The rut of ordinary

Well…I need to be honest here. After about 5 years of blogging about Japan it is becoming increasingly more difficult to write from a “new in Japan” perspective.

I’m afraid my blog posts as of late have been rather boring. I’m struggling trying to make them all “Japany” and fun and interesting. Life is routine. Not very interesting, I think. So those of you who have been following this blog because of all the cool Japan stuff may be a bit disappointed.

I changed the blog title (again)…because my life evolves so much I outgrow my titles. But-that’s life.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do here. I may just write about whatever I feel like writing about. It will probably be mostly about my life here in Japan but I can’t write every single post about “life in Japan”-not anymore. But…well…-nothing stays the same.

Life here lately has been maddening in the area of weather. One day it is spring and the next it’s winter. My flowers are going to need therapy soon. They are totally confused. Actually, the weather all over the planet is pretty much confused as well. I have friends in Canada who also tell me that their flowers are coming up-which is not normal for their area. Lots of strange things going on around the planet if you have the eye to notice.

Anyhow-I will write, just wanted you to know that this blog will change a bit.

 

 

Surprised at myself..

The past few days have been really joyful-lots of fun and random things have happened. They may not seem very “blog worthy” to anyone else but if you are a foreign wife trying your best to become part of the community where you live then there is real joy to be found when you have experiences that actually make you feel like you are part of the community.

There was a very cheap (cheap for our area anyhow) deal at the local fitness center. I’ve blogged about it in the past-the gym/pool center-AKA senior citizen kindergarten.

I thought I could be motivated enough to work out at home with my treadmill and weights but, well, I’m not. So, anyway-I’m back at the gym 8 times a month (the elcheapo package) and thankful for it. The other days I am motivated enough to use my home equipment. It’s a good blend of gym and home routines.

I’m normally an active person but I notice a definite drop in my mental health when I slack off on physical exercise and I seem to need more than the average middle-aged woman. But, then again I’ve always been kind of athletic.

I can’t even begin to describe how great that 2,280 meter walk/run in the pool was after such a long absence. I discovered pool walking/running here and it is the BEST exercise I’ve ever done. Pool walking burns many more calories per hour than walking on land. Why? Because you have the resistance of water working against you constantly. The way I walk/run I make it an entire body exercise. Depending upon your form you can get a really good workout-the 2,280 meters takes me about an hour and forty-five minutes to complete-and believe me, I’m pushing it all the way. I don’t just float along. I definitely feel the workout in my arms, legs, shoulders, and core when I’m done!

I walked into the reception area and got such a warm “welcome back” from the reception gals! They seemed genuinely happy to see me. I hit the pool and some of my old (and I mean OLD-like 80+ years old) buddies waved enthusiastically when they recognized that it was me. That was fun-really. I felt like-hey, I belong here.

After my pool workout I was drip-drying a bit before heading off to the locker room and one of the fitness instructors that had just come on pool duty came running (actually running) over to say hi and welcome back and we missed you!

It was SUCH a wonderful positive experience that left me smiling to myself. Living in a foreign country can leave you feeling a bit isolated and lonely.

I have felt like that here on more than one occasion.

My first day back at the gym was positive and uplifting and so motivating.

I chatted with a few ladies in the locker room and that was such fun because we ladies need to do that and in the past, because of my foreignness, I’ve been excluded from doing that.

It was definitely a day of blessings. After my workout I stopped by the grocery store on my walk home to pick up a few veggies and such. As I stood examining a bag of carrots and elderly man walked up to me and said-“konnichiwa” (good afternoon). I was so surprised-people stare at me but usually no one ever talks to me. He was such a nice man, very smartly dressed, and honestly he seemed so genuinely friendly that I struck up a conversation with him…what surprised me was that I had no trouble in keeping up with the conversation.

He mentioned that it was the first time in his life- he has ever spoken with a “foreigner” and he was so happy he did! Funny. He also said it was so nice to know that I spoke Japanese…to which I replied..oh, no! My Japanese is terrible (I think it is) to which he replied…well..I understand you so isn’t that bad! I could see he was genuine-sometimes people here tell you your Japanese is “fantastic” when you KNOW it isn’t….but I could tell he was sincere.

I know it sounds like a corny story but it was important to me. 

After just having come from the gym and had such a warm welcome and then having a lovely little chat with a cute old man…I was feeling like I had a virtual hug from God.

I got to the checkout stand and had yet another surprise.

First let me say that for reasons unknown to me, all the cashiers at many grocery stores in our area wear surgical masks. I have no idea if it is for their protection or to give the appearance that the store does not want to spread unnecessary germs? Really no idea but, all the cashiers wear uniforms with an apron a scarf on their heads and a surgical mask. Sometimes I can’t tell who is who.

So anyhow-I approach the checkout stand and the masked cashier’s eyes twinkle at me and she said “oh…hello”!…as if she knew me. I said hello but I must have looked a bit puzzled because she pulled down her mask for me. That’s when I saw it was one of the ladies that worked at another store we frequent. She had quit her job and was now at our neighborhood store.

My reaction was …AH! Konnichiwa! To which she loudly said YA, HA! As if we were old friends…

I was just tickled. The old cashiers were so grumpy. They repeated the same old spiel they were taught to say to customers..as if they were robots. They rarely ever interacted in any way other than “business”. 

I actually enjoyed paying for my groceries today.
I wish I could gather all the people that I interacted with this day. I’d sit them all down and tell them how important that day was for me and what a difference their kindness made in my life.

Imagine-what a difference our small acts of kindness have on a strangers life……I’ll just leave you with that thought.

 

Whirlwind Changes

Reblogging from a friend’s blog….
After 5 quick and crazy months of “dating”, I married my best friend.  Yes, even at our age, we wore the traditional wedding clothes.  David never got to wear a tux before, and I wanted him to have a bride that looked like, well, a bride.  It was a sweet and romantic ceremony in sunny […]

https://wordpress35797.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/whirlwind-changes/

Small delights…

I am continually delighted by small discoveries.

Anyone that reads this blog knows that I like to walk around. My feet are my transportation! I was walking around as I always do and I spotted what looked like a shrine or a temple kind of tucked away in the side of the hill so, I went up to investigate.

I love visiting the shrines and temple grounds because they are so pretty. I’m intrigued by the architecture and just the way everything is so simply and serenely arranged. But it isn’t really “arranged” it’s just the way it is.

I came upon the walkway and the entrance stone. I think it is called Kofukuji Dera-please correct me if I am wrong.

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I strolled down the lane to the entrance and was greeted by the temple cat.

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Every shrine and temple has at least one cat. There were actually several peering at me from behind bushes. I spied another peeking at me from the top of a fence.

I stood for a moment or two and chatted with the cat. Yes, I actually did that.

I craned my neck looking up the entrance stairs. I didn’t want to walk up and interrupt any ceremony that was happening.

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I could see a statue of Kobo Daishi keeping watch over the grounds.  I also took a good look at the bell tower and noticed that it was quite an old structure.

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I didn’t see anyone about the grounds so I made my way up the stairs. The grounds were small but they had such a welcoming and soothing atmosphere. I was asked once, how can I go to visit Buddhist shrines and Temples when I am a Christian? Obviously, I’m not here to worship. I deeply appreciate the beautiful architecture, the calming serene atmosphere, antiquity and many times the priest is a really nice guy and I make friends and learn new things.

This little temple didn’t disappoint. I can see myself coming back here in good weather with a notebook to write poetry.

There were several objects of interest.

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First off was the Honden-or main hall. It was a beautiful structure. I stood and gazed at it for a long time. I tried to notice everything about it. The texture of the wood, how the roof slats were dovetailed into one another, the simplistic beauty.

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I’m absolutely in love with these buildings. The differences in culture fascinate me and make me want to ask so many questions. I’ve always been like that-wanting to know as much as possible about things around me.

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Years ago I remember looking at buildings like these in pictures and loving them then but there is something about seeing them before you. Being able to smell the old wood, hear the caw of big black crows perched on the roof top, catch a whiff of pine incense drifting past….it’s like another world.

I noticed how lovingly the old palm was supported by bamboo.

There are several round brass plated pillars with inscriptions. My husband told me that they listed the names of those that are contributors to the Dera.

You can see one next to the palm tree and another near the bell tower. The structure in the above photo is the bell tower. I’m not sure what the lotus basin is for. Hubby was not quite sure either. Another photo of the bell tower below.

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I was up there for a long time just walking around and drinking in the scenery. A culture that is so absolutely foreign to everything that I’ve ever known.

There was a large hand washing basin. The inscription reads something like wash your spirit (I think). Again-feel free to correct me.

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After a few more minutes of lingering I decided it was time to move on home.

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I’ll be back. I hope I get the chance to meet the priest. I saw an information board at the bottom of the stairs. They have some sort of classes going on here-looked like an exercise class!

On the other side of the Dera -behind and up the hill-is a kindergarten that is run by this temple. There are many temples that run kindergarten programs. Interesting?

Awesome places you find just wandering around the Japanese countryside.

Being willfully joyful

The title to this post sounds like it doesn’t make sense but sometimes you have to forge through the sludge in your life, or sludge others throw into your life-you slog through it. Dig in your heels and push right through it, teeth clenched, fists balled and you say, I am SO going to be joyful! Refusing to be sucked under. Willful joy. Stubborn joy-no matter WHAT.

The composition of the sludge isn’t important,  what’s important is slogging past it. Clamping on your boots and marching forward-hauling one boot out of the muck at a time. Slow but sure progress.

I was deep in muck today but it was in the 60’s -and time to get down to the nursery to see if they had snap pea seedlings. The ume are blooming, it’s spring’s wake-up call. The timing couldn’t have been better. I needed alarm bells today to jar me into awareness. I was sinking and needed to pull myself up by the bootstraps.

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I refuse to allow circumstances to pull me under. That’s where willful joy becomes necessary.

Camera battery charged, I planned to make a day out of it. I took the long way to the nursery. Time to walk, pray, savor the now, clear the stink. Sludge stinks-ever smell it? They used to spray sludge on the fields back in Wisconsin. They used it for fertilizer-so it is good for something. Once the sludge sets in it begins to dissolve, giving precious nutrients to hungry plants. The stink goes away after a while.

So I walked and allowed the nutrients to seep in. To change from sludge to joy.

I passed a home that at first glance seemed rather drab to me….but for some reason I backed up to take a look at it again. Then I saw what it would soon be-once the garden was bursting vegetable full. I could envision it. Sweet little cottage garden right out the front door. That made me smile. Wasn’t much now-but it would be.

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I thought…yeah…that’s it..have the faith to see what is not there but will be. This is what I need to do today.

I felt my sight change. Felt the stink lift. Felt the nutrients seep in, deep.

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I saw this black and white- illuminated by the sun and shining golden.

The nursery was not far now. Just across from the big pine.

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They didn’t have much but they did have my snap peas and even, lettuce. With 500 yen left over I had enough for a can of coffee and a cinnamon raisin roll at the farmer’s market.

While sitting on the bench, people watching I had an idea. A few months ago I took photos in the market and wrote a blog post. I had my roaming tablet with me today so I found that post and then wandered around and found all the vegetable sellers I had taken photos of and let them see their photos on my “famous” blog.

You would have thought that they were on national news. The fishmonger grabbed my tablet and ran around, excited-telling and showing all the other fishmongers how she was featured in the foreign writer’s blog. I couldn’t have made a better decision.

Spreading joy-willfully. Caused quite a commotion in the farmer’s market today. I’m still smiling about it.

I took the other long way home. Busy snapping photos of all the gardens that would be.

Breathing inspiration for my own little patch of earth.

Almost home, nanohana springing up near the bamboo grove, reminded me again…spring is on the edge and things will be fresh and new again. What a blessing it is that after the winter comes the spring!

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Back home, walking clothes changed for garden garb-my old red apron with the funky pink teddy bear applique, stained gloves and blue flowered garden boots-I was satisfied. Digging in the dirt-heaven.

Got the snap peas in, the lettuce down and finally got that blueberry from Mrs. NG set in its new home.

Yes-sir’ee….The garden is starting to awaken. I stood back and smiled. You can either let sludge weigh you down or you can let it feed you. You can push through the stink and grab the nutrients on your way out.

Thank God that there is always this rebirth and renewal.

“Behold and see that I make all things new”-indeed He does.

 

 

catch-up

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day! Hubby and I always do a little gift-exchange in celebration of our marriage. Nothing fancy, we aren’t into fancy . I gifted him with a very delicious and sweetly arranged breakfast, a lovely card and a few chocolates-two pieces to be exact-because of his diabetes.

He brought me this beautiful Ume Tree.

I’ve always wanted one! In the afternoon we went to an onsen and had a wonderful soak in the Jacuzzi and then enjoyed the (mostly) vegetarian buffet in the onsen restaurant. Lovely.

I love how very inexpensive going to onsen is here-500 yen per person! That’s less than $5.00 per person! The onsen is such a beautiful place. There are tatami rooms for relaxing, lovely wood flooring, walls and ceiling-with big half log beams. They have massage chairs and massage rooms if you want to indulge.

It’s just really a lovely place that I always enjoy going to.

It is Hina Doll season here with the Hinamatsuri (doll festival) coming up on March 3rd. I stopped by the library and saw that they have their display up already.

Everywhere you go now you’ll see similar displays . Many of the dolls are very old. Some of these dolls were behind glass -the old ones-so it was difficult to get a nice photo of them. There was a lot of glare.

Mrs. NG came over today and gave me a lovely gift. This is a unique Hina Doll set! It had belonged to her mother. Her friend had handcrafted it and given it to her many years ago. Mrs. NG’s mom wants to minimize so she boxed up some things and sent them to Mrs. NG….this was an item that she thought I might like! Wow! I was thrilled! I love it!

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The dolls are actually tops!

Isn’t it just so cute? Each little doll is toy top that can be played with. Awesome!

This is the second year in a row that I have received Hina dolls in the season of Hina Doll festival.

Last year an artist friend of mine made these beautiful clay dolls for me.

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Tomorrow I’m going to arrange an honorary place in our tatami room to display my dolls -how fun!

I’m working on a crochet baby blanket for my daughter who is having her second child. The blanket has an ocean theme with three shades of blue a line of sea-foam and then sand…with baby turtles crawling into the water. It is going to be really cute when it’s done.

I’ve had to postpone gardening because winter has decided to return. We go up and down here at this time of the year but I can see that the buds are peeking out on the sakura tree so it won’t be long before spring is here. At least the garden is set up. That’s the big job that always needs to be done before I can begin planting. In a week or two I’ve got to get the sunakku-endo in though.

I’ve got lots of other little things going on…working my way through a Bible study. I’ve got some sewing projects lined up after I get my crochet projects done. I’m also thinking about the upcoming spring cleaning I always do when the weather gets warm…gosh I can’t wait to be able to throw all the windows open! I’m so ready!

I’m just not ready to haul out all the futons, lug them outside and flop them over the wall for sunning….gah. It’s always a two to three day job by the time I get them all aired, the furoshiki (wrapping cloths), covers and quilts all washed and dried on the line. Every year I say-I’m going to get vacuum sealed futon bags and silicon packets and wrap them all up so I don’t have to do this every year but……

Busy, busy,busy….!

The haps’ in my world…

This is one of the busiest times of the year for me personally for many reasons. Busy times come in cycles for me. Right now I’m in an upswing of activity. Activity is good though-I think. I would hate to sit around with nothing to do. That would drive me nuts.

Aside from the usual chores and daily cooking…

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A sampling of the daily bento I cook for hubby…
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the aftermath of breakfast and bento….

I just hosted the first annual ladies Valentine’s Day Tea. Valentine’s Day in Japan is messed up-in my opinion. Instead of me writing about it you can read this article to find out all about it.

Anyhow, the ladies had never celebrated Valentine’s Day in any special way until yesterday and I have to say that I am SO GLAD that I put in the effort to do this for them! We had the most wonderful time!

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I had little gifts for them. I found these cute little tea cups with pink hearts and I made some little heart-shaped coasters out of felt. They got to take these home.

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Since it’s hard to find any Valentine’s table accessories here I had my daughter send me a few things …..she sent a table cloth, plates, napkins, boxed chocolates and other sweets.

A special “shout-out” to you daughter…the items you sent really helped to make the party special! xxoo

I made a couple of heart shaped cakes and the ladies each brought small treats to share.

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Mrs. A made an origami candy box and filled it with chocolates! She is so good at paper crafts!

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We made each other Valentine’s Day cards to put into our “Valentine’s mailboxes” that we made last week.

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Valentine’s Day Mail boxes!

I was so impressed with their creativity!

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It was such a warm and cozy little tea party and it has sparked an idea inside….women here seem to lack these sorts of opportunities to come together as women in a fun, friendly and intimate environment… to talk, share and just have fun.

Humm..well…another idea (perhaps) on the drawing board.

I’d like to end this post with some personal thoughts. You might think, from my blog posts, that I live a life without trials, worries, problems…that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have all of those in generous helpings.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that focusing on them does not help me. I don’t ignore the troubles in my life-but I also do not allow them to grow any bigger then they already are. That’s why I rarely, if ever, blog about them. In my daily life I keep myself busy with “life”. Work is a great gift to us, I think. To me it is anyhow.

Chores are a given and they can’t be helped but besides the chores I try to use the rest of my time to do something that will help others in some small way. I continue on, forging through difficulty or troubles that might come my way. We all have those. They are a given part of life. I deal with mine and continue on.

This blog is a part of my “continuing on”. I hope it helps someone in some small way.