Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Everything I Think About Abortion

This is another post of things that keep circling around in my head and in order to not accidentally pour a whole essay into the comment on some pro-forced-birth post, I'm putting it all here. That way it's more likely to be articulate if I am forced to use it later.

I have never had an abortion and am unlikely to ever have one, but I believe firmly that they should be legal, safe, and available to anyone with a uterus.

In some states, there are exceptions for rape or incest, but this means someone who had pregnancy inflicted upon them in these ways must stand up and publicly accuse the perpetrator in order to not be forced to carry to term a pregnancy she had no choice in making. This includes anyone old enough to menstruate, which can start as early as the age of 8 in some cases. So the idea is that yes, the 8 year old carrying the fetus forced upon her by her pedophile uncle/father/neighbor/whatever must stand up and accuse said grown man of this, an act requiring courage that even grown adults frequently lack.

I want that child to be able to get an abortion. It won't be a picnic, but it will be better than letting pregnancy shift everything her brain and body could become permanently.

And if letting that girl get to retain some tiny amount of her childhood means a few grown women who enjoyed the sex they had and just don't want to have children get out of pregnancy without the hell of childbirth, I don't mind. I don't care at all. I'd rather they had the option if they so chose. There are still women who will carry their children to term and give them up for adoption and other who will put everything on hold to parent the little offspring growing inside them.

And if you're pro-forced birth, you may be thinking, "But Jessica, you have a child! How could you be pro-choice?"
And the answer is that because I am a mother, I am ardently pro-choice. Parenthood is a struggle. Sometimes it flows like magic. Sometimes it burns you to cinders. It should in no way be forced upon you. Not everyone was meant to do this job, and those who don't want to or aren't ready to surely shouldn't be forced to. Ever.

Not having forced-birth means having options, even if you're poor or broke or in an abusive relationship or whatever. Not being forced to carry anything that happens in your body for 9 months and then surrender the result to an over-crowded orphanage (for they will be in the land of forced-birth) gives the owner of the uterus options and hope.

But I'm super-religious!
Good for you. Even if so, 1)why should your religious have anything to do with how someone else lives their lives and 2) don't you believe the owner of the uterus will burn in hell for this anyway? Why not let your god have his vengeance on them later, as planned, as your faith dictates, and leave them the hell alone now? Or send thoughts and prayers, like you do for gun control.

Saying fetuses aren't people is like saying Jews aren't people. You're a Nazi!
Except no. You do know that Anne Frank wasn't hiding because she literally could not live outside of an attic, right? Pro-choice does not mean forcing abortion upon people who do not want it. It does mean allowing those who want it to have an option. Fetuses change their hosts' bodies and brains in ways that cannot be undone. Fetuses cannot be transplanted once implantation occurred. That means the ones that wind up in the Fallopian tubes must be aborted or kill their host from rupturing said tube. That means the only options are carrying it to term or removing it. Nazis weren't about options. Pro-choice is all about options. I don't want all pregnancies ended. I want people trapped in an unplanned/unwelcome/unviable/un-whatever pregnancy to have an option other than going through hell.


I am unlikely to choose abortion in the future unless there are serious and unexpected quality-of-life issues (like the fetus's brain is not contained in a skull and I would be forced to go through the hell of unmedicated childbirth in Japan just to see a genetic anomaly that literally cannot survive outside incubation) but I want every uterus-holding human in the world to have the option of safe, inexpensive abortion. Children should be wanted. Parenthood should be wanted. Neither should every be forced upon the unwilling, regardless of their "sins" otherwise.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Stuff that has Happened

I do mean to write here more frequently, and usually get distracted by a dozen other things. Parenting and teaching eat a lot of energy. Suffice it to say I am surviving.

Complaints of the day:
Tuesday I noticed my appetite had vanished. This for me is a cause for alarm as it's usually the sign of a major depressive episode coming up and I don't want it. I couldn't point to any direct causes so instead I started trying to take better care of myself. It turns out teaching small children for an hour is great cardio and mental stimulation. I felt better afterward, until I got home and felt slightly nauseated for the rest of the day. That feeling dissipates now only when I am thoroughly distracted by teaching or sleeping. At least I have a job I like.

It wasn't until Wednesday night that it occurred to me that I might be anxious about my sister-in-law giving birth. I chatted with my mom, who is in the middle of the induction affair currently underway and that alone managed to calm me to the point of getting to sleep.

Being this worked up over a baby on the other side of the world in a time when I can offer nothing but text if they happen to be looking at a phone or computer isn't entirely logical but is also in its way just desserts. What exactly did my family and friends go through 5 years ago, when I was confined to Japanese hospitalized bed-rest for half the pregnancy? I didn't even get to tell them when I went into labor because I gave my purse to my mother-in-law who wouldn't have been able to a) use an app on my smartphone or b) do so in English to communicate with my family. They had to be nervous for me, too, and they had to, as I have to now, put some level of faith and trust in the decisions already made and the help they are already receiving.  It's scary, but it will be okay.

I also realized two days ago that one of my back molars has partially shattered, leaving a gaping hole in the enamel that seemed to occur literally overnight. Chewing on that side isn't as painful as I would have expected and the tooth isn't stabbing into anything else, as a wisdom tooth on the other side did when I was teaching high school 11 years ago. While I know adulting for me in this position is sucking up the nausea and walking over to the dental clinic to make an appointment today, I don't think I will. Not until my niece is out and my sister-in-law is safe and well. Not until I can guarantee that this issue is anxiety and not something more contagious. Not until I know I won't accidentally vomit on the one dentist I trust in this country to do the job well, kindly, quickly, and while treating me like a person.

So today I am writing and relaxing as much as I can. Hopefully that helps distract and relax me until everything else settles down.



Other things I did recently:
During Golden Week I visited a haunted-looking abandoned amusement park with a friend and took creepy pictures for fun. I also moved all the furnishing's from Julia's then-bedroom (former nursery/tatami room) to her new bedroom, and moved everything from that "spare" room into the tatami room. With the last day of Japan's week-long holiday, Tomo, Julia and I went to Yamagata where we climbed the 1,050 steps of Yamadera (a temple on a mountain) and I saw wild Japanese monkeys for the first time in my nearly 11 years here. Then we went to Lina World, a tiny amusement park that was practically vacant and therefor a lot of fun. No lines, lots of little rides that Julia could enjoy, even a 2 story Hello-Kitty-themed carousel that was playing an orchestration of a Gackt song.

So we had a good break, and things have been mostly well, aside from the anxiety and nausea and all that.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Long Time No See

Sorry for the several-month hiatus.

I am okay. Solidly okay right now. My mental health is well enough that I can look back at the last few months and appreciate the difference between the two. February always hits me hard. It's the tail end of a season I've never been fully prepared for and despite planning and prepping for more this past season than any winter before, I still had some hard moments, but briefer this time, and I had ammunition to fight back.

I've been playing a lot of Skyrim. I know. I am late to every game. I like it that way. My daughter and I always beat Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime the other day. On easy mode. She's five. It was a surprising amount of fun and we both learned a little more about not panicking when things are scary.

Her 2-3 week long spring break is about to begin.

Today we bought tickets for our America trip in summer this year, a previously unexpected voyage to visit my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and tiny little niece who is expected to be joining us in the breathing world here in about 2 months. My mom is betting on sooner, but there's no telling. My dad will also be joining us for the festivities and was the one generous enough to ensure our ability to come. There is no way we could afford those tickets otherwise.

Now the little one is preparing popcorn so we can play video games. It's going to be a fun afternoon.

I am trying to take things as they come and actually enjoy a little more instead of forcing myself to do as much as I can in the hopes of feeling worthy of having time off. Instead, I'm having my time while I can. Soon my kid will eat all of it. At least for a few weeks.


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.