag mode big time. It's just plain weird that I left Tuesday August 29 at 11:25 am and flew for over 10 hours and arrived in Chicago Tuesday, August 29 at 8:40 am. As always the trip there was fairly easy to get over within a day but the trip back has messed with me big time. A combination of Back to the Future and Groundhog Day.

An interesting thing happened on the flight from Chicago to Atlanta. There were a lot of young Navy guys at ORD today and about 9 of them were on my flight and seated around me. They were very young - early 20s max, and headed back to Pensacola. When we landed in Atlanta the cabin attendant made the announcement about the weather and current time in Atlanta and please remain seated until the plane has come to a complete stop and then recognized our military personnel on board and thanked them and wished them Godspeed and the whole plane broke out in applause. As we waited to get off the plane they began talking amongst themselves about how good it was to be back in the south with support. One kid was talking with another passenger behind me and I heard him say that he came from a town that was totally anti-military and had had an anti-war rally just the weekend before and it was so good to be back where people were pro-war. I wanted so badly to turn around and tell them that indeed I and the majority of this country support everything they do but that they should not confuse this with support for war. I hate war and I hate the man that put us in this mess all the while invoking the name of God. He is no better than the terrorists in this respect. But I love and support the women and men of the military that carry out his orders and put their lives on the line. These kids were equating respect for the military with support of the war. I should have had my little gentle say with them. I did not. I was far too tired.

I found a new vending machine coffee in Japan and have decided this must be the national drink there. I brought back 4 cans just in case I wake up feeling too happy

Monday, August 28, 2006

Homeward Bound

I leave in the morning to return to the US. I have mixed feelings about it, but I also have mixed feelings about Japan. I love it so much and the people are so wonderful and friendly and it's so easy to get around and it's the most wonderfully quirky country but it is the most maddeningly impossible place too. There is NO creative thinking - NO creative problem solving. The Japanese learn everything by rote and anything outside of that is too foreign to them to handle. The saying here is that the nail that sticks up will get hammered back down. So one doesn't do anything outside of the accepted norm. This just totally drives me crazy because I was born to be the nail that sticks up and yet I have to accept it is the culture here. The Japanese are polite and bow many hundreds of times a day, and there are 4 levels of politeness in the language depending on the station of the person you are speaking with and yet in a crowded subway station or in a crowd like the festival I went to Saturday they will push you and shove you and jump line without a second thought. And then, in the middle of towering buildings you will come across a small wooden house with tenderly cared for potted plants on the curb that punks don't kick over and destroy just for fun and something to do. Shopkeepers in the mornings will go out in front of their shops and sprinkle dippers full of water on the sidewalk to "Keep the dust down." Every day traveling the trains you see women in traditional clothing - and this includes young women - and they wear their kimono and stand at the station sending text messages on their cell phones. And it's just about the safest place you can possibly imagine. I could walk down the street at 2 am with 10,000 yen ($100) bills sticking out of my back pocket and no one would touch me. And if I dropped one the guy behind me would apologize for interrupting my walk and return it, bowing.

All this said, one week has been a good visit, although all but one day was spent working. I am ready to get home to my life and projects and the cats. If I came here to really travel the country for a week or two I might feel different but this has been good. I am sad to leave but happy to get home. I think the main charm of last year for me was navigating the learning curve. It was such a challenge every day and such an adventure. Now it is normal to be here. Exciting, but normal.

I truly consider myself so very fortunate. To think that I started this job as a one week temp and have not only had the unbelievable opportunity to live here for a year but to also come back and revisit - I just can't believe this has been my life for the past couple of years!

So I leave Japan tomorrow tired, sore, inspired and grateful. Not too freaking bad.

Photos to come within 48 hours . . .

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tsukiji and the Asakusa Surprise!

Today, Saturday, I finally got a chance to do a bit of roaming and it was a near perfect day. It was a bit cloudy, and the intense heat and humidity that has been with us this week finally lifted. It was just splendid to be out and about and I had many reminders of why I love it here so much.

I started fairly late as I wanted to do a bit of work first and get it out of the way. The original plan was to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market by 6 am but when I woke up at 8 that was pretty much shot (you have to get there early to really experience the market and it's mostly over by 10 or 11 am). But I went to Tsukiji anyway, and started by visiting the Tsukiji Honhwanji Temple. I sat inside for quite a while as there were 3 Buddhist monks chanting and it was so peaceful and relaxing. (Page in english) if you are interested in learning more.

After the temple I walked around the narrow and crowded alleyways around the fish market and looked at the various vendors and their wares. Tokyo is so hugely modern and yet there are these tiny narrow streets just off the main streets and when you walk through them you almost feel as if you have stepped back in time. Yes, I have photos and I could just kick myself that I didn't spend more time looking for the cord that hooks my camera to the laptop. I got up my nerve and had lunch at a sushi-go-round restaurant, where the sushi chefs stand in the middle and create and then put the sushi on lilttle color-coded plates onto a conveyor belt. You sit and drink green tea and when a plate goes by that looks good you take it and enjoy it. At the end a lady comes up and counts your plates and you get your bill. It was simply wonderful. I had toro (fatty tuna) and eel and scallop and something that I had no idea what it was. The great thing is that these places are all supplied by the fish market just steps away and so you know you are eating the very freshest sushi it is possible to have. Delicious!

From Tsukiji I decided to go back to my old stomping grounds, Asakusa. It is truly my favorite place in Tokyo. I had an email from my New Zealand matie Peter on Wednesday morning. His mother passed away after a long illness last week and he wrote to let me know. I decided then and there that I would have to go to Asakusa while I was here and burn incense and light a candle in the shrine for his Mum.

As I was leaving the subway station at Asakusa I saw posters for the annual Samba festival which, as it turns out, was TODAY!!! This is a huge festival and I heard about it last year but did not go. So I stepped out into the streets of Asakusa which are crowded anyway and I can't even describe the mass of sweaty humanity that awaited me. Yes I have photos and I think I even recorded a brief "movie" on my camera. There were so many people that you couldn't even see the parade. Side note - the parade was underway when I stepped off the train and 3 hours later it was still going strong! Japanese people can have some fun. But anyway - the crowd. Literally (I swear to god) it was full body to body contact trying to walk the streets. I think I might be pregnant. It actually freaked me out a little bit. So much pushing and shoving and you get caught in the tide and pretty much go wherever the tide takes you. At one point I found a side street and sat on the edge of a planter just to get out of the madness. An older Japanese couple walked by and the woman came up to me and gave me a souvenir fan! So sweet and thoughtful! Another very special moment. The walk from the Asakusa station to the temple normally takes about 8 minutes but today it took over an hour due to the crowds. I lit the candle and burned the incense for Peter's Mum and then took in the energy of the festival for a couple of hours. Here's a link to someone who posted photos last year It seems to be an excuse for the normally black/brown/earth-toned wearing Japanese to put on neon feather costumes and thongs and fringe and cut loose and shake their booties. It was exhausting but fun. And oh yeah - while walking around Asakusa I saw my first in-person sumo wrestler! He was on a bicycle with his young daughter. I could tell he was sumo by his size and his top knot. Simply beautiful.

Now it's getting close to 7 and I need to go out and find dinner. When I was here last year I got a per diem and I was filthy rich! I never had a moment of feeling that I had to pinch pennies thanks to Gerard setting it up so we were all living comfortably in this very foreign place. This time all expenses come out of my own pocket and I will be reimbursed for breakfast, lunch, dinner and traveling expenses to and from the office. It stings a bit. Tokyo is far more expensive than I think I ever realized. So I have to make the most of my meal times. I could kill for tonkatsu tonight.

One thing I've noticed is that navigating the subway stairs and walking so much is quite taxing and so I realize that I was in pretty great shape last year. In the US we are sedentary. Here you have to walk and climb stairs all day and put out effort. I am sore and tired and achy but I feel so good!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Yeah, Second Posting in One Day but this is Worth It!

Was walking back the 3 blocks from the take out place and a bus passed. As it passed I noticed an older woman sitting and looking at me intently from the window. Just as it passed I got cocky and gave her a huge smile and waved at her.

She waved back.

This has been the best freaking day ever.

Prepare for Brain Fade and Eyes to Roll Back Into Your Head

This will mean nothing to you but I have to share. I am here in Tokyo to train staff to use the new interface that I have spent a great deal of time testing. I have tested every possible aspect of it because it is important to me that I provide this office with something as close to perfect as possible. I tested stupid scenarios that would never happen in reality but could happen within the parameters of our system. I want this office to know I am looking out for them and value me enough that I can return from time to time and be considered a welcomed visitor who brings things that will make their lives easier. My Japan experience gave me so much and I want to give back by making things as easy for them as possible.

Yesterday afternoon I began the training. Almost immediately we ran into a brick wall in terms of IT. I had no idea why this problem was happening and was heartbroken that it was not an immediate success. Last night I came back to the apartment and worked on it but the jet lag kicked in. All day today I worried about it (my IT contact is in London so the timing was off). All day I checked the time in London. At 5 I came to the apartment prepared for a long hard night of working it out.

Thanks to the absolute brilliance of Mike in London and a brief Skype call the interface is up and running now! I ran yesterday's file with total success and in the morning I will complete the initial staff training!!!! We aren't out of the woods yet but this is a HUGE thing, and a complete and almost perfect payoff for the many hours of mind-numbing testing I did over the past 5 months!!

WOO HOO!!! It's PARTY TIME in Tokyo tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just so you have perspective on my idea of "party time" I plan to walk down to the local takeout, pick up something edible, come back to the apartment and take a long bath in my deep and perfect Japanese bathtub. I will be asleep by 10 I promise. Unless of course there is something compelling on Japanese TV.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Hello from Japan once again. It is freaking hot here. Not really hot, but humid as only Japan can be. Since I left in December the office has acquired a high tech Casio wall clock (I want one and will try to get one). It has a typical wall clock appearance but with an additional digital LCD window where temperature and humidity is displayed. Today in the office with air con it was 28C (82.4F) and 55% humidity!!!! On the most humid recent day in Atlanta it only got close to 50% and that was OUTSIDE!!! So you can maybe imagine. I was determined to go in today looking good and refreshed and after 10+ hours of sleep I thought it was possible. I showered, made up - I looked positively cute when I left my apartment for the 7 minute walk to the Hatchobori station. By the time I got on the train I was dripping sweat and every facial pore I have had opened fully and swallowed every bit of makeup. Don't get me started about how I looked by 10 am. By 6 pm when I left the office I was caked with sweat and salt and pollution and had a 7 hour case of drag rot on top of bloodshot, jet-lagged eyes. Hard to deal with when you are standing in the station cue with a bunch of cute gorgeous Japanese women.

We (Rasmus and I) arrived at Narita airport at about 1:35 pm yesterday local time which was 12:35 am body time (previous day). I got up at 4 am (body and real time) to get to the airport for my flight from Atlanta to Chicago. We went through immigration, picked up luggage, went through customs, went outside for a cigarette, went back up to pick up our apartment keys, exchanged currency, purchased bus transport tickets into Tokyo, and arrived at the apartment at about 5 pm which was 4 am body time once again so needless to say after 9 months of not dealing with this I am a bit messed up. I went to bed at 8 pm (local time - SIGH) and woke up at 2 am, then back to bed at 3 until I got up at 7:30 am (local time - SIGH).

Tokyo is still as great as it was 9 months ago - people on the street walking and riding bikes at all hours. A city alive. My city. Cashiers at the convenience stores who bow to you after you have made a $3.00 purchase. When my plane took off from Atlanta and then landed at Chicago we flew right beside both skylines and despite the fact that these are major cities they looked so small to me. And here I am in a city of 30 million people and the streets are narrow and quaint and modern and safe and I feel so good and so at home again. Japan, has its problems for sure but it still feels right to me.

I wish I could stay. I wish I had never left. I wish I were home with the cats. I wish I could be here forever. A city of eternal wishes.

There will be photos but not until I return because I couldn't find the thingy that hooks my camera up to the laptop.

The gagaijin.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Must See

A Japan blog that I frequent recently had a link to perhaps the most wonderful documentary I have ever seen. This young man from California graduated from college then worked a couple of years to save up the money to walk from the southernmost point of Japan to the northernmost point. He did it between late March and late July 2004, and documented his experiences on video. I don't watch the show so I didn't know this but he also won The Amazing Race. I was so taken with this 1 hour video that I immediately went to his website and ordered my own copy. It arrived in today's mail and I am so excited. This guy has the most remarkable attitude and outlook on life and I have just been 100% inspired by him. His US name is Tyler MacNiven. His Japanese name is Kintaro. Here's the link to the google video as well as the link to his website.

You will laugh, you will cry, you will learn about the kindness of the people of Japan, and you will feast on this remarkable documentary, which was edited beautifully by Tyler and his girlfriend Ayumi.

That's all for now.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Lipstick, Kate Hudson and other stuff

Today it was announced that airline travelers can have lipstick on their carry on baggage. Let's face it - water, once you get through security, is readily available at high airport prices once you are on the concourse and free once you are on the plane. Not like you have to fly internationally with nothing to drink. But NO LIP BALM?!?!?! I can't go an hour without lip balm. I have lip balm in every drawer in my house and two or three tubes in my purse. Today's news was good news. I can fly now.

Kate Hudson and her singer husband (whats-his-name) are splitting after 6 years. Cheers Kate! You made it twice as long with one husband as I did with two combined!

The new participants in the next Dancing With The Stars competition was announced today. Jerry Springer for the love of god! Others of course but I do hope the judges throw chairs at this man. Still, I look back at last season (my first) and it was so GREAT and I swear if you didn't see Jessica Simpson's ex brother in law dance you missed a great dancer. He was truly a talented competitor. And who wouldda thunk it? He truly poured every bit of his heat, soul and body into it and it was a joy to watch. This is my guilty pleasure. Normally I and the cats prefer things like Grey's Anatomy and not much else. No SERIOUSLY - Phoebe gets on the chair by the TV when Grey's comes on and watches it from 2 inches away - she is intrigued.

Speaking of Grey's Anatomy - y'all didn't tell me there was a Season 1 while I was away!!!! For SHAME!!! I started watching in early March which I thought was season 1 and only recently found out it was actually (SERIOUSLY) season 2. So this weekend I went out and bought the season 1 DVD and don't you know between 1 pm Saturday and noon Sunday I had watched EVERY EPISODE. It was a gluttonous feast that I will never regret and yet I am still trying to get over the Mer/Der love hangover. I finally understand all the backstories and season 2 is out on DVD Sept 12 so I can catch up more and I guess late Sept season 3 will begin on TV. So I am almost caught up and I love it and this is maybe the best writing ever on TV including M*A*S*H and Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. So much of TV (mostof it) is total crap but this is bright, funny, compelling and well written and brilliantly acted stuff. Sandra Oh is a goddess and if you don't believe me rent Under the Tuscan Sun and Sideways and then watch her in this. $100 bucks says within 5 years she has an Oscar. She is a SERIOUSLY great actress. SERIOUSLY. For those who don't watch you won't get me saying "SERIOUSLY." But SERIOUSLY you need to watch this and now it will be on Thursdays at 9 so those of us who go to bed early can watch it without guilt.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Visit to the Monastery

About 20 miles from my home, nestled into beautiful countryside in Conyers, Georgia, is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a Trappist Monastery.

For 14 years I have heard about this place. I've known people who have done spiritual retreats there, and heard about the bonsai the monks do. I've always meant to go but never took the time as there are always other things to be done dontcha know. Maybe it's the fact that due to my Feng Shui purging of the clutter and making an effort to keep my house neat and clean and tidy on a nightly basis but this morning I woke up and there was nothing pressing to do. I spent an hour de-cluttering a bit more in the shed (I am doing this in bits and pieces), then another 25 minutes working on sanding my grandmother's kitchen table, recently inherited from my parents and in great need of refinishing. Then I showered and ate lunch and decided to go to Conyers.

What a joy - what a delight - what fun! In a very Jesus kind of way, of course - not that there's anything wrong with that. I immediately headed for the bonsai house and was amazed at what I saw. In Japan there was a man who lived down the street from me. He had maybe 15 bonsai, very old ones, sitting out on the curb on benches and once a week or so he would work on them. He always said "Konbanwa" as I passed on my bike coming home at night and I always wanted to stop and watch him but somehow it seemed like spiritual work for him and I didn't want to intrude.

Anyway, I saw some bonsai today so beautiful they almost brought tears to my eyes. These things have been trained with love and devotion. I saw juniper, ficus, bougainvillia, and my favorite, ginko. Ginko was the official tree of Urayasu city where I lived and I wanted so badly to buy one but they are pretty pricey. Also I don't have the best track record with bonsai. The ones I have purchased at Target and Lowe's have died sad, miserable deaths. So today I walked away with two small young bonsai - a jade plant and a juniper:

I swear I am going to read up on this and work to keep these things alive. The old bonsai, some of which were 100 years old, were up to $900. A bargain in the world of bonsai. Many in the $100 to $300 range. Many also in the $25 to $50 range. I walked away with 2 bonsai, a mud man figure, and a bonsai care book for a whopping $16.00 total. I told them if I didn't kill them I would be back. I'm just not going to spend $200 on a ginko that will die due to my ignorance, no matter how much I want it. Evidently jade plants are difficult to train but junipers are fairly easy. At any rate I am looking forward to this challenge!

After my bonsai purchase I wandered around the beautiful monastery grounds a bit and then headed for the Abbey store as it was hot as hell (ironic, ne?) and the store was air conditioned. There was so much to look at, from the tackiest of Jesus oriented decor to books about the saints to honey and fruitcake and fudge made at the Monastery. I got four frankincense scented candles and a serenity prayer card and then I noticed the cooler of holy water in a back corner. My Feng Shui book has many suggestions about cleansing the home of negative energy including burning sea salt and smudging with cedar and burning sandlewood incense but it also mentions sprinkling holy water. So I bought a little holy water container and filled 'er up. There was an old, hunched over monk working the register and he rang me up and I paid and then in a very gruff, gravely deep voice he said "You want these blessed?" The first response that came to me was "Will it cost extra?" Luckily I only said "Yes, please." He made the sign of the cross and mumbled something and then got out his little plastic container of holy water and wet his fingers and touched each of my items.

If you are interested in reading more:

I'm not a catholic. I now consider myself to be a loose non-practicing (very) low Episcopalian who dabbles in the study of Buddhism and is open to many spiritual beliefs and practices. I live in an area of the country where there is roughly one strip mall church per person (usually named something like "The Anointed Sanctuary of the Holy Warrior Missionary Church of Jesus") and where it is common practice for people to appear on your doorstep to "save" you and inflict their beliefs upon you. Among my friends are Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Baptist, Baptist, Baptist (I live in the bible belt), Catholic, Buddhist, Shinto, Unitarian, Athiest, Agnostic, Wiccan and Ja-ism. I love them all and have learned from them all. The point is not religion but spirituality. The point is having some sort of faith. The more important point is loving and accepting that just because someone has a religious/spiritual belief and practice different from yours does not mean they are condemned to hell.

Off the soapbox now. It was an entirely good day and so much fun! Now there are more thunderstorms moving in and I need to shut down until they pass. Luckily it seems our hot dry spell has passed and now we are having regular thunderstorms. Still hot, and with the rain also humid, but the air is cleaned so much by the rain and I appreciate every drop that falls!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Feng Shui

Before I continue, just in case you noticed, yes indeed I did remove my ranting post about the ridiculous men who roam the on-line dating sites. A friend forwarded a profile to me because she thought it was funny and it kind of was, but then I got caught up surfing this particular site and was so utterly and completely disgusted that I posted a rant. After thinking about it I decided men like this are not worth taking up cyber space and so I removed it. Feel free to contact me if you would like to hear my opinion. I know there's one man who is not like this. Unfortunately he is 7,700 miles away. . . and he is blushing right now.

OK. On to the topic at hand. My latest BNU online class is Feng Shui. I signed up for it because I already had the book (excellent book) and I thought what the hell. It has changed my life, people! The initial thing is de-cluttering. Every "thing," every object, has energy. When your home is full of useless clutter it can create energy chaos. The good energy cannot flow unimpeded. This makes so much sense to me. Before the unfortunate achilles incident I had started gathering a few boxes of potential yardsale items. That was more than 2 years ago! This class has really gotten me off my ass. I have been throwing away old, worn clothing and shoes, boxing up gifts from old boyfriends, posting things on Craigslist, and my home is now so comfortable - so wonderful! And this is only the first stage. I still have to enhance my energy centers. This will come in time. For now I am thrilled with the de-cluttering process.

I will be having a yard sale sometime in the next two weeks (the instructor challenged me to do it before the final day of class on August 14). Anything not sold will be offered on Freecycle. Anything not claimed on Freecycle will be donated. It's ALL going to go!

Again, I urge you to check out Barnes and Noble University for free classes on line. There really is something for everyone. This is a class I will take at least once more, but I also look forward to the next session of offerings!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Funny Photo Alert!

Here in "Hotlanta" we are getting off pretty easy compared to the rest of the country. Our highs are only between 95 and 98 lately.

I got home from work today and put down my purse and looked out the kitchen window to see how much of the backyard was wilting and saw just about the funniest sight I have seen in a long time! I have a resident squirrel who is evidently a big sissy drama queen. Here's a photo - said squirrel is literally spread-eagled on his stomach on a large piece of black granite by the pond. Photo is not great quality because I had to shoot through the window and screen but if you can make it out it's pretty funny . . .

Here's the punch line: the yellow thing about an inch to the left of the squirrel is a cob of dried corn put out as squirrel food. It's just too hot to even eat. We can only stare at our food.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Yeah. Global warming is a myth thought up by the liberals.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I don't tend to dwell too much on the past but today is a big anniversary! Right about now, 2 years ago, I was at the wedding of some friends on the island of St. Martin and at about midnight was dancing when I spontaneously ruptured both Achilles tendons... the rest is history. If this thing bought me the year in Japan it was well worth the disappointment at a vacation cut short and 8 weeks in a wheelchair. I think we must look at the worst of times as a thing that moves us forward.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lord Have Mercy! Sister Susannah (the new age nun) has this habit of keeping everything she has ever bookmarked which I frankly think is unhealthy but that's only because I tend to not bookmark and also I clean out my favorites regularly. To each her own. Think I will start keeping everything. Luckily she kept this link which she first sent several years ago and re sent today. It is so hilarious, so funny, so totally 1974 that I urge you to get a good box of kleenex out before you click. I have literally been sitting here for 30 minutes in hysterical laughter (the kind that almost worries me) with tears running down my face.

Please enjoy!

Monday, July 10, 2006

I promise I won't. I promise I won't. AARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! I HAVE TO DO IT!!!!

This is Dylan (on the treadmill) and Phoebe (under the treadmill). They are fast friends, mainly because Dylan is so dear and sweet and, as a purebred, beautiful but kind of half a bubble shy of plumb. Dumb you might say, but so loving. They get in this position all the time and spend hours swatting at each other. Simple things . . . Look at Phoebe's eyes. Everything she sees is the most amazing f*cking thing ever! This is what is so remarkable about a kitten. You bring one in and all of a sudden you see everything for the first time and it's better than living in Japan and better than acid. Not that I've ever lived in acid mind you. The last kitten I had here was dear departed Gracie back in January 1988 (she died a very calm sweet death in my arms on December 17 2004 at age 16). I had forgotten how AWESOME PURPLE FUZZY MICE COULD BE!!!

OK, enough from the cat whisperer.

Sister Susannah (the new age nun) sent me a link back in April or so to Barnes and Noble University These are free classes and book study groups where you go at your own pace and the sessions are 4 or 6 weeks. In June I took Money Management for Women which was an excellent course - it confirmed much of what I knew, reinforced some of what I suspected, and taught me so much by prompting me to go through my own finances and re-evaluate. I evaluated all of my insurance coverage and re-distributed my 401(k) and have developed a plan that will allow me to retire by the age of 79 (93 if I want to avoid a trailer)!!! The new session started today and I have signed up for Feng Shui your Life (because I already had the book) and Basic Web Page Design (HTML book on the way). Looks so good and I cannot recommend BNU enough if you have some curiousity about things. I am curious by nature and read a lot anyway but so often I read and don't put the practices to work. With self-paced "assignments" I am far more prompted to pursue what I learn in the books. I would encourage you to check it out. There is pretty much something for everyone.

OK. That's all for now.


Saturday, July 08, 2006


Today I "harvested" the first of my potato containers. Yikes! I have a lot to learn!

These are the Purple Majesty and were in the smallest containers. These are the total of the harvest after I dug through and left behind the additional 10 or so that had rotted underground. I have the feeling I might have watered them too much. Good lesson learned. Still I feel a weird sense of accomplishment. There are 3 varieties in 2 containers still to harvest and I think I'm going to lay off the water for a week or so and see what they do.

Japanese cucumbers?

I got these very fine "tomato" cages just before I left for WV and the cukes are already climbing them. I hope I didn't plant them too late. I hope they have room in the pot. I LOVE Japanese cukes - so good sliced lengthwise and used to dip a bit of miso paste!

Tomatoes? I think everything at this point looks quite positive. There are probably 30 tomatoes in various stages of green size at this poitn and I can't wait for the first to turn red and ripe and juicy. You can only see a few from this angle but there are so many!

We have finally had some rain here and the temps have cooled to the point where I have even turned off the AC and opened the windows for fresh air. I don't know why - maybe because the AC unit is down in the musty crawl space - but the house just smells so much better with windows open instead of AC. I only run it when I can't possibly tolerate it without. I use my boobs as the judge. Ladies you know what I'm talking about.

Here in GA we have the primaries on July 18 and all I see on the TV is negative ads. I am so sick of them. Democrat, Republican - they all do it now. More interested in pointing out the other guy's bad things than in promoting what they will do to make things better. Every day I go through a "I'm not voting for anyone" stage but I know better. Still I hate these ads - it does nothing for the betterment of any political view and only adds to the further divisiveness of this country. Is there no way to convince these politicians to stop this crap? I would so much rather see a counterpoint on an issue followed by a good plan than a personal attack using mis-quoted and mis-represented "facts." I might just vote green party this year. Here in GA our 2 democrat primary choices are "the big guy who looks out for the little guy" and the woman who denigrates the "big guys" as holding GA back. I would dearly love to put a woman in place a governor but have yet to see one specific thing this woman will do for our state. She won't win. As a liberal woman who votes she will not get mine until she stops slinging shit and starts telling me specifically what she plans to do.

Oh shit. Another 2 years of this? Someone send me back to Japan NOW!