Monday, June 30, 2008


Yesterday morning Takumi came downstairs with his head shaved. He got his friend to do it for him the night before. Tetsu took one look at him and said,

"Why did you shave your head? Is it a statement or is it fashion?"

Takumi answered that he thought it made him look "cool". He claims that longer hair doesn't suit him. Hmmm. I'm not sure I agree... I think I like a bit longer look.

Tetsu went on to explain that in his days a shaved head meant something and that got me thinking about what I know about shaving your head in Japan. None of this has anything to do with Takumi.

When I first arrived in Japan 30 years ago, there was another foreign girl and she had a Japanese boyfriend. However, part way through their romance the girl decided that things wouldn't work out after all and she approached the boy about splitting up. She thought it had gone off pretty smoothly but a few days later the boyfriend turned up on her doorstep with his head shaved. She and I about dropped our teeth. What was with this guy? Is he for real? He wanted her to reconsider their break-up and he was expressing his despair over unrequited love by shaving his head. The girl was supposed to realized the depths of his emotion to the extent that he would disgrace himself, and she was expected to throw herself into his arms. In this case, it didn't work for this foreigner. She just thought him weird and they never did get back together. As a third party, I thought the shaving of the head was an odd way to show love.

A more common statement of a shaved head is when someone will do it as an expression of shame. Not too long ago, one of my English students woefully told me that his elementary school's baseball team had performed dreadfully in the tournament and because his father was an assistant coach, the father was going to shave his head to apologize for the shame and dishonor of his poor coaching. I thought it interesting that the baseball team wasn't held responsible because I have heard of whole teams shaving their heads after losing a game. Sure enough, a few days later I spotted the very skinned-looking father/coach. Hopefully the baseball team will be so humiliated that they will try harder to spare their coach from such disgrace again. I'm sure my brother, who assistant coaches my niece's softball team, is very glad he doesn't live in Japan.

I heard somewhere that the custom of shaving the head as a sign of disgrace stems from the samurai era in Japan were the Japanese warriors wore their hair long but tied up in a knot on top of their head. (A similar custom is still seen in sumo wrestlers.) However, if the samurai did something to cause shame, he was required by the feudal lord to cut off the top-knot, the ultimate sign of dishonor. (Actually, I guess the ultimate was to slice his stomach open...) Until the top-knot grew back, the samurai was ostracized by the very visible sign of short hair. You will still see this custom in Japan today in different forms. A famous political figure who sported a ponytail for years was found guilty of misdealing and the very next day he cut off the ponytail in order to show the citizens of Japan how very sorry he felt for the dishonest affair. Actually it seems a mild form of self-inflicted punishment to me. His hair grew back and he is back swaggering around his office. I don't know how honest he has become.

It comes to me that all this is not unlike Samson...

Ah well, as I say, Takumi just thinks he looks cool and he likes to wear his hair (or lack of it) this way.

I still remember him looking this way...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back in Japan

It is a rainy day here in Japan which isn't so strange since we are in the rainy season. Both Takumi and I came back from California and were struck by the greenness of the the area we live in here. In some areas of the scenery it could almost be described as a heaviness because there is so much green and shade and damp. The rain makes it difficult to go for a walk so I skipped my morning routine today. Takumi was planning to get around our town on his skateboard (it sounds like a strange plan to me) but the rain limits his outings. I don't know why he didn't get an international driver's license. He, of course drives constantly in California and he even was riding a motorcycle when he lived in Japan 4 years ago, but for this trip he thought a skate board was good transportation. Doesn't sound too safe to me but with gas prices (I think we computed it at around $6 a gallon) it is one solution to high travel costs.

Takumi and I have already made a visit to Tetsu's mother and I took along my laptop so that I could show her pictures of Leiya and America. She understands computers and digital cameras even less than my mother so more than enjoying the pictures she wanted to know how I got the pictures in the computer and how I was going to get them out again. She was thrilled to see Takumi because she's been saying for the last four years that she'll be dead before he ever comes back.

Tried to do a little on-line banking but got very frustrated. I thought I'd figured it all out with a lesson from the bank teller and Takumi helping me while we were still in California but it looks like there are still glitches so that things are not going through. They want me to call the bank for more help or come in to see them, which would have been possible four days ago, but now I can only send e-mails. I need to figure this out so that I can pay tuition!

Teaching begins tomorrow! My house needs to get cleaned up and the bags are only half unpacked. Love looking at all the fabric I bought and was given this year and only hope I'll be able to make time to do some sewing as soon as possible! I have a heavier teaching schedule from July so it is going to be a challenge. Takumi is living in the sewing room right now so I will be sacrificing sewing space to having my son around. Hey! I'm a mother before I'm a quilter but I'm already trying to figure out a place to put my sewing machine in another room!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Terminal

I seem to have a case of jet lag since I woke up this morning at 3:00 and stayed in bed reading. Hopefully I won't crash too early tonight.

I'm enjoying the wonders of my new laptop and Takumi got me connected so that I can chat with Leiya. She came on right away and we had a great time chatting with her! I hadn't realized that my computer has a web camera and once Takumi connected that she could see us on the computer. No camera on hers but I don't know if this feature is necessary once the novelty wears off. I mean, how much action do you get just sitting in front of the computer keyboard.

The biggest news from Leiya is that her flight to Ohio did not go as smoothly as I had thought. I guess Grandma's information isn't really very reliable because when I had talked to her she had said that Leiya got off without any problems. BUT... When I talked with Leiya she said,

"Did you hear what happened to me?"

"No. What happened?"

"I missed my flight!"

After dropping me off at the United terminal I guess it took a while for Marcy to find parking and for Leiya to get to the check-in counter. Once at the counter the airlines informed Leiya that since there was less than the 45 minutes required for check-in that she would have to go on standby and wait until some flight came up. I guess Marcy and all waited around for awhile, but Leiya didn't get on the standby flight either. Between Marcy and Leiya they decided that having Leiya waiting in the boarding area while Marcy, Grandma, Kiana and Colin sat around twiddling their fingers at the check-in counter didn't make any sense so Leiya decided to tackle the situation herself (a lot of communication going on by cell phone between them all). Marcy promised to drive back to the airport if Leiya didn't get on some flight that afternoon.

Finally about four hours later Leiya got on a flight bound for Chicago but weather going in to Chicago was bad so her plane was late and she missed the connecting flight for Ohio. The airport suggested she go to a hotel for the night but she didn't want to spend her money that way and opted to spend the night in the airport. I think she kept in touch pretty closely with Marcy and her home stay mother by cell phone and some airport worker even brought her a blanket but Leiya said she felt like she was in a scene from Tom Hank's movie, Terminal. Maybe it's just as well that I didn't know about all this as I don't think an empty airport is a great place for an 18 year old girl to spend the night by herself. No problems however and Leiya finally flew in to Ohio and met her host mother at 9:00 the next morning. I have to say, Leiya certainly has learned to be independent!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A good summer

"Nihon kara ohayou gozimasu!" Good morning, from Japan!

Tetsu picked me up at the bus stop around 9:00 pm and after a quick ramen dinner we arrived home to be greeted by all the animals. Takumi is here too and he will be staying in Leiya's room while he is here. (His room I've been using to hang out laundry.) I don't know what his plans are for the summer.

I think Leiya and I had got to our respective destinations with no problems. I say, "I think" because I haven't heard from Leiya yet though I talked with my mom already. As we left for the Los Angeles Airport yesterday morning Leiya says,

"I'm on American Airlines today you know."

"No! I didn't know that. I thought you were flying out on United like I am."

A quick change of plans and instead of the family seeing us off at the United terminal, I felt more comfortable with being dropped off there and the rest of them (Marcy, Grandma, Kiana, Colin and a family friend) going with Leiya and making sure she got on the right flight. Our good-byes were said in the parking lot with some tears from Leiya but I was more worried about her getting to the right place than to be sad about parting.

Actually, she may not have had much time to get through check-in after the family let me off. There was a cut-off of 45 minutes for United flights and it took me an hour to go through the line. Leiya's flight was supposed to leave before mine and the family still had to find her terminal, park the car, and take Grandma (slow walker) with them to check-in. I called California when I got home last night and talked with Grandma but she wasn't too clear about if and how Leiya's departure went.
Our summer was great. It was good for Tetsu to get to Ohio and see the way Leiya has lived and where she'll be going to school in the fall.
It was great to meet all of Leiya's friends from school and from church and so many people had nice things to say about her (I hope they are all true!)

It was important to thank Leiya's host family in person and to let them know that we realized the sacrifice and the hardships they went through trying to raise a teenager the last three years.
It was fun to see the beauty of Ohio and see a side of America that I didn't even know about.
It was moving to see Leiya in her cap and gown, smiling happily and looking confident and grown-up.

It was wonderful to be with my family again in California and to celebrate Kiana's 13th birthday, to see how Colin has grown and to spend time with my cheerful mother.
It was fun to connect with blogger friends, Shelina, Roberta and Liz.

And it was great to be back at the house and surrounded by my wonderful family!

Ok, Tetsu! It's just the two of us again (with a short visit from Takumi) and back to the everyday life that God has given us with abundant blessings!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Off to Japan

I'm leaving in a few hours for Japan. Hope the trip through the airport goes better than last year! Signing off until I reach the Far East!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A BIG purchase!

Ta-da! I will have you know that I am sitting at the kitchen counter in my brother's home typing on MY NEW LAPTOP COMPUTER! Yep, I did it. But not without a lot of inner examining. Do I want a new computer? Yes. Do I need a computer? Yes. Do I want to buy a computer in the States? I don't know. It might be nice to finally be able to understand what flashes on the screen but I have managed with the Japanese one for many years. Ok. Do I just want to go back to Japan and buy one? Maybe. It might be more expensive there, but then again maybe not. I might not be able to get the coverage with an American computer but Tetsu would probably just get annoyed with the whole purchasing process. I had Takumi (from Japan), Marcy, Keion and Leiya behind me saying

"Just do it." so I did it!

My mom helped me finance it too and that was a big sway. Thank you Grandma and all! I just hope I can figure out how to do what I could do on the old computer.

Another blogging friend!

I have just spent an hour talking to a wonderful blog friend over the phone!!! Yesterday I received a very large box, filled with fabric and other goodies from Elizabeth in Alabama! Liz is another blog friend who doesn't really keep a blog but you know her as Artfilstitch because she comments almost everyday on my blog. Liz had hoped she'd be able to get up to Ohio while I was there since she had business in the general area (still, that's a big general area!) but our schedules didn't match. Instead Liz sent me this box of gorgeous hand-dyed fabric that a friend of hers makes and also in the box were cat fabrics, foot creams, bath soaps, a quilt kit, backings etc.! A treasure trove! Again Grandma (who still can't quite understand what blogging is) says

"Now, who is this person? How does she know you so well? Why did she send you all this nice fabric? Where did you meet her?"

And I try to explain, but it is pretty awesome that through the Internet we can make such friendships and bonds and it's all a bit over my mother's 86 year old head.

This morning I called Liz to thank her for her box and we chatted for a whole hour! Liz is a fantastic person with a myriad of interests! She is a quilter (of course) but she also is a musician, and a traveler. Liz has been to Japan (she went to the Tokyo quilt show this past January but we didn't know each other then) and what an adventuresome spirit! She even took a couple classes while she was at the quilt show,

"I can't speak Japanese but I can sew so I could figure out what we were supposed to do!"

Now, I call that spunk!

It was so funny hearing her talk about her stay in Tokyo and to have her say,

"Tanya, have you been to Nippori? No! I can't believe it! You must go to Nippori! They have some wonderful fabric there and the prices are so good. How about ....? You really should get there.

Made me wonder which one of us lives in Japan!

We talked about church and traveling, classes we've taught or been to, things we are making, our families and of course blogging. Liz had been having trouble getting pictures on the blog that she once started so though she has quilts and quilt shows that she wants to post about she hadn't been able to figure it out yet. I gave a couple suggestions but I think Liz, you're just going to have to play around a bit and take the trial and error approach.

Even though we have never met, (hopefully Liz is going to make another jaunt to Japan in the next year or so) we clicked right away and it was hard to get off that telephone.

Thank you Liz for all the beautiful fabrics and I'm planning on delving into the quilting kit as soon as possible!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hot and knitting

I must be nuts. Do you know how hot it's been the past few days in Southern California? I think yesterday the highs hit 111 degrees (43 degrees Celsius) and we are sweltering. It feels very much like a dry sauna or an oven every time we go outside. The coolest ways to stay comfortable is to roam the mall or nap in an air-conditioned room. And what have I been doing? I've been knitting! Ridiculous!

My high school friend Jane, called me the other day from Peru!

"What are you doing in Peru?!"

She and her daughter were with a group who were visiting Peru to help underprivileged children and families in poverty and amongst other things, to pass out sweaters.

Ten or twelve years ago the Guideposts magazine and published a story about a woman who made a sweater and donated it. Over the years thousands and thousands of sweaters have found their ways into the hands of children all over the world who need them.

Jane says to me,

"Tanya, I want to make a sweater but I haven't knitted in 30 years, when I see you next week could you kind'a give me a refresher course?"

This is right up my alley alongside with quilting so I checked out the Guideposts magazine and figured it was an easy enough pattern to explain to someone if necessary. But just to make sure I decided to make a sweater in order to discover the pitfalls myself.

Another trip to Jo Ann's to buy yarn and Wednesday night I started a sweater. I hate to boast, but I really am a fast knitter and the finished product usually turns out nicely. But the heat! I normally limit my knitting to December and January but there I sat with half a sweater on my lap, sweating and knitting away. My mother and Marcy would come in and sit for a couple hours enjoying the air conditioning and both of them looked positively hypnotized watching me knit.

Grandma especially just hovered over me admiring the yarn and saying

"Knitting is so relaxing and a good way to spend extra time. I haven't knitted for years but I bet I could do that too."

"I have another set of knitting needles here. Would you like to start the other half of the sweater for me and brush up on your knitting skills?"

"No thank you."

My sweater got finished up Friday night and yesterday I met Jane and her family for dinner and passed the sweater on to her to pass on to the Guideposts group when she gets hers done. As I say, it is very hot around here and even though Jane's got her yarn on her needles I have a feeling the project is going to get relegated to the closet until late fall rolls around.

Any of you knitters who feel an urge to do some knitting this summer (and those in the southern hemisphere, you've got the seasons on your side for this challenge) please check out the Guideposts website for knitting instructions. Every sweater will make some child happy and it is a good way to use up left over yarn too!

Bloggers' adventures

Wow! I had a really exciting day yesterday! I met a blog/visitor friend, Roberta! What a great day!

Roberta and I have been corresponding for the past year after Roberta found my blog and wrote to me. Actually, Roberta hasn't started a blog so I didn't really know much about her, only that she is Italian and that she and her husband are missionaries in Italy. I also knew that Roberta is a quilter and she is the one that sent me the Happy Villages book last year and some lovely fabric.

Sometime earlier Roberta realized that my home town in California and the area that her daughter lives in weren't too far apart AND that both of us were going to be in the same area at the same time this summer. We were hoping that we'd be able to meet somewhere for lunch or something but didn't know our schedules nor if we'd have access to transportation. I'd given Roberta my mother's telephone number and she had e-mailed me earlier this week. We decided that no, we weren't going to be able to get together since she would have to ask her son-in-law to drive her around and wait around if we visited etc. I could understand that. If you are a guest somewhere it is difficult to ask someone to drop their activities to take you to meet someone. Yesterday morning I e-mailed Roberta to say that I'd probably hit the mall anyway and was sorry that we couldn't meet.

About 15 minutes later the telephone at my mom's rang. It was Roberta!

"Tanya, I really want to meet you and my son-in-law offered to take me to the mall today!"

"Yeah! Let's meet at 12:00 today in front of...."

So it was decided! Take a quick shower. Invited Leiya and my niece and off we went to the mall that is about 20 minutes away!

Leiya says to me,

"Who is it that we're going to meet?"

"My blog friend, but she doesn't have a blog so I don't really know that much about her."

"Do you know what she looks like?"

"Hmmm. I hadn't thought about that. No, I guess I don't. But she must know what I look like since she's seen pictures on my blog."

"Aren't you worried that you aren't going to have anything to talk about?"

"Well, it's just for lunch. The time will go quickly."

Roberta and her LOVELY daughter and her son-in-law and her mother were waiting for us in front of the Cheesecake Factory and after introductions and hugs all around we started chatting and chatting, and chatting. We barely stopped to eat! (Well, Roberta's mother only spoke Italian so she basically smiled a lot and nodded whenever Roberta or her daughter translated. I barely paid any attention to Leiya and my niece but I guess they chatted with Roberta's daughter and husband.) Roberta and I just kept on chatting! Leiya certainly hadn't needed to worry about whether we'd find anything to talk about!

As lunch finished we suddenly decided that Grandma and the kids would go their separate ways to the mall and Roberta and I would try to find a quilt shop together. Ahh... The adventure begins!

Never turn two middle-age ladies who don't know north from south loose on the streets of Southern California when they have no idea where they are going. As driver I'm afraid I'm responsible since I had a feeling there was a quilt shop somewhere in the general direction of my left hand! Couldn't remember the name of the quilt shop and only remembered my brother taking me there last year so I hadn't paid much attention to directions.

Roberta's daughter and son-in-law thought they knew which quilt shop I was referring to not far from their apartment. A quick map was drawn on the back of a receipt and then Roberta and I happily waved good-bye to everyone in the parking lot and started on our way.

Well, we were still busy talking and after about 20 minutes of driving Roberta says,

"You know, I don't think my son-in-law drove through these hills when we were coming to the mall today. Do you think we were talking so much that we missed the street?"

"A good possibility. Um... The sign says we're in Orange County. Does your daughter live in Orange County?"

"I'm not sure but maybe we should ask at a gas station."

We were so far out that we couldn't even find a gas station and nothing that looked like a quilt shop nor Roberta's daughter's apartment. Finally I turned around and we headed back to a downtown area. Roberta, armed with map, asked at a shop and we found out we'd been going east for 20 minutes when we should have been going west! Not really a problem since we were just getting in that much more talking and neither of us had a time schedule.

We headed back in the direction of the Cheesecake Factory.

"WAIT! I think the quilt shop that my brother took me to last year is around here somewhere!"

and with tires squealing I pulled into a small strip mall and there we were! A quilt shop! Not the one that we were trying to get to but as it turned out an excellent one with a wonderful selection of fabric and books and tools.

We both started pulling bolts off of the shelves and after hearing that a sale was starting the next day boldly told the girl at the counter that we were from ITALY and JAPAN and that we HAD JUST MET THAT MORNING through my QUILT blog and that this was a MOMENTOUS OCCASION and that we NEEDED to have our picture taken in front of the shop's lovely fabric!

A couple of the customers overhearing us smiled and the shop owner gave us each a complimentary gift and let us have tomorrow's sale fabric today!

Roberta and I were just bubbling when we got out of there and we decided that we'd spent as much money as our budget would allow so we wouldn't even bother to go looking for the other quilt shop. Another 20 minute drive in the right direction and our map took us directly to the apartment. A few more minutes of chatting in the parking lot. A promise to pray for each other and our families. A request (from me!) that Roberta get a blog going since I want to see all the exciting things that she is making over in Italy. A hug and our paths divided again.

Blogging is fantastic. I met a quilter, a sister-in-Christ, and a friend because of the blogging world.

Thank you for a great day Roberta. Hugs to your mom and your beautiful daughter and your wonderful son-in-law. Keep in touch! I know you will!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Grand tour

Okay, taking you on a walking tour of my brother's neighboring area. This is my regular walk in the morning at about 6:00 AM.

Here we are coming out to the main road that looks up into the hills where I'll go. This road leads to Mt. Sac where Takumi went to school for a couple of years. In the other direction is the the town.

From the hills, this is looking back on my brother's immediate neighborhood. This day was overcast though it can be quite clear and beautiful.

Lots of cactus around. This one that was flowering was more attractive than some that are just looking dangerous by the side of the road.

I know you can hardly see this but in this house's yard there is a peacock. (He's sitting at the side of the driveway.) This family seems to have a whole flock of peacocks and they fly up into the highest trees and call down at people and cars going by. It sounds exactly like someone is yelling for help and visitors who have never heard peacocks often get upset because they think someone is in trouble.

Squirrels abound all over the area. Mostly brown squirrels with lovely bushy tails. They seem very tame and will come quite close up in the trees and chatter at you.

Look what I came across in the neighbor's yard! Cute little critter and he was busy digging in the dirt. I was only a few yards away from him and I took four pictures. He looked at me but didn't seem to mind being photographed. Usually skunks are nocturnal I think, I've never just seen one walking around in the daylight like this though they often cross the back yard at night and last year one kept visiting my mother in the middle of the night!

Here's a picture of the garage which Marcy isn't going to be too happy that I'm showing you. The kids can play basketball in front, or ride their bicycles. The dogs take their daily wander around to sniff out what has crossed their path during the night.

And this is coming back down the driveway looking at my brother's house. (I take this picture every year too.) My mother lives in the "casita" on the left and it used to be the garage which turned into a billiard room when my father was alive and then 10 years ago was remodeled to become my mother's apartment.

That's my morning walk and some of the scenery that I see as I wander along!