Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuff and bits

Only 3 days left of work and one is a voluntary day in so I can meet with a Prof I adore for his help! We are finally coding the videos from last year's second grader interviews! Yes, it has been 8 months. Stuff happened.

Anyhow, I leave in 4 days! Time for lots of Christmas cheer. Shopping, aka, "ef me, there are too many people in the damn mall and I want to get in and out ASAP". Lists will be made for efficiency purposes. Yes, lists will be made.

Hiro had 3 days off in a row. Glorious! I really enjoyed having him here when I left and came home. We did a lot of silly joking, some planned meals, spontaneous eats out and even took a nap together on Monday. Had we rented DVDs and curled up, I would have thought we were dating again. It's been a pleasure. Thanks, lucky stars! I'll miss him while I am gone. Nice to be leaving feeling really in love. It will make coming back easier.

On the way home today, we stopped at a city look-out. Kyoto is such a packed city when seen from afar. I must say though, having the river and Gosho, you don't feel it as much when you are in it. On to what I really want to say...

When we pulled into the parking lot the guy in the next car was very comfortably reclined looking at a magazine. He was open to the page with lots of vaginas. It was all I could do not to check if he had his man parts out. Convinced that I didn't want to see that, I just pretended not to notice. I was rather shocked at how many vaginas there were on the page, though. He should get tinted windows.

I don't mind seeing them, I mean, Georgia O'Keefe comes to mind. However, this particular situation being in a parking lot made me think of the movie Happiness (1988). And so then I felt a little disturbed. If you've seen the movie you understand. If you haven't, well, it is not something you would watch when you want a laugh. Amazing cast, but dear lord the characters are a tribe of filthy souls. A pedophile father being perhaps the filthiest. Vomit.

Moving on, or not... the parking lot was also filled with adorable fat cats. Yes, folks! I saw even more pussies in the parking lot! Imagine that!? One was super friendly. Came trotting over with a jiggling belly and stayed as long as I continued to rub it (Christ! Could this get any easier?). Back in the car, I lamented not having a pet. Standard for me, until I think of the responsibility, cost, etc and figure I am not yet old enough. Oh, and Hiro is totally allergic. *Sigh*

OK, so I think I should stop now cause this is making me think of even more dirty things I could say. Will spare you! I don't apologize for how I think, only for not warning you at the start. :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I have just hung up with my Mash Collaboration Quantitative Methods Course class. You may remember (because, you know, I have so many readers) when I talked about it here.

Well tonight, as our Prof wallowed in our wonderfulness, I almost cried. Well, I had some mascara in my eye, but still, our teacher was so proud of us! More than that though, I am super duper proud of myself for staying the course. Math was never my forte, but perhaps that was just an excuse after all?

Introductory Stats is really not so much math as it is being willing to read, listen and think. Like any kind of learning you just have to put in some effort. Most importantly, though, you have to be willing to ask and help when others are asking. Yes, yes, I am plugging collaboration here. Because it works.

I couldn't have done the study if my wonderful colleagues hadn't been willing to work with me. I couldn't have done the course without the other students whose ideas, shared on our wiki site, turned on more than one proverbial lightbulb in my head. Nor could I have done it without the inspiring and enthusiastic professor Greg Scholdt or Steven Herder, the collaborator of collaborators.

Yes, the people above made it almost easy. Perhaps only 1 of my grey hairs can be attributed to this course. And that would be considered statistically significant if you got a peek under my bangs, people!

So walking away I am reassured of a few things. First that collaboration is the answer to the common person who needs a little external motivation to kickstart their internal motivation device. Second that you don't have to be a math genius (or to have ever gotten above a B-, or was it a C?, in math) to tackle Stats. Third that I may not be as brain dead after 9 p.m. as I thought. And finally, I am reassured that mistakes are what learning is made of, and that seeing shortcomings just shows you that there is more to learn and room to grow.

So go. Go sign up for something that scares you. Seriously. Do it. You may find out you are more of a force to be reckoned with than the thing you were scared of to begin with!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

But Lisa said... would be easier today.

I had a stitch in my side, my lower calf is killing and I hated it. What sucks about it though, is that it was only my second run in 3 weeks and it wasn't very far. 28 minutes today, 15 seconds longer than the other day. Ugh!

But, know what? I did it. I ran through the stitch, my calf and I loved it! What's great about it though, is that it was my second run in 3 weeks and it was further than when I first started. 28 minutes of exercise today, 10 minute stretch that made me feel better than the other day. Yeah!

Friday, December 3, 2010

What am I doing?

I keep asking myself that question. What am I doing?

In my teaching.
In my career.
In my marriage.
In my self care.
In general.

I'll start with the first because it is simple. I am trying to teach less. Listen more. Be in the moment and not necessarily on the page that I wrote before the class. This does not mean I don't have objectives for the class, but I don't have to be rigid in how we get there.

The second? Well, my career is where it is. Some nice things are in the planning stages, and so now I am just considering possibilities. Keeping an open mind is always nice and creating opportunity is perhaps one better.

6 years of marriage. Yeah! 8 years together. Yeah! I am going to continue doing what I have been doing. It's working.

I am still running. Technically I have not been in 2 weeks, but that is NOT going to stop me from continuing. My last run was in gorgeous Gosho in the middle of the city. It's the Central Park of Kyoto, complete with changing leaves and ancient structures. OK, it isn't as big as CP, but man is it a lovely place. Tomorrow I will go along the river.

No more of this busy, busy November attitude. I mean, I still have a lot to accomplish in 2010, but being home on the weekends makes it easier on the week. And in 2 weeks I will be packing for home. Happy moments that include hugging and snuggling, fires, the smell of pine, laughing, joking and helping. I could cry right now thinking about it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A. Little. Bit. More.

Anyone who knows me professionally knows I am not a nighttime thinker. Past 9 p.m. it gets so terribly difficult for me to, um, what's that word? Um, oh, THINK! ;-)

So, I often think "A. Little. Bit. More" towards the end of the 9-10 p.m. Statistics class. Thankfully it all gets recorded so I can go back and watch it all again.

Today, I went running after a 5 day recess. I went my usual route and I kept noting that it didn't seem long. Talk about a switch. I decided to go A. Little. Bit. More. and repeated it in my breathing as I went that extra stretch.

I also noticed a suspicious weird dude on a bike wearing a hat and a black mask. Pulled out my "firefly" just in case and figured that the middle of the day is a perfect time to run on my own. It gets too dark in the winter at night. I need more light. A. Little. Bit. More.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Karen of my Mom

Sis-in-law O' Mine

If crap you have
She has no time.
For hers, is reserved.

Bed sores and stinks,
and meals and brinks
She, a nurse most times.

And when not caring
she works for Sam's
all good marks she gets

I love this woman
for all she does
and so I take this time

thank you so much
and in return,
I'll see you in 55 days!

Yeah, I am not poet, but I hope you understand the message despite! Muah!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Running Update

Last Monday, I went out during the day after I read this blog. I was not feeling like a runner that day, but she was not feeling particularly human and she did that, so with my fanny pack-a-doo I went out to see what would happen. What happened was I broke into 5.16 km with a 10 minute mile pace. Alrighty then.

Then on Wednesday, again feeling a little less than enthused (rare, as Wednesday I am pretty excited for my end of a long day run), I remembered that blog and shed my lame excuses. With Hiro on his bike I decided to do it again. By decide, I mean, I got to the turn around point and said, "Just run home." I always do that, despite knowing that once home I have to keep going in a loop to make the distance. I just can't promise myself I will do it until I am almost home and feel great for having made it that far and think, "What's a little further?" It's just how it is.

That Wednesday my left foot was really hurting about 3/4 of the way in. It still hurt on Thursday, worse than ever before. Truth is, it often bothers me on Wednesday night runs. I think it is because I run after a very long day of being on my feet. I am not sure how to stop it though as it is the perfect running night for me. I am going to see if it continue and figure out what to do then. But, it didn't hurt on Friday and it was surely fine today...

I went out in the afternoon drizzle and this time, I ran past my turn around to make a loop home. I had ridden my bike to the electronics store earlier and realized that the path I usually run comes out on Shin Jujo where the store is. It is slightly hilly, but not so steep I want to die and I figured it would be a nice challenge. Maybe make up for the copious amounts of bread I ate yesterday and the chocolate the day before (Halloween, drat!)? Maybe I wouldn't feel so bad as slight inclines don't bother me any more?

And so I did and fine it was. I just ran along, thinking about things ranging from, "Man, I must look dazed" to "Don't slip on the wet metal grating". I also often thought, "Don't look at your time." And I didn't until I got to the point where I was getting close enough to start thinking about whether I had to loop at the end or not. And then, my iPhone rang. It was Lili! Yeeeeees! I picked up!

"Hey, I am running! I am almost done. Talk while I finish." Piped in through my ear phones I heard all about her smashingly great kids' Halloween party (at which I didn't help but offered to help with prep yesterday and sent an encouraging message about today. Hear my twinge of guilt? Love you, Li!). Got the DL on the woman who is always such a freaking freak (let's call her Late-ka) and pushed myself in at 37:09 for 5.46 km. Li, you really helped me home, babe! And when this woman did her BQ in Germany, she was doing it for me!

So, that's where I am and I like it. Thank goodness for the blogs above! I find such inspiration and recently, when I see other runners who aren't completely kicking my ass (all men!), I think to myself, "Hey, I think I am becoming a runner." At each run's start I might not think I can go longer, but every 2-3 runs I can. And, just to add, I do it while listening to things like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Oh, to think what I used to do when listening to that!


I had a "computers don't make my life easier" week. "Battery, power adaptor, computer? What was the problem," you ask.

I. don't. know. Or I should say, I. did. not. know. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I assumed it was the computer. I swore that with another power adaptor the same thing happened... no juicy juice. I did the only rational thing for someone in a total panic about not being able to do her work and had no time to go aaaaallllll the way to Shinsaibashi to the Apple Store to have it checked would do. I ordered a new computer. And, yeah, I had wanted a new one. 4 years was a good run, warranty was out, and dayum it had become slow. Boop boopy doo!

Monday to Saturday I just waited, ok, no. I hijacked Hiro's computer. Hiro knew, saying, "Go ahead Jian." If you don't know Jian, he is a bully on the kids' program Doraemon who picks on Nobita and the other kids. One of his famous sayings is "My stuff is my stuff and your stuff is my stuff." And so it is with me. Hiro is my Nobita.

I survived the week with out. And then it came! Like a white knight! I embraced it and gently set it down on our green carpet. Swiss army knife out, opening the flaps of the box, pulling her out! What do you think I did next? Turn it on you say? Absolutely... not. I grab the power adaptor to see if I could juice my old one. Was the 140,000 yen I spent for the computer in vain? Absolutely... kind of.

Green light went on and juiced my old girl got! My new girl? On she was turned and soon I could begin the data transfer. Using airport all my info could flow through space to the new computer set just beside. In 20 hours. Heh heh. By the time I went to bed, I was certain I would wake in the morning with just a few hours left. At 6 a.m., I did and only 3 hours separated me and using my new computer. "That's perfect. I'll sleep another 3 hours," I thought. And then I heard the "buh".

"Buh" is never a good sound, is it?! It means a window has popped up to alert you to something. This window was telling me that my computer was no longer on the network. I will take this opportunity to NOT recommend eo Hikari Fiber as an internet provider. For a variety of reasons, none of which I will enumerate at this time (other than the fact that sometimes it just cuts off), we are switching as soon as we can! And with that, my 12 hours of data transfer was cancelled. I was, as you might guess, none too pleased.

Cancel button hit, pillow over head, I still slept until 9. Then I rolled over and called Apple. No English help today, well, fuck it, I haven't lived in this country for 11 years to not be able to get a handle on this in Japanese and so I hit 4 then 2 and was connected to my helpful technical support person. I would say introduced to, as all phone calls to service centers start with self introductions, but we had no time for that as I had to first apologize for my shitty Japanese and ask for his patience as I "ganbaru" and do my best. Half way though he admitted he really thought I was going to be shitty but you know, I am not, and he was well relieved and happy to say how crap his English is. I reassured him that if it were the U.S. I could understand his disappointment, but um, we live in Japan, Buddy. It's perfectly fine that you can't help me in my L1. Next step, "you need to buy a LAN cable." No, a firewire cable.

Hopped on my bike, wait no, nothing is ever smooth. Climbed back up to get the bicycle pump, pumped it up and then I hopped on. I got all the green lights (Yes!), found my helpful store rep and asked for a firewire cable. "A what? Do you mean LAN cable?" I had no idea, I just knew I was told to get a firewire 400 6 pin 800 9 pin cable. Puzzling. "Let me call Apple," I said. Lo and behold a mistake was made and all I needed was a LAN cable. Yatta! 390 yen later I was back on my bike and home in 10 minutes.

Up, up, in. Sit, call, connect, start the process. No. Stop. Hang up. Update. Make rice. Call back. Try again. No. LAN won't work. WTF!? Who did I wrong recently? Why did they choose now to play their voodoo? I am pretty sure I let the old lady have my seat on the train this week and I didn't punch any children. Oh, I know what I did. I was late and left colleagues waiting. Damn you karma! Shaking my fist, I listened as the 4th or was it 5th technical support person tell me I was out of "easy" options. Easy my big ole white arse!

Out came the EX HD and we began to manually transfer things. Hung up while it got transferred, called back when it was time to put it all on the new computer and voila, 6th or 8th person could finally wrap up my service number. Customer 1816757696 (yes, I memorized it, that's how many times I repeated it with each call back) was DONE!

What next? Skype! That would be easy. Just download and be done. But, why would it be easy? No, Skype wanted to be an ass hat, too. So for a while it was. Until it wasn't. And I was more than ready to take whatever voodoo might have been left on the road and sublimate my pent up ugly into a run. And so I did.

So computer issues, you've been served. I know you will make me think you make my life easier for a while. And you do. But weeks like this, you really don't and like with anything, I am willing to accept that you have to take the good with the bad and in the end, as long as the good (in this case easy) makes me a winner most of the time, I will go forth and still proclaim that I love MacBooks, Apple support, and myself for not exploding on anyone and doing all of this in Japanese. That's right bitches, I got a new computer and even more confidence in myself as a grown-up who can handle a situation maturely and in another language. Me: 1, All the other stuff: 0

Friday, October 15, 2010

Proud Hiro Keep on Rollin'

My cold is gone and really I have my husband to thank. He insisted I go to the Dr. immediately, instead of waiting it out and spiraling into a snotty, black hole with no voice. By Monday I felt normal-ish and went about my shopping, cleaning and cooking routine. Tuesday I worked out after work and that was that as far as any health concerns went.

Wednesday I had one of my best runs, only to be topped tonight. I am still running just 4.87 km at a 10 minute mile pace, but I expect I can get up to 5 km soon. I certainly am a day/night runner, not a morning runner. Mornings I am mentally on the ball, but physically not so much. And again, I must thank my hubby for riding along with me, warming dinner while I am stretching and showering and then doing the dishes. Overall, he is really a helpful man!

I think I am lucky in that our division of labor is pretty even when balanced out with our work schedules. He does the stuff I hate: dishes, bathrooms and showers and I do the stuff I like: cooking, vacuuming (I love that the most because a clean floor is like a clean soul, IMHO) and laundry. Ok, I hate laundry, but I like it more than smelling like sh*t, so I can deal. Plus I absolutely hate how Hiro hangs up wet clothing. There, I said it.

Anywho, I feel grateful for Hiro. He often says he is proud of himself for marrying me. Funny way to put it, but I get it. I married someone nicer than I am, so I guess I can feel proud I spotted that in him and knew not to let him go. No one is perfect and I'll take him being nice over, I dunno', someone with clothes hanging skills.

Thanks, Hiro!

PS- While I cooked all of this, Hiro put it together so nicely! Miso soup with loads o' stuff (cabbage, sticky potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, daikon, tofu, fried tofu, and a little pork), calcium-in-your-face hijiki (sea vegetable) with little fish, carrot and shirataki and finally, the terribly out of place but oh so delicious Mediterranean Chicken Apricot Burgers (again) on baby leaf.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Alas! Alack! I. am. sick.

Yes. A cold I have.
Annoying, inconvenient
and yet,
a chance to sleep.

Without further adieu,
I bid you all goodnight
at 9:51 a.m.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yes. I Am Serious!

So tonight, I got home from my longest day of the week and decided I would feel better if I went for a run. However, with the rapist on the loose in our area and the recent, random stabbing death of a young man in Osaka, I don't feel so keen to run at night. As luck would have it, Hiro was home before me. So, he strapped on his head lamp, hopped on his bike, and rode with me all 4.88 km.

I ran the same route as I did on Monday and while the distance is the longest I have run (possibly ever), they have been some of the easiest. I was trying to think about why and I remember distinctly on Monday putting my iPhone/pod/timer in my f*ckin'-sexy-pink fanny pack and saying who cares about your time, just run.

That day, I went a little further and when I got to the point to turn around I felt I could keep going. I decided to go back and then run past home if I was still up for it. I know that if I go too far away I feel panicky, thinking I will never make it back. I kept focus on my breathing and thought (for the first time!), "Wow, I just have to run back." It was wonderful.

What felt equally great was that there was a slightly cool rain falling, which kept me chilled out. I didn't get too hot despite it being the middle of the day. I was relived I went then, as it got sunnier on the way back and continued to get warmer as the day progressed.

Anyway, I just stayed calm, in control of my breathing, and when I got home I decided I could go a bit further. So I kept trotting for a little and ended up with 4.88 km at 35 minutes! Very satisfying indeed. But, could I actually repeat that performance 2 days later, at night, before dinner, after a long day? Apparently, I can.

As we set out, I reminded myself of what worked so well on Monday: don't think of my time and just run along. I felt totally at ease with my capable hubby and just in case I had my weapon (or as everyone but my hubby calls it, a stun gun). I thanked Hiro once along the way and he said, "You are really serious." For a moment I thought of him imagining me stopping and starting, perhaps picking flowers along the way. "Yes, I am serious," I said. He thought I had a good pace and I felt proud of myself.

My ending time was again 35 minutes and while physically I am getting stronger (those little inclines don't even phase me anymore), I think mentally it is such a hard game, but I am finding ways to win. Added to my breathing, I have to remember not to think about my time and to go at unstressful hours or with people who keep me at ease. Not always possible, but perhaps my ideal.

On a comedic note, I just want to clarify that while my running pants are getting looser, my sports bra is not. Such a relief that would be for one of my 3rd grade boys who said in class today that if we were boxing, my breasts would be perfect to practice rapid punches on. (After he said it the class went silent and he turned so red. He knew immediately he was WRONG in so many ways for having said that thought out loud!) And while we are on the subject, I can audibly hear a few of my 6th grade boys breathing a sigh of relief. Yesterday, I caught two of them looking straight at 'em when one turned to the other and said "bigger". Hey, at least I know all the comparatives work we've been doing in class isn't getting past them! Yes. I am serious!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tis the season... be busy, falalalalalala lalalalala.

Yes, November is fast approaching which means not only is the JALT National Conference on the horizon, but the ETJ Teaching EXPO as well. That means I will be pulling out my presenter hat, followed by my volunteer gloves. It is a super stimulating time of year. Networking with lots of colleagues, socializing with people I don't see but once or maybe twice a year, it just all creates this buzz of professional love and the ideas just come overflowing.

So, between now and then it is time to see friends I haven't seen since before summer and won't until before next summer. Mix that with children's Halloween festivities and let's just call Fall the prelude to feet-never-hit-the-ground-Spring. And...

I decided to add to my Fall basket a Quantitative Method's Course (aka Stats) that will run from October to December. Crazy? Of course! Totally awesome? Oh, hell yeah! Super excited, but super nervous. I can barely balance fractions, so to say this is terrifying would be true. But life is short, so I'll make the best of a scary situation and hopefully come out of it with a keen eye like a proper research cutie pie.

And on the running front... Friday's morning run was a damned shame. Tummy was weird, stressed about time as I had to be back by a certain time and it was a hottish morning. Grr. Hoped to make today better but the rain came, so I just did some yoga and pilates. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The day finally arrived for Hiro, I and so many of our good friends here in Kyoto to celebrate the marriage of our dear friends Eri and Bill. To say it was emotional, perfectly them and a great party would be... just about the best way for me to sum up how I felt!
(Love how they are looking at each other :-)

At the wedding Eri thanked our friend James from Oz because it was at his going away party that they met. Tearfully she said, "If it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't have gotten married." Come to think of it, if it wasn't for him, our group wouldn't be what it is today. That was the night when we met Bill, too! Well, to me he was "leather jacket guy" because I never caught his name, just, apparently, his attire.
(Looking very dapper here and might I add that the way Eri is standing is very, very Eri! So cute!)

My heart strings got tugged and it really got me thinking that if it wasn't for Chuck and Nadine we would not have the support and love of several friends who we cherish so much. I can also say that many of these people are why we came to Kyoto, too.

I see Eri and Bill's wedding as a celebration for everyone in our fun group. What a symbol of the love I think we have among us. And Bill, I, too, am so glad that we are friends who aren't going to leave.

A final shot and a cheers to our Dear Friends! You got us for the long-run!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Recently, while talking with my girl, Li, I somehow signed up for my first 5K race... in January. It will be cold and I don't know what the ef I was thinking when I thought my first race should be at the coldest time of year. Two days after signing up and paying my money, I hear it is not only going ot be cold, but it will be a very cold year. You know, to balance the hottest summer in over 100 years. Great.

Reading Murakami's book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I am often making analogies to things in my life, and sometimes, though less often, relating to him as a runner. I am not what he would consider a serious runner, though I don't think I am the person he (and I am paraphrasing) might identify as someone whose doctor just told them they are heading down Heart Attack Lane, either.

I certainly can relate to his emphasis on keeping his breathing in check. It is all I can focus on when I am getting discouraged. It is all I focus on when I first get going. I know if I get too winded the whole run will become an excruciating mess and I will hate it. So, I spend a good amount of time thinking on that.

I also relate to how he says that he doesn't think of anything in particular or how he may take something bad that has happened to him and channel it into his running. By taking that pent up disappointment, frustration or anger and putting it into something cathartic, that leaves him stronger and better in the end, he doesn't let the negative get him down. After reading that, I notice I can use running in a similar way. I may think about things while running but not deeply. Instead, like I am putting them in a box and running on them. I come out better and in spite of the negativity that would otherwise suck me in, wasting my time.

I sprint at the end to tell my muscles I expect more, even though at the end I am most tired. I feel happy when it is over. I have not yet felt I could have run more. No, I am usually ready to stop. When I do feel I can run more is when I hit the half way point. That's good only because I can then push my half way further and so little by little increase my distance. I am now at 4.2 km. That's 4 km more than 2 months ago when I started running up a hill at the end of my walk.

So, while I am relating to some things, finding how I can frame other things, and learning about myself as a runner, I also found an apropos comparison to his running post-completion of an unltramarathon (running 62 miles in a day) and my teaching post MA.

He writes (And I am not paraphrasing, because he is just such an acute writer),
"At this point, a new feeling started to well up in me -- nothing as profound as a feeling of pride, but at least a certain sense of completion. A personal feeling of happiness and relief that I had accepted something risky and still had the strength to endure it. In this instance, relief outweighed happiness. It was like a tight knot inside me was gradually loosening, a knot I'd never even realized, until then, was there.

...Still the most significant fall out from running the ultramarathon wasn't physical but mental. What I ended up with was a sense of lethargy, and before I knew it, I felt covered in a film, something I have since dubbed runner's blues... I lost the enthusiasm I always had for the act of running itself... it's as if loosening that knot I'd never noticed before slackened my interest along with it. It wasn't just that my desire to run had decreased. At the same time I had lost something, something new had also taken root deep within me as a runner. And most likely this process of one thing existing while another comes in had produced this unfamiliar runner's blues.

And what about this new thing inside me? I can't find the exact words to describe it, but it might be something close to resignation... somewhere after the 47th mile, my mind went into a blank state you might even call philosophical or religious. Something urged me to become more introspective, and this new found introspection transformed my attitude toward the act of running. "

Murakami continued doing his yearly marathon and eventually he came out of his blues, which is where I think I am now, 2 years after finishing my degree. It is as if, for me, the introspection that came along with the reading, reflecting, analyzing and writing for 2 intense years left me untied, no longer so fiercely knotted to what teaching had meant to me before, but not yet anchored in what teaching meant to me after. As if after, I was still trying to figure who I, Catherine-as-teacher, was in light of all that I had learned and what teaching should be in light of my context. My MA was not something that left me definitive about anything (unlike some of my counterparts, who I so envy), except perhaps that I had to change, question and constantly strive to go beyond my status quo. Yet, I was so philosophical about it, I think I had checked reality at the door a bit and was just coasting along for about a year and a half.

This is not to say I wasn't a better teacher. I believe I was and I think those who knew me before would say so. However, I don't think I had the same drive. Maybe because the road looked so different that I didn't know where I was going. Maybe because I saw SO MANY signs that I had to stop all the time to think about them and it slowed me down. I wasn't the bullet train who just blew through the classroom with my atmosphere, but instead I was the slow train, with big windows for seeing out while also catching my own reflection.

This year has been one of my best, I now think. I am not tired anymore and I have the challenge of 5th and 6th grade, which I didn't have last year. My MA, while it may have unknotted me, it also got me doing a project that revealed how I could do better. It also got me connected to people who could help me see deeper and now I feel that euphoria again.

Like Murakami, running no longer became the point of his life as teaching was no longer the point of mine. While it is a crucial point, I see life more like a star now, with things like cooking, running (the newest), family life (both in Japan and America) and I hope someday parenthood on the different ends. Like I am brighter now, perhaps because I can reflect more as I take in energy from a multitude of sources. No longer is a bad teaching day a bad me day. I'll come home and make a fabulous loaf of bread, run a little further and know I have more people and resources to rely on to fix the issue. Or perhaps, I can fix it myself, recognizing that I am stronger, in many ways, than I was before.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Magnificent weather, friends, views and, of course, the river. This trip to Eigenji was one of my favorites. 10 people stayed over night and the laughter was one of the best parts. Like anyone, I love laughing, but what I really mean here is the way some people's laughter sounds! I was with people who had unbridled, affected and just plain charming laughter. One, my dear old friend, has a laugh that could rival Goofy's. Li and I were waiting on the edge of our seats for something to strike his funny bone just right, so his normal laugh would go Goofy and finally, it did! Twice. I nearly pissed myself when I looked at Li. The other was Mari, whose strong laugh commanded attention and made us laugh even harder. It is an "I-don't-give-an-ef-what-you-think-cause-that-is-funny" laugh. Which means it was loud and done without covering her mouth. She is now one of my favorite people.

We arrived around 3 after visiting grandma in the hospital. She is about the size of a chimpanzee to begin with, but prior to the month in the hospital, she was also nearly as strong. Now, I think her strength rates somewhere around an active 70 year old. Problem is, compared to a chimp, that is a step back. She is quite worried about having lost her 93 year old muscle mass and does her best to get around with the tubes in. We are hoping she will be out next week.

Li had arrived already with Mashi and were trying to decide which spots to take. Our perfect place from last year was occupied, the owner having mistaken where we had requested. In the end it was perfect. Our living/dining area was shaded and right next to the river sink, and the slope down to the river was just on the right. At the bottom, a small sandy spot led us into the cool water where fish and turtles were caught by our small campers, Sara and Rin.

You may notice I don't have pictures. I think I have become a total slog when it comes to snapping shots recently. I hardly took any when I was home either. I find it cumbersome to always have a camera and I forget my phone is one.

Speaking of phones, I had reception out there, which was impressive as Softbank (the iPhone carrier) has notoriously bad service. Maybe it has improved? I used it only once in 24 hours; for music when I did a run the first afternoon. 32 minutes and a lot of uphill! I didn't even stretch but jumped right into the cold river, floating down stream without a care in the world. Lisa said to wait until I get runner's euphoria. Then I will really wonder what worldly cares are or perhaps ever were! Sounds like taking drugs!

Unable to keep my eyes open further I will sign off. But, I want to report that I am running over 4 km now, and my love for camping, nature and friends runs deeper than 4 days ago. I am grateful for the blessings in my life and I hope I can always sustain these bonds and see the good through it all, enjoying laughter all along the way.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In case you were wondering...

...what rice looks like when forgotten in the rice cooker for several hot days. To be fair, the rice didn't change, but the cooker was the perfect host for this web of mold. It made a perfect cloud like nest, resembling cotton or the womb of tent caterpillars. Hungry?

...I am thinking I should share recipes which I get from popular cooking magazines, but translate them into English and add my touch.

...I can now run 3.5ish km. Before, if I said 3.8, I was mistaken. I take it back. Might get there tomorrow though as 3.5 is getting easier.

...We will be camping for 3 days with our friends. There we were last year. One of my favorite 3 day weekends of the year!

And finally... the cool Autumn air has come to us, bringing rain and breezes to a very parched populace. The plants probably don't mind either.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stream of Conscience

Finally cooling off, though the days remind you of their noontime heat by leaving a good sticky layer behind upon retreat.

Running: check. 3-4 times a week. Up to 3.5 km or 2.2 miles. Nothing short of a miracle for me. No feeling like I want to stop, so that's cool. Saw a foreign guy yesterday when I was out. We acknowledged each others existence, which all too often is ignored.

I see the "say 'Hi' or say nothing coin" from different sides: I don't acknowledge all the Japanese people I see, so why should I acknowledge every foreign person I see? This is just my life. If we are both shopping, we are simply doing what normal people do and there is no reason to do anything other than go about our business. I also sometimes get the feeling that by acknowledging another foreigner, who is, let's say, doing their grocery shopping in the same store, that their experience in this foreign land is being watered down. Like seeing another foreigner breaks us from some state of feeling like we are the sole "other" in Japan and by another "other" being there that a sense of this country's foreignness is diluted. Personally, I think I could just give an ef most of the time cause I am thinking about other stuff, like what to cook for dinner, what something that happened in class that day meant or what I'll wear the next day. I'll keep working on this idea.

John, my sis-in-law's nephew, just left for Tokyo for his 1 year study abroad. We had him for 4 days and it was nice. He's a good kid. Said thank you, tried and asked later, never complained. Next time I will know to serve more meat. I forget how important meat is to most people. I eat it in any quantity and the next day I am guaranteed to have issues. It's just how it is and I don't know why. I can live without it.

Sunday should be fun with a brilliant speaker coming to talk at out ETJ meeting. Kim Horne will go down in history over here. She's a powerhouse and so creative. Love. her. Love many of the people who come to see her, too. Really going to be a great day. Which reminds me that I better start getting ready for my November presentation at JALT. "Operation no procrastination" is in effect. Thankfully, I am co-presenting and my partner is really a great can-do person. So, I think we should be fine and in plenty of time!

I gave my little guy students their accomplishment certificates today and the joy! Oh boy, to be 3 and get a certificate and a badge on your bag! Hot damn! Then to have Mommy smiling with pride at ya'! Double hot damn! I'd take that over paying bills any day! No, I really would love to see my Mom's face as I get a certificate again. She was always so proud of me.

Speaking of Mom, she came out of her shell one day a few weeks ago. It was insane! I'd not heard her talk that much in over 2 1/2 years! It was like her old self just popped out where she left off for a brief moment. She spoke about things she saw on TV, things she saw back then as if they were today. She acknowledged how scary it is that she can't remember things and she said, "You know, I can't walk anymore. I can't drive either," as if her old self was meeting her current self. I've heard of bad trips, but to see someone having one is almost as painful. I cried after we hung up and shook my head at the fucking weirdness of Alzheimer's. At least she remembers me, even if she doesn't remember that I was just there for a month.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hotter 'an H-E- doubles hockey sticks!

If only it were a cold as a hockey rink... but I'd complain about that, too. It is my third day with no AC. Working at home while sitting in my own sweat is just... well, I keep thinking that it is good for my skin. A cold shower at the end of the day is the liquid form of heaven. Amen!

Hiro is working everyday, but it was slow on Saturday and Sunday, so we went off in search of an AC on Saturday, right about the time that I have to do something less I succumb to the jet lag. They say it is easier traveling home and I think they say it because it is true. I've had no real problem, minus the first day when I headed into class looking like a zombie. 10 minutes in and it was like it never happened. So much for that.

I've managed to do all the laundry and tonight made a Japanese-Italian fusion dinner that included zucchini multigrain rice with garlic and parmesan, hijiki pepperochini, and sliced tomatoes with garden picked basil, fresh mozzarella, sprinkled with S&P and drizzled with olive oil. Scrumptious!

Speaking of food, I miss the humus of home. And I also miss making homemade granola. So nice when it is warm out of the oven and great with Chobani greek yogurt in the morning or as an afternoon snack. Sigh. Will be home again in 4 months and what do I have to moan about really when fall in Japan offers some seriously delish produce (Hello, pumpkin!) (Nice to see you again persimmons!). Yup, my NHK "kyo no gohan" (Tonight's Dinner) is all marked with the recipes I want to try.

Otherwise, I am back to running but still doing aerobics. PA was the perfect temp for running and the scenery was so nice I wanted to be outside in it. So, I started walking, which turned into walk-running. PA is shaped like a western woman, rolling hills in all the right places, so I got used to running on inclines of different degrees and it has made running on flat land here simple. So, we'll see if I keep it up or throw my hands up and say, "Kathy Smith, take me away!"

Friday, April 9, 2010

I like to jump

I got a call last night and one friend is already out of the race. I loved his thinking, too. It was so honest and well, true to himself. He said that for him running is such a personal thing and he worries that a race will change that for him. I said that I didn't see it as a true race, to which he retorted, "Have you seen me play Pictionary?" I have...

...and now you have! So, I really understand what he meant.

Funnily, I have a similar face when playing games and I guess I thought the race would motivate me to get my ass in running gear. So while it did for like 2 weeks at a time, it always staled when the reality hit me that I like to jump, not run. I like leotarded women to say thing to me like, "1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Once more! You got it! Push it now!" I am and forever will be a cheerleader and aerobics is the closest I get to that nowadays. And that is fine. I don't need bows and pleated skirts, but I do need the jumping and clapping. Go Team Me!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Race?

Workout: 30 minutes of aerobics
Feeling: Spaced
Dessert: a clean house and laundry done

Well, the running has halted. And I don't care anymore. I am not going to freak out about it. I mean, this is how it is. Hiro's allergies flared up and I just said NEVERMIND! So, I am doing aerobics, 3-4 times a week and that's that. It's what I do, what I like the most, and so I do it instead of run.

Does this mean I will never run again? No. I still have the 18th to contend with, but no one seems to know what is happening with it. So, we'll see if it is actually on. One friend said we should do our own thing. Interesting idea, but I like that it is for a cause. Anyway, I am still exercising. So, maybe I will be OK? Just glad to know I am still on the wagon, even if I am not running on the wagon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

We did a little extra

Workout: Wk2D2+5 minute more, 10 minutes stretching
Feeling: Great!
Dessert: Hubby is cooking dinner!

I thought on D1 we did 5 minutes less than we should have, so I taked on 5 more minutes by mistake. What's great is that we felt great at the end, put our hands together in thanks, and held hands during the cool down walk. I was quite sore after the other day, maybe more the yoga after than anything, but we took 3 days off in between, mostly because of Hiro's late returns each night. No complaints because tonight was brilliant, and well, we plan to go again tomorrow. He gets home earlier and we want to stay on track with the training. I skipped yoga today so I wouldn't feel so sore. We'll see how it goes.

I see runners now and I don't think, man, they are crazy. I think, man, they are cool and they make it look so easy. So maybe one day it will be easier? Maybe more days will be like tonight, when I forget to look at the clock to see if I can walk yet, or pick up the pace on the last leg, like an olympic jumper who springs like a gazelle before leaping into the sand pit. Well, maybe not so sprightly, but that's how I look in my head: healthy, full of tenacity, determined to get further than the last time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How time flies...

I spent five weeks thinking about writing this post, so here it goes!  Five weeks ago I did the splits, first time since high school. I   graduated in 1996. OUCH! I should also mention for your laughing   pleasure that this painful event didn't happen in the privacy of my   home or because I was trying to make my husband randy. No. It happened   on an icy main road, while in the middle ( as in dead center) of a   cross walk, while wearing a skirt. Yes, Kyoto traffic has been   personally introduced to my stockinged bits. You're welcome! 

My body  hurt so bad that walking sent pangs into my knees and ankles, muting   my hurting ego, slightly. So, take some time off, fine, had   carpenters and contractors at our place every night anyway asking us   what flooring, wall paper, etc we wanted. No running.  And then Saturday came and I thought, "Gee, my throat sure does feel   scratchy and boy, I don't feel at all up to the long awaited girls'   night tonight." I love a good party, so that was all I needed to   realize that I was sick! And by sick, I mean it took 2 weeks to get better.   No voice, achy, and just generally felt miserable! No fever, which I   just never seem to get and I am convinced therefore that everything   takes longer to go away.

Then, we moved! All 3 tons of our stuff was carried down one flight into a truck, driven a mile, and then loaded into an elevator until finally being carried down one flight and into our shiny new place. How those young bucs managed to carry al 3 tons, well, I dunno'. Wait, yes, I do! They were mega young. But very good at their job .The leader was so cute telling his younger counterpart how to move this and that so no scratches would be left. Good kids, I'd say. THough, if they had been my students, I am pretty sure they would have been the ones who were staring out the windows...

So, here I am, 5 weeks later and we have just done, wait for it...

Wk2D1. Terrbly behind, but at least we are on the running wagon! Doubt we can do 6 K in the race, but I will be thrilled to run 3 and walk the other 3. That's life, you know, do what you can. Hope is not gone and I got my health!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remember this feeling

Workout: W2D3, 15 minutes yoga and stretching
Feeling: Great, but getting nervous as the runs will get longer next time
Dessert: Husband is cooking tonight's meal

Off we went in a different direction. We went in search of a route from our new home! We'll be moving in a month to our 4 bedroom mansion (that's a condo in the U.S.). It's only a 3 minute walk from the subway station, 1 stop from JR, and down the road from the highway entrance. It's soon to be renovated and with keys in hand as of yesterday I am psyched to go take the "before" shots! The outside is freshly painted and I felt very lucky when I saw it from the backside as we approached down Gojo Dori.

Now I feel even luckier, because we discovered that it is very close to our river side path. We can easily take back roads with little traffic (aka fuming exhaust pipes) and arrive at the river in about 3 minutes, or 2 once we are running the whole thing. We went and returned maintaining a very nice pace. Our best pace to date. I take my slightly queezy feeling and most gazelle like gait as evidence that we are improving our stride. Makes me think we may be OK next week when we begin the next phase.

I do feel it was a little harder this week, but only ever so slightly. Like if I were to measure it, I would say it was 1/8 of an inch harder. I suppose next week will be more challenging, but if I can remember how I feel right now... I am stronger doing downward dog into a yogi push-up and upward bend then back up to downward dog, I have more energy for life, I am sleeping like a downward dog, and while the scale shows only slight improvement, my clothes, I think, look better on and off.

The biggest challenge will be remembering these great things as the weeks get harder. We already know we can do this. People twice our age do it. So why we do it is more important to recall... remember this feeling!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Come rain or come shine...

Workout: W2D2, 20 minutes yoga and stretching
Feeling: Damn good
Dessert: This post (I waited until I finished writing to add this)

I was totally anticipating running tonight, like a kid waiting for the 3 o'clock bell to ring so she can go home and play. Except, when I exited the train station it was raining. Hiro came to get me and I said, "Well, we can go anyway!" "He laughed while munching on potato sticks. I got all cross and started to proclaim how committed I am to this program, and getting back into shape. He kept munching and laughing. Oh the annoyance!

I told him that I was disappointed in his laughing and that we were both teetering on being beyond unhealthy and into fatty fatville. Truth is, he doesn't look it with clothes on, and even with clothes off he can pass for having a semi-flat spare tire. I probably look "healthy" in the US, but here, I am a cottage cheese mess, a blob of cream cheese in a plastic tube, synched at both ends by a thick chain link fence type metal. A sausage, if you will. I spouted and as I did the sky stopped.

We got out of the car, came in, changed and off we went. It was unusually warm today and tonight was no exception. I threw on a baseball cap, as opposed to my fleece lined wooly, and left the long johns in the drawer. The smell of wet pavement, the rushing river, and a quicker pace with Hiro really kept me going. We went faster than when I went alone, measured by the slightly longer distance we covered in the same time. I guess D2 isn't proving the hardest. Then again, W1 and W2 aren't really hard.

I have one more day left and I am already thinking about when I'll go... Friday a.m. perhaps, or maybe evening before we go to help Hiro's family. They have a 70 bento (lunch box) order for Saturday and we are both off. I could use the day to work on consulting stuff, but they have helped us innumerable times. They help just because. They've contributed funds to us along the way "just because", picked me up at the station and drove me home endless times when we lived down the road from them, paid for things for MY MOTHER, and have been extremely understanding about my pursuit of an MA and career. Plus, his 93 year old grandma, who still works and cooks dinner everyday, is an inspiration to me so much so that by just being around her I feel like I am standing next to history.

Anywho, I look forward to the next post, simply because I will have completed W2 then and will be slightly nervous as I anticipate W3D1.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I looked forward to it...

Workout: Week 2, Day 1. 90 seconds running, 120 walking alternate 6 times. 15 minutes yoga and stetching
Feeling: Really good
Dessert: I saw a muscrat

So today I headed out alone. I was listening to one of my favorite comedians and just soaking in the atmosphere of our little walking path. We always go at night, but during the day there is a whole walking path world out there. People with HUGE cameras taking pictures of tiny birds, tennis players, a unicyclist, runners, walkers, bikers, etc all enjoying our the outdoors. Not to mention the river life: carp, egrets, and my favorite a muskrat! I have yet to see one in Japan, so that was a highlight.

Hiro's knee has been bothering him, so I went it alone, but I am happy to say that he is just taking a break because he agreed to join me in a 6 K run in April. My girlfriend is joining us, and then we are all joining another friend. So, I am quite exited, albeit nervous already! It will be my first race and we just began running.

Well, I think this is what it is all about anyway. I like to have have goals, and that 5K isn't just a number to make myself feel good. In fact, as the race reminds us, it is less than the distance that people all around the world have to walk to get water. So, the race is in honor of those people and will feature water education events, along with live music and of course the run. See here...

So, I have a ways to go, but the feeling that I wanted to go running today, even alone, was encouraging.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gas? Boo!

Workout: Couch to 5K week 1, run 2+3, 15 minutes yoga and stretching
Feeling: Better than Wednesday, MUCH better than Sunday
Dessert: Feeling better than Wednesday

Wednesdays I teach until 8 and get home around 8:45, so I eat a light lunch then snack on nuts, fruit, crackers, cheese, greens, etc until I go to my first class at 5:15. I eat enough that I feel full until the next morning when I wake hungry and ready for a nice breaky. Wednesday came, except when I was slurping my tea during class, I think I slurped in a lot of air, which led to terrible discomfort.

Usually I would take my unrivaled belly-ouch-killer, akadama (red beads: natural medicine that literally clears you up in minutes), but being the curious Cat I decided to see if running clears up tummy bubbles, or in this case an ever expanding balloon! My experiment ended badly. My tummy felt hard, and crooked. I didn't even stretch. I went for the red wonders, swallowed and then prayed. Prayers almost completely answered I shower and slept.

Tonight, on the other hand, my legs felt powerful and our pace was brilliant! I felt like I was running faster, harder, better. The running made me feel a little icky towards the last seconds, but when the walk portion came I recovered and could push a little harder during the next running span. Hiro seemed to think nothing was different, other than that he ate less dinner so felt lighter. I kept asking, "How do you feel?" as if his answer would change and he would say he felt as good as I did. I think I wanted him to, but, well, he is not me.

(An aside: This is a good New Year's Resolution for me... remember that your husband is not you! If he wants to make pancakes after running and eat them, that's his choice. You ate chocolate today. If he doesn't want to stretch for 15 minutes, fine. Stick to what you want, your path; let him stick to what he wants and his path.)

Anyway, we go up in running v walking time next week. I am ready for it. I like the gradual pace of this program. I am not too sore or tired. If anything I feel good and have more energy. All common sense stuff when you exercise, but having been on the couch for so long I almost feel like you might when you rediscover the slide or see-saw in the park. You know you could still do it and that it's always there, but you forgot how fun it was and "adult" stuff just seems more important. Rubbish that; I like the see-saw!

Running tip: Add Stevie Wonder "Part-time Lover" to your playlist.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Couch to 5K

Workout: 5 minutes brisk walk, 20 minutes run/walk with intervals of 1 minute running and 1 1/2 minutes walking.
After: yoga 10 minutes
Feeling: Good
Dessert: Watched "The Blind Side"

This workout seems so much more doable than ones we have done before. We tried the Hal Higgins 30/30 one, but it required doing it everyday and neither of us could keep up with that due to our work schedules. This one requires only a 25 minute commitment 3 days a week. Very doable!

After 3 months I should be able to run for 30 minutes. Also seems like a doable goal, and not one where I injure myself. I have a tendency to do much from the stat, instead of working up slowly. This work out does just that. So, I am hopeful!

I read Murakami's book, Why I Run and while reading the blog of a friend's sister-in-law, who is an avid runner, I felt this sense of I can do this. Simply, if I choose to, then I will. Murakami talks about it just being one more thing he does during his day, like brushing his teeth. It is routine. I remember when my life with exercise was like that. I enjoyed it and it was just what I did. Everyday. Somehow it became a did and not a do. Well, thank goodness I can choose.

Monday, I will do pilates. Tuesday, I choose to run.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vacation Exercise

Well, California was glorious! Long walks everyday, a yoga class, and then... I got sick. Everything stopped dead in it's tracks. Ah, hell!

Well, then we went to PA. Soooooooooo cold! Second day Hiro and I braved the bitterness of Mother Nature and took a long walk through the neighborhoods of Norman Rockwell. It was so nice to see the old houses. Felt like I stepped back in time. Nice walking back up the hill, too.

Did the treadmill and some yoga on my second to last day, and other than that bathed Mom, changed her, etc, which is a mini workout.

So, looks like I got some work to do now that I am home. Just glad I am no longer sick and have discovered that even a little yoga can go a long way.

Happy New Year!