Monday, January 31

Detours+Destinations



There is no doubt that I am experiencing a brief period of grief for the loss of the preschool position. I read a blog post on the matter and I am grateful now to have the framework to describe my current state. Teaching is a deeply personal profession and since we teachers depend on schools to provide us with our livelihoods, selecting a good school is crucial. In attempting to be hired by the preschool, I was actually trying to shift my career from being a language teacher to being a classroom teacher of young learners. Not being able to do this on my first attempt, I have to reassess if I want to make such a transition.

In fact, right now I am forced to do a lot of introspective inquiries (well, more than usual for a Buddhist and amateur philosopher). One thing I have determined is that I am not that keen on committing to either language teaching or preschool teaching. Or anything that requires me to be out of the home for most of the week. I want to concentrate on my writing and (this is difficult to share) my art. I want to learn how to communicate in Japanese so that I can meet other people who like concentrating on their creative endeavors.

So this is the blessing in disguise of this failed application to the preschool.
Instead of worrying about jobs, I am going to use my non-teaching time better. Wish me luck in this. It's easier to write resumes than short stories.

xoxo

Friday, January 28

Fresh+Start

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So, to explain what has been happening: I was vying for a very nice job at a preschool in Shizuoka for the past month and a half. I was short-listed then it came down to me and another candidate. I went there for an interview, saw Mount Fuji, saw what a partial immersion school looked like, then came home with the sense that it wasn't going to happen.
I am disappointed, I will admit it. It would have been great for the kids (they waive the tuition for their teachers' children, and it's an IB school that goes from preschool to senior high school) and I thought it would have been ideal on many other levels.
Yet, I must accept it, and not as a failure. I am sure the other teacher was more qualified than me and so I wish her and the school all the best.

And as for me, I have a full life here right now. And frankly, it's such a relief to be released from the stress of limbo that I don't feel as disappointed as I had anticipated. There is a new found freedom in our stability that I intend to embrace and explore. After I received my rejection, I questioned the reason for all of my anxiety and concentrated focus on this possibility. I don't quite have the answer except that it has made me look at my life as it is with fresh eyes. If I can use this renewed perspective to move forward in the direction we really want, then the brief heartbreak I had from not getting the job will be worth it. It is my resolution to use this as a step, not a fall.



xoxo

Wednesday, January 26

Preoccupied

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An interesting prospect has had us distracted for a bit. The worst is over and now we are awaiting the outcome. It shouldn't take long. The less positive side of me forecasts disappointment on the horizon. The more positive side gently reminds me that regardless of the answer, I am a lucky girl. Which is ever so true. Plus I get another lesson in patience, a virtue I am not so skilled in.
In times like these, it is necessary to stay on the sunny side. And maybe eat a little ice cream.

Xoxo

Sunday, January 16

White Silence

IT SNOWED!

Our first true snow of the year.

this is sunday.

this is sunday is another side project of mine, designed to help me pay attention to my day of お休み(oyasumi=rest).

between you and me, this working mother thing is not easy right now. i bring a lot of baggage home with me that i unreasonably feel compelled to sort through when i know i just need to find a padlock and keep it tightly shut so it doesn't spill out and clutter my days off.

this project is that padlock.

this is sunday

Thursday, January 6

Wintering

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The winter holidays are spent and now we are back on our respective school/work tracks.

Yes, I am sighing a little. Did you hear me?

We had two weeks straight of time together and a grand time was had by all. We are entering into the final semester of the Japanese school calendar. It's a short term and we'll be together for another two weeks in March.
(Followed quickly by Golden Week in June. And summer holidays in August. And don't forget Silver Week in September. And those random national holidays in October and November. Then, of course, there are two weeks off in December.
I am very grateful to be a teacher in Japan.)

I didn't accomplish much over the vacation despite my productivity.
What I did was: I cooked meals and folded clothes and nursed sick children and played at the park and helped with their homework.

Usually before a break, I make a giant master list of what I hope will happen and it typically looks like this:
-teach Sebastian to read
-teach Nico to read
-study Japanese for 3 hours every night
-sew three dresses
-write a short story
-clean the entire house
-meditate

Funnily enough, I always fail to meet my lofty goals. Strange, huh, considering how I usually strategize my minutes and make a careful schedule, allotting what seems like enough time for me create a new wardrobe and educate my boys plus learning the piano and getting in shape.

The problem is that I map out my time at work, where they have such things as clocks that run according to a standard time, recognized by other workplaces all over the universe. When I cross my threshold though, I am crossing into another timezone that is set according to the heartbeats of my children.

This holiday, I remembered and respected the ebb and flow of home life. I like rising with my sons and being with them until their frantic energy softens to match their deep breaths. I like seeing neighbors chatting in the quiet street and birds flit away from the balcony when I open the door to hang up yet another load of laundry.

And you know what? They have been two of the sunniest weeks of my life. I hope to carry some of the peace and joy generated over these past 14 days with me as I push off for another long stretch of strained schedules and ticking clocks.

Wishing you all peace and joy.
xo

Sunday, January 2

I like making postcards. I like getting postcards.

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Here is how it will work:

After the 2/28 sign-up deadline, I will send everyone a sheet of all of the addresses of the participants. If 20 people sign up, then there will be 19 postcards to make and send for 12 months. (So far there are four people besides for myself participating. I hope this doesn't seem overwhelming.) It's sometimes easier to make more postcards than less. The postcards should feature original artwork which can be made in any medium or format you like. I will probably be using block prints since I want to develop my carving skills. You could use anything like stickers, Photoshop, potato stamps, watercolors, masking tape, pencils, magazine clippings. As for the message, you don't have to worry about writing some witty message for 19 different people, unless you want to. It is sufficient just to write the addresses. Since some of the participants will be in different countries, there is the cost of postage to consider. It is nominal, I think, roughly around ten USD a month. Postcards should be sent by the 20th of the month before the featured month. For example, April's postcard (the first one) should be mailed by March 20th.

I think that this will be a good exercise in prolonged creativity as well as a means of connecting to people around the world for a year in a way that predates Facebook and Twitter. In the end you will have a collection of original artwork that will hopefully inspire you to continue your own creative endeavors.

I am really looking forward to getting started with this. For me, it is a commitment that I predict will be sometimes a struggle to meet but I also know that a little stress on my creative muscles will make me stronger. Doing such a project with others generates a form of energy and collaboration that will make the 12 months more dynamic and, of course, more interesting.

And I do love getting mail.
If you do too and would like to participate, sign up here.

Saturday, January 1

A Declaration of Macrobiotics

To understand the universe
I will first start with this bowl of brown rice
And my two chopsticks


About a month ago here, I let it be known that we would be starting to change our diet in the new year. We've been considering it for such a while that this final resolution to switch was simply the next natural step. I know that there is a lot of confusion around what it means to be macrobiotic so I thought I would take a moment in the beginning to state what it is we are up to, so as not to alarm the grandparents in the audience.

As every introduction to every macrobiotics book will tell you, the word macrobiotics means "great life". Perhaps this will seem strange considering that many people, including people who long ago declared themselves to be macrobiotic, often see the diet as restrictive and even penalizing. Obviously the word "diet" is too loaded for most; as a teacher, I find it similar to the word "method". So instead of adding more layers of assumption and confusion to our intent, let me instead say that we are going to follow macrobiotic principles in making daily life decisions such as eating, consumption, and human interactions. This approach to living is a pragmatic way to help us actualize our philosophies within our strained schedules. It is not an extreme way of life: it is a move away from extremities towards a balanced middle path. And living in Japan, it is quite easy in many ways to make the switch since washoku principles, the traditional Japanese diet, are akin to those promoted through macrobiotics. The main difference is the focus on whole grains and the dedicated ambition of achieving balance and harmony.


Now, all this sounds good, I can hear you saying. Who wouldn't want a great life? Well, there are some "catches" if you will but it isn't a matter of absolute black and white polarity as is so commonly the means for many failed good intentions. The idea is to avoid extreme foods because they lead to extreme physical, mental, and emotional states. So sugar, for one, is essentially out. Caffenine, coffee, salty foods, processed foods, large animal meats, dairy, and eggs are all essentially out. I say essentially because if you do indulge in such foods, you aren't going to have to walk the plank of the Great Life cruise liner. Macrobiotics is a continent. If you wander out to sea a bit, you just swim back to shore where a hot bowl of miso soup will be waiting for you.

In regards to the kids, they'll be fine. School lunch is fine, occasional treats are just that. We will make and serve food that we consider is the best for their well-being. And they may not like it. And that's okay. But we have the advantage, like I said, of living in Japan. They already love sea vegetables and burdock root. None of it is foreign for them. So please don't worry that we are depriving them in any way. I hope in the long run will be helping them to discover their own great lives.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me. Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year!

Shimekazari

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.


On Old long syne my Jo,
in Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne.


Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
will not thy presence yield relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially when I reflect
on Old long syne
(Old Long Syne, by James Watson (1711))