a perfectly ordinary weekend

Without getting too deep into the details (I’ve drafted a super detailed post, but I’m not sure anyone really wants to read that much), to say this past week was hard would be an understatement. There were some really good moments, but honestly, this week was by far the hardest one I’ve had since moving to Japan (and then some). It was long and exhausting and things kept going wrong. Like really basic things; missing my stop on the train, getting on the wrong train, my computer crashing, my email not working, not being able to find things on shared drives, forgetting to respond to an email I really needed to respond to, etc, etc. And that on top of a schedule that would have kicked my butt all on its own.

IMG_0680

By the time Friday rolled around, I was so happy, I might have cried tears of joy. You know, as opposed the tears of frustration and failure that I’d cried on various other occasions during the week. In fact, I’m pretty sure God knew that I had hit my limit because, while I had made a commitment to myself to attend the temple, I was having a serious existential crisis trying to figure out how to keep that commitment and get everything done at work that I needed to get done, and just like that, five minutes before I needed be walking out the door, my computer kicked me off. I just stared at my screen as program after program shut down and I was logged off. I was done. That put enough of a pause in my work momentum to remind me that, contrary to what my actions of indicate, no one was going to die if I didn’t get this or that email sent or form filled out. So I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my coworkers (all of whom were still there) and walked out the door.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed my weekend whether I had made it to the temple or not, but I’m also sure that it was that much better because I did go. I just needed to be reminded of what is most important. Combine that with some warmer temperatures, and a perfect weekend was in the making.

After the temple and dinner out at this amazing kushiage place, Tatsukichi, that one of my business heads recommended, I was walking home and suddenly I was in this perfect Tokyo moment. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, except to say that I felt completely content and happy. One of those moments you wish you could capture in a photograph to put on your wall or bottle up to be imbibed later. I couldn’t stop smiling. Which was kind of incredible considering the week I’d just had. But that’s life, right?

Besides going to the temple, I made one other very important decision during the week which greatly affected the awesomeness of my weekend. I got a cleaning lady recommendation from one of my friends and scheduled her to come on Saturday morning. What an amazing blessing to be able to afford that right now. I know it won’t be a forever thing, but right now I can afford it and it’s totally worth it to buy myself some time.

Saturday morning, Norie showed up and, at first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. It was kind of like when the movers came to pack me up in New York. I’m not used to sitting by while other people do the things I would normally do and that I’m perfectly capable of doing. Seeing as how I’d just purchased myself three hours of time not cleaning, I didn’t let too much time pass before getting on with what I wanted to do. So, as Norie cleaned for three hours, I sat on my couch preparing my lesson for church today. In addition to teaching the girls on Wednesday about makeup and such, it was my turn to teach them at church as well.

clean apartment

So nice and clean! Now if the rest of my stuff could just arrive…

Can I just say that I am now convinced that there is no better way to start a Saturday than having someone else clean your house while you focus for three hours on the things that matter most? I read scriptures and watched videos (my favorite being one about this one) and listened to talks about the Savior. It was pretty much the best money I’ve spent in a long time. And it was exactly what I needed; a clean apartment and a clear, focused mind.

IMG_2889

It was then time to get outside and enjoy an incredibly beautiful (almost) spring day. And what better way to do it than to go for a bike ride…which I needed to do because I had to go pick up my bicycle from my old apartment. (I’d left it there when I’d moved because it wouldn’t fit into my friend’s car with all of my things and it was too cold to ride.) And Saturday was a perfect day for a bike ride. It was warm and sunny and the air just smelled like spring. I was clearly not made for winter.

I had plans to get out to IKEA to pick up a few things I didn’t buy in the states, but as I started out on my way home, those plans just didn’t seem that important anymore. I had been rushing so much during the week (and the weeks before) that taking as much time as I wanted to stop and smell the flowers (literally) on my way was a luxury I did not want to pass up. And that bike ride confirmed to me that I had made the right decision to not miss Tokyo in the spring.

483730_10152626556140389_401925300_n

plum blossoms just outside my apartment building

581766_10152626919335389_970203458_n

cherry blossoms (or ‘sakura’ in Japanese) down a little alley on my route from Roppongi to Nishishinjuku

waffle

And then Saturday night my dear friend Jennifer (one of my favorite people here!) hosted a little dinner party (or in my case, dessert party) at her home in celebration of her new waffle iron recently arrived from the states. Any reason to throw a party is a good one…but fun things from the U.S. might be the best one when living overseas! Such a fun evening. No rush. No stress. Just good food and fantastic friends.

And finally today. I love Sundays, but today was a particularly good one. And while I have no idea how well my lesson went (it’s hard to tell when you’re teaching teenagers), I made it through it and was able to get the girls to share a little. And I was able to share a little bit of myself with them. And after church, I got to do a little singing as I prepped to sing in church next Sunday. Something I’ve been promising myself I would do for a very long time.

Definitely still needs a little work, but I’ve got a week…and I’m making someone else sing with me (she just wasn’t able to stay after today to practice). I’m not quite ready to solo but oh how I do love to sing. This makes me miss my college (and high school, for that matter) singing days a lot. Maybe I’ll have to add voice lessons onto the list of “things to do while in Japan”. You know, squeeze it in between work, church, travel, socializing, ikebana classes (which I’m starting again next Saturday), learning to play the guitar, and just normal life stuff. Why not, right? I mean, clearly last week is an indication that I can take more on…

sunday (aka first full day in tokyo)

Part of the reason I liked the idea of moving to Tokyo on a Saturday was being able to go to church and meet people the very next day. As luck would have it, I live about 20 minutes walking from the temple/church, even closer than I lived in Manhattan. And church (the English branch) is at 10 am. The best church time there is. So, to church I went.

view of the temple from within the park across the street

Similar to New York, the church has a varied population in the summer (lots of men with wives and children who have gone home to Utah and tourists). I did meet some nice members and, once I stopped sweating from the walk, I really enjoyed myself.

Once church was over, and I had just accepted the fact that I would be hot the rest of the day, I headed into the park just across the street. So reminiscent of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park that I loved as a child…only it was the real thing. Perhaps not a “tea garden”, but the park was beautiful.

A man painting. I didn’t want to get too close because I wasn’t sure he’d like me taking a picture of him, but it was very pretty.

the pond
the pond from a little hill
the beginning of the pond
and a waterfall with Japanese maples…I cannot wait to see the leaves change this fall!
On the walk home from church, I saw this little dude (we’ll assume it’s a “he”). Anyone want to take a stab at what this character belongs to? 

 He was outside of a fire station, so we’ll assume he’s a little fire fighter?

lunch
When I got home, I made myself this very basic, very delicious lunch. And why am I sharing this on my blog? Because A) while fruit here is super expensive, it is also super delicious. B) I am so happy to be living somewhere that has natural light again I cannot even explain it. And C) to prove that I don’t eat out every meal. 

 And then I finished off lunch with a favorite treat. I know you can get Pocky all over the US now, but eating them in Tokyo is just way cooler. And they totally remind me of when my mom went to Tokyo and brought us packs of these before you could get them anywhere. Such a fun treat!

And of course, then there was dinner. My boss offered to take me out to eat Sunday night and I took her up on it. She asked me if I wanted traditional Japanese or something else. Of course, I went with Japanese. And, while my boss is American and doesn’t speak much Japanese, she has command of “restaurant Japanese” so it was really nice to just have someone else take care of ordering! Also, have I mentioned just how much I love Japanese food? And that I haven’t touched a fork since I got here?

appetizers – these were just brought as a start to the meal, a sort of amuse bouche

soba

 She ordered a number of small plates for us. One of which was soba noodles. In the summer time, these are served cold (you can see ice on them if you look closely) and they are brought out with a sesame dipping sauce that’s amazing. They are thick and chewy and absolutely delicious!

yakitori

 Then, there was the yakitori (aka grilled meat on skewers). Also delicious. In case you were wondering, the food here is just incredible. It’s a good thing the gym is right in my building…

On that note, I must go exercise before the gym closes so I can keep eating all of these delicious things and not gain more than five pounds (I have to be realistic, right?!). But before that, tomorrow (or later tonight if I have the energy) I will be sharing with you Monday, my first day of work and the subways! More to come on the toilets, as well.

sitcky

Oh, the joys of four year olds.

This week I wasn’t teaching, which meant I was on bathroom/crisis duty. Totally fine. There are two of us in the class for a reason. Eleven kids…it’s a lot. I don’t know how pre-school teachers do it.

As I was sitting there, watching the kids, managing the couple who are just a little more wiggly than the others, I saw something that didn’t look right out of the corner of my eye. Rebecca* has a habit of sucking on a little piece of her hair (I won’t comment on how I feel about that habit…), but something looked off. Her hair had a light blue streak going through it…

GUM!!!

I was out the door with her in about 2.2 seconds. And this is when you know you’re starting to love a kid. We went into the bathroom and I ever-so-slowly got all of the gum out of her hair. With my fingers. Her gum. My fingers. And somehow, I was okay dealing with this…which is a small miracle considering that I don’t generally like children I’m not related to/that don’t belong to my friends. That is love.

The best part was, after I had gotten it out, she was upset that I wanted her to spit the rest of it out. “My daddy gave it to me!” But apparently I really do have the “angry mom” face down because she handed it over as soon as she saw it.

When I saw the Primary President after church (who incidentally saw me going into the bathroom with Rebecca), she joked about my “baptism by fire”. And then she said, “All you need next week is a bloody nose, and I think you’re initiation will be complete.” I think I can pass on full initiation, thanks.

Next week, we will be starting with potty and gum checks. And maybe I’ll be purchasing some tissues for my purse…just so I’m prepared for the inevitable bloody nose. And maybe some wipes.

*Name has been changed for obvious reasons. 

unexpected blessings

In my church, we all share the responsibilities. We don’t have paid clergy in our congregations, and so we all pitch in. While I’ve been a member of my congregation for about seven months (crazy!), I was not given anything to do until just a couple of weeks ago, when I was asked if I would be willing to teach the 4-year-olds. I said yes. I was happy to have something to do. But I was also a little nervous.

As those of you who know me know, I adore children…the ones that are related to me. Other people’s kids? Not so much. Well, that’s not a blanket statement. I like children who belong to my friends, too. Needless to say, teaching a bunch of kids who belong to people I don’t know very well, if at all, made me a little nervous. I wondered, when I was asked to do this, if maybe it was my punishment for not liking all kids, or for judging some of their parents. (I try not to judge…but when you see parents totally ignoring their kids, it’s hard not to.)

So, on Sunday, when I got into sharing time and sat down next to my row of ELEVEN 4-year-olds, I was still a little overwhelmed. It was my first Sunday with them. My co-teacher was out of town. I’d never done this before and I didn’t even know these poor kids’ names. Not to mention that I knew, after sharing time, I was going to be spending 40 minutes with them attempting to teach them about God. Thankfully, the little girl I sat next to was as sweet as could be. I watched the kids. Some were acting out a little, but they are four and I was trying to be patient. Eventually, we were singing and smiling. Things were going along just fine. I sat there thinking to myself that this was going to be all right.

And then, sweet little Catherine* (the darling girl sitting next to me) looked up at me with tears welling up in her big puppy dog eyes. I don’t know if it’s from my years as an aunt or just instinct, but somehow I knew that she had had an accident. I asked her what was wrong and in a very small, very embarrassed voice she whispered that she had wet her pants.

Now, you might be thinking that this was going to be the end of me; I mean, I was already nervous about dealing with these kids (aka carrier monkeys) who don’t belong to me, and worried that I wouldn’t like them at all. But seeing this sweet little girl so sad just melted my heart. All I wanted to do was pick her up and give her a hug. (I didn’t. I have limits. I mean, life and death situations? Sure, I would have picked her up. But she’s not my flesh and blood and she was going to be fine.) I sent someone to go find her mom and I just kept telling her that it was no big deal. She was going to be fine. And it wasn’t and she was.

That one moment suddenly transformed these little 4-year-olds from scary little carrier monkeys into sweet little children who deserve every happiness and all the love there is to have. You’d think it would be the opposite, right? The rest of the day went off without a hitch. These eleven 4-year-olds are just about the best behaved (with the exception of one or two) 4-year-olds I have ever seen. Seriously. And even the ones who aren’t well behaved weren’t that bad.

When it was all over, and I was waiting with the last child for his dad to come get him, I realized that somehow I had seriously started to love each of these kids in less than two hours. I was shocked. I still am. And so very grateful. And to think it was all because one little girl had an accident.

*Name has been changed…she’s a 4-year-old and not mine.

it’s all in how you position the offer

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at accepting help. I like to think I’m perfectly capable of handling my problems myself–which I generally can (I don’t have issues…). Oh, and I hate inconveniencing people. Hate. It. There are a number of things that have made into this person who wants to do everything on her own. I won’t get into the details, though, because that isn’t what this post is about.

Yesterday, though, I found myself having a conversation at the end of which the person with whom I was speaking made the general offer, “If you every need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.” And my thought? “Yeah…fat chance.”
Then, a couple of hours later, my home teachers came to visit me. (Incidentally, and having nothing to do with this post, they came bearing a demi-baguette and passionfruit panna cotta from Silver Moon Bakery…amazing!) I really like my home teachers. They are just good guys. In fact, after the big snow storm, I got a phone call from one of them just to make sure I didn’t need anything. I didn’t (I was in Utah), but it was super thoughtful.

Anyway, as is typical of home teachers, at the end of their visit they asked me if I needed anything. I instantly said, “No. I’m good. I’ll let you know if I do need something, though.” P.S. I don’t make a habit of lying, but I must admit that was a big fat lie. I had no intention of calling them if I ever needed anything.

And then, one of them rephrased the question and asked, “If you had to ask for one thing, what would it be?” I suppose I could have said something like, “I wouldn’t.” But I was caught so off guard by the follow-up, that suddenly I found myself giving them a reply. A real one. I don’t think I had even realized that there was something I could ask for, something I needed. Apparently there was.

I learned something so valuable. Well, two things. The first is that it’s okay to ask for help, even if it’s someone you don’t know that well, and even if the help is minor. People like feeling useful. The second and, in my opinion, more valuable lesson is the value of effective positioning. Essentially, in the case of offering help, there is a way to ask a person if she needs help that will help her know that you are serious. While my offers to help others are always sincere, I’m guessing most people feel a lot like I do. They don’t want to inconvenience anyone. Like me, they might not want to admit that, while they are handling everything on their own (and could probably continue to do so), it might actually be nice to have someone in the ring with them.

And just because I was listening to Greg Laswell while I was writing this and because I feel like this song kind of goes with the post, here you go: