Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More bits and pieces

Not much to report on today.

Leiya has been down in the dumps about summer homework and options for college. She's going to be taking college preparation courses yet she is just plodding through the reading she needs to be doing. I pointed out that if she can't get the pre-college work done she'll really have problems when she gets there! Too much summer vacation!

Takumi advises her about schools one way. "Stay in Ohio. You've got residency there. It costs too much for you to come to school in California. It doesn't matter what you major in."

I tell her something else. "If you want to be in California or somewhere else you should be looking at colleges out here. We'll worry about money later."

And of course Tetsu was giving her other advice when she saw him. "Finish all your schooling in America and then decide what you want to do."

I gather that Leiya's family in Ohio has given her advice too "Art is not really too practical."

Marcy gives advice "Major in what you like (art) and maybe you can get a scholarship."

A college student friend advises "Go in as undeclared and you can worry about your future later."

I guess Takumi's advice broke the camel's back and she ended up in tears yesterday.

Ok. Enough of that. Here are some odds and ends pictures of things I find interesting in the neighborhood.

On my morning walk I go past the elementary school. I think California schools are different (at least from Japanese schools) because they are spread out in little separate buildings instead of a big two or three story building. This school is arranged in a semi-circle. I thought the Tobacco Free sign was interesting. The school also pulls the deaf-education children in the community and they have a special program in some of the rooms so that's why these signs are posted near the school.

Another sign that I pass daily is this street sign. I guess the street was named for a police officer who died on duty though I don't know if he lived there or what. I just thought it was a very moving thing for someone to do in memory of him.

As I went down one of the residential streets I noticed this hand-written sign and the pretty little garden. (There were actually two rose gardens with the same little sign.) The roses were past their prime but I can imagine that the owner tends to her garden carefully. I wondered if she had had problems with people stealing her roses and decided that this was a friendly way to suggest that people only take one rose, or if she is just a very generous gardener. Notice the clippers that hang on the sign too.

This isn't a sign but yesterday when I went to pick up the mail I noticed two dog biscuits inside the mailbox along with the mail. Even though the mail-lady doesn't have contact with my brother's two dogs, she occasionally leaves them dog treats. Again, I wondered if she keeps dog treats handy because she has trouble with aggressive dogs at some houses or if she is just a dog lover and likes to give out treats to the dogs on her route.

A cheery little small town neighborhood. Not a lot going on.

Monday, July 30, 2007


How about a little family history...

My mom is 85 and is a second generation Japanese-American which means her parents immigrated from Japan to America. My mother was born and raised in Indiana and the first time she visited Japan was when she was in her 40's.

For the first 5 years of my mother's life her parents spoke to each other and occasionally to her in Japanese but somewhere about the time my mom entered school they switched completely to English and she never was exposed to the Japanese language again.

It was very interesting then, when I went to Japan and my mom visited me, to find that she could understand a lot more Japanese than she realized and a couple of years later when I married Tetsu to discover that she could actually communicate with him! Granted, it was quite childish Japanese, but she pulled all sorts of words and phrases from her head and they could talk to each other. For the past 30 years, (while I've lived in Japan) Mom's Japanese has served her well whenever my non-English speaking husband will make a visit to the States. I used to tease Tetsu and say, "why do you make my poor mother use her head to communicate with you but you never try to learn English?" That's the way it is and neither of them seems to mind.

A couple of days ago Tetsu called while I was at the beach so he and my mother chatted a bit over the phone (this is an even bigger challenge when speaking a foreign language since you can't see the person's expressions to get a hint about what they're saying.) When I called him back a few hours later he was just full of praise for my mom.

"Tanya, you may say that she's forgetting things and not as clear as she used to be, but she certainly didn't have any problems talking with me! She told me all I needed to know about where you were and when you'd be back and she asked about my mother and all the animals. And all this in Japanese! You've got to see the exceptional side of that too, not just think about the minuses as she gets older." (I had told him how disappointed I was hearing the same comments and questions from her and seeing the faraway look she gets.) "She remembers the important things and she can use two languages! That's really amazing and you need to focus on that!" (Isn't Tetsu an encouraging husband?)

So I wanted to tell you today that although Mom needs more help in some ways she's still got a lot of spark and can hold her own in other ways!

(I'm sorry for all these family pictures, but right now my blog is the only way I'm getting information back to Tetsu in Japan! And remember, he doesn't read the English, he's only enjoying the pictures!)

A fabric present!

Look what Connie sent me in the mail! Connie and I have been corresponding for the past few months and she offered to send me some fabric when I started on my 365 Challenge quilt (which I am still plugging away at.) I felt bad making her send fabric all the way to Japan so I suggested we wait until I was in the States and I'd send her something from Japan too.

I sent a few pieces of fabric that is Japanese made (but not Japanese looking) and look at the gorgeous fabrics that Connie sent in return! I think she said that these are out of her stash! Such wonderful autumn fabrics! My mom, too was over joyed seeing them and kept saying "Ooh. Look at that leaf print! Oh, look at the vibrant yellow fabric!" They are all just beautiful and I really am partial to warm colors!

Connie also sent me a book since I've mentioned how hungry I am for English reading material. Thank you Connie!

I'll have to think of something fitting to make from these lovely new additions to my fabric collection!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cal State Long Beach

Let's see... Lots of things going on but nothing too exciting.

Leiya and I went off for an all day trip to California State University of Long Beach to check out that college. Despite the fact that I dislike driving the freeways we made it there and back safely. I don't like driving though I've had a license since I was 16. Japan's roads are scary in a different way from California highways and sometimes I think I'd like to show my American family how well I've adapted to driving the small single lane roads of Japan. Often you have to back up to a turn off point just to let the other driver by or you both squeek onto the shoulders of the road hoping you won't tumble into a flooded rice field. In California I find the freeways slightly nerve racking. I mean, it's 5 lanes going either way and you get cars zooming in front of you, in back of you changing lanes and everyone going at an unbelievable speed. I'm actually a little relieved when I get stuck in a traffic jam and we all slow down for a breather! I'd also like to point out that I've adapted to driving on the opposite sides of the road depending on which country I'm in. (I do tend to hit the windshield wiper when I'm trying to turn a corner though.)

Anyway, Leiya and I spent a good day at Cal State Long Beach and the university made it easy for us with a very well thought out self-guided tour pamphlet of the college. We followed the map, read all the blurbs about the different buildings and programs and wandered around the college for at least two hours. Really a beautiful place and if what the pamphlet tells you is true, an excellent school. Leiya was impressed and I think she'll at least consider applying there. Made me feel like I was doing my motherly duties taking my daughter to visit a college.

And look who showed up last night about 12:00! The whole house was asleep but the dogs started making a ruckus and Leiya woke up enough to realize that Takumi had come to visit us a day earlier than he'd promised! Here's my wonderful son that I haven't seen in a year. He looks good, just the same as he did when I last saw him. He and Leiya and I stayed up til about 2:00 talking about their schools and teachers in the States. So good to have both children at my side!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A day at the beach

I missed posting yesterday because we spent the day at the beach. We got home around 10:00 last night and I never got near a computer all day.

Actually the day started with a detour since I ended up visiting the Covina Police Station! No gang! I wasn't hauled in! I went out for my morning walk as usual and as I was on the last trek home I see a black thing in the road. Thinking it might be a poor cat that got hit I crossed to the other side of the road and tried to edge past it without actually looking at it, but as I got nearer I realized it was a handbag just lying there. Well, there are shoplifters I suppose and this could have been stolen and just thrown away empty, but I peered inside and there was a wallet etc. The wallet had a bank card in it so I picked the thing up and headed home.

Once home, though there was a lot of stuff inside (a broken cell, phone, a driver's license etc.) I couldn't find a number to call so I took it down to the police station. In my whole life it's the first time I even knew where the police station was! Nice little place and a young rookie cop came and invited me into a nice room where he took down my name and details about how I found the handbag, He was very friendly and I even found out he'd been stationed in Okinawa (Japan) before he served in Iraq and then became a police officer. I guess I'll never know about how the handbag got left in the middle of our street but I did my good deed for the day!

When I got back home, Marcy and the kids were gone; off to the beach because Marcy had wanted to get an early start (before 8:00) so I assumed that I'd missed that trip but a few seconds later they came barrelling in. They'd seen me turn on the street as they were leaving so they came back for me! Leiya had remembered my swimsuit, my sunglasses, my book, my sandals and so without ever getting in the house I jumped in the car and we were off!

Long day!!! Marcy had packed cold cuts, bread, condiments, fruit, chips, lemonade, ice, the whole works! She had chairs and even a tent and a radio (She does this a lot so she knows what she needs!) I read my book the whole blessed day and barely got my feet wet. I also did a lot of people watching again and was mildly surprised at all the tatoos that so many people have! Not just men and young teenagers! Lots of "artwork" decorating the women's backsides! Southern California must be a tatoo artist's heaven!

The kids came in and out and ate when they wanted and slathered themselves with sunscreen. Keion showed up about 3:00 coming directly from work and he played catch with the kids on the beach. The kids had boogie boards and all day they rode the waves and thoroughly enjoyed themselves until nearly 5:00! An hour's drive home for a quick shower and to pick up Grandma and then out to dinner. The kids were falling asleep at the dinner table!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Odds and ends

Let's see... Our days are filled with eating, reading and shopping. Well, it is vacation but it does seem like we should be doing more profitable things.

Yesterday I decided I really needed to take Leiya to see some college while she is here, so we went over to Cal Poly Pomonoa to check out the campus. A really large school but maybe not what Leiya is looking for. We should have taken a college tour but we just wandered around in the heat and sought out cool buildings and shade. In the summer there seem to be a lot of foreign students on campus and I think Leiya would really like to get away from the foreign student image she has herself. Ok. Well now we know that she doesn't want to go to Cal Poly.

Since we were out driving of course I had to go to a quilt shop and that was wonderful but since I don't have a specific quilt in mind I couldn't really find a reason make any major purchases. I treated myself to a couple of fat quarters of batiks. (I'm not really planning to make a batik quilt but I can't get those at all in Japan.)

In the evening I went to a very small park concert performed by the praise band from my mom's church. I love worship and praise music so it was very relaxing to sit on the warm bench in the cool evening breeze and listen to the praise band. (As an aside, the praise band leader is one of the most talented jazz pianists I've ever heard in my life, and he also just became the mayor of the town!)

And for accomplisments, Leiya and I have both finished our fleece blankets that we were working on! Our colors don't seem to match but since we're going to be on opposite sides of the world I don't suppose it matters! Another goal completed!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday was Leiya's 18th birthday! She specifically told us that she didn't want a party or anything special so it went by with hardly more than a "Happy Birthday!" from each family member and a lot of hugs.

I remember for my son's 18th birthday I gave him an organ donor's card because he insisted on buying a very large motorcycle. (I was adamantly against him getting a motorcycle but he did it anyway.) In Japan, you can legally donate your organs from 18 and I wanted him to think of the possible consequences of motorcycle riding and realize he really was an adult who could make serious choices now. (I think I also bought him a very expensive motorcycle helmet!)

Over the course of the month and while Leiya was in Japan, we bought her things that might not normally be on our purchase list with the understanding that it was "an early birthday present." Earrings, a pricey skirt, a new watch. Marcy and Keion paid for the tickets to the American Idol concert and that was considered a birthday present too. Anyway, we didn't just ignore Leiya's birthday yesterday but we didn't do anything either.

However, yesterday I had a lunch date with an old high school friend and her daughter and so we drove out to meet them and had a nice couple of hours catching up. Jane always keeps track of my birthday (and lets me know I'm the older woman by two months!) and she'd arranged for the restaurant people to bring me a little ice cream sundae. "Not me!! It's Leiya's birthday today!" So the sundae got placed before Leiya and the waiters and waitresses all sang Happy Birthday to her and she got a mini birthday celebration after all!

Happy Birthday Leiya!

American Idols

Talk about new experiences! Last night I had an interesting one and it just goes to show that you should always try something new.

I'm a homebody sort of person. Nothing flashy about me. Give me a book, a needle and thread, a dog and a cat and I'm ready to settle down. Even in my teen days I wasn't into loud music and pop stars.

This summer though, Marcy arranged for Kiana, Leiya, Marcy and me to go to an American Idol concert. For all you people that have no idea what that is, I was in your same shoes until last night. The American Idol TV program spends 5 months auditioning contestants and weekly broadcasting their vocal talents to the American public. I think this must be one of the top viewed TV shows in the country. Gradually the contestants are narrowed down to the top 12 (TV viewers are the judges?) and finally the new American Idol is chosen. (Boy is that a rough summary!) After that the top 10 go on tour around the country and last night we got to see them at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Kiana and Marcy who watch the TV program faithfully were in ecstasy about going to the concert. Leiya wasn't as aware of who the performers were but she knew some names and songs so she was looking forward to going. On the other hand, I had never heard of any of the performers, the songs, the past stars etc. etc.

What can I say? My biggest impression was that these 10 young people have a lot of talent! Some fantastic voices! Not my type of music and very loud, but the concert was exciting with strobe lights and smoke screens, costumes and different genres of music! I really enjoyed it! The Staples Center was amazing and very posh and organized. A great place to spend money for little do-dads like t-shirts and posters etc. but it makes you feel happy about spending it! People watching was great fun too. Families with little kids, grandpas and grandmas being pushed in wheel chairs. I was amazed at the wide age span of people attending.

Never in a thousand years would I have expected to go to or enjoy this sort of thing, but it goes to show you can teach an old dog something new! We purposely left our cameras at home last night because we'd heard that you weren't allowed to take pictures (that wasn't true), so I don't have anything of my own to show you today. How about this picture from the Internet. This is what the stage was like! (People who know me, can you believe I attended a concert like this?)

Monday, July 23, 2007


I have been wanting to write this post for almost a week and yesterday I finally got a picture to go with it!

My mom has a very temperamental fat cat that's been around for 10 or 12 years. It is an indoor-outdoor cat so the porch door is usually left open for it and it gets fed in the bathroom near the porch. A couple of days after I got here my mom let us know that she had had a visitor the night before.

"A skunk came into my house last night. It was eating the cat food."

This is a definite possibility since we do have skunks in the neighborhood and you can certainly smell them when one has had a confrontation with a neighbor's dog!

My brother says,
"Close the door! Turn that cat into an outdoor cat and the skunk won't be coming in to eat the cat food!"

I actually caught a glimpse of the skunk skittering out the door one evening, but just enough to know that it wasn't the cat.

Then last Wednesday I spent the day with my mom in Urgent Care right? Well, that night I decided that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to leave her alone all night so I camped out on her living room rug with a pillow and blanket. I even left a table lamp on since I wasn't sure if I'd be doing some care work that night or not. At about three in the morning I hear a thump-thumping on the other side of the room and I grabbed my glasses and looked wildly around. The cat was sitting near the window. She wasn't making the noise. Less than two feet away there was the skunk thumping at the front door! I don't know what surprised me more, the skunk or the cat just peacefully watching it! The skunk meandered through the living room giving me a glance as it passed and then waddled back into the dark bedroom (Mother still peacefully sleeping). Actually I wasn't sure if the skunk had left or not, and I certainly didn't want to close the porch door and lock the skunk in the house. So I stayed on the floor and had the camera handy (the one that clicked) and waited to see if the skunk would come back. It didn't and I finally fell asleep about an hour later.

A little before morning I am jolted awake by more sounds. The skunk is back and is walking around the living room and is checking me out! My toes were sticking out from under the blanket and the skunk was sniffing them. I was feeling around for the camera again, and trying not to make any sudden moves. I wanted proof that I was cohabiting with a skunk! No luck. The camera wouldn't flash, the skunk didn't think my feet smelled good (I could say the same about his) and he wandered into the bedroom again. The cat was up on the chair this time but didn't seem at all perturbed about the situation. For the rest of the night I moved up onto the sofa.

So since that Wednesday night I've been trying to get a picture of the skunk. He's been back a couple of times (my mom always comes into the main house reporting that she has a skunk in her house. I wonder if she is surprised each time it visits) and my brother keeps telling her to close the door so that it can't get in. I go over with the camera for a couple of hours hoping to catch a digital image and my vigilance was finally rewarded last night.

"Crunch, crunch, crunch."
"What's that?"
"The skunk's eating the cat food!" (He has a different crunching sound.)

Leiya and I tip-toed into the bedroom and peered into the bathroom. Marcy and mom stayed in the living room ready to make their escape through the front door. The skunk very happily finished off the bowl of cat food and he had a long drink before he decided there were too many nosy people and cameras flashing so he left.

I've got the picture and I think we'll start closing the porch door from now on. I don't think my mom needs a skunk for a pet. And you never know when a skunk might take offense of the amateur media and leave in a huff! (or a puff! pee-hewww!)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Deja vu

Last night I had an experience of deja vu. Almost exactly a year ago Marcy and Keion and family gave Tetsu and me new digital camera. Ours wasn't so great and it was quite bulky. Keion and Marcy had purchased one for themselves and for my niece, and were urging Tetsu and me to buy one. When Tetsu and I decided against a new purchase, Keion and Marcy bought one for us instead. I felt terrible that just because I'm too stingy to buy a new camera, my brother and his wife have to buy one for me.

That camera led me to or at least aided me in, the development of my blog. Less than a month after receiving the camera I was introduced to blogging and not long after started my own blog. With this great camera I've enjoyed supplementing my posts visually almost every day!

However, in early June my camera started making these clicking sounds and the camera store wasn't too helpful about helping me. Oh well. The camera works! It just clicks and uses up a lot of batteries! But it still took great pictures!

Once arriving in the States, Marcy noticed the clicking and we talked about getting it fixed. It hadn't been a year yet since it had been purchased, maybe it would be cheaper than having it looked at in Japan... It wasn't really that important to me. The camera was still taking great pictures.

Yesterday, guess what Keion and Marcy presented to me. A new camera. A gorgeous, state of the art, high quality camera! I shouldn't comment on their financial situation but remember, they did just remodel their kitchen, buy a new van, and re-landscape the backyard. It is not like they have money to throw around! They have better ways to use their money than to buy me expensive toys!

The camera is wonderful! I went out this morning on a different walk route and took more pictures just to see what it can do. I love it! I feel terribly guilty! As someone pointed out though, I get a thousand times more use out of my camera since I started blogging than most people do and many more people get to see my photographic attempts than if my pictures were just put in an album. (I'll do that too.)

It is hard to express my gratitude to Keion and Marcy. I simple "Thank you" just doesn't do it. Nor just taking them out to dinner. I'm not just talking about the camera. They do the hard work during the year looking after my mom. They keep track of Takumi (he doesn't actually report in very much but they keep him on their minds). They are both just very loving and generous people. I hope someday I'll be able to help them the way they have always helped me and my family. They aren't blog readers so they may never know how grateful I am but I feel very blessed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another street fair

Tetsu called yesterday so we chatted awhile with him. He said it was drizzly and rainy in Japan and I said "Oh, poor Choco!"
Tetsu said "Choco?! Poor me! The laundry doesn't dry and the walls are molding!"
Anyway, he is holding down the fort.

And yesterday, Leiya and Marcy and Kiana and I went to a fabric store outlet. I find it hard to focus when I'm shopping with other people and Leiya kept bringing me books and cloth that she wanted me to look at and telling me I should buy. "Wait! I need to decide what I want to make first! Don't just bring me fabric because it's on sale!" I finally sent her off to think about of a project of her own. She came back with another book and more fabric so I gave up on concentrating and we tried to find some matching fabrics. I did veto the book since I can get the same pattern from Quilterscache if I check around.

In the evening we hit another street fair. This one right in downtown Covina. It was great fun with a little Karaoke contest for the kids going on right in the middle. I think the winners got a 10 dollar certificate that they could spend at the fair. Lots of food (again!) lots of sports booths selling logo things. It is so nice to see all the people laughing and chatting. Some people have brought their lawn chairs or blankets to just sit on the grass. Lots of dogs and bicycles, kids running around playing cowboys and Indians with their plastic bows and arrows. Leiya found a little booth that was selling jewelry made from antique silverware and she must have drooled in front of that booth for half an hour until I got tired and just handed her some money and told her to decide herself. The man who made the jewelry was trying to help her and finally 15 minutes later she came to where I was sitting, just skipping! It seems she had had so much trouble deciding that the nice man took pity on her (grew exasperated!?) and sold her two bracelets for a little more than the price of one! Was she a happy girl!


Let's see. What did I do yesterday? Not too much. Marcy showed me how she makes blankets a couple of days ago so of course we went to the fabric store to get some blanket making materials. Marcy wanted to make one for a friend's son yesterday and Leiya got it the mood to make one for herself and I will probably get started on one I decided to make for Tetsu's mother. I think Marcy said she's made over 30 of these for all her friends and even for everyone on my niece's softball team.

These are wonderfully soft fleece blankets that require no sewing! It is a good project for a morning, and really should only take two or three hours to make if you sit at it in one go. Fleece fabric really isn't too expensive in the fabric stores and the selection of fabric is wonderful (and we're going to a fabric outlet today to look at more fleece!!!) What can I say? They are warm and soft and colorful and cheap, and can be easily adapted to the recipient's tastes, and easy to make. Wonder why I go to all the trouble to quilt! (Not really!) I guess the only drawback I can see is that they end up bulky when they are finished but that is true of quilts too. Oh well, they may never be heirlooms (they might!) but it is a great summer project!

Buy two yards of fleece in complimenting colors.
Line them up and pin.
Cut them roughly square. (No measuring!)
Cut out four corners.
Cut one inch fringes around the entire blanket.
Tie the fringes.

Marcy has made some in university logo prints, cat prints, leaf prints, flower prints, marine prints, Disney prints, sports prints etc. etc. etc. Here is the soccer ball one and a fake fur one Leiya was making for herself.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I think I am fighting a losing battle! Here are some pictures to show you what I mean.

Every morning around 6:00 I go off for a walk for about an hour. This is actually a longer walk than I have in Japan, but there is a good reason for this. I eat too dang much!!! I always know this is going to happen. The food is soooo good here and it's been soooo long since I last had it and the servings are soooo much bigger than I usually get in Japan. Soooo that means a lot more calories, ding dang it all!

Ok. First the walk. This is just a little of the scenery along the way. Up at the top of the driveway, still on the property. I see my brother has got wood stacked for the winter for his fireplace.

A block or two away on the main road heading to the high school. I can remember about 5 times in my 4 years of high school that I walked to school. Usually had my mom or a friend drive me. It would have been so dorky and un-cool to walk to school! But here I am in my old age making this walk every single morning. It really isn't that far but I don't ever see any high school kids walking. Still dorky I suppose. (And it is summer.)

And here is the high school. I really like the mural they've painted on the walls. Yep. We were the South Hills Huskies though I had very little school spirit. I like the motto up there too.

Down and around and head back through some residential areas and past a golf course and then up and down a few hills to get back home. A good walk that gets the blood flowing and some calories burned!

But look at the calories I'm contending with!

Pastrami sandwiches! Chili-cheese french fries! Mexican fried rice! Carneasada! New York style Cheesecake! And Marcy is of the theory that too much is better than not enough so she either makes a lot or buys an extra of something "just in case" and that "just in case" person turns out to be me! Just this morning there was a left over pastrami sandwich that no one had eaten and of course rather than let it go to waste I heated it up for breakfast. (Pastrami? For breakfast?) Then Leiya came in with half of her piece of cheesecake (which she loved, it was just too big! For Leiya even!) so I finished that off for her too!

My gosh. Will I be recognizable when I get back to Japan? I'd better put in another walk today!