Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Annual Blog Kicking Time is Here!

Though I have likely forgotten how to write, here I am to have another go! 

I found this link on Twitter; it's a list of all the big news stories in Japan from the last month. 

We went to a Halloween party last night. No big deal; we used to go to three or four Halloween gatherings every year. But, Halloween is not celebrated here in Japan, at least not the same way as in the US. So since we've been here, for the last four Halloweens, I've quite missed the way we used to celebrate it. 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

What I Learned March 2016

*Just as cars need gas to carry passengers onward, so I need podcasts to accomplish housework. It's been a year since I started listening to podcasts regularly, but my consumption has increased lately. The place should be much cleaner than it is, actually....these are my favorites:
Sorta Awesome
I love this show, hosted by fellow ENFP Megan Tietz, because I've been a fan of Megan's for years and years from back when she had a blog called Sorta Crunchy. I still miss her blog but I'm thankful she's found a new venue for creative expression in podcasting. Most of the below podcasts I've learned to love, I found through SortaAwesome!
A Slob Comes Clean
So meta of me to love listening to this while I attempt to clean, and so right. My only complaint with this podcast is that its host, Dana White, won't come right out and confess her Myers Briggs type. Very clever. But I can tell by her tagline, "As I figure out how to keep my own home under control, I share the truth about cleaning and organizing strategies that actually work in real life for real people (who don't like cleaning and organizing)!" she is not an SJ (no offense, SJ friends, the world needs you and so do I).
The Popcast
This is a show about American pop culture. Though I'm American, I live in Tokyo so I don't even know what's going on in American pop culture. Wait. Now I do, because I listen to this show. I feel like Knox and Jamie (OK, the real reason I love this show is because the host has a great name....) have the kind of hilarious conversation I want to have with friends. That statement suggests I don't have friends. I do. But life is happening, and not everyone is as enamored of humorous conversation as I. Someday I hope to have more friends who love to yak at length about all kinds of things, but until then, I have this podcast.

*Endings are hard and weird. This past month, Misaki graduated from Nadeshiko Yochien (3 year Japanese preschool/kindergarten) and Koji graduated from his club basketball team, Tokyo Kashiwaba. Being involved with these two things has been enormous for our family over the last three years, and seeing them come to an end is strange and somewhat sad. From a logistical and practical standpoint, I won't miss rushing Misaki to school on the back of my bike every morning. That was chaotic. And all of us will always treasure Kashiwaba for teaching Koji to love basketball, but honestly, we might also enjoy doing other things on Saturdays. In other words, these two big endings we marked with Koji's graduation ceremony on the 12th and Misaki's on the 17th, are just like life: bitter and sweet.

*Blue Bottle Coffee is delicious. A friend and I dragged her two and my three kids to this location while we were on our way to the Pixar Exhibition. We waited forty minutes to get our latte and cappucino, respectively, and it was worth it. (see photo evidence below) Bonus: while we were there, we saw the founder of Blue Bottle!? He just happened to be in town? Dear James Freeman, please let your next Tokyo location be Higashi Kurume. Our city bird is the Azure Winged Magpie, and you know that's a fancy way of saying "Blue Bird." We are destined to be together with your amazing coffee! I know I should have presented this plea in person when I saw you at the Kiyosumi location last week, but I saw you before I drank your delectable coffee and realized who you were. So please, forgive me. I will help you look for locations! Your new fan, JM

*I can do hard things. Since I started working at Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ) 21 months ago, I've needed to fulfill some professional development requirements. The first one, which was to read five books, write up a six page paper and watch a couple of hours of video, felt very daunting. It took months longer than I thought it should have, but this past month, I finished it!! Patting myself on the back...and giving myself a push, now I have to get on with the next one.

Truthfully, I learned a lot of other things in March and I even remembered some things I used to know. But I don't want to push it so I will save those insights for another time. Happy April!

Kid Compliments

Out of the blue tonight, I received a flurry of compliments from Misaki. We had come home from a wrestling match at CAJ. Though it was 8 pm and most everyone had some semblance of dinner, they needed another. I started producing some burritos, and then I heard, 
"Mama, you have a good brain". 
"Thank you!" I said. "Why do you say that?" 
"Because" she said. "You know where we are even if you can't see us". 

As if that weren't enough, she went on to wax effusive about the burritos. A note: it's not as though they were gourmet by restaurant standard . In fact, they were pretty hodgepodge. Taco meat, white beans, cheese.... But also rice and cauliflower.....
"These burritos are way better than store burritos, Mama, " She said. 

Feeling some extra love tonight!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Shoe Magic

(Note that there are no game photos here because I only took video during the game....)
Or more like practice magic. Koji's been playing basketball on a local club team for two and a half years. Furthermore, he got some fancy Stephen Curry Under Armour shoes for Christmas. 
Well, today he had his third game as a sixth grade member of the CAJ B team. Thanks to his years of practice (and his new shoes?!) when his team was down by one with 15 seconds in the fourth quarter, he had the skills to put in a jump shot and win the game. It was exciting! I'm a proud basketball mom. 

Tanya and I played middle school basketball together at CAJ, and now ours sons are! I never would have imagined. But I love it! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nose to the Grindstone

First full week of school in a month! Two weeks completely off for break but the week before and the week after were also not ordinary with Christmas events, parties, and half days. 
So I salute you, exhausted kindergarteners! You did it. You went to school all day every day for five days straight. The strain was quite noticeable today but strain makes us grow, doesn't it? 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Marshmallow Snowman

As I may have mentioned yesterday, I made an enormous error in putting my contacts in and going to church. This morning I hated to go to work for fear of scaring my students. 
My eyes were this completely blood red: when I went into the teacher's lounge to take a break, one of my colleagues looked at me and said, "So you've turned to the Dark Side?". Ha! Why yes, watch out for my light saber! 

Koji and his club basketball team had their last big tournament today. As has been the trend for the last two or three tournaments, they were the victims of unfortunate match ups. They really (not just saying this as a proud parent) should have been able to advance to the semifinals. But alas, the third team they played today was just a little stronger than them and they are out. 

We have a winter theme going in Kindergarten right now. Do you want to build a snowman? 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Monster Translator

There was a need for translation help at church today and I was happy to do it. But the truth is, for now, my flesh is weak. Really weak. I'm not fully recovered from the infected head syndrome of last week. Impatient with myself, I decided it would be fine to put in my contacts this morning. 
My poor eyeballs. By lunchtime, I was in pain. I hadn't even thought to bring my glasses along. I took one of my contacts out so I could continue catching up with a friend. But it was too little, too late, and now I'm back where I started, my eyes blood red and aching. And yes, tomorrow is a Japanese holiday but school is on. 
No time like today for digging into the lovely stock of Trader Joe's goods Mom sent for Christmas. 
Trader Joe's macaroni and cheese, plus kimchi tofu soup. What? Not a common combo at your house?! 
I pray that when I wake up tomorrow, the color of my eyes will not so closely resemble the color of this soup...

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Elderberry Syrup

I made this yesterday. I used Wellness Mama's recipe but I put too much honey in this time. Best tasting medicine ever! 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Medical Leave

Thankfully my work place has made generous provision for illness. I had to take advantage of it today and it looks like I'll have to do the same tomorrow. I call this illness "head infection," although for that to be a perfectly accurate description, I'd need afflicted sinuses. Fortunately, all I'm dealing with is ringing near aftermath of a double ear infection and an infected right eye that gives me a monster face. Guess it's just too hard for me to hold back the sarcasm. 

The straight truth is, I'm pretty sick. My in laws and our friends the H Family were lifesavers today, taking care of the girls so I could rest. I tried to rest. I think I was somewhat successful. I took a short nap, I watched a documentary called "Angry Sky," and in fulfillment of a long time wish, I bought the TV series Firefly and watched the pilot episode. 

Enough about me, how is everyone else out there? I'm feeling disconnected! 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

To the Doctor

Dear Dr. T, 
Thank you for being open today, January 5th. Last year at this same time, when I was suffering from the same affliction, you were still on New Year's holiday. 
It's hard for me to write this without coming across sarcastically, so I'll switch to question format: 
1. Why do you personally have to re-ask me each question on the "Have You/Do You?" form? Wouldn't that be a great way to occupy the two nurses that were standing there? 
2. Same for your notes, Doctor. Why not let someone else take notes? What do you do with those, anyway? Why such excruciating detail? 
3. Is it really helpful to prepare a detailed graph that shows how much hearing loss I'm experiencing? I came to you because I don't like this and want to change it. 

Well. Enough suggestions on what you could consider changing. In the end, you gave me antibiotics. Generally I'm opposed but this nasty double ear infection really has me down and out. 
Thank you, Doctor T
Your new patient, 
Jamie Matsuoka

Monday, January 04, 2016

Cast Your Bread Upon the Water

When I was growing up in the 1970's, my parents, and therefore I, loved a Christian band called The Imperials. Ever heard of them? I think if given the opportunity, I could still sing all their songs. 
They had a song about casting your bread on the water, and it will come back to you. I don't recall being an extremely deep thinking child. So I would bellow along happily when the song came piping from the cassette player. 
I don't remember stopping to ponder--perhaps lacking adult cynicism?--how it would be possible for bread that would turn soggy and drown when waterlogged to then be returned to its owner in any kind of desirable state. 
In any case, here is the source of the song: 

"Cast your bread upon the waters,
    for you will find it after many days."
Ecclesiastes 11:1

Hm. I thought there was a clear connection between this verse and a story I wanted to tell. I'm not so sure now but I'll go on with the story anyway. 
When we were living in Skokie about four and a half years ago, I became very interested in healthy, natural eating. One result was that I started to make my own kombucha. I loved it. I never knew for sure if it truly boosted my health but I felt better about drinking it than standard soft drinks. 
When we came here, because the starter culture necessary to make kombucha is "alive," I assumed I couldn't bring it along. Since, I've scoured Tokyo for bottled kombucha, and/or someone who would share a starter. 
I actually got a starter from a friend several months ago, and I was/am excited to have it. But the brewing process is a bit involved in the front end and I just haven't gotten started. 
My point is, I was surprised, delighted and feeling like I had "found my bread" when I discovered this in Aeon Mall about a week ago: 

Just drank it tonight (hoping it would help with the nasty sickness hopping me) and it was delicious! In summary, I'm sure the connection is tenuous and far fetched but I'm going for it. Kombucha now reminds me of The Imperials.....

Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Year, Old Friends

Aogu's oldest--longest?--friend, nicknamed "Yatchan," has been in Saitama on a work assignment since October. It's a big deal for him. He's from the countryside beyond Kumamoto, where he's stayed since he and Aogu were in church and elementary school together as small boys. He has a family, three kids just a bit older than ours, but he never imagined himself working in the big city. 
God has brought him here now, and we've been fortunate to spend time with him on a few different Sundays when he's been able to visit church. Today we were privileged to visit with him and his whole family, who flew up for a short visit to Tokyo. 
Honestly, I had a different agenda for today. But this morning, I felt compelled to change my plan and head off to church instead. Thankfully! 
My brother-in-law Ken had prepared some verses in envelopes to be "otoshidama" (usually money that is handed to children at New Year's. It was interesting to hear each person read his or her verse. One woman who is often tearful in worship got a verse that said something like, "Don't cry anymore, dry your tears!". 
I got this verse: 
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength...."
Isaiah 30:15 NIV

The timing of this seems not coincidental. I've known I need more adult conversation, and that need continues. But I also recognize, perhaps for the first time? that I also need quietness and rest. 
I will need so much help and wisdom from God to know how to engage it, but this feels like a call to get started. 

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Selfie Stick

So. My friend Chris says telling yourself "I did ______ and I'm amazing" will speed one along towards further accomplishments in life. 

Well, I bought a selfie stick and I'm amazing. 

And actually, it may well promote further accomplishments in my life. Because I frequently want to take photos of those I'm with. And I want to be in them, not for narcissism's sake, truly, but because I value WITH. If you and I were together at a certain place and time, it would heighten my experience to anticipate remembering that moment later. Got that? That sentence contained a bunch of time travel.... 

Anyway, thanks to Flying Tiger in Omotesando, I am now the proud owner of a pink selfie stick. Let the WITHness begin! 
Photo taken with Chris and S, with selfie stick

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year! 2016 is Here

If only I had actually sat and written each time I thought of sitting and writing in 2015, my book would be off to the publisher by now. I don't necessarily have plans to write a book in 2016 either, but I suppose if I want to write one someday, I ought to practice writing. 
Ought to sounds dangerously like should, and I'm pretty allergic to should. But I need it because my number of some days grow smaller at an increasingly rapid clip. 
So, here goes! 

2015 Lookback--January

January 1-- 2nd annual ice skating at Toshimaen

January 2--Tokyo Disneyland

Sleepover with the Nakazawas

Therefore we got to go out! 
Tsukada Nojo in Ikebukuro; did NOT realize their speciality is RAW chicken....

Parkour at Nishiguchi Park with Mizuba-affiliated guys

Koji's last days as a 5th grader in Kashiwaba Basketball 

Koji & Yuito

Misaki lost her first (or second?) tooth