The God Journey is one of my podcast staples. In this conversation, Brad and Wayne opened my eyes to what it means to be led by God. As someone who has at least two left feet (and possibly some middle feet I was not aware of before as well), I can really relate to the analogy.
It's two months since I listened to this first, and it is still resonating. Listen here.
Banal ("bay - nal", verb) - To be uptight about run-of-the-mill, humdrum things.
One of the main concerns we have had about leaving here has been how we could get rid of the entire contents of our apartment, and yet at the same time live in it with two children right up to the last minute before we leave Japan. To back up slightly and clarify something first--when I say we needed to get rid of everything, I really mean it: appliances, air conditioners, carpets, light fittings, heaters, furniture - the works. And another small detail: If we could not find a home for it, then we would have to actually pay someone through the nose to "dispose" of it (literally thousands of dollars). Not that we own a bunch of junk, but "secondhand" is really not a big thing in Japan.
Obviously, a small amount of important family heirlooms and the like is gradually being shipped out by Abigail to wend its way slowly across the ocean. However, that still leaves a lot of things here.
Anyway, we were hitting this issue of really wanting to find someone who really needs a whole apartment's worth of stuff, be able to take it all at one go, and to be able to do that in the two weeks we are having to pay rent from the time we leave until the end of the month. It was a big challenge as moving these things is going to take a number of people and a couple of trucks. But God has sorted it out: A lady whose son has just had a baby and who is living with his wife's parents at the moment were tipped off via the relative of a friend, and they are taking it all. Plus they offered to give the apartment a basic once-over cleaning once they were done so it would be ready to return to the landlord.
To say we are relieved is an understatement. It's a win-win, and things which still have a good useful life ahead of them will now be in someone's home, rather than creating an environmental nuisance.
On the other hand it is a strange feeling. Normally, if someone were to offer to clear out your place and pay you nothing at all for the privilege, you would be on the phone to the police right away. That is called "robbery" where I come from. But in this situation when you are moving across the planet, you really begin to feel the weight and hindrance of "stuff", and to have someone come along and offer to just take it all away can be so freeing.
I would recommend it. And if you can't find a local family to help you out like we did, try leaving your doors and windows open, and I'm sure the local criminal fraternity will welcome the chance to unburden you.
Matthew, in the car this morning as we were heading out of our parking lot:
"Are you ready to go REAL fast?!?"
Which is totally an oxymoron, by the way.
And speaking of morons, I'm still getting some cultural stuff wrong, more than 8 years into this living-in-Japan thing.
Like the other day: I was at the mall with a friend, my two kiddos, and her two kiddos, and she was watching all 4 at our table in the food court while I took my turn to order taco rice. They were making it pretty quickly and didn't give me a beeper this time, so I was waiting for a couple of minutes by the counter when I spotted a lady looking stranded. She was holding a tray of food and wasn't even attempting to push her small child in the cart--she just stood there looking komaru (how to translate? frustrated?).
I walked over, smiling politely, told her that it looked like she was having a bit of a struggle, and could I help her by pushing her child in the cart to their table.
My mistake was reaching for the cart before she answered.
Which she never did.
She just stared at me, open mouthed, and somehow struggled to hold her tray and grab the cart (which I hadn't touched yet). Her mother, who was waiting in another food line, saw what was happening, immediately got out of line, ran over, and grabbed the cart from her daughter. They both ran away to their table, giving me dirty looks the whole time.
Never did have a chance to apologize for offending them--I just stood there for a second like a dummy and slunk back over to wait for my lunch, feeling squashed and humiliated.
I was hoping that when they saw me at the table with my own children, they might realize I'm not a crazed weirdo, but I'll never know what they actually thought. I can just infer from their scared actions, and that makes me feel sad.
I want my mommy. And my daddy.
Oh, and some chocolate, too, please. And another helping of taco rice--maybe it would taste better this time.
Not too far from us, near the Hankyu Kotoen train station, the shinkansen enters a tunnel going towards Kobe, goes under Megamiyama (mountain Stephen works on top of) and Mt. Rokko, and then emerges again at Shin-Kobe station.
Today we went to the park on top of the tunnel and watched as shinkansens (pretty quietly) whooshed into and out of the tunnel...
At the park, Matthew watching an airplane (what about the shinkansen?)...
But before we even left home, we had to inspect the tree with its new haircut...
And Matthew said, "The tree is broken!!!" When we questioned the scalper yesterday as he climbed up, he said the leaves were "meiwaku" (a pain in the butt) for the neighbors.
We use "fun" terminology around here (taken from Danny and Sheri Silk). For example, the boys go to the "no-fun zone" or the "no-fun chair" if they make choices that aren't fun for themselves or others around them.
But when I asked Matthew the other day if he was going to be fun (he was sportin' a bit of a 'tude at the time), he answered, "Ummmm, not right now."
Creative, but not fun. Sorry, little man. Nice try.
Japan's created a new holiday time in September that they've dubbed "Silver Week" (maybe as a sister to "Golden Week" every year in May), so Stephen has Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off next week! Yea!
Because it's new this year, it didn't hit us till last night that Stephen will be (unusually) home for 5 days in a row, starting tomorrow. Woo-hoo! The car auctions are still on, so he will have to check bids on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but he can do it from home.
Fun times for the Munday clan, coming up!
At a stoplight yesterday: "Mama, it's green! It's green! Go! Go!"
When Stephen and I were smooching the other evening: "It's Mama kissing Daddy!"
After hanging out with our friend Rei-chan last week: "That was fun seeing Rei-chan!"
This morning, out of the blue, to Joel: "Joel-Bean, I love you!"
After Joel fell off my bed this morning and was wailing and having some much-needed hugs from Mama: "Joel, did you have fun? You're OK!"
(Photos taken a couple of weeks ago by me at a local university, Kwansei Gakuin, or Kangaku as it's known around this area.)
It was a bit of a dreary, drizzly morning and Matthew, Joel, and I had some errands to run.
We stopped first at Royal Home Center where we got a few necessities (like packing tape) and hung out with the puppies in the teeny tiny glass cages at the back. I felt sorry for them and though I'm not much of a dog person, wanted to release them somehow and hand out some much-needed cuddles. You should see their (yes, puppy-dog) eyes.
Next we headed over to the grocery store (in the car today because I needed to get quite a lot of heavy things). Joel was in his stroller, I was trying to carry everything in a basket over my arm and make sure Matthew stayed with us, and check-out is always fun with two little boys who have go-go-Gadget arms.
I guess I wasn't in a great mood, and to top it off, realized I needed more cardboard boxes as well. They keep them near the service counter, so I shuffled my heavy tote bags around (full of orange juice, purple juice, and other essentials) and tried to grab more stuff. And this time the stuff was pretty unwieldy.
Big folded cardboard boxes, and they weren't on their best behavior, either.
As I careened out the door, trying to keep all of us, our groceries, and my new cardboard friends all together, another shopper ran after me, waving some plastic cord and asking me to hold up.
I don't know where she came from or where she got the cord, but she got down on the ground next to me, and with another lady who appeared from nowhere, lassoed that cardboard into shape. In the process, they totally made my day.
And when I told them I thought they were angels, they just laughed and winged their way home.
Our back veranda is home to my cherry sage plant, which smells heavenly! This photo makes the flowers on it look huge, but they're actually very petite and delicate. (I was inspired to buy a cherry sage a few years ago after visiting my friend Noriko's home - she had one in her front garden in Okazaki where we used to live.)
We had just moved in here when Matthew was born less than a month later, and when Stephen's parents came to visit to help out a few weeks later, they helped me pick out some planters and plants for our front stoop. We have a small gated area in front of our front door, and I've so enjoyed playing in the dirt out there!
Matthew helps water the plants, too (can you see the elephant watering can?).
This has nothing to do with our apartment, but when we go for walks, M and J always have to grab what we call "tickle grass", which as you can guess by their name for it, is great for tickling! Anybody know what this is actually called in English? (A Japanese friend told me the name in Japanese but I can't remember it now.)
Anyway, we're at home this evening waiting for our first estimate (mitsumori) from a benriyasan (company who will take all our stuff away for us - at a cost!). It's really hard to get rid of used furniture, appliances, carpets, etc. in Japan, so they will charge us to take it all away and then will sell some of it and I guess chuck the rest. It's a pretty strange feeling to have someone coming over to look everything over - we'll find out soon what he thinks! We've got another guy coming on Wednesday for another opinion but we're hoping the guy tonight will give us a reasonable rate and we won't have to wait around for more estimates.
Anybody want my precious plants? I don't think customs will let me bring those with me.
Joel's first big professional haircut ever - he wasn't sure about it and cried a lot (I deleted the really tearful pics, poor kid).
Matthew before...and he was ecstatic that Best Cuts now has a YELLOW VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE for him to sit in...his favorite kind of car and his favorite color, too...
Joel got to sit on Stephen's lap for the pain(less) procedure...
I ran back and forth between the two kiddiewinks with the camera and sweet-potato crackers to placate them, laughing and joking that I was the "okashi mama" (snack mama) and "okashii mama" (strange mama)...
Joel still needing a little TLC when we went across the hall to Midori Denka to buy a nightlight for the boys' room...
Lunch at Denny's/Lenny's for a treat afterwards...and lots of truck-driving and cheering-up took place...
Who is this kid? Do we know him? He looks like he might be related to us, but with that new short hair I'm not quite sure if he's the same Joel we used to see around these parts!
Too funny: Carrier pigeon faster than Internet!
I don't know how many of you knew this, but I had a Japanese pen pal from the time I was 12 (for quite a long time - 10 years or more?). I already had a keen interest in Japan before then, which was why I chose to write to someone here, but corresponding with Sachiko-san fueled my longing to live in this country even more.
Well, more than 20 years later, we finally had a chance to meet! We'd been writing for a bit again and then started e-mailing. She had her third child (Jin-kun, pictured above with Sachiko-san) a bit after I had Joel, so it's been hard to find time with all these babies popping out all over the place. Plus we live over an hour apart.
It was great to meet Sachiko-san and Jin-kun (her older two daughters are in school already) and fun to finally put a face with all those many letters and e-mails.
Just bought our tickets this morning.
Announcing the BMD (Big Moving Day)...
We've had some stress-filled days recently, cluttered up with the minutiae of planning and packing to move four people internationally. As we cross one thing off our list, it seems like ten more magically appear.
But I had a big whopping morale booster this morning at the post office.
I've only mailed four boxes so far, taking each one laboriously from the underground co-op parking lot (no parking at the p.o.) while pushing Joel's stroller and holding Matthew's hand as we come up through the elevator at the co-op, walk through the lobby, then out into the sunshine and cross the street. The boxes are big and heavy so it hasn't been the easiest of tasks.
Brainwave: Ask the p.o. lady if they do pick-ups! Sure enough, in keeping with amazing Japanese service, she said this would be absolutely no problem (and no extra charge). They'll come to our door, weigh the boxes right there, and I can pay them on the spot.
My whole outlook on life suddenly brightened - I drove off with a lighter heart to the harbor to run around and watch the boats with the beans.
And I started thinking how much we really do have to be thankful for:
- Our marriage, now in its 9th year, is such an encouragement to both of us. Stephen truly is my soul mate.
- Adorable healthy, happy kiddos whose smiles light up our lives.
- The excitement and adventure of an upcoming life change - looking forward to so much!
- A big (by Japanese standards) place to live that is full of homey comforts, plenty of food, and much love.
I wonder how much longer Matthew and Joel will let me call them "Sweet Dumplings"?
- Says agah (again), dah (dance - when there's music playing and he walks to me with arms outstretched for me to lift him up and boogie), fah (ceiling fan - gets mad if it's not on), go! (when he wants to go out he goes and stands by the door while saying this), buhboo (bubbles), chuice (juice), sit (sit), jair (chair), tish (tissues), ah-kay (OK), and loads of other words that sound close enough so that we know what he means: peepo, digger, Fun! (when I ask him if he's going to be fun so he doesn't have to go in the no-fun zone), spoon, Amen, yeah, monkey noises (uh ah ah), moo (for a cow), diaper, shinkansen, back, pull, frog, kitty, olives, keys, plant, butterfly, Sharon (sounds like Shahzu), Callum (Ca-ga), train, milk, food, two, three (and recognizes two and three when he sees them and tells us what they are), and hungry (and possibly more than this!).
- Likes to "clean" every surface in the house (including his family) with tissues.
- Loves to dance.
- Has fun clicking his tongue.
- Hides behind the living-room curtain at bedtime.
- Takes time to wake up (Stephen jokes that Matthew wakes up talking and not ready to eat but Joel wakes up quiet and wanting to eat and drink right away). We always say he needs his coffee (which of course he doesn't get yet!).
- Is really getting into climbing (yikes!).
Dancing to muzak on the intro to a shinkansen DVD (don't worry, they're not usually this close to the tube - I was distracted by being the videographer)...
Stephen made the astute observation the other day that Abba's dancing queen is probably around 51 or so now.
But I'll bet she's still boogieing.
Because I haven't wanted to introduce toluene into our boys' bodies, I haven't really painted my nails very much (if at all) the last four years since I've been pregnant and breastfeeding.
So when I did this the other day for the first time in a long time...
...Matthew immediately noticed and shouted, "You got your toes on!"
Lately everything is Matthew's.
Here are a few examples from today, straight from The Bean's mouth (while he's pointing at whatever it is he sees while we're out and about - all other people's property, by the way):
- Ooooh, that's my bike!
- Oh, look, that's my house!
- That's my car!
As I was reading this BBC story this morning (for a quick second), Matthew peeped over my shoulder and said "Great-Grandma!" when he saw the picture.
My own grandparents are getting up there and will have their 71st anniversary in the next couple of weeks...
Wish I could be there to toast them in person!
Not only did Stephen have a record-breaking quick interview at the embassy yesterday, but even though they told him it would take a week to get his visa in the mail, it already came THIS MORNING!
Since we went to the dealership (aka toy store) the other day and picked out a Suzuki rally car (though Stephen says he thinks Suzuki doesn't do rally races anymore - bummer), we've all had quite a thirst for everything Suzuki related.
Matthew likes the stylized "S" on the roof and hood (bonnet for our UK contingent) and says "S" is for "Suzuki" and for "Stephen."
And we're all enjoying Suzuki rally videos on YouTube (I think Cousin Ethan would like these, too).
The Suzuki SX4 2008 WRC Rallye d'Italia-Sardegna is fun, and the Suzuki SX4 WRC montage is even more of a blast.