Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

New Year's greetings from Japan and the Watanabes. And blog friends have already seen all these picutres in one post or another...

Wishing you the best in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quilting in 2009

Japan is already into the last 16 hours of the year. Still a lot of last minute things to be done.

I have been thinking that my life as a quilter was a little slow this year. What did I make? What new techniques did I try? What quilts were made for others? WHAT DID I DO ALL YEAR?!

I pulled pictures from my files of most of the quilts that were completed this year and I find that I got a lot more done that I had thought. Well, that feels good! So here is a collage of 2009 patchwork and quilting. Granted some of those quilts (the big ones!) were started a couple of years ago... but they got finished in 2009!

Hoping to continue finding the time and enthusiasm to call myself a quilter in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

" sickness and in health"

Well we are winding down the old year. Tetsu has the day off and we will do things like address cards, clean up a bit more, do some serious grocery shopping and go pick up some pounded rice from my pear orchard friends.

This morning Tetsu and I were talking about how these past few years he has been in pretty good health. That sounds like he's been in poor health which is and is not true. Tetsu is plagued with gout. There were some end-of-the-year/New Years when I wondered if we'd make it through another year of marriage just because he was miserable and I was such a terrible nurse.

Tetsu developed gout when he was in his early 20s, not long after he met me. I sometimes wondered if I was the cause! For any of you who don't know, gout usually only strikes males, is worsened by a high caloric diet, flairs up on occasions of stress, is often associated with heavy drinking, and runs in the family. Well, Tetsu is a non-drinker so that leaves diet and stress and family. I hope I'm not the cause of stress though one could accuse me of cooking less than healthy food (hey, I cook ANY food and people are happy!) but Tetsu's brother also has gout and his father had rheumatism (a similar ailment to gout) so we mark Tetsu's gout up to heredity.

ANYWAY, miserable is a mild world for describing Tetsu when he has gout. In Japanese it is called tsu-fu- which means "wind pain" and just people walking by him would cause bursts of irritation from Tetsu. (He was miserable but he was also miserable to live with!) For some reason he would usually be afflicted in the winter and before the kids were born I would have to enlist a neighbor to help me get him to a hospital. (He's a big guy.) Almost every New Year saw Tetsu laid up on the sofa with pain killers and an angry look on his face that said "BEWARE OF ME!" We permanently borrowed a pair of crutches from Mrs. Furui's family just so Tetsu could get around in the house and at work and one year he was hospitalized for two weeks during the holidays. I do recall that Takumi grudgingly took over many winter jobs such as shoveling snow, cleaning out neighborhood gutters and climbing up on the roof to relieve me of some of Tetsu's chores which was a blessing in disguise.

But for some years now Tetsu takes medication that seems to just right for him and he hasn't had a gout attack in at least 5 years. He is SO happy he hasn't had to suffer through that. I am SO happy that my mettle as a nurse isn't being tested. Makes me wonder about those marriage vows of " sickness and in health."

Monday, December 28, 2009


Early morning finds me at Starbucks today. Although it was a work day for Tetsu he suggested going into the next town (separate cars) and having some coffee and a muffin as a token honor of the holiday that everyone else has started but that we have not. Tetsu took along his newspaper, I took along my Kindle and we had a quick "breakfast".

I felt sort of like a teenager taking pictures of each other in Starbucks but bear with us... It's the only way the kids can see that Tetsu and I are alive and well and I guess they like the everyday-nothing-special-going-on aspect of it. (By the way, Tetsu's wearing his Christmas vest.) Tetsu went on to work while I stayed at Starbucks and wrote New Year's cards. Yes! People may hear from me after all! Now to see if I can find the labels I once made so that I don't have to write my return address on all of them.

On my way home I stopped for groceries and ended up with a cute little New Year's flower arrangement. This is about as small an arrangement as one can get in Japan but I thought just for a little color in the entry (my CLEAN entry, by the way!) it would be nice for welcoming in the New Year and visitors.

Let's see. Traditionally there is supposed to be bamboo in there... Yes, there are a few bamboo leaves that have been curled under. Bamboo is symbolic of strength and flexibility... being able to bend without breaking. Then there are supposed to be pine branches... Yep, one or two sprigs. Pine grows into a large tree so it is supposed to be the symbol of longevity. And then there are supposed to be plum blossoms. No plum in my arrangement. Instead there are some red berries of some plant that withstands the cold. Plum blossoms also stay beautiful in the cold weather so they are used as a symbol of beauty and constancy. I guess the red berries have the same meaning... I don't know why the carnations are there! Oh well, it makes for a nice corner. I hope my cats don't eat my New Year's arrangement!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

End of the year preparations

Today sees me cleaning again. This is a normal, Japanese, end of the year practice. Everything must start afresh for the New Year and that includes a clean house. No spring cleaning for Japanese. It is done before January 1st!

The other day I showed a picture of the dusting being done at temples and of statues using a bamboo pole with the bamboo leaves still at the top. And as I drove to town I passed a farmhouse where the farmer and his wife were really cleaning the eaves of their house with some long bamboo poles! Sorry, couldn't stop the car to take that picture.

End of the year shopping is being done too and Tetsu and I stopped at a farmer's vegetable stand to pick up green onions, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish and carrots. Tetsu's mother is especially thrilled to get farmers' vegetables rather than supermarket vegetables so Santa's gift to her this year was a bunch of vegetables...

On Christmas Day I needed to do some shopping (for cleaning supplies) so went to the nearest household supply store. And what were the workers doing? Taking down all the Christmas lights and putting everything Christmas on sale. So I bought a few glittery stars and snowman kits.

"Good grief people. TODAY is Christmas! It doesn't go out with a bang on Christmas Eve as so many Japanese think!"

Ah well, back to cleaning. The main thing is to START! If I would just get off this computer I might make some progress. My Flylady book has come back out and I will divide my house into cleaning zones. Today I am in the dining room and entry way attacking the shelves and cubbies. Curtains will be washed. Windows too. And dusting will get done (I swear!) but not with any bamboo poles.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Breaking rules

What does a part time job, a motorcycle and a rock band have in common?

In Japan, according to high school rulebooks, all three are big time no-nos!

Takumi didn't much like high school. To get to school he rode his bicycle for 30 minutes to the nearest train station, rode the train for another 30 minutes into the next town and then rode another bicycle to the high school. There were other high schools that were closer but this was the school that he was accepted into after testing and so the inconvenience couldn't be avoided.

Once at the school (which was mammoth, like 3000 students!) he trudged through classes without much comment to us about what he was doing or feeling or learning. And he decided early that he was not going to join sports activities because practices ran until 9:00 at night which would mean he wouldn't get home til nearly 10:30 at night. (And yes, lots of kids run that type of schedule!) Instead he found a job at a nearby factory. After school and getting back to our town, Takumi would go straight to the factory and work there 4 or 5 days a week and get home around 9:00. Though Tetsu and I couldn't see what the rush was to join the working force we thought a part time job was better than hanging around convenience stores and staying out all night with friends.

BUT, this wasn't (isn't) high school policy. No part time jobs! Students are supposed to devote themselves to studying and learning team work from sports and high school clubs. It doesn't really matter that maybe these teenagers are learning how hard work results in monetary benefits, how that hard earned money might have more value than a hand out from Dad, how there is a lot to learn from getting bawled out by the boss or from cooperating with other people in the workplace.

So Tetsu and I were faced with the question, do we allow Takumi to work at his part-time job and ignore the high school rules? Well, he is OUR son and though the high school could possible kick him out what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them... I wondered if we were teaching our child the art of deceiving...

And then Takumi's hard earned money went to paying for a driver's license... and yes, would you believe that one must go to driver's school at the cost of $2000 or $3000 in order to get a drivers' licence. If Takumi wanted to spend his money that way, more power to him. I certainly couldn't afford to send him to driver's school! Of course the next glitch was when Takumi saved up some more money (after 2 years of working) to buy a used motorcycle. Oh glory be! The school was right! We never should have let this get started in the first place!

A motorcycle was another no-no heralded from the high school rule book. Another excellent way to get kicked out of high school. Again Tetsu and I held conferences late at night. Do we allow the motorcycle and let Takumi ignore the rule? He had legally gotten the driver's license. He had reached his goal of saving his money for what he felt was important. Although I wasn't thrilled with the idea of my son riding a motorcycle at ALL, we decided to put limits on when and where the motorcycle could be ridden... Definitely not to school! But from our house to the train station (we live in another city right?) and back? Okay. What the school doesn't know doesn't hurt them... And Takumi continued to work after school and earn enough for gasoline and insurance for his motorcycle. In turn, I lived in constant fear until the day of Takumi's graduation, that the school would find out about his job or his motorcycle and refuse him his diploma. I remember counting down the days till the graduation ceremony!

So most high school kids don't have part time jobs. Or maybe it is more correct to say that most high school kids don't let the high schools know that they have jobs. There are many parents who feel the same way that Tetsu and I did and allow their kids to work in convenience stores, in coffee shops or gasoline stations. But if the school finds out... both kids and parents are in big trouble.

I have some friends who had a teenage son and they got hauled onto the carpet for breaking the rules. This is where the rock band comes in. Their son had joined a band and somehow been found out. The parents went to the Principal's office a number of times to apologize and had to write a formal letter of apology in order to keep their son in school. Bands are supposed to encourage delinquency so that is another no-no in the high schools. But kids are drawn to drums and guitars and amongst all the other evils kids can get into, a band or a motorcycle or a part time job doesn't seem so terrible. So we parents go about allowing things the schools don't.

Of course, I don't know how much studying got done during those high school years.

Friday, December 25, 2009

New year's preparations

Today finds me printing out New Year's cards at my computer. This job should have been done weeks ago, right? Even given the fact that these are Japanese New Year's cards and not Christmas cards doesn't excuse my tardiness in getting these done. The Japanese post office has been telling us that if we want our cards delivered on January 1st, they must be in the mailbox by December 25th. So again I will be late this year. As I am most years.

The Japanese post office must be going crazy about now. Throughout the country everyone is dropping New Year's post cards into the mail boxes, 50 to 100 or more at a time. The post office people are sorting incoming cards by address and keeping them in piles until January 1st when they will all get delivered at the same time. And since the post office people are so busy they hire high school students to run around on bicycles and deliver regular mail during the month of December. This is one of the few "approved" part time jobs for high school students.

It used to be that all New Year's cards were hand written and hand drawn with a picture of the Japanese/Chinese horoscope figure on the card (2010, by the way, is the year of the tiger, the closet we come to cats. I don't know why there is a year of the dog but no year of the cat, humph!) And then the computer world stepped in and most people will print out their cards and labels and forgo personal greetings (and there is not much space on a post card for much news anyway).

From the time Takumi was born Tetsu and I opted to have a family picture that I would take to the camera shop for printing. I have all 24 cards up on our stairway wall! But in recent years as home printing rivaled professional printing, I've used my own printer for the job... So I'm saving money but maybe not time... Hopefully today Tetsu and I will hit Starbucks with our cards and address book (still hand addressing) and later drop some New Year's cards in the mailbox. More work for the post office people!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Merry Christmas! It is already December 25th on this side of the hemisphere and what is Japan doing today? ... going to school and work as usual ... as they did last night on Christmas Eve also.

When I first came to Japan I was horrified that no one acknowledged Christmas whatsoever and it was only in the churches that small gatherings of people somberly attended candlelight services on Christmas Eve. Nowadays the Japanese marketing world has changed things quite a bit but sometimes I think of Christmas past nostalgically. These days Christmas illuminations shine out, stores play Christmas music from just before Halloween, hotels offer romantic meals and services for young couples. In the supermarket the meat department is packed with roasted chicken legs and a girl dressed in a Santa suit sells decorated Christmas cakes stacked high on the table. But nary a person even realizes Christmas and Jesus are related.

This morning I did crosswalk duty as usual but got very little response from my "Merry Christmas!" greetings. The kids are just trying to get through today because winter vacation starts TOMORROW for them! (And it was touch and go for that even what with all the school days off because of influenza this year.)

On the other hand, I had a wonderful Christmas Eve last night. A student drove out from the next city over to bring me a box of chocolates which was ever so nice of her. And I loved the card she enclosed. SO Japanese! I wonder if you can see the details in this card. Santas pulling the "Christmas tree" in Japanese festival fashion with ornaments of cranes and cherry trees and Mt. Fuji at the top as a star.

And just as I was leaving the house for the Christmas Eve service (and realizing that I hadn't baked cookies as I often do) a package arrived special delivery from a blog friend, Yuki. Yuki (from Maryland) had offered to send me some patchwork patterns and I took her up on the offer. But wait! This box is much too big for a few sheets of patterns! (And the price of mailing! Whew, I hope Yuki didn't swoon when she went to the post office! Mailing to Japan is a killer, let me tell you!) I ripped open the box right there and then and out tumbled the patterns and candy for my English kids (that is where the weight came) and Christmas books for me to enjoy and some fancy chocolate truffles! Yuki wrote that I was to enjoy the truffles alone but they were too beautiful and TOO MANY for my waistline and so I took the truffles with me to the Christmas Eve service.

And at church, while my Japanese rendition of the Christmas pageant story was only so-so, Y-kun, the little boy that drives everyone crazy, came to the Christmas Eve service! What a surprise and a blessing! He sat next to me and was mesmerized by the candle set before him during the candle service, and he held my hand through the whole thing! I do hope God touched his heart last night.

Afterwards we all ate crackers and packaged cookies and Yuki-san's truffles which were especially appreciated by the evening visitors. Hmm! A taste of America! Thank you, Yuki-san! I grabbed three truffles for myself but it was your gift that set a smile on everyone's faces!

Let's see. Tetsu's vest fit him and though some reknitting may be required (I'll see if I can get him to model it later this week) that was also a success.

I went to bed early and put aside my Kindle for some reading from the Christmas books Yuki-san sent.

I think I'll sit tight today and eat my truffles and drink coffee and enjoy my good book.

Merry Christmas!

"So the people went away
to eat and drink at a festive meal,
to share gifts of food,
and to celebrate with great joy
because they had heard God's words
and understood them."

Nehemiah 8:12
New Living Translation

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Yesterday I joined some friends to watch a ballet performance of The Nutcracker Suite. My friend was dancing in the ballet and so a group of us decided to attend and get into the Christmas spirit. I don't think I've ever been to a ballet performance before and I had a really good time watching the graceful dancers and the lovely costumes, settings and backdrops.

AND remembering back to my grade school days.

Around the time I started kindergarten my mother realized I was obviously pigeon toed and knock kneed and so on the advice of a orthopedist, she enrolled me in ballet lessons. At age 5 I had a good time twirling around. As I got older I must have revealed my innate clumsiness because I stayed in the background, spent a lot of time falling on the floor and having toes, knees and elbows pushed and pulled into various positions. I THINK that I was still enthusiastic about ballet though and at around 4th or 5th grade even started with toe shoes.

One year at school there was a talent show and I confidently took a record of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and my toe shoes and a frilly costume and went onstage.

Last night as I was listening to Tchaikovsky's ballet I was thinking,

"Ah yes. It was right about HERE that I did a graceful arabesque... and fell part way off the elementary school stage."

That one traumatic misstep colored my life evermore for performing before people in any way, shape or form. And it was not long after the talent show that I discarded my toe shoes forever.

The dancers last night were so precise, so graceful, so ethereal and fragile looking. And in the audience there were other little girls watching the prima ballerina with shining eyes and dreams of becoming as beautiful as she.

All I can say is 'Watch out for elementary school stages'.

I am still knock-kneed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas preparations

Ah~ah~... I don't think I have sewed this whole month. A lot of knitting I guess but not too much color in these cold days... Today I've got to figure out how to block Tetsu's vest and then sew on some buttons and make some button holes. Hmm. Today is the 22nd. Think I can get it done?

By career I really am an English teacher and so yesterday was filled with English and kindergarten and nursery school. In one school the principal and I read the kids "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" which had been translated a few years back by one of my English students. And at the other school the kids were going through their final rehearsal of the Christmas program to be put on tomorrow.

Mifumi Kindergarten where I have taught for 20 years has some interesting policies. The principal frowns on video cameras at kindergarten events saying that parents should watch their children with the naked eye and not through a camera lens. A professional photographer films all the events for purchasing 'if necessary'.

And for Christmas, the parents and children exchange hand made gifts. This is fairly easy for the children since the teachers hold craft periods, and felt trees, macaroni wreaths and pine cone bells abound regularly. For the parents the hand made rule can be sort of a hassle though I agree with the thought. Mothers get busy making dolls and doll clothes. Fathers start hammering go-carts and puzzles. Sometimes groups form with one mother teaching other mothers how to make little-girl aprons and a ream of kindergarten girls will be decked out alike.

When Takumi was in kindergarten, I participated in a block-puzzle workshop and we sawed cubes of wood, glued them together and painted them different colors. Supposedly our children were going to become geniuses by playing with this puzzle and while I don't know about the genius aspect, it is true that Takumi still loves puzzles...

The mothers' handmade gift idea can get a little out of hand though because there is always the temptation to be the "super mom" and try to make the best toy in the kindergarten. In fact I spent about 6 months working on a quilt for Leiya but in the end I asked her not to open it at the kindergarten because I felt it would be taken that I was vying for center stage.

ANYWAY. Last week I showed a picture of the beautiful felt trees that one class made for the mothers this year, and yesterday there was a FLOCK of sheep standing under a starry sky ready to be presented to the mothers tomorrow. Isn't this just the cutest sheep?! The teacher helped the kids glue the wood and make the star but the kids made the sheep themselves. I wish one of my kids were still in kindergarten. I WANT A SHEEP!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

To dust or not to dust...

(pictures from the Internet)Have you done your end of the year dusting yet?

This is the way it's done in Japan!

Of course my house may not get it done at all this year at the rate I'm going...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hickory Dickory Dock

A quick run to the kindergarten yesterday for the Christmas program practice. Last week the principal had to cancel kindergarten for three days because so many kids were out with influenza. Yesterday there was still one class with only half the attendance. And the kindergarten program that was scheduled for yesterday had to be pushed back until the 23rd in hopes that all the kids will be over the flu by then.

I teach four classes at the kindergarten but the oldest class puts on a pageant so they don't have time to start learning English songs etc. That leaves three other classes.

The four year olds are going to sing "If I Were a Butterfly while I play the guitar. They are going to be great!

The three year old class with do an old standby "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" which may be interesting because some of the kids are so shy they hide behind the teachers.

And finally there is the just-turned-three year old class. Some of these kids hardly speak Japanese let alone start on English! But children that age can do about anything and still be the stars of the show and so this year they are mice and I am a clock. I will sing "Hickory, Dickory Dock" alone and call out the time and the mice " up the clock". With the BONG! BONG! the kids scream and run back to their place (hopefully). The teachers made some great mice caps!

I feel pretty silly but I guess the parents are going to be looking at their kids, not at me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cats and knitting

Christmas is getting closer. We are forgoing the Christmas tree this year because of the cats. They knocked down the tree within minutes last year so I'm not even trying this year.

Still knitting. I'm working on the armholes now. Some years Tetsu opens his present, tries it on and finds it too tight or short or flimsy and I spend all of New Years re-knitting the thing. You would think with all the years of making him vests and sweaters that I would be a better judge of how something is going to turn out.

And though you can't see the progress on the vest you can see how we all gather around the kerosene stove in the morning trying to keep warm. Of the cats, only Vel is missing from this picture.

And here's another one of a cat ball. Four cats in that ball. Chip can't find anyplace to squeeze in. This is a no-no of course because Mi is not supposed to be in there. I took her away after I snapped this shot. Mi so wants to be with the other kitties and she wants to cuddle. But she is not supposed to be licking the others nor vice versa so I have to disrupt this bundle of content and put her by herself. Well, she can't be in a completely perfect situation and I remind myself that she is loved and fed and warm...

And here is Mi on a favorite place, Tetsu's chest. She gets her cuddling from him when he is home.

"How much closer does she want to get? Her whiskers tickle!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Earthquake again

We were awakened again this morning by an earthquake. And it was fairly large with the epicenter in our small prefecture. Since it was so close to getting up time anyway, Tetsu and I went downstairs wrapped in blankets and turned on the news. I guess there was an even larger earthquake in the central part of Japan too last night but no reported injuries etc. Maybe we are just jumpy.

I have felt two major earthquakes while I've lived in Japan. The first some 30 years ago when I was teaching in Northern Japan. A bunch of us were in the English office at the Christian Center where I worked when the earthquake hit and though the epicenter was in a far off city, our building really shook. As a Californian I had experienced a couple of earthquakes (nothing like the frequency in Japan!) so it was just hold onto the desk and wait. Some friends though from Michigan had never felt an earthquake and I remember the husband hanging onto the door frame with a terrified look on his face.

A few years later when I was living in a city on the Japan Sea side there was another large earthquake. In my house a birdcage sitting on a table came crashing down as well as a few dishes but no one considered it a terrible earthquake until a tidal wave hit the sea side a few minutes later. I think Japan (being an island country) fears tidal waves more than the earthquakes.

Well, Tetsu and I live in the center of Japan so no oceans around us. Of course a tree from the forest could come crashing down so we always hurry downstairs and away from the windows. Not a pleasant way to start the day but it did shock us awake very quickly!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christmas story

I'm supposed to say something at church on Christmas Eve. Forgive me Lord but I don't really want to do this. I mean I have enough trouble just speaking normal Japanese to my friends and family. Trying to get up in front of a bunch of people and say something meaningful is beyond me. So what am I going to do? Maybe relate a Christmas story about how one little boy almost ruined a Christmas pageant, or maybe made it especially meaningful.

Wally was a big boy and a little slow on the uptake. But he was kind and loving and looked out for the younger children when they joined in the games. When Christmas time came around and the teacher started talking about putting on a Christmas pageant, Wally had his heart set on playing the role of one of the angels. Ah, to wear a white robe and have a sparkling wire halo! To join with the other angels and sing,

"Hark the herald angels sing~~ Glory to the newborn King~~".

The teacher however had other plans. She thought Wally would make a great innkeeper. Since he was taller than the other children, he looked big and strong and despite his soft-hearted personality he would make a fine innkeeper.

"Wally, this year you are going to be our innkeeper. It is a very important part. The innkeeper stands alone by the inn and sends Joseph and Mary away. The innkeeper gets to have his own lines in the play. Yes, Wally. I think you will be great innkeeper. Just remember to look stern."

Wally was not so sure. He really liked the angels' halos... But as always, Wally worked hard at any job he was given so for the next couple weeks he diligently practiced his lines for the play.

"What do you want?" "Seek it elsewhere." "The inn is filled." "There is no room in this inn for you." "No! Begone."

Whew! A lot of lines to remember.

The night of the Christmas pageant everyone was excited. Wally stood in the wings saying his lines under his breath. But gradually as shepherds and angels and Mary and Joseph came on stage and said their lines, Wally became more and more entranced, his eyes shining with joy as the Christmas story unfolded before his eyes.

"Psst! Wally, it's your turn to go on!"

Joseph quietly led Mary to the inn and knocked on the door where Wally was waiting.

"What do you want?" Wally pushed open the door brusquely.

"We seek shelter."

"Seek it elsewhere. The inn is filled."

Joseph pointed to Mary. "We have looked everywhere and we are very tired."

"There is no room in this inn for you." Wally was properly stern.

"Please good innkeeper. My wife is going to have a baby. She needs a place to rest."

And instead of sending Joseph and Mary on their way, Wally's stern expression relaxed and he looked worriedly at Mary.

"Psst! 'No! Begone" said the prompter behind the curtains.

"No! Begone!" repeated Wally.

Joseph and Mary turned away and walked slowly and carefully across the stage. And the innkeeper, who was supposed to slam the door shut, stood there silently and sadly watching the two tired people go. And as he watched, Wally's eyes filled with tears.

And that was when Wally changed the Christmas pageant for all the people present.

"Wait! Don't go, Joseph! Bring Mary back!" And Wally smiled brightly through his tears. "You can have my room!"

Well, some people thought that Wally had really messed things up that night. But others said Wally's tender and loving heart made it the most wonderful Christmas pageant they had ever seen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chip's work

"Frustration is not being able to find the end of the toilet paper."

Monday, December 14, 2009


30 years ago my mother would call me every week on Sunday nights and we would talk for an hour on the phone. America to Japan and that was quite an expense! But it was always hard to end those phone calls what with all the news of my new Japanese life and then marriage and then children. My mother kept me up on neighborhood news and her doings at school.

After awhile we decided that we were being too extravagant and cut our weekly phone calls down to twice a month and that is where it has stayed for nearly 20 years or more. And we could always talk an hour! In the past 10 years though, Mom retired from teaching and from volunteer work, my kids went off to America and when we call, there is less and less to talk about. I'd ring Mom and say

"Hi! What's new?"

"Hmm... Can't think of anything."

"How is the family? How are the neighbors?"

"Fine, fine. Nothing new."

I'd resort to asking her what book she was reading and that was about it. She'd ask me about cats. What do they do? Sleep. Conversations lasted 10 minutes! (Or longer because sometime we repeat the first 10 minutes of conversation.)

When I'd hang up I'd think,

"Mom sure is forgetful these days. She can never think of anything that has gone on for two whole weeks. Must be old age."

Yesterday I called my brother's house to ask what the kids wanted for Christmas. My nephew answered.

"Hi Colin! How are you? What's new?"


Next my brother got on the phone.

"Hi Keion! Just calling about Christmas. What's new with you people?"


And in the distance I hear Marcy's brother call out his hellos to me too.

"Oh, Mark's there too! What's new with Mark?"

My brother relayed my question to Mark and the answer was


So the conversation ended in less than 10 minutes because Marcy wasn't at home. I called my mother instead.

"Hi! This is Tani. How are you? What's new?"

"Oh, fine, fine. Nothing new."

Another 10 minute conversation about books and cats.

Maybe I need to rephrase my question. I guess I've been questioning Mom's memory whereas in truth, there is NOTHING going on with my family!

I don't know why we are all so busy with NOTHING getting done.

There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want. -- Calvin and Hobbes

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Natural decorations

I thought it so funny this morning to read comments from yesterday's post and find someone anonymous had written.

"There is a spiderweb in the corner of your room?"

WHAT? Well actually, I thought that there was a good chance that there was one and when I went back to the picture and enlarged it, yep, that's what it looked like. And when I went to the entryway I couldn't really find it. But as the light changed this morning and when I went back out the front door, sure enough, there was the spiderweb! Someone sure has good eyes!

Well, yes, I get quite a few spiderwebs in my house. They are a little discouraging but not as frustrating as stinkbugs or even cats who urp up on my my floors! Usually I let the spider back outside and sweep away the web. I still remember Charlotte's Web and so don't really find spiders and their webs that offensive. I was actually pleased to get the comment because that meant I had a reason to show a picture I took at the kindergarten this week.

On Wednesday I went to the kindergarten and noticed that the teachers had put up a ladder near one of the doors so that the kids could climb up and look at the spiderwebs. Now that's what I call really appreciating nature! I had walked under this doorway numerous times in the past months and never realized that the kindergarten is "raising spiders". I don't think this is by choice. I think the kindergarten is just allowing the 8 legged weavers to take up residence and are using them as a chance to teach a little science. I'm not going to go so far in my appreciation of nature.

And so that you don't think that the kindergarten's decorations are just spiderwebs, here on the other side of the door was the kindergarten art project for this Christmas. Aren't these wonderful Christmas trees! I think these are made by having the kids loosely wrap colorful felt around a cone and then decorating with pine cones, berries, beads and dried flowers.

And notice those neat "stars" on the top? Those were made by one of the kindergarten mothers and she was selling them at the kindergarten bazaar. The principal was so enthralled by them that she bought the whole box of them and now they've been put to use as Christmas stars! These are made from some seed pod (but I don't know which one) and the mother wrapped tiny squares of fabric and glued them into the natural pod holes. Isn't that an amazing result?

I'll probably remove my spiderweb later on today. Or then again maybe leave it for my cats to enjoy though unlike some blog visitors, they haven't noticed it yet.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

Not too much going on this weekend. How about a cat picture.

I took this picture on Tuesday before my morning English class. Thankfully the four ladies who come are all cat lovers and whenever they come to English they reach into the shoe closet for the Tupperware full of cat treats. The cats know they are getting the treats and they seem to know when Tuesday morning rolls around. Patora, Cleo and Toi loiter in the entryway (Chip was down on the mat) for 10 minutes or so waiting for the ladies to arrive.

The cats have clairvoyance or maybe they just read the signs and sounds better than we think. The vacuum cleaner and the coffee maker being put to work must register in their minds "Tuesday English".

The Christmas decorations are slowly getting put out. I've taken down the quilt behind the cats in that picture and now have Santa Claus up there instead. Every year I look at Santa Claus and think I should make a red quilt of Mrs. Santa Claus (since there are Mr. and Mrs. Santa up there in crewel work) but of course I never get around to it before Christmas and get out of the mood after the holidays.

Hope you are all getting your Christmas errands done!