Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving countdown #19...

Today I am thankful for diversity. Yesterday was a unique view at how un-diverse some places are! Especially Japan. Seriously, I don't think we saw one other person that had blonde hair. There were a few other Americans there, some Germans, and some middle-eastern people at the mountain - but there was literally a sea of Japanese people. Black hair, dark eyes. I loved it - but it made me realize how lucky we are in the states to be surrounded by people of all colors, races, ethnicities, disabilities, etc. If that were a place in the US, there would be a rainbow of people.

One of the things I loved about Gavin's school last year was that he was exposed to kids of different abilities. More than 1/2 of the kids had some sort of challenge - whether it was a hearing problem, Down Syndrome, paralysis, burn victim, ADD, Autism... he was in an environment where it was not treated as "different" or "unique". It was everyday school for him. It was diverse. And everyone was treated equally.

On base we have a plethora of people too - but off base is a different story. I like that my kids have to experience what it feels like to be different. I think it will make them understand that it doesn't matter what your skin color or religion, each person is wonderful within themselves. Just as they are wonderful - even if they have blonde hair and blue eyes in a land where hardly anyone else does. I hope when we get back to the states they remember what it was like to be a little different - and I hope that they don't make other people feel bad when they are the 'different' ones.

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”
Maya Angelou

thanksgiving Countdown #18...

Yesterday was New Adventures...Today's thankful post is about Family Adventures!

Today was one of the first days that we were able to go out of town as a family and go on an adventure since we have been in Japan. Patrick's work had been so busy, we had parties or other activities, etc - so we were so excited to get a chance to go away for the day together. Patrick had never even been on the train yet (the kids and I are pros by now :-)! So when Patrick mentioned he wanted to go to Mt Takao I was happy to oblige!

Mt Takao is said to be a sacred mountain, with temples and statues of the Gods, and is a highlight of Japan in the autumn months. The foliage is to be one of the best in the Tokyo region. We hopped on the train (about 30 minutes total to get there) and waited in line for the chair lift (we thought it was more fun than the cable cars). The kids absolutely LOVED the chair lift (and so did mommy and daddy) as we rose up and up and up and up into the tree line. I am glad it was not too high off the ground (and there was nets and trails under the whole thing too). I would have been happy to just ride that all day! But, we didn't!!!

We got off the lift and hiked for a little while. We found a good resting place and ate lunch to gain some energy and then we were back up the hiking trail. The kids did great, although we did have to carry Evelyn a few times (she still has a cold and was getting hard to breathe at points). But all-in-all they did awesome! We walked past all the stations, enjoyed the views of the temples, the statues, the markets selling fun items and food, but especially the views. It was a clear day, slight breeze, perfectly sunny. Simply breathtaking. I made sure we stopped a few times just to enjoy the moment around us. We had the kids carry a plastic bag and collect some of their favorite things from the trip (acorns, leafs, rocks) and we will make a craft with them tomorrow.

There were some steep stairs, but we hiked to the summit (599 meters)! The trip down went way faster!!! All said, we were there for about 4 hours. It truly was a great family adventure. It was super-duper crowded because a) it was a weekend and b) it is prime koyo season (colorful foliage) but we didn't mind. The only waiting we did was for the chair lift - which was only 1/2 hour or so. It was pretty fun to see all the people gawk over Gavin and Evelyn and their blonde hair!

I wanted to go to the "trick museum" when we were done - but we are going to save that for another day! For now, this family adventure was awesome, and something I will always be thankful for!

Friday, November 19, 2010

thanksgiving Countdown #17...

New Adventures. Today, this is what I am thankful for.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go on my Culture Club trip with our Japanese friends. We went on a 30 minute train ride and wound up nestled in the gorgeous mountains and right along side the river. It was a gorgeous day (perfectly clear skies, bright sun, a little chilly in the shade) and we enjoyed every minute of it.

We ended up going to the Sawanoi Museum Combs and Ornamental hairpins museum (4000 fancy schmancy type of combs made of gold, ivory, coral, etc - some dated back to 10,000 BC) which overlooked the amazing river and all it's scenery. When we were there, our Japanese friends told us we should visit the bathroom since we were walking a ways to the next stop. And to our joyous surprise, the toilets were flushed using bubbles. They took the water from the river and literally made bubbles to flush the toilets (see photo above).

After the silly Americans were done using the bathroom, we went outside and hiked for about a mile on a path next to the river. We saw people bouldering on some rocks, a man fly fishing, some kayakers, people sitting on the rocks eating lunch, locals selling fruit (grown right there on their property), kids during their PE class at school running around, and amazing foliage. Seriously amazing. And each type of tree had different stories. Plum trees, pear trees, beautiful ginkgo trees (the brightest yellow tree you will ever see), just to name a few...and of course, the amazing japanese maple (just known as maple tree here). The brilliant colors coming from the trees have a lot of significance. Some say there are kimono-designers that base their fabric and makings on the color variations.

After our hike we ended up at a well-known local tofu restaurant. We had to wait a bit, so we muched on some samples in the lobby/gift shop area. Most of us ended up with a bag full or yummies to bring back to family - because it was really that good. Lunch was unique. I am not a tofu lover (texture thing) but I tried a little of everything on my plate. I even tried some salmon eggs (no thanks for the future). I tried to smother as much wasabi on my food as possible to gag it down...but I am glad I tried it!!!

After lunch we went to a famous artist's museum. The artist, Kawai Gyokudo, was one of the greatest masters of the Japanese art world. He was a teacher to Her Imperial Majesty in Japan. He started his artwork at a very early age - but even I (not an art appreciator) was drawn to his work. Their handout says "He had and ability to impress upon the observer a deep feeling of grace and elegance in nature..." and it's true! The mountains, plants, trees and animals all have a place of peace in his work. I was actually drawn to a few of his works, one in particular. Luckily, they sold reproductions so I could own one at a decent price! Most of us ended up buying one since it was such an awesome experience that we will probably not get to go see again (I don't think I could find it again :-) Mine in a picture of a branch with some buds on it...and some japanese writing messily scribbled down the side. It is actually a picture of sights AND thoughts - which I thought was totally cool. His scribbles were not actual thoughts...but thoughts of thoughts (very Power of Now). His museum also had an awesome zen garden - which was very cool to see. I loved the feeling of "bigger than my body" I got while I was there.

We had a few minutes to kill before our train - so we all sat by the riverside and talked and had some snacks. It was picturesque. Seriously. We had a beautiful day, filled with wonderful women that crossed cultural barriers. I am very thankful I had this experience.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

thanksgiving Countdown #16...

Today's thankful for fair trade. Not the kind that helps sustain 3rd world countries (although that is wonderful too). The fair trade I am talking about is when a friend does something helpful for you (usually watch your kids) and you can fairly do something helpful for them too.

I am not shy about asking friends for help. "Can you watch Evie while I take Gavin into Tokyo?" seems to come out of my mouth a lot this past week. And I only have a handful of friends in Japan I can ask the same people usually hear the request. And I did my fair share of asking for babysitting favors in Ohio. I can't even count how many times Angie listened to the monitor (aka babysitting while Evie was asleep in her crib), watched the kids for minutes or hours - as well as many other friends (Ashli, Autumm, Dana, Jessica, Christa....seriously - too many to count). So I am thankful for when I can pay back the favor and make it seem a little more fair!!!

My friend, Amy, ended up being the Evelyn watcher today. So I was thrilled when she asked if I could watch her kids for a bit tomorrow so she could go shopping with her husband. OF COURSE! It makes me feel better knowing I can help out too and I am not always the one asking. I will ALWAYS try to help out (even if it is not reciprocated) but it makes me feel better, like the world is rotating on the correct axis, when fair trade works out. And I have learned to ask about the trade first, before just asking about a favor... "Jami, can I take your kids for you today so you can get stuff done, and then trade tomorrow? I need Gavin to go to a friend's house while I am in culture club" get the point! So I love when people take me up on it :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

thanksgiving Countdown #15...

Today I am thankful for game nights.

Sometimes people think I am competitive. I have no clue what makes them think this, but since more than one person has said it...I guess it must have some merit.

Last night I went to the Medical Auxiliary Group's Bunko night. It was a great time, and I won one of the prizes (not that I am keeping track of that stuff :-) I also play in a weekly Mah Jongg game - which definitely helps get my competitiveness a chance to break out!!!

I loved me some game nights in Ohio too. Even if I was playing with some people who English was not their first language. Even is some people didn't know that when the beeper starts going faster - it means the time is running out. Even if no one wanted to be on my team because they thought I would be mad if our team lost. I truly always looked forward to it...even if the other people cheated and I ended up not winning somehow. Sometimes, I even learned a few things...(dirty pictionary really helps you get to know your friends and neighbors)!

I love playing games with my kids. Candyland, Connect Four, match 'em up, touch screen games... and we all know I love playing Wii with Patrick ;-)

I am looking forward to finding friends in Japan to play with. If any will have me after reading this post.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

thanksgiving Countdown #14...

Sisterhood. The word with a thousand meanings, but with the same feeling. Miriam Webster states sisterhood as:

a : the state of being a sister
b : sisterly relationship

: a community or society of sisters; especially : a society of women in a religious order

: the solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns

And although I am always thankful for my 'real' sisters, Anna and Kaitlin, that would fall under my general thankfulness I have all the time. I promised no obvious thankful this is not about them (although, I repeat, I AM very grateful for them).

Today, I am thankful for the non-biological sisterhood. One of the best decisions I have ever made in my life was to join the sisterhood of Delta Phi Epsilon. To this day, I utilize lessons learned, keep in touch with friends made, and even with current sisters there now (OK - it helps that my biological sister Kaitlin is also there now). I still wear my letters proud and am forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful organization.

I am also thankful for the sisterhood of best friends. Friends til the end. Friends that know everything about you and still love you anyway. Friends you have known since 1st grade. Friends who you roomed with in college. Friends you met at your first 'real' job. Friends you met while your husband was in med school. Friends you relied on whole-heartedly during residency. These sisters of my heart were always there for me and I know they always will be. I could go months without speaking to them, or talk to them every day. There is a natural bond that literally and physically draws me to want to be near them. They have held my hair while I puked. They were the first person I called when I found out I was pregnant (even before Patrick). They made me meals for months after Evelyn was born. They were in my wedding. They let me join in their weekly Grey's anatomy nights. They understood 100 hour work weeks. They celebrated when I passed my athletic training exam on the first attempt. They, unfortunately, were sexually harassed with me while we were both too scared to say anything (until we found out about each other and finally stepped up and said something!)!

And now, I am in a sisterhood community again. There is no choice but to support and love one another now. Being the wife of a military man has it's unique challenges. Living in Japan does also. So today, I was very thankful for the Yokota Officer Spouse Club. They held a beautiful luncheon and discussed how to throw a party. From decorations, to food prep, to folding the napkins. And even though I have only been here for 3 months (almost 4!), I can feel the unspoken sisterhood there. It's unmistakable.

And I am very blessed to be able to experience sisterhood in all the possible ways and definitions!

Monday, November 15, 2010

thanksgiving Countdown #13...

Today I am thankful for Blogs. I love reading blogs, writing blogs, and stalking blogs (my google Reader helps me keep track of anyone who posts something new so I don't have to check each person's blog every day). It is a great way to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, to get inspired and to inspire others, and for learning new things, relevant or not.

Even though I personally think the word 'blog' is stupid, and sounds like an STD or ugly growth, I LOVE the idea of them. There are certain blogs I look forward to reading every day. People who are professional bloggers. People I have never met, yet feel like I have known forever. Then there are my best of friends who I talk to all the time, yet still enjoy reading about their adventures.

But today, I am especially thankful for food bloggers. Anyone who knows Kelly Why (the old me) knows I couldn't even boil water without ruining it. One time, my mom asked me to start dinner for her. She told me to preheat the oven, take the roast out of the fridge, put it in the pan and surround it with veggies (already precut and ready to just add to the pot). So I did all of the above. But she never specified to actually put the roast in the oven - so she was pretty disappointed when she came home to a roast sitting on the counter for an hour or so. Seriously - I was pathetic. When Patrick and I first started dating I knew how to make Easy Mac...and that was seriously it. But slowly and surely, he got me interested in cooking. One of the first things I learned how to do (and one of my favorites still) was to use the crock pot. I got a cookbook with different recipes, slow cookers for dummies, and some recipes from my mom. Then I ventured out and started using the grill. Until finally, I was not a total klutz in the kitchen all around.

The thing I love most about food blogs is that they are usually done by stay-at-home moms, not some gourmet chef. They use practical items and teach you how to use items you have already. Don't have brown sugar??? One cup of sugar and 1 TBSP of molasses. Don't want to run to the store for fresh broccoli? Use frozen bagged broccoli and add it to a boiling pot of pasta in the last 6 minutes. I have a plethora of food blogs I follow on a regular basis (OK - I stalk them) to get ideas for the week. I am trying new recipes about 3 times a week. Some are good...some we will not try again. But I love trying them. I can follow slow cooker blogs, southern comfort food blogs. I love one in particular that has a weekly menu along with some favorites from food blogs that she follows. She posts pictures along the way - to dumb it down for me specifically (at least, that is what I would like to believe).

So today, I am thankful for food blogs. Today's dinner was slowly deviled beef.

2 lbs. stew meat
1 med. onion, chunked
1 med. green pepper, chunked
1 envelope dry sloppy joe mix
1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)
6 oz. water
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
Mix all ingredients together. Cook 4 hours on Hi or 8 hours on low.

Great served over noodles!!! Enjoy!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

thanksgiving Countdown #12...

Another no-brainer today. Although, something I have come to take for granted (as most things), today I am thankful for electricity. And warm water. And the comforts of living in a home.

On Saturday, we had the power shut off for the day. This is the second scheduled power outage on base since we have moved here. We have also had a 3 day hot water outage. That was no fun.

Luckily, this day was gorgeous outside! Our first outage was on a 100 degree humid day in July. It was God awful. We ended up going away for the weekend just so we could get air conditioning. This time, no such worries. It was a gorgeous day outside. We went to breakfast at the bakery (along with 1/2 the base) since they were operational, went to an outdoor craft fair for a few hours while the kids played with friends and I shopped, and then went to a birthday party where there was electricity. When we got back home, we all took naps and when we woke up - we had power!

But it made me realize how grateful I am for that smart guy, flying a kite during a thunderstorm, Ben Franklin, who made most of the luxuries in my home possible.