Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve

Last night, Chris did the prepwork for his family's traditional New Year's Dish, which is an egg and sausage strata sort of thing. No prepwork for mine, I have cheese, crackers and wine.


This morning, after Chris left to go skiing, I started the housework. Well, 12 hours later, the house is clean (funny, my mom always cleaned the house on new year's too), our little kadomatsu are by the door:

the shimenawa has been hung up:

and the kagamochi is on its stand in the living room:

We are officially ready for our Japanese-style New Year, which focuses on forgetting the past and preparing for a fresh start.

Actually, the Japanese don't have the market cornered on the new year as a fresh start:

"The theme of renewal, banishing the old year's evil spirits and getting a fresh start with the new seems nearly universal. In some European cultures, the door is left ajar for the old year to escape, and a shutter is left open for the new year to enter. The Japanese prepare for the big day by cleaning their homes from top to bottom, then hang a sacred rope, or shimenawa, over the doorway to prevent malevolent spirits from entering the house."

---Laura Outerbridge, in The Washington Times, December 26, 1991


I'll put all the holiday pictures up at some point, I promise.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Look Ma, No Wires

I got a wireless keyboard and mouse yesterday! How geeky of me to be thrilled! Plus it came with a 15 dollar rebate, so I got the kit for 15 bucks.

Guess how I spent my day off? I spent all day cleaning the den. Actually, a huge portion of the time was spent reworking my computer setup, to make room for the new machine, a new USB drive and some hardware maintainance. My one fan is going bad, it goes clacketyclacketyclacket instead of whirrrrrrrrr.

As for cleaning the den, well, it badly needed it. Luckily, the rest of the house is in much better shape, so I should be able to get all of my big New Year's Eve Cleaning done. Chris played video games all day, but he did offer to help and he did go out and get take-away for dinner.

I cannot believe the year is almost up. I also cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the house is so much colder than usual. Brrrrr.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blorg

Blorg. Post-holiday blues suck.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ugh

I didn't do too much today, just sort of moped around in a funk. I watched Princess Mononoke and ate gummi bears and that helped. I always get a major case of the blues right after Christmas.

Well, I actually did do something- I got the tatami room cleaned up and all the Xmas decos down. What a chore. The rest of the house needs cleaned, too, however, the rest of the house can wait until New Year's Eve. I will follow the Japanese tradition, and thoroughly clean the house in preparation for the New Year. Then I will have wine and cheese and crackers and probably fall asleep before midnight.

No, the Xmas pictures are not up yet. This weekend, I promise.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lies!

I lied about posting the Xmas pix. The closest I got to posting them was to transfer them from the flash memory card onto my hard drive. The remains of Xmas are scattered throughout my house and I've got holiday fatigue and I just can't deal with it right now, ok?

KK82 just dropped off my Xmas present! KK82 gave the gift of Internet! Check out my new webserver! It's yellow and black, like a big bee! As soon as I find where I put the 'lectrical tape, it's gonna be yellow and black and stripey, like, uh, a big bee!

Man, what a great gift. I feel way bad that all I got him was a t-shirt. =(

Monday, December 26, 2005

ACO

(A)ll (C)hristmassed (O)ut.
I'll have pictures up later today.

Merry Christmas

..to all and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas in Japan: KFC and Keki

While Chris and I celebrate Christmas Western-Style (with some irreverence, as demonstrated by my creche), the Japanese celebrate it -how else? Japanese style.

Japanese-style means Christmas is a secular, rather commerical holiday (like Valentine's Day). This makes sense when you realize that less than 1% of the Japanese population is Christian. The major religions here are Shintoism and Buddhism. Rather than one or the other, most Japanese are both, as Buddhist rites are used for things like funerals and Shinto rites for things like births, weddings, and blessing cars and construction sites (seriously). A Japanese friend summed it up like this: Buddhism=sad things, Shintoism=happy things.

Because it is an imported holiday, Christmas, as done by the Japanese and seen through Western eyes, is not quite right (same with American food done Japanese style, or fashion...you get the idea). Some people take offense at the Japanese version of Christmas, mostly because it is strictly commericial. I don't have a problem with it at all, it's actually refreshing compared to the weird its-commericial-now-but-we-will-pay-lip-service-to-the-religious-aspect-thing going on Stateside. Don't get me wrong, I have a tremendous respect for those that observe it as a true religous holiday, it just so happens that the Japanese don't.

Since it's not a religious event, the emphasis in a Japanese Christmas is on fun for families with small children or romance for couples.

Some funny Japanese Christmas "traditions":

Families will get a bucket of KFC chicken for dinner as the "traditional holiday meal", a absolutely stunning marketing move using perceived cultural gaps on the part of KFC. Folks, the Japanese really do believe everyone in America traditionally has KFC for Christmas Dinner.

Dessert, in the form of a Christmas Keki (cake) follows the bucket of KFC. A Japanese friend asked me about Christmas Keki and was shocked when I replied that the keki is a Japanese Christmas thing, and most assuredly not American (in the Trautman household it wasn't cake. It was booze and lots of it, my friend seemed to appreciate the concept of havin lots to drink, though). Chris and I did get a keki last year and it was very good-a light sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries, although we could have have chosen from chocolate, chocolate buttercream or a fruit tart-type affair. We will probably pick up our Christmas Keki today while we are out and about.

There are lights. Oh man, there are lights. The Nipponese are all about the Xmas lights. And tinsel. Good Lord, give unto us anything sparkly/shiny/covered in glitter. The Japanese seem to have managed to extract the essence of a totally tacky 1960's Xmas and run with that. But its so innocent and lacking in irony that you can only shake your head and plug your ears, as they like musical lights, too.

There's a lot of red decorations (red is a rucky color in Japan and other asian countries). Gold is abundant (also rucky) as well as pinks, purples, blues. Not too much green and I noticed very little white, probably because white is associated with Buddhist funeral rites (the only two times a Japanese person would wear all-white is when they are a bride and when they are a corpse). I imagine the concept of "White Christmas" would send a shudder down the spine of the Buddhists.

There are Christmas Trees--small ones, and artificial-there's no market for real trees here, except for on base, where the trees are bought exclusively by Americans. I broke down last year and bought artificial, after Nic warned me that when he bought a live tree, all the needles came off a week before Christmas Day and he and Lue ended up buying a fake one anyway.

This morning, I spent a good fifteen minutes looking out the window and laughing my ass off as my across-the-street-Japanese-neighbors tried to figure out how to put together their Xmas tree. So much for goodwill towards your fellow men, huh? I wasn't malicous, though. It was geniunely entertaining. I'm sure they will get a laugh in a few days, when I will probably fall off the ladder whilst trying to hang up my shimenawa. Anyway, my neighbor put the tree together outside and then discovered it wouldn't fit through the door! I think my young newlywed neighbor ended up having an argument with his father-in-law about it, too.

There are presents given, although they aren't necessarily placed under the tree. Presents are given to children, from "Santa". Kids do not give presents to parents and once the kids are older and don't believe in Santa-san, there are no more presents. This doesn't mean that my Japanese friends aren't tickled when I give them a Christmas gift-everyone likes presents. However, because of the cultural sense of giri (a loose translation is obligation), I have to be careful what I give-otherwise you get on what I call the giri-go-round (I gave you a gift, so now you have to give me one that is of equal or greater value and so on and so on). The Japanese really don't get the idea of "gift" in its truest sense.

If you are a young couple, instead of a young family, Christmas is a romantic holiday (unless your in-laws are over and you're arguing about your artificial Xmas tree) even more so than Valentine's Day (which is also slightly "off" as observed by the Japanese). Dinners at fancy resturants, engagement rings or other fancy presents are de rigeur. Apparently if you don't take your best girl to the best restaurant on Christmas...you'll probably be spending New Years alone!

There's also a unkind saying, stemming from Japanese Christmas tradition, in which an unmarried woman over 25 years of age is referred to as "Christmas Cake". Cake shops throughout Japan always try to sell all their Christmas cakes before Christmas eve. Any cakes left after Christmas are seen to be stale, out of date, no good because they're not "fresh". This is getting less funny though, as the average age when Japanese get married is slowly creeping up. But still, it's mean, because they're 25 for crying out loud, not 75.

And finally, unlike the states, where New Year's is secular, New Years in Japan is a religious holiday, important to both Shintoists and Buddhists. It is a time for close friends and family and "nesting." In preparation for the new year, the house is thoroughly cleaned, special New Year cards are mailed and families cook and eat special dishes, for good luck, health and longevity through the next year. Most places close down between the 23rd of December and the 1st of January. For the Buddhists, at midnight on Dec. 31st, the temple bells toll 108 times, to purge the mankind of the 108 bonnou (evil passions) that plague it and start the new year off clean and fresh. I tried to stay up to listen last year, but I fell asleep. I'm sure the Japanese equivalent of "sloth" is part of that list of 108. Shintoists stay up all night to pray and to observe the first sunrise of the new year, obviously, I don't.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Zilch

Chris went skiing today. I stayed home and did NOTHING! NOTHING! Apparently, there's a whole lotta NOTHING goin' on, because according to Kelly's blog, he also did NOTHING.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cold

Why is it every time I go to Shimoda Mall, I get a cold the next day? Those Japanese are veritable hotbeds of disease. I've had three colds and we're not even halfway through winter. Grrrr.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Phone Call

Sometimes out of the blue, you get a phone call that makes your whole day.
On 12/19, I got a call from Cp, my partner in crime when I worked at APL.
It was really good to hear from him! We worked hard and had a lot of fun (and a few misfires, but you can't work 45+ hours a week in a windowless room with someone and not have those).
I don't think he realizes just how much I miss him (but I'm working on my aim).

The most famous Cp and SS story is probably the Effing Server Story. The Hoove (the boss) kinda got mad over this incident, since you need to realize that Cp was at one end of the hall, shouting at me, and I was at the other end shouting back and Hoove's office was in the middle of said hall.

LOTS of the F-WORD FOLLOWS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Okay, so it's 7am and I'm crabby because I'm at work (can you blame me) and I haven't even taken off my coat or set down my bag and done the normal morning routine to ease me into the day. As anyone who has done support/sysad for a while knows, there's nothing worse than being ambushed by a problem (especially if you haven't had your breakfast yet, and Cp will vouch for me getting "funny" (his nice way of saying "bitchy") if I don't get my meal(s) at my normal time.

Cp sticks his head out of his office down at the end of of the hall. Imagine this conversation taking place at the top of our lungs, ok? Also keep in mind that I am NOT exagerrating. This was the conversation. I swear. And we just kept getting louder and madder about it as we went on.

Cp: HEY! The fucking server is fucking down! it's a pretty important and pretty cranky server
J: What? (I'm too stunned to believe it. Cp's face is all red and he's hopping mad, too)
Cp: What the fuck else would it mean?
J: Fucked up?
Cp: It's been down since I fucking got here.
J: Did you reboot?
Cp: I fucking rebooted it. Fucking two times!
J: So it's bad?
Cp: Bad? It's fucking bad alright, the fucking server is absolutely fucked.
J: WHAT?
Cp: The fuck...
J: (now I'm getting mad and red-faced, too) How'd it get fucked up?
Cp: The fuck I know! I just fucking came in and the fucking server was fucked. FUCKED!
J: Well, I don't fucking know, either! I didn't fuck with it. Did you fuck with it?
Cp: No fucking way, I fucked with it, You fucking know I don't fucking touch that fucking server! It just fucking got fucked up!
J: Fucking GREAT. So the server is fucked, we fucking don't know why its fucked because no one fucked with it? Cp, Shit just doesn't get fucked up, just fucking because!!!
Cp: It fucking does! That server is fucked! I didn't fuck with it, you didn't fucking fuck with and the fucking thing is just fucking fucked.
J: And what the fuck am I supposed to do? I don't know what fucked it up or how it's fucked up but I gotta fucking fix it?
Cp: It can't fucking stay fucked up! It needs to be fucking fixed!
J: FINE! I'll fucking fix it!
We both storm off in opposite directions, because we're ready to kill the server - and each other.

By the way, it was the dreaded "Crash On Audit Fail" problem.

Also, any tech support person I have EVER told this story to has laughed until they cried.

Hoove didn't think it was as funny as we did (in retrospect, it's hilarious) and Cp got spoken to about being "professional". Cp and I decided Hoove didn't know what he was talking about, because we're both very fucking professional, thank you.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Anniversary II or Bob Scores One for the Nerds

Today is the wedding anniversary of Chris' parents.
Here is their wedding picture.













When Chris and I first saw it, we had the following conversation:

J: Dude! Your mom is HOTT! Look at her!
C: Uhhhh...(kinda weirded out by my observation)
J: She is! She's gorgeous...I can kinda see where Steph looks like her, too. The smile.
C: Wow, Tim looks like Dad.
J: Yeah, he does. A lot. Look, your dad has the serious enginerd glasses going, doesn't he?
Hey, your mom also taller than your dad. Your mom is like "Yay! Married!" She's glowing.
C: He does have the nerd glasses. But look at his expression--it's like "Oh, yeah!"
J: It is! He totally knows she's hot.
C: It's Bob Scores One for the Nerds!
J: It's true! It's true!
We crack up like crazy every time we look at the picture.

Happy Anniversary, Bob and Karen!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

1 Week

Until Christmas...wow.
Chilly and windy, a good day for nesting (aren't most winter days?).
We ended up going out to Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakeda Sportsu (if you heard the radio ads, you'd understand) to pick up new goggles for Chris, since his cheap-ass ones fogged up badly last weekend, pretty much ruining his final run of the day.

As soon as I find where I put the camera, I'll post pictures of the household decorations.

12.19 eta: I found the camera (and the pix).


The gates to Hell. I mean, my house.

Pine Garland. At night, it's lit up with mini lights.
It looks pretty, especially with the snow.

A peek into the kitchen.
The funky tree was a gift from my Aunt Den.

A shot of into the Tatami room.
My tree is white and silver, based on the Uchikake (wedding robe) in the Tokonoma (alcove).

Candles are good. Lots of candles are better.
The runner is actually a salvaged obi,
with the seams picked apart and then ironed flat.

The sideboard, with a mulberry topiary.
And candles. Of course.

My coffee table. You can just see
the corner of a christmas book.
It's a Japanese translation of a British children's book
about Father Christmas. I can just read it.

My nativity. The manger is a handmade
pottery model of a traditional Japanese farmhouse.
I bought it last year.

The nativity figurines came from Mexico.
The camel figurines came from India.
The Buddha came from China.
Buddha is happy because
Baby Jesus has arrived!
The Buddha is saying:
やた!いえうすですよ!
Yatta! Ieusu desuyo!
Yay! Here's Jesus!
Could it be Jesus actually lived in Japan?

I hope Gaspar doesn't step in the camel pie.
It's not actually a turd, it is a raisin.
I think it adds some realism to the scene.
The raisin came from California.

Not a decoration, but a present for a friend.
A suprise benefit of kimono training-
Mad gift-wrap skillz!
That is ONE piece of ribbon, and there are NO knots in it.
I would be more smug if I, myself, knew how I did it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Snow!

We had two earthquakes early this morning. One was the of the whimpy rrrrrrr kind but the other one was the pretty big RRRRRRRRUMMMMBLE kind, but still not big enough to get us out of the warm bed and down into the cold (but structurally more sound) bathroom. After I fell back to sleep, I dreamed it was raining and was sad, thinking all the snow would be gone and none left for Christmas. I got up, went into the den and opened the curtains to see this:

I generously decided to leave a taunting message for Sly, but the phone actually rang instead of rolling over to VM, so I hung up after the second ring. It was only 7:38 and I didn't really want to wake her, not even for an assload of snow.

Sly called later in the morning, just to see (as my Japanese naginata instructor says) "what doing".

We missed our company dinner last night, both of us starting feeling really bad at work. We came home and rested but by the time dinner rolled around, neither of us felt any better nor did we feel hungry. Chris and I will go to Ohashi on Christmas Eve or perhaps Christmas Day for dinner.

I am supposed to have a kimono lesson today, but I really don't feel like going out in the snow --I want to stay home and nest. Perhaps I will go later in the day. Right now, I'm going to go make hot chocolate for my breakfast.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Free Tech Support

Providing tech support to my mother is an experience akin to repeatedly stabbing myself in the eye with a rusty Exacto knife.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ohashi

Chris and I had so much fun at dinner with Eiko-san and Aizawa-San and Masako-san.

We went to Ohashi Restaurant, which is a lovely, luminous upscale restaurant--probably one of the best ones in Misawa. The Aizawas seemed to like it very much. Everyone was dressed so nicely, and I noticed that Aizawa-san is an elegant dresser in a very old-fashioned way. He was wearing a cravat, which made him look very distinguished, in that way that old British dudes are, too. Everyone was quite shocked to see me wearing makeup and with my hair done (including me).

Poor Masako-san hardly got a chance to eat, though, because she was translating all the time. I think after Christmas, I will call her up and take her to lunch, just the two of us.

I learned a little more about my Kimono Sensei and her family, which was great. They learned a bit about me, too and stories about my mother's adventures in Tokyo were a good source of laughs.

12.17.05 eta: All of Us at Ohashi!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Forgiveness (and a Sort of Tangent)

Eiko-san is back in town. We are going to be having dinner with her tomorrow 12/15.
I will have my kitsuke lesson on Saturday 12/17. I will be learning how to do men's kimono (which is much easier than women's). I'm looking forward to both events.

I have to disagree with Sly that forgiveness is just mental. It is also emotional. You make a conscious decision to let go of old feelings and if you do it wholeheartedly, there's definitely an emotional release. A person to whom I did a grave injustice forgave me for it long ago. That gift still makes me weep, although it took me a number of years to realize just how precious that forgiveness was/is. I have forgiven some injustices done to me, too, although I have to admit that I still have a running "shit list" with a few names currently on it. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

One of the things I don't like about Japanese culture (lest you think I'm a crazed Nipponophile) is the unwillingness to admit a wrong and offer sincere apologies, possibly letting a chance for forgiveness/healing/resolution slip by. Oh, you could get a "boilerplate" apology, because that's what is expected in polite society, but you wouldn't get a real apology.

Lest you think I am unfair, there's stuff for which the US needs to apologize, too.

Anyway, in some situations, kata-ized behavior won't cut it, you need to offer a sincere apology.
A prime example of this is Yasukini Shrine. How the Japanese Tweak the Chinese
No, the Japanese really cannot figure out why this would upset anybody or why they need to offer an sincere apology.

We visited Yaskuni, three times. The first time, we went and toured, and there wasn't much of a problem, I did have a slight run-in with an older man, but nothing frightening. The second time, not much of anything, just a vague uneasiness. The third time, though, there were people selling shirts along the lines of "expel the foreign devils", not the tongue-in-cheek-ones offered for sale by retailers like thinkgeek, but far right propaganda and the like, and pretty hateful at that. My mom--my friendly, curious mom, who sincerely believes everyone can --and should be-- friends, started to wander over...but Chris was able to read enough of the text on the shirts and signs to realize what was going on and steer Mom away. We didn't tell my mom about it, although my cousin Matthew asked why we hurried by and we briefly explained the situation. Chris and I were both frightened and saddened.

Don't get me wrong, architecturally, it's a beautiful shrine. Philosophically, it is a horror--there are convincted war criminals (Class A War Criminals, some of them) literally deified within that shrine. While we were not disrespectful in our behavior at the Yasukuni, we did not pay any respects, say any prayers, nor make any donations (for temple upkeep, etc) at this shrine, like we did the others.

I will say I did see something touching during one of the visits. A frail, hunched elderly man (probably a former WWII soldier) was pushed in a wheelchair up to the steps of the shrine, where he slowly and painfully made his way up the stairs to pay his respects. It looked like an such an ordeal, and it made me think of the veterans I had seen in DC, who came to pay respects at various monuments, primarily The Wall. No matter who you are or what service you are in, it hurts deeply to lose a comrade, a wingman, a brother-in-arms.

Well, part of me was touched, another part was furious anyone would worship at a place that had enshrined a man who was a Nazi supporter and who ordered the strike on Pearl Harbor (that would be Hideki Tojo). I decided to go with the idea that he wasn't doing that and was praying for his lost companions, for whom he cared about and missed. Maybe we can --and should be -- humane.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Against Winter

Against Winter

The truth is dark under your eyelids.
What are you going to do about it?
The birds are silent; there's no one to ask.
All day long you'll squint at the gray sky.
When the wind blows you'll shiver like straw.
A meek little lamb you grew your wool
Till they came after you with huge shears.
Flies hovered over open mouth,
Then they, too, flew off like the leaves,
The bare branches reached after them in vain.
Winter coming. Like the last heroic soldier
Of a defeated army, you'll stay at your post,
Head bared to the first snow flake.
Till a neighbor comes to yell at you,
You're crazier than the weather, Charlie.

--Charles Simic

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bananas!

Thx to KK for providing this morning's content, with an email saying my husband had made the news...
Banana Boy Escapes Again!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sundaze

What is it about Sundays that fill me with an unspeakable dread? It's still the weekend right? But everything is overshadowed by 'Ugh, tomorrow is work!" which ruins an otherwise enjoyable day off.

Stateside, I mostly stayed home on Sundays-to clean, do the wash, get ready for the week. I wasn't averse to going out. Here, I am. I don't like trying to deal with the madding crowd on Sundays. The Japanese work six days a week-- Sunday is the one day everyone is off, so the roads, shops, and the mall are always a zoo.

Don't feel too badly for the folks, though, Japan has a veritable buttload of national holidays, I think it comes out to something like three a month, I swear. In addition, everything pretty much shuts down during August for the week of Obon (dates vary) and in December/January for The Emperor's Birthday, New Years and probably something else I am forgetting. (many places are closed Dec 23 - Jan 1).

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Louie Story

This is a family chestnut, originally written about 10 years ago. I think the restaurant mentioned here is still in business, but the antagonist in the story has probably passed on. If he was a relative of yours, I'm sure he wasn't quite like I portray him-please indulge the vagaries of a memory from childhood.

The Louie Story

Christmases where money was tight (which happened often), my family called “Thin Christmases.” As in, “You remember Christmas ’78? That one was a little thin.” Such holidays were hard on my mother, because the effort to provide the perfect holiday often brought her to the breaking point.

This story starts with a Christmas tree-- or rather without one. In the seventies, unemployment in Buffalo was rampant and my father had long been jobless. By December, it was a struggle to find money for anything, let alone for gifts and decorations. When my brother (age five) and I (age seven) began to fret about not having a tree, were told we would get one. We stopped worrying. Our parents always came through. So when the day finally came to get a tree, we would get a tree, come Hell or high water. We didn’t go to Hell, but we did run into the devil.

Most of the trees in our town had already been sold. We stopped at every stand, but the remaining trees were brown or ugly or expensive.

Mom didn’t want to go far out of town for a tree. The closest place left was Louie's Restaurant on Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda. Louie had sold trees for years and always had lovely ones, even late into December.

We went to Louie’s. The place, ringed in twinkling lights and frosted with meringue drifts of snow, was the stuff of fairy tales. A picture-book forest greeted us; the lot was full of deep green, incense-fragrant, painfully perfect trees. My brother and I were bouncing around the inside of Mom’s decrepit black Ford. “Look, the lights! Look, the trees! Let us OUT!" Mom barely got the car parked as Bill and I tumbled out. Mom followed, less enthusiastic.

"Help youse guys?"

It was Louie. He was short, with receding hair and a big nose. I knew it was Louie because of his greasy, red satin jacket-- his name was embroidered on the front.

How could someone so horrid have such good trees?
"Help youse guys?"

"Just looking." said Mom. Bill and I peered into a tree’s bristly depths, looking for a bird nests. A nest was a twiggy sales clincher.

"Nice tree," said Louie, looking like Lucifer.

My brother and I scuttled closer to Mom.

"Just looking," Mom was wearing an old booger-green parka with a hood trimmed in wretched fake fur, gone all clumpy from wear. The parka had been mended several times. Mom looked tired.

"This one?" Billy found a tree. It had a beautiful, perfect wedge shape. It had a bird’s nest. It had a cheery red pricetag announcing $65.00

"What an eye the little guy’s got! Nicest tree on the lot! You’ll take it!" exclaimed Louie. My brother and I recoiled, expecting Louie to offer up a poisoned apple, a la Snow White.

"Can't afford it." stated Mom.

“Awwww.” Our parents had sadly explained “budgets” several times. There would be other trees, ones we could buy. So we said “Awwww” and let it go.

Louie did not. "The kids really like it.”

"My children understand." Mom said softly.

"Look, Lady, it’s Christmas. Your kids..."

“Look, Louie, I have thirty-five dollars.”

Louie obviously didn't believe her. "You wouldn't buy your kids the tree they want?"

My brother and I were baffled. Why would Louie think Mom had more than thirty-five dollars?

Maybe Louie needed budgets explained to him.

“You think I just fell off the turnip truck?”

“Then please show me something I can afford.”

Suddenly, Louie began waving his hands and looking more and more like the Devil himself, what with that red jacket and all. The tail end of the long conversation was burned indelibly onto my young mind:

"Look, I have thirty-five dollars. I’m not lying. If you really want to sell me that tree, you’ll have to do it for thirty-five or I have to go somewhere else.”

Louie was not prepared for what happened next (neither were we).

"Ah, you're too goddamn cheap to buy it for your kids. . ."

That was it. My mother wanted to buy that tree for us more than anything. Suddenly, Mom’s ratty old parka was a queen’s ermine-trimmed velvet cape and our mother looked regal and fierce and beautiful.

"You can take your tree," said our elegant mother in a royally glacial tone,
"AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!"

Louie was expecting to be told “I’ll take it,” not told to shove the tree up his nether region. He went ballistic! His face turned as red as his jacket. It would have been no surprise had he sprouted horns and a tail!

My brother and I, shocked by our mother’s use of an expletive, were unable to move! Our mother NEVER cussed! We thought it was Armageddon. We waited for the Four Horsemen of the Parking Lot Apocalypse to appear. We were paralyzed, looking like two codfish with our mouths open in great, round "O's!" Surely, in revenge, that devil Louie would grab us and take us to Hell (a frozen lot full of ugly trees, no doubt)!

Before Louie could do so, Mom hurled us like snow-suited shot-puts into the backseat of the car. She got in, slammed into gear, and we went fishtailing towards home.

My brother and I began to cry.

"Don't cry, we’ll find a tree. I promise." Mom said, tearing up.

Our mother misunderstood our reaction. We weren’t upset about the tree. We had just realized that even at Christmas, people were mean, even to our mother…and maybe we were upset about the tree – but just a little.

Then, despite her tears, Mom giggled.

"What are you laughing at?" I asked.

"Boy, did he get mad." she snickered.

In awe, I said "You told Louie to shove his tree up his a--"

"Et, et..." Mom shushed me. "I shouldn't have said that to him, it wasn’t nice and it's Christmas." She choked back another laugh. The more Mom thought about Louie’s reaction, the funnier it got. I believe she looked at the confrontation scoreboard style:
Connie: 1 - Louie: 0


"He was mean!" said my brother.

"Some people are like that, even at Christmas. We'll go find someone nice to buy a tree from."

Eventually we found a stand where a man let Mom have a nice tree for twenty dollars, which was less than what was written on the price tag. It wasn't perfect like Louie's, but when the man said "Merry Christmas," we knew he meant it.

A few days after Christmas, Mom took a leisurely drive past Louie's lot. The tree was still there.

Connie: 2 - Louie: 0

Friday, December 09, 2005

Watashi (me)

おなめがジョデイーです。

わたしのしゅじぇあんがクリスです。

わたちがアメリカじんです、メリランドから。

6.2003に日本えいきまして。

さくらさんがわたしたちのともだちです。

さくらさん輪2002に日本えいきまして。

さくらさんわアメリカじんです。

手も、さくらさんのおかあさんわにほんじんです。

くらさんわしんせつですときいれいです。

わたしわさくらさんをすけです。

わたしたちわみさわしすんでいます。

にっぽんのせいかつわたのしです。

日本人がしんせつです。

わたしがにほんごべんきょます。

にほんごわむずかいしです。

ても、おもしろいです。

わたしもきつけべんきょます。

わたしのきつけせんせいごえいこさんです。

えいこさんわ“きもののおばあちゃんです”!

えいこさんわにほんじんですがあきたしすんでいます。

つけわたのしですよ!ても、わたしわじょずありません。

わたしの日本語がじょずありません!



Oname ga Jodi desu. Watashi no Shujean ga Chris desu.

Watashitachi ga Americajin desu, Maryland cara desu.

June, 2003 ni Nippon eh ikimashite.

Sakura-san ga watashitachi no tomodachi desu.

Sakura-san 2002 ni Nippon eh ikimashite.

Sakara-san wa Americajin desu.

Temo, Sakura-san no Okasan wa Nihonjin desu.

Sakura-san wa shinsetsu to kireii desu.

Watashi wa Sakura wo suke desu.

Ima watashitachi wa misawshi sunde imasu.

Nippon no seikatsu wa tanoshidesu.

Nihonjin ga shinsetsu desu.

Watashi ga Nihongo benkyoshimasu.

Nihongo wa muzukaishi desu.

Temo, omoshiroi desu.

Watashi mo Kitsuke benkyoshimasu.

Watashi no Kitsuke Sensei ga Eiko-san desu.

Eiko-san wa “Kimono no Obaachan desu”!

Eiko-san wa Nihonjin desu ga Akitashi sunde imasu.

Kitsuke wa tanoshi desu yo! Temo, Watashi wa jozu arimasen. 

Watashi no Nihongo ga jozu arimasen.



My name is Jodi. My husband is Chris.

We are American and we come from Maryland.

We arrived in Japan in June of 2003.

Our friend is Sakura. Sakura came to Japan in 2002.

Sakura is American, but her mother is Japanese.

Sakura is kind and beautiful. We like her a lot.

Right now, we are living in Misawa City.

Life in Japan is pleasant and the Japanese people are kind.

I study Japanese. Japanese is difficult but interesting.

I also study Kitsuke (kimono dressing).

My teacher is Mrs. Eiko. She is my “Kimono Granny.”

Mrs. Eiko is Japanese and lives in Akita.

Kitsuke is fun but I am not very skillful.

My Japanese is not skillful (either)!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Late

Well, I went to bed at about 1:30am this morning. I woke up at 6am, and I was still loaded!
So I went back to sleep until 7am. Then Chris woke up and was pretty mad, because he had only fallen asleep about 5 hours ago. So we slept in til 8:30 and rolled into work at 9:30.

I had to stay late at work in order to take care of some stuff, so I got to see Kelly, who looked exhausted. Poor guy. Leaving at 7:20pm made the 8 hours at work seem extra long, but that's how it goes. Had dinner on base and got home at almost 8:30, and took out the trash, updated the blog and that's probably about the extent of my evening.

I wish it would really snow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Puri-Kura

Sly and I went to the mall today! We had a nice dinner and then went and did a little shopping.

After that, we stopped at two Puri-Kura. A couple of Japanese girls had to help us figure out the second booth's controls. It was pretty easy after we got rolling.


Then we went to my house and proceeded to antagonize our livers by drinking 3 (THREE) bottles of wine!

Three bottles (of good stuff, too)!

Duhhhhhhh...
We're sober in this shot!
Who's DRUNK?
The last picture of the evening (self-taken at about 1am)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Speakers

I put up some more of the outdoor Xmas decorations. All I need are a few big bows and I'm done.
One more card arrived in the mail today, as did a gift for Chris.

Chris upgraded the surround sound system. He got a terrific deal on the equipment, too.
We got it for under about 300 dollars. It retailed at one store for $1,000. The reason for the deep discount is that we bought a display model. Looking at the pictures, you would never be able to tell the equipment was a display. It was packed back into the box with all the original packaging and everything!

The bigger, black speakers are the ones from the old set. The small silver ones are the upgrades.




































Monday, December 05, 2005

Flannel

I invested in some top-of-the-line flannel sheets. After one night of sleeping on them, I have no qualms remaining about the price I paid for those sheets. Oh, talk about heaven. They are fuzzy and warm and now it is even harder to get out of bed in the mornings. I have discovered something to live by--don't buy cheap sheets. Spend the money. It's worth it and with proper care, the sheets will last for years.

It has been cold and raining-almost-snowing all day today. A good day to stay inside and nest. I made a spiced apple pie and three batches of fudge today. The house smells wonderful. It felt good to be domestic. I like baking in general, but I like it even more around the holidays.

I have most of the Christmas decor up but not the tree (this weekend for that). The outside stuff has to wait until it stops raining/slushing/whatevering outside. Also today, our first Xmas card arrived, as did our first Xmas gift.

The big kerosene heater that heats the living/dining room and kitchen has been acting up. I wonder if I need to notify Miyuki-san that the heater's gone retarded.

Worked through my remaing KUMON sheets, but I'm not sure if I want to throw in the towel or keep fighting the not-so-good fight. I guess I'll wait and see.

Sly is supposed to come over Wednesday night and we are going drink wine and get silly. Actually, all we will probably get is hung-over, but that's okay, too.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Signs

Signs That It Is Winter In Misawa

There's snow:




Don't be fooled by this weak showing. By end of January, there will be another 125+ inches of the stuff.




There's a phone call from Sly.

The bugs that have invaded the house all spring, summer and fall are gone--outside, because
it's warmer out there than in the house. Then the icicles invade.

Japanese Girls' skirts go from just below crotch level to slightly above mid-thigh.

The Japanese get out their snow tires. For their bicycles.

The Japanese put coats on...their pet dogs.

Young Japanese men put on British-style mufflers (scarves) that wrap around their skinny necks about three thousand times, so it looks like they're wearing a turban that slipped down.

Old Japanese men start using their own bathrooms for fear their chin-chins (that's the Japanese kids' word for "pee pee") will freeze solid and fall off. (Summer returns and they go back to publicly peeing all over the place)

The smell of kerosene in the morning.
The smell of kerosene in the afternoon.
The smell of kerosene in the evening.

The sudden attack of fear you get at work when you think you may have left your kersosene heater on and have probably burned down the house.

You have 35 people over to your house, so that all the body heat actually makes it comfortable inside.

The wind picks up...it picks up small children, the elderly and some makes of Japenese cars and blows them all through the neighborhood.

In the morning, the plastic steering wheel of the car is so cold, your hands freeze to it.

You can't fathom why a country that can improve on anything has never thought to improve on their houses--by INSULATING them.

You realize you don't need to carry your driver's license to drive, you need to carry your
driver's license because it indicates what gender you are. Otherwise, you can't tell because you're always numb from the cold.

The floor is so cold that the cat has learned to levitate.

You can see your breath. Inside the house.

The purpose of a hot bath is not to cleanse you or relax you. It's so you can thaw out your internal organs.

The water heater doesn't kick on immediately, so the first gush of water is "cold as butt" (which is infinitely chillier than "cold as ice").

You are wearing your winter clothes. All of them. At once. In the house. With the "heat" on.

Going to the bathroom is like an extended Arctic expedition, complete with frostbite.

The bathroom is so cold, your kintamas pull themselves up into your throat.

My deodorant, which is kept in the bathroom, turned into frozen stick of aluminum powder. Trying to apply the stuff resulted in two discoveries:
  1. Armpits are sensitive, especially to cold (sticks of deodorant)
  2. When cold, armpits will try to burrow into your collarbones for warmth (uncomfortable)
"Having Relations" comes to a screeching halt because no one wants to get nekkid. What everyone wants is to get ANOTHER two layers of clothes to put on.

Living in Buffalo, NY (me) and Colorado Springs, CO (Chris) didn't prepare us at all for this. Living in Miami, FL (Sly)...well, we won't even go there.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What?

It's December 1! Holy cats!