Nov 24, 2014

Memory Monday: My Mom

   My mother had one brother and five sisters. She was the fourth child. She was compassionate and competitive. After finishing high school, she started working for the agricultural cooperation as a clerk. There was an honest and steady man, five years older than her, working in the same organization. He fell in love with her, and a few years later, they got married.

   About one year after they got married, I was born. My mother had kept working full time at the office until I entered elementary school. Then she quit her job and became a stay-at-home mom. Honestly, I didn't like my mother very much when I was very young. She seemed to be too strict, too powerful, and too emotional. She usually spoke in a loud voice, so I often felt as if I were being scolded when she talked to me.

   My mother spent a lot of time sewing, crocheting, and knitting clothes for herself and for me. She made almost all the clothes that I wore in my childhood. The colors she liked were black, brown, beige, gray, navy blue and dark red.

   She also loved going clothes shopping. She always chose outstanding dresses with somewhat unusual designs. She was always on the lookout for something inexpensive and extraordinary. She was the center of attention at social gatherings, which she loved to attend.

   My mother had a lot of hobbies. She took lessons in flower arrangement, traditional Japanese dance, and short poems called tanka, which has only 31 syllables. She did her best in everything she worked on. She gained a teacher's license in flower arrangement, though she never became a teacher.

   She was so enthusiastic about poetry that she joined a local tanka group, where they wrote tanka and publish them in a magazine every two months. She created dozens of tanka every month. She wrote about flowers, birds, cats, dogs, seasons, her family, her friends, strangers, and her daily life in her short poems. The following is one of her poems, which she wrote on her 69th birthday.

koki ni ichi nen nokoru umarebi hatachi yori yamedo kakuaru inochi kotohogu
        One more year, and I will turn seventy.
Though I've been suffering from diseases since I was twenty,
 I gratefully celebrate my life on my birthday today.

   My mother passed away several months after she wrote this poem. It was in November, 2012. 
   Her name was Ai (pronounced as 'eye'). Ai is the Japanese word for 'love.' No other human being will love me so much as my mother did.

Nov 22, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: November 22

I'm thankful that the church choir has started practicing songs for the Christmas. We are singing Hark! the Herald Angels Sing and Nativity Carol, in Japanese translation. To be more exact, I am not singing, but playing the organ. There are four singers in the choir, and they sing very well. I'm glad to be working with them this year.

I'm thankful for the pot that my parents bought a few years ago.
It is especially useful for making bread. We mix the ingredients and knead the dough in this pot.

Then, the dough is raised in the pot, too.

We bake the bread without using an oven. We put the pot on the stove, cover, and bake over low heat for twenty minutes.
I'm thankful for the bread that I made with the pot on Tuesday. It was delicious.
On Wednesday, we went to the farmers' market to buy some vegetables for winter. I'm thankful that we've got enough Chinese cabbage, spring onions, daikon radishes, beans and brown rice to last a few months.
I'm thankful that we saw a rainbow on our way back from the farmers' market on Wednesday. We hadn't seen any rainbows for more than a year, and I was glad to see one among the gray clouds on this day.
I'm thankful for my colored pencils, with which I draw the picture above.
I have been spending a lot of time playing the electronic organ these days. I'm mainly practicing Christmas chorales and hymns. I'm thankful that I'm making progress little by little.
I'm thankful for my interlinear Book of Psalms (Hebrew / Japanese). I bought the book years ago, and I've recently started studying it again. Now I'm learning Psalm 27 in English by heart, and at the same time, I'm trying to memorize the original version at the same time. I work on only one verse a week, and I'm learning verse 2 this week. 
I'm thankful for Marcel, who has sent me these little bears from Canada.

I'm thankful that I've finished my homework assignment for the quilling class. These are the Christmas cards I've made with paper filigree.

Ten Things of Thankful

Nov 17, 2014

Memory Monday: Most Influential Person

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday

   No doubt, the most influential person in my life so far is my mother. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am her only child, and she seemed to expect too much of me when I was growing up. She always wanted me to live up to her expectations, to be 'perfect' and to be the best student in school. I often thought of her great expectations as a burden, but her perfectionism did help me to try to do my best in everything I was working on. My mother believed that it was very important to be academically successful, and I studied every school subject diligently.

   My mother hated to hear me say 'I can't.' I was not good at P.E. at all. She didn't like this. She made me practice gym at home. When I was in the second grade, she even bought a horizontal bar and placed it in our dining room so that I could learn how to do forward upward circling. She forced me to practice every day until I was successful.

   My mother was outspoken. She usually spoke in a loud voice. She expressed her opinions and emotions freely. Indeed, she was a very emotional person, which I didn't like very much. I didn't want to be affected by her powerful expressions of negative feelings. The ways she showed her anger, sadness, disappointment and frustration seemed so overwhelming that I was afraid of being involved in her feelings. I didn't want to be like her, so I learned to hide my own negative emotions in front of everyone. I would rather keep silent and withdraw into myself than annoy someone else with my feelings.

  My mother loved crocheting and sewing. When she tried teaching me these skills, I didn't like them very much at that time. More than a decade later, however, I came to be interested in them. I'm glad that I've inherited her love of handicrafts.


Nov 15, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: November 15


The first sasanqua in our garden has come out!  Our sasanqua tree usually comes into bloom much later, some time in late January or early February, but this year, it is in harmony with other sasangua trees in our neighborhood. It is delightful to see the lovely pink flower on a cold morning.
I took part in the quilling class held at the church yesterday, where we learned how to make Christmas cards using paper filigree. I'm thankful for Mrs. Saitou, who taught the class. I had never heard of quilling before, and I found it interesting to learn the new technique. The picture below shows an example that Mrs. Saitou made for us.
We've been given a homework assignment: we are to make two Christmas cards by the end of this month. The cards are going to be sent to our non-Christian friends along with invitations to the services on Christmas. I'm looking forward to working on the cards.

#3 -- #9

I'm thankful for the traditional vegetable stew called noppei that I made on Thursday. It was cold and stormy on that day, which was the best time to have this kind of nutritious dish served hot.
Noppei is very easy to make. All you have to do is cut all the ingredients into small pieces, simmer them in dashi soup until soft, and season with soy sauce, salt, mirin (sweet rice wine), and sake (rice wine).
I'm thankful for the ingredients, some of which may be exotic to many of you.
sato-imo (field yam)


renkon (lotus root)

aburaage (fried tofu)

kamaboko (steamed fish paste)

ginnan (ginkgo nuts)

I've been taking part in Ten Things of Thankful since last May, and this is my 30th list! It means I've already listed 300 things that I'm thankful for!
I'm thankful for the hosts and participants of this wonderful blog hop, who make kind comments here, even though I'm not able to reply to all of you.
Ten Things of Thankful

Nov 12, 2014

Psalm 27:1

   I've started a new Bible Memory Challenge, where we are learning Psalm 27 by heart. This week, we are memorizing verse 1.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

   Meditating on this verse, I've realized that the psalmist is using the word 'my' three times here. He doesn't just say, "The LORD is light and salvation," and "The LORD is the strength of life," but he declares that the LORD is his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life.

   If I were just reading this verse without trying to memorize it, I might have paid little attention to the common personal pronoun here. The Bible memory challenge helps me read every word in it very carefully. 'Light,' 'salvation' and 'the strength of life' are expressions that have positive connotations, but 'my light', 'my salvation' and 'the strength of my life' give me far more hope, joy and encouragement. If the LORD were 'light, salvation, and the strength of life' that had nothing to do with me at all, I would still be afraid of many things. The Bible says, however, that He is 'my light, my salvation, and the strength of my life.'

   Yes. The LORD is my light and my salvation. He is the strength of my life. That is why I don't need to fear anyone. I don't have to be afraid. I'm grateful that the LORD has become my light, my salvation, and the strength of my life. The LORD is my God, not because of anything I have done for Him, but because of who He is, and what He has done for me, and that is what I'm grateful for today, and for ever.


writing prompt: grateful

Nov 10, 2014

Memory Monday: My Family

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday

   I was born about one year after my parents got married. Six weeks later after I was born, my mother resumed her full-time work at the office, leaving me in the care of Aunt Hana from 7:30 to 18:00. When I turned six years old, my mother quit her job and became a stay-at-home mom. She loved sewing and crocheting, and made a lot of clothes for me and for herself.

   My father was an office worker. He left for the office early in the morning, and came home late in the evening. When I was a junior high school student, he was transferred to a certain branch that was a long way from our house. He got up at 4:00 in the morning, and left the house around 5:00. He walked to the station, got on the first train, changed trains twice, and got to his office. He came home around 21:00. He always had supper at home. I usually got up at 7:00 and went to bed at 22:30. My mother and I had finished supper before my father came back. So I didn't spend so much time with him on weekdays in those days.

   In the year I entered senior high school, my father was transferred to the office near my school. I always walked to school. It took about thirty-five minutes to go there. My father walked to his office, too. One morning, we happened to leave our house simultaneously, walking in the same direction side by side. After I got to school, some of my classmates who had seen us walking together made fun of me. -- I looked so much like my father that anyone could tell that the middle-aged man walking beside me was my father.

   I have no brothers and sisters. My mother tended to be overprotective. In addition, she seemed to expect too much of me. She always expected me to be 'perfect', to get full marks in exams, and to be the best student in school. Sadly, I often felt as if it was impossible to please her.

   My mother had a lot of friends. She loved going to parties. She was always the life of the party. In her spare time, she took lessons in flower arrangement, Japanese dance, and poetry. She was especially enthusiastic about writing short Japanese poems called tanka.

   My parents and I sometimes went to the large park in the suburbs of our city on weekends. We had a picnic under the cherry trees every April. We also visited my mother's eldest sister who lived near the park.

   On the last Sunday in July, we went to the beach in K* by the sea of Japan every year, until I turned 15. We went there by train. When we arrived there, we all changed into the swimming suits at an inn by the beach. My mother, who had a heart condition, never swam in the sea. Strangely, my father didn't know how to swim. -- He used to play in the river near the house in his childhood, but somehow, he didn't learn to swim.-- I was not very good at swimming, either. I spent most of the day paddling in the shallow water near the shore alone, with my parents watching me from the beach. This was one of our family rituals.

   My family went on a short trip once or twice a year. We liked visiting places famous for beautiful flower gardens in our prefecture. We went to the tulip gardens in N*, the camellia park in K*, and the chrysanthemum festival in Y*. We never went out of our prefecture on our family trip, except when we visited Tokyo when I was 13 years old. We went to the zoo and the National Art Museum in Ueno, and the Space Expo in Shinagawa. I was excited to see the rockets and the stone from the moon.

Nov 8, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: Another Peaceful Week

Ten Things of Thankful
Last weekend, I went to the chrysanthemum festival held at the city hall, where I saw hundreds of beautiful flowers. In Japan, there are a lot of people whose hobbies include growing chrysanthemums, and exhibitions and contests like this are held in many cities at this time of the year.

I also went to the Citizens' Art Exhibition in the city hall on the same day. The admission was free. I saw a large number of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and works of calligraphy created by amateur artists living in our city. I found some of the works inspiring.
I'm thankful for the beautiful colors of autumn.

It is getting colder and colder, and I'm thankful for my gloves and my hat. I need them when I go shopping by bicycle. I'm also thankful for my coat.

I'm thankful for my father, who sometimes makes lunch for me.

the spaghetti my father cooked
the Pacific saury simmered in soy sauce

I'm thankful for the peaceful week I'm enjoying, though there has been nothing dramatic that makes this blog post very exciting...

Thank you for your visit to my humble blog.


Nov 3, 2014

Memory Monday: My First Friend

Retired Not Tired Memory Monday

   Probably, my first friend was Misako, a classmate of mine in the preschool. We were the shortest in the class. Whenever the teacher told us to stand in rows of two, we were in the forefront, next to each other. --The pupils formed rows in order of height.--

   Misako had a beautiful smile. We often played on the swings and slides together. We loved making mud pies in the sandbox. Both of us played the leading role in the drama. We may have looked like twins.

   After finishing the preschool, Misako and I entered different elementary schools. I may have come across her somewhere a few times after that, but as time passed by, we lost touch with each other.

  When I was in the first grade, I often played house with the children of the same age in my neighborhood on weekends. Fumiko, Emiko, Keiko, and I would often visit one another and played with our dolls together. Sometimes their sisters and brothers joined us. I wished I had a brother or a sister, too.

Nov 1, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: November 1

I'm thankful that I've completed a blog challenge,  31 Days, in another blog of mine. My theme was 31 Days of October in Japan, and I mainly wrote about flowers and food commonly found here in autumn, which helped me pay more attention to things I tended to take for granted.

I'm thankful for the community fair held at the city hall last weekend, where I saw a few alpacas from a village in the mountain. The village was severely damaged by earthquakes in 2004. Five years later, someone in Colorado, the USA, gave the village three alpacas to encourage the people affected by the devastating earthquakes. Since then, these creatures have been the symbol of reconstruction and hope. The village has been incorporated into our city now, and their alpacas often take part in municipal events.

I had seen alpacas on TV before, but it was my first time to watch them with my own eyes.

I'm thankful for the dorayaki (small pancakes) with sweet potato paste between them, which I got at the community fair. The dorayaki were designed by a group of local junior high school students in an interdisciplinary project. Based on their ideas, one of the most famous confectioneries in our city made the dorayaki, and the students were selling them at the fair.

The sweet potato paste was very sweet, and the dorayaki was delicious.

I'm thankful for the lunch I had at the church last Sunday. We had grilled onigiri (rice balls), miso soup, grilled pork and vegetables, nashi pears, cakes, pies, cookies, and coffee. Everything tasted good.
I'm thankful for the chrysanthemums in our garden.  They are probably the last flowers in the garden this year.

I'm thankful for the vegetables we got at the farmers' market on Wednesday. We bought some sato-imo (field yams) and naga-negi (spring onions) for the coming winter.
This week, I'm spending at least two hours a day playing the electronic organ. I'm mainly practicing the variations of "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" arranged by J. Pachelbel. I've also started reviewing chorales for Christmas. I'm thankful for the time when I can concentrate on playing the misical instrument every day.
I'm thankful for the beautiful blue sky and the colors of autumn.
I'm looking forward to the Bible Memory Challenge, which is going to start on November 10. This time, we are going to learn Psalm 27 by heart. I'm thankful for the organizers of this challenge.


I'm thankful for a bowl of matcha green tea early in the morning.
Ten Things of Thankful

Oct 30, 2014

Pondering on the Word 'Litter'

I am joining Brenda @ BYG Adventures for Pondering, where we write about words with more than one meaning. This week's word is 'litter.'

 photo image13_zps64a48e1e.png
   If I were a native speaker of English, I might not remember when and where I learned most of the new words and their different meanings. Having been studying it as a foreign language, however, I have a vivid memory of the contexts where I read or heard some of the English words for the first time in my life. 'Litter' is one of them.
   I first read the word 'litter' in the English textbook when I was a senior high school student. I was sixteen years old. (I had been studying English for about four years.) We were reading an essay on environmental problems, and the 'litter' was the noun meaning 'waste paper, cans, etc, which people have thrown away and left on the ground in a public place,' things they should have put in a litter bin instead.

   I learned a new meaning of the word 'litter' a few years after I started teaching English at a high school in Japan. Our textbook had a story adopted from the first chapter of Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, in which the little girl Fern asks her father not to kill the runt of the litter and names him Wilbur. I liked reading the story with my students.

   Years later, when I first saw the phrase 'cat litter' somewhere on the Internet, I wondered whether it referred to 'rubbish a cat throws away' or 'a group of kittens that a cat gives birth to at the same time,' but I know better now. :-)