Thursday, November 1, 2018

I Survived October. Now Nano

October was challenging, guys. Not every hour of every day, but overall, pretty damned challenging.

While I should have been working on Halloween Party things like costumes and fun, I was instead having an anxiety attack some of my least-favorite my part-time employers pushed me into and were shocked to find that I wasn't willing to call them back afterward. I waited a few days and quit the job. it only happened 9 times a year anyway. As much as I love teaching little people, if having to work with the people to teach the class leaves me too wounded to care for my own little person, it just isn't worth it.

So I am doing my other jobs and enjoying them. I've been more sensitive to stress since the anxiety attack though and I didn't realize how stressful living here is.

It's great, too. Don't get me wrong. I am all about the free health care for my kid and fantastic gun control. I love not wondering if some unstable person murdered my husband on his way home.

But I am more aware of the staring these days, and of the pressure to fit into molds that were not built for me. I can't clean this home perfectly nor speak this language well. I can't read the forms that come home from my daughter's school nor all the instructions on any of the seasoning packets. There's a lot I don't know, but I am always learning something new and I am actually excited about things like making art, so I'm just going to keep going and it is going to be okay.

I'm excited/terrified for the election this week. There's a pop song on the airwaves in Japan these days that goes like this:

And my brain keeps making up new lyrics.
C'mon baby America. Choose something other than fascism.

In other news, I am making the executive decision not to try to host/set up a write-in this year for NaNoWriMo as just getting the first day's words into my computer (while my daughter watched Umizoomi loudly in the same room) exhausted me to a point that I fell asleep while typing...and kept typing. I have no idea what this book is going to look like in the long run and I don't think I did enough researching but I'll be damned if I read more about skinwalkers now.

The sad thing is that there are 3 people interested in trying to have a get together near Sendai, but one only wants to do it on Thursday evenings, an hour's train ride from where I live. It isn't doable with a five-year-old. The other two want to meet up on the weekend, but the first one hasn't responded to those requests.

But this isn't something I can master. All these people seem to be young, single and childless. Free time is their thing. I got nothing there.
In addition, a surprise trip from one of my high school friends is happening in about 2 weeks, so I've got enough going on.

But I did get my word count for today, so yay!!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

All of the September Things from This Week

September! Yay! Temperatures are starting to ease up. The problem with summer up here isn't the heat (it barely hits the 80s!) but the humidity, which makes anything over 70 feel like you might be trapped on the underside of a dead animal decomposing in the bright sunlight.

No really, that is how it makes me feel. I realized in Michigan that the humidity is why my hair is always in a pony tail now. It used to fly free almost always, but this is not doable when a walk from my front door to the elevator of my building causes neck sweat.

We got a great mattress pad after I found out how badly we needed one, and now I just never want to get up. I do, because someone has to and giving everyone else a chance to wake up on their own means my kid misses school, my husband misses work, and I'll have to do some stupid thing to balance the household finances like going back to full-time teaching which at this point would be soul crushing.

Don't get me wrong, I like teaching an I like my students. I specifically like the control I get to have over the situation. If a student and I don't get on, we don't have to. Waiting for people to ignore me because it's better for the company at large is not the name of the game anymore and I am really okay with that not being my life again anytime soon.

I recently realized that one of the reasons I was so unhappy with my in-laws' choice to chop off all my daughter's hair is based on being harassed in public school with I was a six-year-old girl that no one knew with short hair and boys hand-me-downs from my older brother and even older cousins. The girls in that elementary school thought opening the stall door on what must have been a boy was completely excusable. So yeah, on some level deep down, they not only lopped off one of the very few traits that was obviously from me but also made her more vulnerable to the embarrassment I suffered as a kid.

That said, it doesn't really matter. My kid likes her hair short, mostly because grandma likes it, and maybe someday I'll find a tactful way of letting my mother-in-law know that she helped to trigger a fairly major depressive episode, but for now, none of it matters enough.

Last night, my daughter said she was sick and asked for a forehead cooling sheet, which is a weird Japanese thing. Here, they fight fever with ice, which always makes me less comfortable when sick but whatever. Her fever was low-grade so we went to bed and when we woke up, she was a lot hotter. Luckily, since they are also parents, my bosses for today's classes understood why I needed to cancel lessons. We went to the hospital, got seen to by a doctor, got medicine for the next five days next door, and did not even have to pay for parking.

The rest of the day was split between sleeping and trying to get my kid to eat and take medicine. She's better at the later than the former.

I'm not entirely sure if I'm exhausted or depressed. More likely exhausted, but who knows. I just need this kid to get well so that she can enjoy school this week and I don't have to cancel more classes during the final weeks heading up to my first decent paycheck since we left for Michigan.

The most exciting thing that I can talk about publicly that happened recently was a woman in one of my facebook groups asking broadly about a framed piece of calligraphy she had found. Was it Chinese? Japanese? What did it mean?

It looked...complicated. 4 characters, two of them each easily more than 20 strokes, and only one of them really recognizable to me. So I took apart the stroke order for the least understandable one and entered it into a dictionary, finding out quickly that it was a character of traditional Chinese that had been replaced and simplified in the 1930s. I went on to look up the remaining characters and by googling the lot together found the text the framed excerpt had been taken from. It was the poem Summer Breeze by the eighth emperor of the Song Dynasty, who was known more as a poet and artist than a politician. He abdicated and his progeny lost the dynasty, but he's still known as having been great with calligraphy. The excerpt was taken by someone who didn't really know what they were looking at, so they chose a few pretty or interesting looking characters, not unlike someone quoting Shakespeare in a tapestry by choosing any 4 words that happen to be in a line together and look nice. Only if you did that in Latin, since traditional Chinese is to simplified Chinese as Latin is to English.
(See Dr. Worthing? I remembered something!)
((Oh yeah, that TCU education is really coming in handy these days.))

The characters wound up reading, according to the work of an awesome history-enthusiast and calligraphy geek, something along the lines of "Lost along the fragrant path, fluttering" which is a weird bit of writing to have in your home without any context, but unless you invite lots of Chinese scholars to dinner, it's more likely that no one will ever be the wiser. Just pretty words in a frame. Just strokes of black on gold.

I do almost want to print and frame this bit now, as a trophy regarding the brain work necessary to decode the message of strange, old characters. But where to put it? Being lost and fluttering with fragrance cannot go down in or near my bathroom. It wouldn't look bad in the hallway though...

That was such a fun puzzle to solve and I was so lucky that there was a blog post by Hyatt Carter about the original poem scroll in its connection to the greater works of the poet-emperor.

But now I have been awake for too long so at least I have some confirmation for mood. I still might be depressed, or not, but I am definitely exhausted.
Yay! Time to go back to bed!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

GISH Roundup 2018

I went into GISH this year having stifled my expectations from previous years. Every year I try to get into the coffee table book or the hall of fame and every year I get nothing, so this year, the goal was ambivalent to recognition. The goals that I put down in a notebook pre-hunt, included:

Fun Julia Memories
Learning New Skills
1 Frame-able Photo
Something Good for Shiogama/Miyagi
Something I'm Afraid Of

And we did that. Julia helped me have a pillow fight with a bunch of kids at a park, remember the magic of beach time, and record interesting audio to play behind our short video submissions.

I learned how to tie a tie (so I could be Mr Rogers), how to do needlepoint, and re-learn how to use a basic loom.

We have many lovely photos, the best of which I will include here somewhere.

I cleaned up the area around my block while dressed as Mr Rogers.

I talked to strangers. I messaged a former student and met with her, eventually using her garden in a few of our submissions. I even finished and modeled a knit dominatrix outfit (you cannot see this. I do not want your eyes to bleed. Suffice it to say I did not look like in angry pig in the picture, and that's enough for me.)

So many little things I was afraid of. There was an item about that, but you had to have 3 people all doing something they were afraid of, and I don't know that any people with that many little fears.

Overall, we had a really amazing time.

Now I need to get my kid up so we might race out to Sendai's Tanabata festival before the weather turns to absolute crap.
If you want to watch out video submissions, check this out.

All the Things.

So the last month has been something of a whirlwind.

First we got ready and ran off to Michigan to hang out with my dad and extended family. Mostly my dad. I had previously assumed his new space was way off in the countryside where no one could hear you scream or help you if you needed it. I found this was not the case. He has neighbors he gets along with and who check on him regularly. They help each other out through the seasons and it seems like a fine group. Living further from an urban center has helped my dad relax and enjoy his retirement, I think. He put an extension on his deck and built a gazebo (from a kit, but still, a heck of a lot more than I could do on my own) and really seems to enjoy his space.

He has a nice amount of land that is mostly left to nature. Wild deer and turkeys walk across his lawn. There is a small pond in the back where the fish bite like mad. My daughter caught a few blue gill back there and loved every minute of it.

My revelations from Michigan are as follows:

1) My dad is mostly happy where he is and is not likely to go missing or get eaten by his cat.
2) My dad's extended family is actually a rather fun and wholesome bunch, despite my feeling awkward with them when I first visited them alone at the age of 14. That was me being 14, not them making me feel weird.
3) My kid lacks my naturally occurring empathy for the fish. I felt bad for setting a hook into their lip. My daughter rejoices in seeing them up close and letting them go.
4) My kid loves fishing. I don't know how many she caught while we were there. They were mostly small but feisty. She loved every minute.
5) Kids' fishing had become more gender neutral. I think, back in the 80s, my brother and I had the same mickey mouse fishing pole. Now there's Frozen and Moana. Julia has a Moana fishing pole at Grandpa's house now.
6) Everyone deserves to be spoiled once in a while. I cannot tell you how freeing it was to walk through Walmart and just throw anything in the cart. I still found myself putting things back, but I bought a lot of whatever I wanted and didn't think twice about it.
7) My kid is not entirely a spoiled brat. She knows she cannot have every single thing she wants. Ever. So when she'd already picked at least 8 things she didn't need and only wanted, when Grandpa said no to number 9, she put it back without sulking. She already knew she was getting good stuff.
8) Relaxing on the porch is underrated. I do not have a porch and I find it difficult to relax. Once I clean up the balcony though...
9) I met up with my awesome NaNMoWriMo friend Kiri, who is amazing and really badass as a mom and friend.
10) Amish quilts are not cheap. I feel personally lied to by Weird Al, but it could also be that the situation was different 20 years ago.

I could probably keep this list going for a million years. The most important thing really was that my dad wants to like my husband. Maybe that doesn't make sense to other people, but I find it really important. More important than happening to like or not like, my dad wants to like him, and this means forgiveness of small blunders and working toward an enriched understanding of each other.

Also, my husband, the British-accented, boarding-school-attending, fancy funeral director man, can apparently catch a fish. He seemed to really enjoy the trip as well, and even put up with me pointing out all the prices in Walmart so he can see why I cannot abide spending $16 on 2 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios at our Costco in Japan.

We really did have such a wonderful time.

And then we came back and raced through Tokyo, coming home sometime after dark. I was falling asleep while jotting down blogging ideas in my notebook while my husband was suggesting that we get home and then I figure out what to cook, to which I responded with a suddenly awake and unpleasant look.
"Or we could order pizza."
yes. Yes we could. And we did. And it was great.
Then came Julia's recital the next day, and it was great. She even made a point of slowing down instead of rushing through the last half of the song. It's only hot cross buns. But still. She's 4!

Then came GISH, and that's a whole new post.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Weather, Soccer, Strange Political Revelations

Hey guys!

This week has been somewhat exhausting but I'm in better spirits than I have been recently. Part of that is because my body and the weather are not attacking me quite as fruitfully as they were earlier in the month. Last week was unpleasant.
Rainy season + menstruation - (cartilage + estrogen) = Crappy Week.
I wanted to put in the subnotation "of a 20 year old" on the parenthetical but have no idea how to do that on this or any computer, so instead I write an equation in which I lack all cartilage and estrogen and leave it there. Meh.

 I wrote about it on my Japan blog and some of the other ladies there had similar troubles, so at least I had some solidarity. I don't know how much good solidarity against the weather and aging works, but I did feel a bit better to know it was not just me.

The behavior of the US government terrifies and frustrates me. We're heading out in just over a week to spend a couple of weeks with my dad and I am so excited but also more nervous than I've ever been about going home. I know my kid has a US passport and would likely be returned to Japan if necessary and we're not entering illegally or attempting to claim asylum so we're likely safe, but I'm going to be nervous until it's over.
That said, we're pretty excited, too, but my nervousness about taking a nearly-5 year old all the way to Tokyo, then all the way to Detroit, then getting us all back here in one piece may be what is triggering the same lack of appetite I was scared about a few weeks ago. Even so, I have developed a better battle plan for this problem and am now more or less enjoying a morning protein shake because I can. Despite my lack of enthusiasm regarding food, this shake is nutritious enough to keep me going without my stomach trying to shut it out. Nice and easy. And I get to live. Woohoo!

In other news, last night I was laying next to my slumbering daughter, reading a book to myself. She's apparently grown out of wanting me to read her to sleep, which is fine. Saves me energy.

Suddenly I was summoned tot he living room by a resounding chorus of God Save the Queen and I emerged to find my husband eagerly singing the national anthem of the country where he spent puberty.

My dude is not much of a sports nut, but in his boarding school he was co-opted into the junior varsity soccer team despite not knowing the rules and not having played the game previously. The same thing apparently happened with rugby, but that we don't usually get to watch and I really do not understand that sport. So my quiet husband spent a good portion of the game telling me how he cheated at soccer, smashing the other boys in the knees when he could and aiming at their heads when he tried to pass around them. I couldn't blame him. Being a skinny, short, 13 year old Asian kid, the only Asian kid on the team or in his classes....yeah, cheating makes more sense than trying to play fair against boys who have been playing this game and working on their skills for at least three to five years previous.

My soccer experiences were different, of course. Girls' soccer in high school in the late 90s, early 2000s was alright, but I've never been good with people. I didn't mind running to death though so I wound up at midfield, passing up to the forwards so they could score, running back to help out the defense, occasionally marking a player and just annoying the crap out of the other team. Hey, at least I could explain off-sides to my husband. It was actually really wonderful to spend 90 minutes sitting with my overworked and exhausted husband, half-reminiscing and half-cheering.

Watching England win their quarterfinal bout against Sweden was really great. The Swedish team swarmed well, coming together really quick when needed, but it wasn't enough to stop the Brits. It was clearly a great level of play, though that didn't stop the drama of injuries (real or fake?) nor our desire to watch the team from the country we were more familiar with win.

I also realized something else. I have the natural tendency to trash talk the other team, wanting to shout things like, "Stop those rotten-fish eating bastards!" or "If you're all the vikings have to show for their progeny, all their raping and pillaging was for nothing!" which gets more and more weirdly xenophobic and offensive during international games.

I'm not xenophobic and I actually have nothing against the Swedish team or their heritage or whatever, but the more important thing here is what it says to me about Trump supporters.

Because they see "the game" as God-fearing, red-neck, working-class republicans versus rich, well-educated, hippy communists and this just is not true. Those aren't even the teams, and it's not a two team structure or at least it shouldn't be. Decency is on the line, and all we can say for ourselves as humankind, and they are blindly following their leader as if he were Christ-incarnate. That's an issue I have had with the reasoning skills of the uber-religious for some time though. There is a tendency to see exclusively as us vs them, with "us" being easily limited to one branch of one church against the rest of the world. It's also hard for them to accept that their chosen leaders are not as theoretically perfect as their chosen religious figures.

And they cheer their side on with the blind fervor of any adamant sports fan, never speaking ill of their own side while attacking the other with anything they can think of, mostly ad hominem nonsequitors, but that's what they know. And for 90 minutes I could be the same, against a team of well-trained professional athletes from a proud and noble country. But then the game ended and I went back to being sane and collected and realized that maligning the other team's goalie for have a vaguely neanderthal-like brow was not kind, polite, or justified.

So when is the game over for the trumpsters? How much damage has to ensue to show them this isn't a game anymore? How do we wake them up? What has to happen for working-class America to figure out that the powers that be as they are today are not benefiting them and are in fact turning what was a wonderful country into something unimaginable? How do we break the cognitive dissonance? How do we get them to see that it doesn't matter if a kid was brought down by a UFO, it does not belong in a cage?
How do we help?

That I do not know.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Scavenge, much??

This is my fifth year doing the GISHWHES, this year known only as GISH: the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt. It's an awesome, amazing fun time. It's also a little stressful and chaotic as everyone tries their best to make something out of the one-week-long, 200+ item scavenger-hunt-a-palooza.

And I have exhausted my friends' list. Even with the couple of relatives that should be signing up in the next few days, we'll only have 7. Minimum group size is 9, and as much as I hated my first year doing GISH with resentful, angry strangers, it looks like I am back to that state of waiting for the GISH gnomes to grant us some random weirdos who may or may not choose to participate at all.

Is that better than known people who choose not to participate at all?

I have no idea, but anything is better than the stress of trying to get more people interested. I think there are more reasons to be bogged down this year comparing to years before, and more reasons to be semi-permanently exhausted. At least that's what I am shouting back over my natural paranoia, which is running through its thousandth chorus of hateful-schoolyard-brat singing: "No one wants to play with you."

So, if you read this and think: what is that GISH thing? Would I maybe like to participate?
Here's the info:

1. Entry fee is about $20, excess to running costs paid to Random Acts charity.

2. List items include the wacky, the wild, the kind, the fun. Not everything is fun for everyone. That's why there's 200 items. If you look through an old list and can find 3-5 things you could easily do and would want to do within a few days using materials you have or people you know, you should sign up.

3. Item submissions take the form of photos or videos you shoot, edit if necessary (but there are rules on the usage of Photoshop) and upload, now to the app unless otherwise stated in the item. Some things wind up on social media as part of the task but otherwise nothing gets shared publicly until after the end of the hunt. Videos usually go to Youtube, unlisted or public.

4. It's a lot of fun. You should try it.

5. Winning team gets a trip to New Zealand. We're not going to win. We're going to enjoy ourselves. But if you look at the lists of old and only shake your head, perhaps it's not your game.

6. But really, try it out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mental State Much Improved: Thank You!

This is a bit of a shout out to anyone who messaged, replied, commented or liked my post from last week when I was in the middle of a new eating crisis.

I am fine now, by the way. I am taking it a little easier on myself and encouraging myself to at least have a protein shake or piece of fruit at meal times, even if I am not especially hungry or enthusiastic. I realize that, as a 200 pound, 5.5 foot woman, I am not what most would call an ideal weight, but I think my current shape, while a bit flabby, is manageable. Starving myself (literally) to cause thin-ness is more likely to have dire ramifications later in life. I am not currently in a state of morbid obesity and even if I was, just not eating for days is not a healthy answer.

The thing is that this eating issue I have isn't really usually driven by the need to be thin. My senior year of high school was not plagued by my own fatness. I was quite thin and what US society considered a healthy shape. I also did not enjoy the consumption of food. Not because I would gain weight but because it gave me no joy. Even things I liked to eat didn't make me happy. When eating is joyless, life is a bit sad, but up to that point, that was all I had known.

Last week, I got a couple of days off with my husband, during which we both relaxed and regrouped and I remembered how I came to be overweight. Something about him, and don't ask em what because I do not care to identify it, makes me feel calm in such a way that my stomach ceases to rumble and my appetite awakens. When we started dating, I suddenly realized that I could eat all of the food. So I did. And now I am a bit on the heavy and less-firm side of things, but this is survivable.

That's part of what worries me when my appetite disappears though. Is this a warning sign of impending depression? Is it just nerves? What am I so nervous about anyway? What has changed to cause this? And worrying about the answers to these questions causes more tension that drives the appetite further away and suddenly I am skipping 4 meals in 2 days. So...yes. I am choosing life today. And it's an easier choice today than it was last week.

Depression the way it works in my head is sometimes like someone's controlling all the color in the world with a dimmer switch. When it kicks into high gear, the world is a dismal grey-scale and numbness overwhelms. When things are okay, it can still get toggled slightly, but being aware that the switch is in play helps me to fight back against that instead of just watching everything fade away and then wondering where it went.

I am not currently suffering though. I am working on self-care and making better choices for myself and my mental health.

In other news, part of my brain is totally ready to get started on having another baby. The rest of my life? Not so much. We don't have the money saved to offset me being out of work for about a year (at least 6 months of stupid cervix bed-rest and the rest of tiny baby time). Nor do we have a clean house, nor any of my books, edited and ready to be sent toward publication. All the goals I had for Julia's first year of school and my first year of getting to work on the house are shot, but hey, I am still doing this living thing, and that is a hell of a lot better than it could be.