Sunday, December 13, 2009

River walking

Workout: 30 minutes walking Saturday and Sunday along the Kamo River
Feeling: Great to be alive and outside
Dessert: Lisa to talk with on Saturday

Kyoto has one of the nicest rivers to walk along. Lined with old buildings, homes, new hotels, and trendy restaurants, filled with birds and clean water, and right in the middle of the city the Kamo is like a vital vein for this city's health! I feel so lucky when I have the chance to walk there.

Lisa and I agreed to meet and walk from Kyoto to Sanjo and at a nice pace we got there in about 40 minutes. Today, I walked from my friends house to Sanjo in about 30 minutes. My mind was blank and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually marveled for a few moments that my mind was blank. So seldom happens.

Tomorrow I will go back to aerobics I think. Not sure which one I want to do, but I am glad Nadine told me to get by ass in gear. I actually pictured myself doing sit ups when she said it. Grrr!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I like 20/10

Workout: Kathy Smith 20 minute mixed with calorie bursts (of which I did 3 of the bursts), 10 minute stretch :)
Feeling: Better. My headache is gone!
Dessert: I bought a small crochet hook

I have made a concerted effort to take the steps at ALL stations, even the ones with stupidly long lasting climbs. Well, once I took the elevator, but I had bags.

I didn't workout yesterday, though I should admit that if I had tried, I could have squeezed in a 20 minute one between my morning and evening work. My excuse is that I didn't sleep well the night before. Not such a good one, but did I mention all those steps!?

Well, tomorrow is another day and I am home working, so no excuses, I'll be back!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Back on the wagon

Workout: Kathy Smith 20 minute mixed aerobics, 7 minute stretch
Feeling: Good
Dessert: Sun shining through a completely open window and the hibiscus, onto my whitening winter skin. Armpits up!

After a long time of inactivity, false starts, and blah, I decided that to try and prevent this from becoming another false-start, I would blog about my progress.

My exercise shorts are a bit tighter. Breasts are MUCH bigger, as are my bum, hips, arms, tummy... Imagine my tummy will be flat again soon, as it is always the first to go, but those hips and bum will take time. Ah well, I got more life in me yet, so let's see if I can get back to my pre-wedding 61 kilos (135 lbs), muscle toned, and fierce self. I'd be happy with 140 though.

Operation, exercise anytime of day because your schedule is irratic, so deal with it and stop wishing it was regular like it was before the wedding (5 years ago), has begun. It's fine to shower at weird times!!! Be fierce with irregularity!

Feeling: Fired up.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Letter to my niece

Hey Honey!

It is my greatest pleasure to be your Aunt. I am able to instill in you an awareness of what life holds when you become an adult. You will have many, many choices. Choices increase as you get older. However, it is hard to know what the right choice is, so we have to develop skills that make us good decision makers. I think I am doing well in my choices, and I want you to have similar success. My family never gave up on me, even when I made stupid choices. I think they knew I could LEARN FROM those misses. I believe you can, too, as you are showing that you have learned from some of yours. I promise to not give up on you!

I think the most important things to remember about life are 1) learn from your mistakes (though sometimes you will make the same mistake twice, just don't do it a third or fourth time!) 2) remember that things will always get better, even when you feel so desperate and that everything is bad 3) don't give up on what you want in life.

Well, we have so much more to talk about. Life is a journey, not a destination, Lexi! I am so happy to be part of your journey!

I love you deeply!

Aunt Catie

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Wada Affair

The drive was cloudy; I cried for a good 20 minutes. I thought back on our 7 year musical journey as  "The Wada Affair". While many people came and went, Jason, Mr. and Mrs. Wada, Jun, and I have been a constant. Now, one of us has left. 

Today we toasted Jason, his irreplaceable contribution as lead guitarist, blues harpist, and my partner in silliness. J and I have known each other since we were students here in Japan. Then, we both came back to teach English on the JET program. One day he called me and said he had joined a band and wondered if I would be their lead singer. 

For the first 4 years in the Wada Affair we would ride to practice together, talking the whole way about our former lives as wanna' be hippies, as Americans, as children. We talked about Japan and Japanese. And of course we talked about music: PHISH, Dead, Talking Heads, John Lennon, Pizzacato, Cibo Matto. What I now realize is that we never talked about people, at least not in the perjoritive sense. We just talked about topics that made us laugh because they involved good memories or good music, or helped us to reflect on parts of our lives that we needed to or had already changed. 

I was there when he met his wife, Hiroko. She is perfect for him. I mean, really perfect for him. I know she will take good care of him when they go. She is grounded and sensible, but still silly like us. She played guitar with us for 3 years, too. I love her laugh and her easy going disposition. She is very easy to be around. 

With them leaving, the band is heading into very unknown waters. I am not pleased. I love all the members, but if we were a family, Mrs. Wada was Mom, Mr. W was Dad, Jun was our uncle and J and I were the brother and sister. While you love your Mom, Dad, and Uncle, you aren't close in the same way. Your sibling speaks the same slang (in our case the same first language, too), and they like the same music. They get your DL remarks, they can read your mood, and they can make you laugh while everyone else talks about adult stuff. 

Jason, you were a great brother! I'll miss you and I wish you and Hiroko lots of luck in the U.S.!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Moving to Kyoto has been the best thing Hiro and I have ever done as a couple. Possibly getting life insurance will someday take it's place; but let's hope not. Until then, I will remain convinced that Kyoto kind of saved me! 

Training to Graduation

I gave my first collegiate teacher training on Saturday. I say collegiate because it was for a college, not a professional organization or publisher.  I am extremely pleased with how I did it. It was not just a "Things you can do on Monday" training, but one which incorporated brainstorming and reflection. A balanced approach. 

One teacher commented after, "You have philosophy, something Japanese teacher education lacks." I am not sure if that is wholly true, but I suppose that has been her experience. I didn't have philosophy before my MA, and it really made me feel that the two hard years I spent going for it were totally worth it! I leave for graduation on July 15th! 

Happy that Daddy is coming to see me walk. Happy too that I can talk with the current second year students about my research. While I consider it a bit of a mess (it was my first one), it makes me happy to give some pointers about maybe what NOT to do, and that even if it is messy, you will still get something very valuable out of it. And once it is done, you have so much sleep to look forward to!


Monday, May 4, 2009


We have finally been to Hokkaido, the Northern island. At times I felt like I was looking at a South Beach neighborhood with lots of colorful houses, somewhat spaced out. Honshu is more of a brown house smear, houses so close you can hear your neighbor come home, cook, and gargle. L&M invited us and we jumped. M is the master of finding travel deals. His nickname is "Otoku Man", translated literally as "Special Deal Man"! We even got free coffee at the airport from an actual restaurant. Hayai, umai, yasui!

I have taken L's sister-in-law's idea and narrowed these down to 20 pics with 20 words. 





















Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fun day at an elementary school

Leaving the first school, my face hurt! 

I had spent the morning facilitating English interviews with 52 6th graders. 2 students came in at a time and we basically just asked one another questions about each other and our countries. I was incredibly impressed by these students! They are not from upper socio-economic areas, nor are they at schools with tons of ALTs, technology, or any other bells and whistles! 

However, they do have teachers who apply for funding so that the schools can become centers for classroom research. The teachers professionally develop, help add to the rather barren pool of Japanese elementary school English education know-how (that is finally experiencing quantified and qualified growth),  and build programmes that create nascent communicators. Many kids who mocked English have become quite proficient for their exposure level!

I would casually ask them how they were as they came in and 9 out of 10 said, "I'm happy". I smiled, said, "Me, too." and then spent another 3 minutes learning, joking, and laughing with them. Three cheers for classroom researchers and dedicated teachers! Three cheers for the kids who give us all a purpose! Three cheers for a face that hurts from smiling!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Well, I have given 2 trainings and have one left in Tokyo. I will be nervous from Saturday, but until then, I will simply write about my experience so far. 

People always think I am not nervous. My pal Lisa said, "You have a combination of a calm demeanor, genkiness (spiritedness) to keep everyone excited, and a nice voice". Thanks, Lisa, but truth be told, my digestive system is whacked out completely from the night before, only giving me respite once I get on stage. 

Being up there in front of everyone makes you wholly committed. My sis-in-law's friend once walked off the stage as she was beginning a one woman show. Kathryn said, "She did what everyone wants to do." I thought this made sense, what Kathryn said, but actually, I don't want to walk off. I want to shine.

I also want desperately, to make sense. To be inclusive, to stick to my main point, to bring everything full circle, to make people say, "Oh, yes, I hadn't thought of that" or "Oh, man, I thought it was just me!" or "Yes, I can do that" or "I don't get it, I will have to ask her after". The last one is important for me. 

I got several important bits of feedback from participants. One of the most thought provoking was from a Japanese teacher, who said that she felt that what I had proposed for the parents to do (be involved in their children's English homework and to make comments about how their child did) was too much for parents. I agreed that it could seem this way, but thought for a moment, and said that if teacher could help parents understand that their involvement would make a difference, and that they can be of use, then maybe they would find their effort worth it. 

Parents need to be educated, and certain parents more than others. Speaking with my Longman colleagues, I had an ah-ha moment when one said it is precisely the "education mothers" who need to be educated about education. They are so ignorant, that they want their child to learn anything and everything, at any cost. This ignorance makes them total nightmares, pressuring their kids, making teachers crazy, and probably graying their own hairs. 

Parents and children should not feel pressured any more than they should feel happy to be learning. Learning should be fun, and if it is seen as having a grander purpose, say, having fun learning a practical thing, then the goal becomes a purpose. When parents and children learn together to achieve common knowledge (shared schema), using and sharing that in their everyday lives, they move into a practical purposeful life, where new meaning can be exchanged, and connections can be made. 

My personal experience of reading a story to my mother is always a reminder of this. In second grade, I read a book called, Bunnicula, about a vampire bunny. It was cute, engaging, and I hated to put it down. I read to Mom as she drove me 45 minutes to school everyday. We talked about that book a lot that year, and also over the years. It became a shared experience, something we enjoyed together. I learned about the joy of reading a good book, and received an A+ on my book report, which she saved. Learning together was fun, and the car was a shared learning space.

I tell parents to create an English space (I should tell my audience this...), to have a cushion or a corner that you use for English time. Then, use that English time language when you are doing other things. Simple things, like telling your child it is time to "sit down" at the table. Or, "stand up" so you can pick up something they sat on. 

My love of reading a good book started in the passenger seat of the car, but eventually I could drive that car, a metaphor for taking shared learning into my own hands. I hope that parents who embrace a role in their child's learning will see their little one drive, too. 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Should I run...?


I wonder, "Is that human or crow?"


I start looking around.


I see man screaming at the top of his lungs. Back arched, head turned skyward, fists clenched.

Everyone is looking. He stops, turns around, and walks back  into the insurance agency. 

I feared it would be Akihabara- man with knife randomly stabbing people. I kept walking, looking over my back every 5 steps. In the station, phew. Now, safe on the train. Kind of laughing, but absolutely hope that whatever he was upset about has passed. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where did he get his reporting skills?

I am sure everyone has heard about this, but today, I saw a news report about a woman who had octuplets! First of all- WOAH! I hope she has a lot of very close friends and family near by! 300+ diapers a week! Yikes!

However, this is not what surprised me the most. The reporter states how the Mom hasn't come out to say anything to the press- cut to a shot of a camera man trying to get a glimpse through a hospital window 5 stories up. It reminded me of like... a dog trying to get at his ball that has rolled under the deck. Sniff, sniff, peek, peek, dig with one paw. 

Cut to scene with doctors talking to a room full of press. The kind woman doctor explains to all the clicking cameras that the Mom is fine, resting, recovering now, 24 hours after the births.

Cut back to the local newsman, "Still no word form the mother," he says disappointedly, ending his report. For fuck's sake man, did you not just hear the doctor? Do you have no brain or better yet ears to go with that thoughtless mouth? 8 babies, 24 hours before! 

I hope 8 grapefruits come out of his penis!

That's all I have to say about that. 

Monday, January 19, 2009


I have fallen off the wagon into "no posting blogs" territory. However, I am not going to stay there, so I figured I would see where my mind might take me...

I have been back for a little over 1 week and already managed to have a fabulous time with friends- twice! How lucky am I?! The first time was a nice day with L&M- we hiked, did a public bath, had some beer, sushi, a nap, and then watched a movie. Pretty calm and relaxing. Until...

C's birthday. C's b-day is an annual event (no sh&t Sherlock), but it is like no other yearly shin-dig. This one always entails debauchery, complete with women's breast, tequila, spanking, very very loud talking, more and more beer, hugging strangers, broken cell phones, people getting lost, piping hot and yummy ramen, and my favorite- a slight to major (depending on your age and the number of tequila shots) hangover and little to no voice (depending on how good you are at loud talking) the following day. 

Every year we do it, and every year I promise that I will eat more before, so that I don't get horribly drunk. However, every year, somehow I just bypass the food and go straight to super loud talking, laughing.... no, cackling.... and end up so hungry I could eat not just a bowl of 
ramen but the whole damned shop! 

Ramen in Japan is what pizza is in the US. After a night of drinking you want pizza- a testament to the zillions of pizza shops on or near every college campus in the US. Here, we want ramen, and you don't have to go far to find one. But, just like pizza has many flavors, so does ramen, and people will go to blows, if drunk enough, over which shop is the best. I have a short list of personal favorites, but what is important to know is that each one makes the main broth, and then all of the other brothes in that shop are variations of the main one. Some are oily and rich, others salty and smooth. The amount of chopped green onions, whether it has chashu (a kind of pork), bamboo, or other veggies will depend on the type of ramen and ultimately the shop. No two places will taste the same- that is for sure! Hence, finding good ramen is much like an American's quest to find the best pizza. Once you find it you are loyal and tell all your friend about it. You bring guest there and you talk major shit about how great it is up until you go! You want them to know the deliciousness that it is, and to partake with you!

When Hiro and I moved to Yamashina, we soon tried the ramen place just across the street. THANK GOODNESS it is some of the best ramen I have ever had in Japan! They have this super freaking hot kind, with tons of veggies, pork, and Korean kimchi. It burns going in and coming out, but it has a taste that is like no other!

Now, the down side to ramen, is that much like pizza it is not very healthy, and if not eaten in moderation will add many a pound! However, working it off is worth it! Every sit up and aerobic jump!

Here are pics form our day with L&M

At the waterfall.

With rural Takatsuki behind us.

Hot form the hike. Yes, I am aware that I am overdressed for a hike, but it is all I had with. 


The chopsticks are resting on hashioki, which hold the chopsticks up o they do not touch the table. I have quite a number of them. I find them cute and such a nice accent to a decorated table. 

Now, here are the pics from the debauchery, though these make it all look so tame! My friend Stu is a great photog, isn't he!?

In love and waiting for ramen...

Hiro eating, aka, happy Hiro.

Cat pouting... she didn't want L&M to leave...

Cat with Stu (the photog). Atticus in the background! Love his expression!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


7 year old Zachary

Zach is in second grade and is still a cute, innocent little boy with his eyes wide open to the world. Here are some of my favorite conversations heard and had: 

Brother: "Zach, what did you do while we were gone?"
Zach: "I learned a lot, Dad. 
Brother: "And what is it that you learned?"
Zach: "Ladies first. And don't eat before everyone is seated and served. It's rude."

Lexi: "Crap."
Zach: "Lexi, don't say the 'K' word."

Zach: "Catie, if you need someone to keep this book safe for you, you know, I could do it."
Catie: "Thanks Zach. I think I need to think about that. This is a special book and I need to decide if I want to take it back to Japan."
Zach: "OK, but if you want someone to keep it safe for you I'm the person who can do that."

Zach: "Catie, come see what I did."
Catie: "OK."
Zach: "So I organized this. Here are the books you gave me. This bunny one and the other ones. And here is the red stapler..." 
Catie: "Know what? That was my stapler in college. And before that it was Nana's!"
Zach: "Well now it is in my showcase."

Zach: "Catie, I am going to put my glasses right here in this drawer, just like my Dad does." 
Catie: "OK. Good idea, cause then you will know where they are."
Zach: "Yeah, just like my Dad."

Zach (paraphrasing what he said to my friend Kate and her sister): This is the movie Scooby Doo. It has this snowman who is evil. You can have a snowman, but he can't really be evil. But, you can have a real snowman and a real evil man, so I think it is realistic fiction.

Zach has many qualities of a good learner. He asks all the imperative questions, reads like a librarian, and has the glasses to complete the look. Totally precious!

Back in Nippon

I am now back. I thought I would list the highlights of being home. I am terribly jet lagged and trying hard to stay awake until 10 p.m. Lot's to accomplish between now and then, but right now, this may be all I can muster the energy for...

my nephews
father's turkey dinner
brother's Italian pasta dinner
hiking to Inspiration Point with Kathryn
playing Wii with Julian
wine tasting with Todd
Licky Lila the dog
seeing Anita and John
seeing Jenna (and Robin after 25+ years)
listening to my nephews karaoke
driving the old Merz
long talks with my sister-in-law
annoying my brother Todd
making nephew Ian laugh (a rare occurrence nowadays)
Mexican food
seeing my brother at the studio
amazing salads
Sees assorted chocolates
drinking Carol tea

giving Brian and Karen a vacation
learning about my family's history (see some below)
Zach reading to me
Zach's various Zachisms (see next post)
long talks with Lexi
Lexi confiding in me ("Catie, can I talk to you?")
driving a minivan with kids in it to the grocery store and holding hands with Zach in the parking lot
fixing healthy meals for the family 
changing, bathing, and otherwise caring for my mother
treating the family for 10 days
helping to go through the storage unit (sorry I couldn't help more)
annoying brother Brian
the tread mill (didn't gain a pound, but managed to eat many a yummy thing!)
fighting about who is Mom's favorite with Brian (Brian, you know I am her favorite!)
tucking Zach in at night
Lucy the dog
seeing Kate and Jen
the family talking to Hiro on the phone
having Zach read to me or when he wasn't in the mood watching game shows while running on the treadmill (Yes, I am a Loser, but the fun competition, suspense and people loosing their shit when they win something is just so damned exciting)
baby back ribs
lights at the Botanical Gardens
drinking Sam Adams

Things I didn't get to do
go to a movie
eat a steak (but I managed to have Tilapia 3 times!)
eat Ben and Jerry's
talk to Rachael or Megan
renew my license
see Paw-Paw

Things I learned
My sister-in-law needs more support in caring for Mom
I'll probably be a good mother
My family has entered a new stage- the stage of dealing with teenagers
My Mom's mother's family is from Italy (Champione) and Spain (Solis)
Some of our Italian ancestors fought at Waterloo
We have a great grandfather whose family settled in Syracuse NY (where eldest brother, Bob, has settled)
My great great grandmother on my Mom's side was the first female post mistress in Texas
I no longer cringe when I think about moving back to the States

Things I missed about Japan
my pillow and bed
sleeping next to Hiro, holding hands while falling asleep
speaking Japanese

Things I miss about America:
My family
central heating

Friday, January 2, 2009

More on (Moron) puberty...

Coast to coast, their hormones are raging! Having left California, I knew I was in for more, but little did I know just how much…


Lexi has always been precocious. As a little child, barely even speaking, she would come into the living room, place her little hand on her cocked her hip, and shimmy her head saying, “Attitude.” We knew we were in for it!


I suppose I didn’t help. When she was preverbal, she would come into the room and I would say, “Yes, the world was created for you!” I was so enamored with her.


I was exactly one week shy of turning 16 when she was born. I helped my sister-in-law through the labor. Her mother, Mary (RIP), my mother, Marie, and I, all had our parts- cheerleader, support, film-taker. Mary was in charge of the latter. Why they gave her this duty, I am still not sure. At the wedding she set the camera down on a chair and recorded 30 minutes of guests’ asses. Would the birth be any different? Nah! Just as Lexi was crowning the tape ends, giving us crotch, crotch, crotch, but no climax (pardon the pun). 


Despite, Lexi’s ascendance was perfect. She came out healthy and adorable. I was so proud of her and I would take her out and about, showing her off as if she were my own. We bear a striking resemblance, which made it easier to feel she was mine. Now, at 30 and she at 14, I realize that she is mine. Not in the sense of being my child, but she is mine to protect, mine to help morally guide, mine to support no matter how unbelievably selfish and stubborn she is.

Fifteen minutes before midnight 2009, I drew a very distinct line for her. “If you go out of that door to see him, and defy your parents’ rule, you are stepping well beyond the trust boundaries. That is also where your and my similarities end! At 14, I would never have defied my parents in such a manner, and you best understand that I am not (expletive)ing around! I will call them and tell them that you have left against their rule and my forbeyance, young lady.”

Prior to this last stand we had been negotiating off and on for almost 3 hours. “Please Aunt Catie! Can I go?” “Lexi, I have been very cool with you, and the other night you agreed that you would not ask me this. Now you are asking. You have broken rules already and I do not see this boy who supposedly likes you breaking any to see you. I will not lie to your parents if they call, I will not pretend, I will not understand if you walk out that door!”

“But he is going to ask me out tonight, I know it!”

“He can ask you tomorrow. And if he stops liking you because of this, then you have no future anyway!”

“That’s why I want to go, so we can build a future.”

“At 14!?”

“You know what I mean!”

“Lexi, I am afraid I don’t. I am afraid that you are telling me that you want to break rules, suffer the consequence that will be not only a huge loss of trust and respect but also include loss of your phone and computer which you use to communicate with him, in order to secure a ‘future’ that will end when you can’t call, text, or otherwise speak to him!? Child, you have left logic upstairs and come down here a fool!”

“Just please, if my parents call…”

“No. You don’t get it. I am not going to lie to them. Get this and get it good, I will call them if you leave this house.”

“Fine, call. I am leaving!” she says as she walks up to her room and slams the door.

I promptly apologized to my mother and thanked her for having hung in there 15 years back when I was selfish and horrid. We laughed, I had my head in my hands, and then Lexi returned for the 5-minutes-before-midnight spat.

I repeated my argument, reassured her that my logic was solid and that hers didn’t exist and said again that I would call if she as much as stepped a foot out the door. Line drawn, time to get the phone and the number in case. Whispering to her friend behind me. Door opened, but not the screen. Phone on counter. Champagne glasses taken out for me and my Mom. Washing them, ball dropping, not a peep at the door. 3-2-1! Happy New Year! Feet drum rolling up the stairs, SLAM!

“Thank you Lord she didn’t go!”

Mom and I toasted Happy New Year and I toasted my newfound sense that I will be able to raise a person!