Monday, August 31, 2009

Portraits of my daughter

We bite a juicy peach
together, bumping noses.
We giggle
juice dripping down our chins.

Mesmerized with concentration
sifting sand between her fingers
dirt smudged on her face.
We paint pictures on her tray
blueberry smoothie.

We point in wonder
and make fish faces
at our glassy reflection.Making snow out of tissues
we throw into the fan.
It swirls around us
a blizzard in August.

Refusing sliced apples
and cooked carrots.
They taste better
whole.Flipping French toast,
She smells like morning.Engaged,
oblivious to her beauty.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And then my dog died . . .

It would seem that farm life was a little too adventurous for Winston. We just got the message that he was hit by a car out on the country road near Stephensens'. My initial selfish reaction was what else could go wrong in my life right now? I'm going to miss this little guy. He was my firstborn - the simpler, gentler soul of the pair. I hear he became Doug's lap dog during early morning scripture study. . . I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for the love and care you've given him in our absence. I'm sure Frankie misses him lots . . . he survived a rattle snake bite . . . hope he survives this. Life is so beautiful. So fleeting. Everyone hug your dogs for me tonight. Love you Winston. I'm sorry I couldn't be there to bury you myself, buddy. You were a wonderful puppy for the year I could have you with me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Ruby Suns

. . . are my favorite today. If you like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes, take a listen. If not, take a hike. ;) Sea Lion is an album for summer and sunshine. Ukuleles, auto harps, African beats, curious mixes of ambient sound . . . whimsical, fantastical, beautiful. I included 6 of the album's 10 tracks . . . the others are just as good, though. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009


. . . and their hidden treasures . . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Night Cafe

Here's the first batch of videos. Sorry for the quality. Not even the Mac owners could salvage the condition of these sad little clips.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An ode overdue

Dear Hannah,

I sang lots of songs to you tonight while you drank your milk before bed. You took a long time finishing your bottle - maybe because you knew I'd stop singing when you finished. I didn't mind. It's been a while since I was able to sing for that long without getting so choked up with emotion I had to stop. You've stopped humming along like you used to. I hope that isn't my fault.

You are our twinkle toes - our little fairy delight. Everywhere you go you travel on your speedy toes, belly and chest out, unafraid of your exuberant momentum. What a fearless little sprite you are, running full speed on the pavement with a soccer ball in your arms. You don't want to throw the ball. You don't want to kick the ball. You just want to hold it close to your chest, under your chin with a binky in your mouth. Some day you'll drop the ball and squeal with exaltation as it rolls away. Some day you'll chase the ball, catching it or kicking it farther down the hill. Some day you'll bounce the ball and discover its many hidden properties. But today you're content holding it - and I am content holding you as you suck milk from a bottle. I don't need you to drink milk from a cup, eat rice with a fork or peaches from a bowl. I don't need to see you roll away. I am content holding you to my chest, under my chin, a binky in your mouth.

When the binky is out of your mouth, you replace it with laughter and words. You came home from Megumi's gasping after each sip of water - a satisfying ahhhh as though you've downed an ice cold brewsky. I half expect a resounding belch to follow such a pleasurable sigh. Your dad is also teaching you how to slurp drinks and the daily popsicle you two share, and this morning you mimicked, with impeccable accuracy, his mischievous cackle. Oh well. Someone has to teach you how to slurp, burp and ahhhh while I teach you the finer phrases of life . . . please (pwee?), thank you (aridato!) and I love you (Ah ya dee!). Megumi says you also clapped your hands together and said gochisou-sama deshita after dinner, but I'm still waiting to hear it myself.

You point to the things you want to try and yell koko! We discovered your love of balloons when we came home from the DeoDeo, the electronics store, with not one but TWO balloons AND cotton candy - all free - all because you're you and you're cute and your chubby face demands balloons, cotton candy, and whatever other humble offerings can be whipped up in an electronics store. Wondering when that iPod they promised will arrive . . . You came home with your orange and purple balloons - one filled with helium, one with my own CO2. I tied them together so the helium balloon would stop floating out of your reach. You must have danced around with your balloon nunchucks for 2 and a half hours - a record for any toy, to be sure.

You love being chased. When you hide in the tatami room you are invariably waiting to be found, chased (you on your twinkle toes) and tickled within an inch of your life before repeating the process about 16 times. Catch and release. Sometimes you close yourself in the futon closet and can't get out. We laugh and think this is great fun. You don't agree.

Your favorite movies are Totoro and The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. If I let you, you can sit through the entirety of one of these movies on the coffee table without blinking. I check on you as I cook dinner and you smile at me, babble something and point at the screen, tears streaming down your face from lack of blinking. You love other children, and you love the Japanese people. You find an unfathomable amount of energy when you are surrounded by admirers. I feel guilty when you only have boring old me in our quiet old house. You are meant to be shared - to shine your light in as many places possible. Twinkle, twinkle little toes, how your laughter grows and grows . . .

You're an independent soul and it often breaks my heart that you don't need me as much as I'd like you to need me. Sometimes I feel like you're the one raising me . . . teaching me . . . guiding me with your song. And so you are. You are a knowing, happy little sage and I owe every smile to your existence. I see a piece of myself in you, Hannah - the piece that I must cherish and nurture - the piece that only I can cherish and nurture. I'm of course grateful for every bit of you, but that piece in particular is why I'm here, singing far too many songs into the top of your head, breathing you in until my lungs burn because I know you won't smell the same tomorrow. You'll roll a little farther down the hill and I'll smile at your boldness and bravery, despite how it pains me to see you grow.

I love you, Hannah Felicity. My happy flower. I am so blessed.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Dots and blobs and shattered bits

5 out of 10 ain't too bad, given that it rained so much this weekend the back yard looked like this:

So naturally I looked like this:

Yeah, the beach getaway was thwarted, but that was no reason to shelf the new bikini. Felt kind of silly traipsing around in the itsy bitsy though . . . skirt made it feel a little more decent, domestic and ridiculous. Oh, Suz. *shakes head*

Courtney and Chris stayed the night and rescued us from the funk for a short time. A little short lived though, as Mondays usually are in this job. This weekend kind of sucked. No, it really sucked. Obon is a couple days away. I'll have my revenge on you, rainy weekend. Itsy bitsy will have her moment in the sun (with sunscreen, Mom).

I'm no good at the visual arts. I tell people this to avoid responsibility for that Picasso cat on the whiteboard (eh? nani??), poor penmanship in greeting cards (ltappy l3irthday!) and American School construction paper creations that hearken back to my 3rd grade book report days (Suzanne has exceptional . . . ideas.). So maybe I see things a little differently. I have a different vision of my surroundings and the way things work. Had a dream with lots of paint in it - big shiny blobs of colorful pigments waiting to be scraped and mixed on their pristine palate. Think I overdo it sometimes . . . get too excited . . . dab a little too much paint on the brush then hastily begin the first stroke before I've made a plan. Other times I'm quite shy and self-conscious, not getting enough paint - the first stroke a weak and measly excuse for taking the first step. Advantage of this is seeing the brush stroke clearly after its made - being able to count the hairs, observe their behavior when I take my brush to the canvas. I can always go over with more paint later if I don't like it. Harder to fix that obnoxiously thick streak of blue in the sky. Harder still to get the right amount of paint the first time. What a gift to not have to see the canvas in the shadow of perfection. There is so much white to cover, so much time to fill with goodness.

And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good. - John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Making a Liszt

After a 30-hour work week I'm setting my jaw firmly against depression this weekend, however tempting it is to let the exhaustion weaken my resolve. I will smile, and I will mean it.

On the agenda:

1. Download albums by Beirut and Fleet Foxes.

2. Go to Aeon and buy something completely indulgent, along with groceries that surround a menu that will use up the things in my pantry.

3. Harvest my jungle of basil, oregano and rosemary.

4. Go to the beach. Yes, me. Little white me. At the beach. With sun. And water. And sand in my crack. Maybe the indulgence at Aeon will be a bikini . . . that fits . . .

5. Read Rockabye. Because let's face it - it's a weekend read, and I've got a stack of other books I'm itching to crack open. Wow, two items on my list have crack in them now. And one of them has itch.

6. Finish the curriculum for next semester. Yes, more work. But easy work.

7. Pedicure, pedicure, pedicure . . .

8. Liszt, Debussy and Joplin, you are soooooo mine.

9. Finish Hannah's lastest video and photo montage, get a few pages done in her scrapbook.

10. Something else that's good.

Readyyyyyyy break!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Good things

No, it isn't all darkness. There are things to be happy for. Hannah is talking up a storm. Her latest is "Uh ohhhhhh" as she drops her blueberries one by one on the floor. We're also working on "I love you," which right now sounds something like "Ah ya deee!" She has mastered the art of puckered little kisses when asked . . . only thing is, if one person gets a kiss, so does everyone else in the room . . . sometimes two or three, if she really likes you. She's also taken to lifting up people's shirts and tickling them, screaming with delight if she gets even the slightest reaction.

Courtney showed me this beautiful thing a couple weeks ago, and I've been meaning to post it here. By the time I can afford to go to London these pianos will probably be small ecosystems of mushrooms, moss and centipedes. Even better . . .

Looking for a creative outlet for your writing? Try writing a story about one of these significant objects. I especially enjoyed the story about this duck tray.

Sesame Street is celebrating its 40th anniversary on the air. This interactive graphic on the National Post has made me recall all of those endearing obscure or retired characters from my childhood. Remember the Yip Yips?!

Where the Wild Things Are trailer, you completely outshined the Harry Potter film you preceded. It was totally worth the 12 bucks just to see you on the big screen. (Yes, it's that expensive in Japan.)

This trailer of Wes Andersen's Fantastic Mr. Fox has me smiling pretty big, too. Seriously, what's not to love about an animated film with voice talents from the casts of Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums and Darjeeling Limited?

These 10 best book websites could keep me occupied through an entire Hannah naptime. And have. On several occasions.

As for work, I've been teaching summer phonics courses in Ota three times a week: a beginning class from 10:00-11:30 and an advanced class from 12:30-2:00. The beginners are learning all of the short vowel sounds while the advanced kids are getting into the long vowels. It's been a frustration and delight working with these kids - three of them are attending BOTH classes, neither of which they really need. With phonics classes, Homestay club and their regular "Let's Go" classes, Willis, Lane and Briah are now getting almost 20 hours of English a week! It isn't easy for the other kids to keep up in the shadow of these English-learning giants, but today I had amazing experience with Buzz, who used to be in "Hans' Hellions" American School. Samantha, I think this is the class William used to teach. We were learning the long "o" sound with all of it's quirky spellings: hole boat, toe, row, gold. We worked through some pages in their workbooks before picking up their readers for the day: "My Old Gold Boat." At the end of the class I usually have all of the kids read the book individually, and Buzz usually backs out. Today was a different story. The other kids sang our song of cheerful encouragement (a song perfect for phonics classes, by the way) as Buzz walked slowly to the front:

Buzz, Buzz, bo-Buzz
Banana-fana fo-fuzz!
Me, my mo-muzz

He sat down and proceded to read the entire book to the class, stumbling along as all beginning readers must, but never giving up, and trying at least once to sound out a difficult word before asking for my help. I shed tears of fierce pride as this little boy faced his fear. Children are such a gift . . . such a miracle.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

post-performance reflections

I don't know what to call last night . . . different? Awkward? Definitely out of my comfort zone, but still rather enjoyable - in fact, I think I had more fun last night than during December's concert, but that might have something to do with the comfort of feeling my fingers and toes throughout the performance. Also, I was pretty damn cute this time. Yeah, I said it. What?

I've watched and listened to both performances a few times now, and I'm pretty disappointed. Paul says "Only psychos like to listen to themselves...and you're not THAT crazy," but shouldn't I be able to look back and give myself a pat on the back . . . even a little one? I honestly can't say I deserve it after this performance. My sound was brassy, unkempt, and it lacked depth and richness. I took everything I'd been taught and threw it out the window, and that was pretty easy to hear. What also infuriates me is my lack of stage presence. I had it at one time - it used to be the biggest thing I had going for me. People say it still is . . . but what does that mean? "Hey, Suzie! You're a singer with great stage presence." I'm reminded of Arrested Development's character Gob seeing his nephew's rather plain girlfriend, Ann, for the first time and saying, "What is she funny or something?" I'm that girl. I'm Ann.

The atmosphere was definitely different between the two performances. The second was after sunset, which made a world of difference. I had a lot more fun playing with the spotlight, moving between the light and darkness when it suited me. In daylight performances there's no place to go "off stage." You're there for the long haul. No nose picking, flem hacking or pantyhose adjusting allowed. It affected my mood and my overall stage presence for the first show. I will say though, my voice was in a lot better shape for that one than the later show. Sigh. Couldn't have it all. Wish there were a way for me to dub the early show's sound over the late show's footage. I'm going to assume you'd rather see an interesting performance than hear a pretty one. My apologies to your ears, then.

So what next? I came home and really practiced piano for the first time in I-don't-know-how-many weeks. Picked up Franz Liszt's Liebestraume. Is it possible for a piece to be too romantic? Too beautiful? As for singing, I've performed the two extremes of my repertoire now . . . I'm thinking it's time for something . . . je ne se qua. Mixed? Quirky? Something a little more . . . me. Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill. Yes. They'll do nicely.

Be patient for the video footage. My software doesn't like my camera, and lowers the quality by quite a bit when importing. Going to see if Courtney and Chris will lend me an hour or so on their Macbooks to get the job done. :)