Posted by: patriciamar | December 31, 2018

Speaking a few tongues: Kyoto

(Pre)Tldr; In Kyoto, using four different languages, I had a conversation with a retired Japanese man who used to play professional soccer in Brazil.

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In Kyoto, I stayed in a little hostel-like guesthouse and had an experience that was almost one of a kind.  I love languages, so learning a new language is not really a chore (though here in Tokyo working on a new program keeps my brain pretty busy and a little tired for memorizing vocabulary, hiragana, katakana, kanji and verb tenses.  I’ll keep trying!)

On the way home from the sento (an indoor public bathhouse and sauna, more or less), I ended up riding left-side shotgun next to the owner of the guesthouse and bathhouse.  The left-side part isn’t really relevant, but it’s always worth mentioning when you find yourself sitting as a passenger on the wrong side of the road.

The driver quickly took the opportunity to mention that for a time he played professional soccer in Brazil.  He was a goalie, he said.  All of this was spoken in pretty low-level English, which was still slightly higher than my Japanese.  It wasn’t a very productive conversation.

However, I do speak Spanish, so I asked him in the little Portuguese that I know if he spoke Portuguese.  Yes, he responded, a little.  The conversation that we had after that, for the rest of the ride back to the hostel, was one of the reasons that I like studying languages and one of the reasons I like travelling. 

We were speaking in four different languages. I was speaking in English, Spanish, a little Portuguese and a little Japanese, and he was speaking in Japanese, English and Portuguese.

It was amazing how we could use all four to get our points across, however insane it sounded to outsiders, and we were definitely able to enjoy the conversation, despite the fact that it was an example of ultimate L1-L2 code switching.  It made me want to study more and inspired me to go home and keep pushing myself to improve my Japanese and continue on with my own personal language plan.*

The moral of the story in my eyes is not that you need to speak a lot of languages, but that you should try, and use whatever you have to create communication.  This is how bonds are really formed.  I think that I will remember this guesthouse owner, and I think he might remember me because of this strange 7-minute conversation we had from the bathhouse to the guesthouse in the northern outskirts of Kyoto one Sunday evening in November.

 


*If you’re interested, my language plan is that each week I do something related to one language.  These languages are pre-scheduled, so I know what week will be which language.  The action I take related to this language could be anything–depending on the language and what I have access to.  In Dutch, Spanish and Japanese, I have books.  In Spanish, French, Portuguese or Italian, I can read poetry.  I could choose a movie, a book, or a sitcom, or investigate a new company or website. German week, for example, is the perfect opportunity to find out what Der Spiegel thinks of Trump, or investigate the latest Fergus Falls news.  In most languages I have at least a friend or two to message or call.  If nothing else, there’s always YouTube or Duolingo.  My language list currently includes German, French, Italian, Korean, Indonesian, Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese of course. 

I could be more dedicated to each language or to one language, but this is fun for me and I look forward to seeing what language is each week in the top square of my weekly calendar. 

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Posted by: patriciamar | December 26, 2018

Christmas in Kumamoto with Kumamon

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After the fall quarter ended–my first quarter teaching DDP in Tokyo– I found out my Christmas schedule for the year.  It turned out I would be far, far away from my Tokyo home (relatively speaking) in Kumamoto, an area of Kyushu, which is the most southern of the main islands.  The holiday break in Japan starts after Christmas for me (tomorrow night!), so before my lovely, albeit sukoshi chilly (a little bit) early January beach vacation on a small island in Okinawa, I have had nine days facilitating empowerment programs for Japanese junior high and high school students.  I was really excited to take part in the programs.  I know that some people hate this sort of thing, but I love it.  I like Professional Development Days and Leadership training.  I like seminars on how to motivate my colleagues and students, and learning strategies for how to communicate more effectively at work. 

Helping students inspire students, and encouraging students to find and follow their dreams is about as good as it gets for a teacher, in my opinion.

In addition, this Empowerment Program was the brainchild of an amazing colleague of mine (and a good friend).  Even walking around Tokyo with him can be inspiring, which made me look forward to running the programs even more. 

This December work schedule also meant that my Christmas eve and my Christmas day would be spent in a hotel (and one that I wouldn’t pick myself, which is probably good.  I’m likely to make an impulse decision based on something fairly random, and the staff at work probably has a better sense for a quality and well-priced Japanese hotel in a city far, far away from the Japan that most international visitors see.  

Some people do go to Fukuoka (I think).  

Anyone?

In fact, the place where I was going (Hitoyoshi) is so far from Tokyo that they are making me fly back home.  It sounds like there is some policy that dictates that they can’t make me spend that many hours on a bullet train.

Now that it’s December 26, I have successfully finished one program (Hiroshima) and am about to finish another.  It’s been a pleasure.

When I was in high school, some friends and I were invited to a leadership camp at a high school in a nearby city.  I still remember the way they taught me how to be a leader.  If you want to be a leader, when someone ask who wants to be the leader, your hand should shoot up in the air.  They made us to this many, many times, and still, I laugh about it with my friends.  At random, even more than 15 years later, one of us will call it out, “Who wants to be a leader!?”  And our hands will shoot up.

Perhaps a few of you now understand me a little bit better.

In our empowerment program, the lessons learned are a bit more diverse.  I introduce tips for leadership and goal setting, yes, but also advice on common English expressions, how to make your school more environmentally friendly, the difference in pronunciation between /l/ and /r/, and tips on annotating when reading a particularly difficult passage.

There’s no way that teaching these programs can Not affect you.

One of my group leaders was a perfect examples.  After the first day of the program, he said that working with this program made him wonder about his own life.  If someone had taught him about positive thinking when he was in high school, his life might have turned out very differently, he thought.

As you might imagine, it has made me think a lot about myself as well.  What do I do when faced with a challenge?  How do I set goals for my future?  Do I care if other people judge me?  When I tell students that it is their opinion of themselves that really matters, do I agree?  Do you?  Can anyone really keep those feelings of judgement entirely at bay?

Again and again throughout the programs I have told students that they need to take time to think.  The material is difficult.  These questions are difficult.  (Plus, they are trying to do so in a second language!)  Some people spend their whole life trying to figure out their identity, and others will spend half their life working towards a goal only to discover that in truth, they have no interest in the topic.

This post is timed just about right for New Year’s resolutions.  And it’s timed just about right for me too.  On Christmas Eve, I was thinking about how I had never had a Christmas alone, never in my whole life.  This was a first.   I think that means I have been pretty lucky.

It wasn’t so bad.  I watched “White Christmas” three times.  I had a yule log running (as a screensaver) every second that I was in my onsen hotel.  Speaking of onsen, I spent each evening soaking in an old school Japanese hot spring in my 100+ year old inn.  (I told you they were better at picking the hotel).

Hitoyoshi is a small Japanese city surrounded by mountains that are draped with fog in the mornings.  There was a full moon the first night, and it reflected the stars off the tiny 100º streams that ran through the rice fields behind my little four-room hotel.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever be back, but it was a very nice trip and not a terrible Christmas.

This is so sappy.  I’m shocking even myself.  I guess that’s what I get for empowering young minds day after day 🙂

My Christmas was alone and my New Year’s will be alone too.  But that’s fine.

Sometimes you need to be alone to figure out who it is that you’re missing.20181224_112522_HDR

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: patriciamar | November 23, 2018

Tostadita de Thanksgiving

You obviously have leftover turkey.  This year, change it up and whip up this little tostadita de Thanksgiving rather than the typical reheat on bread.  The lemon moistens and flavors in the most unbelievable way!  Make sure to add enough salt and pepper.  They really make the flavor come alive.

Ingredients:

  • leftover turkey
  • salt & pepper
  • lemon 
  • avocado
  • finely chopped white onion
  • cabbage (sliced thinly) (optional)

Shred the turkey a bit before covering with lemon.  Use the juice of 1 lemon per cup of shredded turkey.  Then add the salt and pepper and onion.  Add a wee bit of finely sliced cabbage if you like, or just leave it out.  Let this sit and marinate for 15-20 minutes.

Spoon onto tostadas or just eat with tortilla chips, topping with slices or chunks of avocado.  If you have nothing else, (fine!) put it on a toasted leftover Thanksgiving bun.

Enjoy!

Posted by: patriciamar | November 5, 2018

Shibuyajuku

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As Shinagawa is the train station of my dreams, Shibuya is the station of my nightmares.  If someone even says the word, “Shibuya,” I lose all sense of direction and start gravitating unintentionally the wrong way.

Trying to get somewhere in Shibuya frequently makes me want to punch myself in the face.  Ask my visitors. I will plan a place to meet them, and they will arrive 30 minutes before me, because that’s how easily and quickly I get lost in Shibuya.   I made the plan!

I now have to convert my timing so that I know I can make it on time:

Google says 12 minute walk?  

That will take me 70 minutes.

Google says I have arrived?

See you in 20.

I am really starting to develop anxiety about walking around this particular Tokyo neighborhood.  Now, after almost two months of weekly, bikweekly or triweekly visits, I can– no.

I still can’t. This week, I got lost in Shibuya on Saturday and on Monday (it’s already Monday night in Japan, remember).  The total amount of time I spent lost was 150 minutes. I spent two and a half hours wandering around ½ square miles.

You might think I’m talking about Shibuya crossing, probably the most famous intersection in Japan (The above photo is Shibuya crossing on Halloween)  But one big intersection causes me no problems. I can cross a street with several thousand other people.

But once I turn right or left, once I have  a destination in mind.  I immediately walk circles.  

On Saturday night, I referred to my gps and noted the cafe I was standing in front of.  I turned down the correct street and walked in the correct direction. 25 minutes later I was standing in front of the SAME cafe.  How did I do that!?  I don’t even know how I managed it.  If I tried to trick you, I couldn’t have recreated the fantastical stroll around that piece of Shibuya.

Actually, I did bring one couple around the area to show them the ropes and get dinner.  We walked slowly and calmly. We stopped for yakitori (chicken skewers), and one of my guests even noticed my strategy.  “We’re walking in circles, you know.”

Yes, I did know.  

You see, I try to be very careful so as not to get my guests as lost as I am willing to get myself.   That evening, I was making tiny one block circles around the main intersection. If the Starbucks is in sight, I’m alright.  That should be the Shibuya Crossing slogan.

A Haiku:

Shibuya crossing

Keep Starbucks in sight and you’ll

surely be alright.


Now that I’m writing this quickly, stream of consciousness, NaNoWriMo style, I realize that it’s not only Shibuya.  Shinjuku causes me the same trouble. I always pick the wrong direction.  I have to go there to pay my rent each month and I have to plan a full afternoon to get to the rental office and back to the train station (Google says this is a 7-minute walk).

Once, on my way to Shinjuku, I just suddenly got off the train in Shibuya.  I just did it.

I have developed some strategies for combating this type of complete and utter loss of self.  I spend a full day–two days in a row is better. I start with a strong coffee in the morning, and I walk in the daytime, looking keenly around to notice landmarks and memorable signs. It’s not really possible to use the streets; they are angled and winding and I have no idea what the names of them are. I make note of the biggest store on each street (obviously, I’m a visual person, directionally).  I take breaks to add fun spots to my google maps as I go, marking writing spots, beer spots, and spots for my upcoming visitors (Vegetarian! Sushi!). When I have had my fill of training for the day, I stop for lunch, usually yakitori (again) or ramen.

It is at this point that I realize I am eating lunch in the SAME BUILDING where I drank coffee that morning.  

Damn it!

Oh, Shinjuku.

I mean Shibuya.

 

Posted by: patriciamar | October 14, 2018

Shinagawa Station

Finally I have found the time to write a little bit about my favorite station in Tokyo.

Shinagawa station

love this train station.  It’s a microcosm of a world that I never thought I would enjoying living in, but I actually do.

This was the first station that I experienced in Tokyo back in April, and it is now my hub, the station that I frequent more than any other, the station I arrive at on the way to work, and the station where I can take the Shinkansen, the Keikyu, and the JR (all important public transportation options when navigating the Tokyo area).  It is where I can get Blue Bottle coffee and where I can drink Firestone Walker or Sierra Nevada if the Asahi starts tasting too much like water.  You can get to so many places in Tokyo and in Japan from this station, mostly limited stop or express, including both major Tokyo airports, Haneda and Narita.
This station is a miracle.
At least from an American perspective.
I wonder how many people move in and out of it each day.  Or each hour?
Shinagawa lines
The Minato/Shinagawa area of Tokyo is heavy on business.  The Shinagawa towers house companies like Canon, NTT and Nikon, and during my coffee breaks or at lunch, I often find myself inside the Sony building, right next door to Crystal Square (my building).
There are so many business people flooding through Shinagawa Station each day.  Suits, suits, suits and the beautiful clack of hard-soled shoes running steady.
You can take off your jacket if you like.
If you don’t already know, in Japan, they move about in a direction opposite the U.S.  Like in Britain, they drive on the left side of the street and the right side of the car.  They walk in the same fashion (except for a few specific areas, but that explanation is for another time).  So in most stations, you walk on the left and they’re coming towards you on the right.  However, in Shinagawa Station, there are so many people heading toward the office buildings on the east side of the station, that the flow of the workers takes over.  In the morning, the flood heads east and in the evening, the flood heads back west. It’s kind of unbelievable.  You have to go with the flow, and if you don’t want to go in that direction–if for some reason you are not headed to an office building to work– then for heaven’s sake move out of the way and get to the edges, outside of the pillars, slipping along with the other few that are making their way to a store or to another train line, and not to an office.
There’s a 7-11 halfway down the hall, where people run in and out for water or cold brew or tea, or maybe a rice ball for snack, as is typical for business people just before getting on the train for the often hour-long train ride home.
There’s a Starbucks on the second floor if you like that sort of thing in foreign countries, and there is a Dean & Deluca as well, a new love of mine.   There’s an international atm, too (most helpful those first few weeks).  The station is above ground, which also adds to its appeal.  On almost every occasion, I get off a train, look around and immediately know which direction I’m facing.  As a human pinpoint in a massive transportation system, this is not the norm.
The wifi situation is excellent.  The Keikyu has wifi, as does the Atre (the mall around the station) and the station itself.  This was very helpful at the start when I had no idea where I was coming from, where I was going, or what I was going to eat in between.
I became accustomed to Tokyo office life slowly.  The first week I stopped in Shinagawa Station on the way home every day, for an espresso and a sit and stare.
It takes time for your brain to process that many people working and working and working.  Will you become one of them?
I hear that the office environment and work life has gotten better.  The government has cracked down on the “black companies” that require WAY too many hours each week (working until 10 p.m. or midnight daily).  Unfortunately, I hear from a colleague that her son, who happens to work for a government office, deals with the same pressure.
When you leave the office, it is customary to say osaki ni shitsurei shimasu (お先に失礼します).  This is basically an apology for leaving first.  From my experience and from what I’ve read, this is very widely used–by everyone– every day.
In my office, I’ve heard from my colleagues that the boss says you should leave by 8.  This is nice.  It made me happy to hear, though I admit that my classes end at either 8:30 or 8:45 (not complaining about that, it is the time that the students are available), and only once have I been the one to lock the doors.  A couple of people are always still there working.  There is always an exception.  There is always a reason to work a little more.  I believe that many Americans know this situation as well.
And then you all walk to Shinagawa Station after work.
As far as I knew, with the pedestrian traffic flowing as it does, the land of Shinagawa Station does not sleep.
Then one night I came back from inner Tokyo a little late.  It was 11 p.m., and to my absolute amazement, Shinagawa station was asleep.  The lights in the main corridor were off and the last of the night’s trains were passing through.  The organized chaos is not actually 24-hours.  This is helpful to note if you have a late flight, by the way.
On a typical day, from Blue Bottle, up above on the second floor, you can look down on the main corridor of the station and watch the people stream by.  If you are watching at the right moment, you’ll see the bright purple or red of my shoes or scarf.  I do stand out a little bit in this magical hub.
I’m not sure if I’ll get sick of it, or maybe how soon I will get sick of it.  By giving myself plenty of time to get to work each day, I can ensure that the crowded path doesn’t stress me out as I’m making my way through (I would guess that rushing through this station would cause you a bit of stress).
You could also leave work early to beat the rush on the way home.
It’s not that bad at 4 o’clock.
There aren’t that many people.

And then as you are walking amongst the suits and heels, there are then more people, and more people, and more people…

 

You think that you might want to stop, because there are just so many people!  It’s hard to comprehend.  But you cannot.  Because once you are in the throngs, you have to keep walking.  It takes an incredible ability to weave smoothly to the side of the path.  And you’re not that experienced, so you should probably just keep walking.

 


Shinagawa station

Posted by: patriciamar | September 25, 2018

Why do people keep trying to give me a fork?

foku (フォーク-katakana) – fork

hashi (箸-kanji/はし-hiragana) – chopsticks

Obviously, I know why people keep trying to give me a fork.  Not only do I often drop and randomly fling pieces of food with my chopsticks, but 65% of the time I hold them in a ridiculously impractical way that doesn’t allow the tips to pinch closed.

I do know how to hold them properly.  Honest.  I hold them correctly when I practice my chopsticks skills one edamame bean at a time.  But after 7 or 8 minutes, my hand starts to cramp.  I blame it on the day job.  All of the grading and writing has given me a form of carpal tunnel that won’t allow me to correctly use chopsticks.

I shall persevere.

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By the way, that’s not beer. It was hop tea. You add water (or liquor, apparently).

Posted by: patriciamar | September 24, 2018

Welcome to Tokyo

Last week I moved to Tokyo.

I live in Tokyo.

For now, I live in Tokyo.

Simplistic thoughts like these have often appeared in my head over the past 7 days.

So I guess… that I live here.

 

I have been to Tokyo twice now, and the dominant impression has been how very easy it has been.   There are so many people living here.  Current estimates put the population of the urban area (23 wards) at more than 36 million people.  Wikipedia says 39 million.

Can you imagine that number?

If you have been to any large cities or metropolitan areas, this means one thing.  The city must be organized.  There must be public transportation, facilities, public services, green spaces, housing, eateries, restrooms– all the things that regular people need every day.  The great thing about Tokyo is that there is.  It’s organized and clean, and in some ways (like the garbage and recycling system), it’s a little strict.  I like this.  There are rules and pictures and diagrams and if you follow them, you’ll be fine.

My first night in Tokyo earlier this spring, I knew that there was a possibility I would be moving here.  It wasn’t 100%, so neither was I.   My task for that first night was to find out if I would make it.  I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve lived in other countries (Mexico, Holland), but this was a new country and I speak very, very little Japanese, so I needed to know–just for me– if I could handle it.

I could.  And that wasn’t because I’m a travel genius or anything.  It was because I walked slowly, looked around a lot, and whenever it became too much, I just maneuvered my way to a quiet pillar and stood still.  After a minute or two, the intimidating click of heels became comforting, and it was easy to see that there was, always is, a system in place.

Arrows tell you where to walk, bike, stand, pay, insert your card, eat, order, take the elevator, find food, find the restroom, flush the toilet, and take off your shoes.  It’s even clear how to turn on the musical water noise if you don’t want someone else to hear you peeing (This is a thing.)

 

I’ll be here for a year.  It should be fun.  Please come and visit.


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Posted by: patriciamar | June 6, 2018

Crying on my Banana Phone

E flying

This personal narrative details the week that I, the childless Californian aunt, came to town to take care of my three nieces and nephews. Lessons were learned. Fun was had.

 Here at the start of June, one week in to summer break, there are takeaways for any parent or caregiver.

*        *        *

Last summer I made a trek to the Midwest to do some babysitting. My sister had a business trip, I was on break from teaching, and that was that. They flew me in to babysit their three children for the week. I should begin by saying that my nieces and nephews are great. During that week, they were amazing–helpful, sweet, and they went to sleep at night!

Now let me tell you how getting to spend a week taking care of three adorable kids brought me to a near breaking point, driving a minivan around the Twin Cities, tears streaming down my face as I sang along with Raffi to “Banana Phone.” They sang too.

I came into the week prepared. I had a notebook full of ideas, things I had loved as a kid that we could do during our summer days together. I had playdates scheduled. We would be painting and making art projects, biking to the local park to have a picnic, swimming in the little backyard pool and singing songs in foreign languages. I was not unprepared.

Of course with children, you can never be prepared enough. This might have more to do with life than raising children.  I’m not sure.

Obstacle one occurred before I even arrived. The air conditioning was broken. Say what you want, in Minnesota, you need air conditioning in the summer. The humidity is oppressive. You’re sweating constantly, yet somehow it feels like you might burst because the water in your body, 80, 85% or whatever, is so hot that it’s boiling, trying to force itself out of your pores to evaporate into steam. It’s not pleasant.

Once air conditioning was out, all plans were off. The basement was livable, so all action would have to take place there–eating, sleeping, playing, reading–everything. First I had to change the menu. Those beans I was soaking to make into pork enchiladas, nuh-uh. That was probably too ambitious anyway. Sandwiches. There would be sandwiches for lunch.

Sleeping arrangements were altered. The two older kids share a bedroom downstairs, so they were set, but the littlest sleeps upstairs, and it immediately became apparent that she does not appreciate the heat. A sweet, giggling one year old becomes a shrieking ball of sadness when her cheeks turn rosy. I get it. I feel the same way, honestly.

Within 24 hours I learned to watch for the signs as we cycled inside, back outside to the backyard, into the pool, out and down to the basement for lunch,, upstairs for a diaper, back downstairs for coloring time.

I moved a pack ‘n play downstairs for her, and then of course the monitor, the monitor cam, diapers, wet wipes, pacifier, favorite blanket–I could continue. Life as a one year old is tough.

Next, consider life as a one-day old mother of three. As you can surely imagine, logistics got sloppier and sloppier as things moved downstairs.

And in the end, it still wasn’t enough. There wasn’t enough to do. The basement was still too hot, and the one year old got testier with every increased degree. Here’s a science question: How many degrees does the temperature of a basement raise per minute of a temper tantrum?

Plans changed. We called my brother and his wife and they graciously volunteered to take us in.

Obstacle two: I am a terrible packer.

I started early in the morning, knowing that children need stuff and I need stuff and children need food and fruit and milk and juice in sippy cups. And diapers, I have to remember the diapers. We might swim, no–we’ll surely swim. Where are those little swimmers? Nighttime routines–they should be maintained. Four people need pajamas. Vitamins.

Did I mention that I’m not a good packer? Even when packing for myself, headed on a trip to San Francisco for two nights, my husband comes in and repacks my bag the moment I leave the room. I always bring two notebooks and three books to read, but no pens and no socks.

I forgot toothbrushes. What’s worse, I forgot swimming trunks for my nephew. One cannot go down a homemade slip ‘n’ slide in their shorts. This is absolutely, terribly, horribly, undeniably impossible. He told us all with all the tears the poor kid could muster.

Obstacle three: I’m still terrible at packing.

The heat subsided after our first overnight adventure (sorry, teeth!), and we went back home for a night before the heat returned. Packing for the second time (after the swimming trunks debacle) I worked harder. I started the night before. I walked through the day in my mind: play time, lunch time, swimming time, swingset, the park, bedtime, the next morning. My mind was sharp with two Keurig k cups. I was focused, organized. I accounted for little “accidents” and I made sure that I brought those toothbrushes.

The outcome? I had seven pairs of underwear and three pairs of swimming trunks. I had 0 pullups and 4 little swimmers (They look so similar!). I had asked my dearest, eldest niece to pack two outfits for herself. I thought it would be nice for her to have some freedom with her wardrobe.

Yes, I understand that you’re laughing. I wasn’t smart enough to catch that before it happened.

She was a good helper and old enough to pick out her own clothes, no matter whether they matched or not. Thank goodness she had, because other than those colorful outfits with gauzy sleeves, she had nothing. I had no pajamas for her, no socks, and due to bad guesswork when confronted with a family toothbrush holder, she still had no toothbrush. Apparently picking the three smallest ones wasn’t a substantiated method for selection.

“I’m sorry Sweetie, could you please just use your mom’s toothbrush? Just for tonight?”

I felt awful, but at least there were no tears this time. She was simply shocked that I wouldn’t know that the small pinkish toothbrush was her mother’s, not hers. She took it well, and I did eventually find a pullup in the many bags.

There were many lessons learned during this trip, and a lot of epiphanies relating to so-called freedom, the ins and outs of planning, and flexibility.

As an instructor on a university campus, the hours of the day that I am required, truly forced, to be somewhere doing something are minimal. In a way, they are almost non-existent. Of course I have to go to work, I have to teach my classes and I need to be there, in that location, to do so. However, I make the lessons, I plan what we do and when we do it. That opens life up to an extreme level of flexibility.

In Minnesota, I was responsible for lives. Yes, three little human lives, plus myself! This, for me, carried a shocking amount of… emotional weight, you might say. I was in constant fear of all the things that could happen, that might happen. I well understood that they probably wouldn’t, I could reasonably understand that this heavy burden on my mind was a first-time parent issue. Parents get used to being parents, this I believe.

I was not used to it, and that fact didn’t necessarily get easier as the week went on, mostly because as the days passed by, I got more and more and more tired.

Like I said, they slept well. But what if they woke up!? What if they woke up at 2 a.m. and never went back to sleep? What if the littlest one woke up in the night and I didn’t hear her? After they were in bed at night and the house was quiet, the adult figure needs some time to decompress. I needed time to read and think about my upcoming teaching schedule and reply to emails from colleagues. Add to that the desire to actually relax–listen to music, read, watch tv, or write. There is. no. time.

When I was a child, my mother and several colleagues and teachers wrote this book called “Links of Love,” now out of print. There are two versions actually, the second is “More Links of Love.” It has numerous sections with games, stories, ideas, recipes, anecdotes and child development information and advice. It’s basically a guide to being a great parent. Not just a good parent, a great parent. Basically, I was raised by a professional mom. I can confirm after only five days that this is very, very hard.

This is something that absolutely amazes me. Parenting is something that almost the entire population does. It’s a process that so many people complete that it’s not even a thing.

In the car on the way to my brother’s house, (for the second time) I breathed a sigh of relief. Mediocre substitute parent #1 was about to go meet up with two more parents. Two real full-blown parents, each with more than a 2 ½ year old of experience. It was going to be a dream.

Obstacle four: I get lost sometimes.

“Why aren’t you turning here?” My four-year-old nephew asked.

I had driven to my brother’s house on a number of occasions. In fact, I drove there already in this article. But I haven’t driven there more than ten times total, so I’m no expert. Why didn’t I listen to him? I’m unsure. He has been there more than ten times. Perhaps I thought I knew the way better than a four year old.

And that’s how I ended up driving a minivan around in the country on the north edge of the Twin Cities, somewhere near Scandia or Big Marine, three kids in the car, all buckled in, tears running down my face as I sang along.

“Ba-na-na phone…” You parents know it.

There are a few moments of note that sustained me, kept me alert and awake and smiling hour after hour. I will always remember those special moments.

First is bedtime, when we listened to the Frog and Toad audiobooks and the littlest would scoot her diapered butt backwards like a little short bus to sit on my lap, so we could listen together. And shortly after, when my four-year-old nephew turned to me with the biggest eyes and asked why Toad doesn’t like sledding.

When everyone, myself included, was splashing in the pool and thus, no one was sweating.

When they played with play-doh. I often played with play-doh as a kid and now I understand why. I have three siblings. It’s so quiet when kids are building things–thinking, planning, plotting their cities and monsters and fields of snowmen.

I will remember every time during the week when I got little hugs. Kids are never short of hugs to give away.

These are the moments I will remember many years down the road, when my niece calls the wild great aunt from California and asks her to babysit for a week. Absolutely, I’ll say.

On the plane on the way home I was so sad. It was not because I was tired or annoyed or because I had forgotten my toothbrush. I was sad that I hadn’t spoiled them enough. I should have given them more cookies, and played Candyland a few more times. I should have let them stay up late with me and fall asleep on the couch watching Wild Krats.

What would they remember from this week? Would they remember the fun? All racing to the pool and jumping in at the same time? Or would they just remember when I made them brush their teeth again because they did it too quickly the first time, or when I told them they could only have one cookie? I’m not sure. That, I conclude after my pitifully short week of single parenting, is the catch 22 of parenting.

So for all the good parents out there, keep it up. I’m sure you can do it. Apparently we’re made for this sort of thing, as human beings, I mean. If I could make it through the week, I’m sure you can keep up the good work that you’re already doing. I hear that it gets easier.

And for all the great parents, wow. That’s hard work. Your kids will remember it. Don’t think they won’t. Eventually, at least.

Posted by: patriciamar | April 27, 2018

Book review: 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso (a Minnesotan!)

It took me forever to read this tiny book. According to the back cover, the goal was to produce a book that would read like a book of quotes: the best lines from 300 novels, let’s say. It is exactly that. For a full month I carried it around with me and took it out for a piece of wisdom whenever I needed one, which was often.

For teachers, it could serve as a conversation starter, for siblings or friends, or maybe even a Lorelei and Rory-like mother daughter relationship, it is the short, sweet start of hundreds of philosophical discussions on life.

I simply loved its bits and pieces. Take a look.

Posted by: patriciamar | March 12, 2018

The Live blog you always wanted: Colonoscopy Prep

Sometimes writers are afraid to write what they really want to write.  They hide their opinions, wild dreams and fears behind characters and fan fiction.  Why yes, Mrs. Grey, that is what they do.

Today, I will take advantage of a prime opportunity and write the live blog that you have all obviously wanted to write and read:

Colonoscopy from prep to…

analysis.

Colonoscopy from pizza delivery to…

the underground world of the teenage mutant ninja turtles.

At least we can all agree that preventative procedures save lives.

After tonight, you’ll all be ready to put your best colon forward, or maybe, downward.  I think we know which way is in and which way is out.  (If not, you should probably start your cleansing a week earlier.)

Fortunately, this is not my colonoscopy.  I am the hand that writes longhand the emojis that the scoped one sends.

Let’s start with some background information for interested parties.  Preparing for a colonoscopy can be a complex process.  You will need to start your adapted diet 3-5 before your procedure, starting by eliminating seeds, nuts, kernels, and any other small items that are likely to projectile shoot out at your practitioner.

Be sure to watch the videos that will be provided by your health care provider.  They will continue to send these until you do.  If you don’t prepare properly, they will send you home.  Seriously.  Bowel preparation instructions should include detailed lists of items that will make you wonder more deeply about the state of the American diet.

The colonoscopy process and progress will be a gradual addition to this post.  Pertinent updates, feeling, and status will be conveyed from the receiver of the colonscope– to me–via emojis, stickers and the sporadic gif, with the possibility of toi-toi selfie if we’re unlucky.  Cats will be present throughout the entire procedure.  Only their smelling whiskers will be harmed.

Preparation

Three days before the big day, you should eat low-fiber food.  You should also cease drinking alcohol and stop it with the colorful frosting already.  You’re 40 years old.  You don’t need pink sprinkles on your banana cupcake.

Other prohibited items include fruit (berries) with skin, pasta, pineapple, onions, lentils, beans, and both split and black-eyed peas.

On the A-ok list?  Veal.

Also fruit juice with no pulp, ripe, peeled stone fruit, creamy peanut butter, cooked vegetables, and the kind of potatoes that your Midwestern Grandmother makes, peeled and mashed with butter and cream (both allowed).

I don’t really understand why cheese is allowed at this point.  Why, for example, can you not eat a piece of spaghetti, but a grilled cheese packed with aged gouda is somehow ok?  Is it really going to be processed more slowly than a pasta nest?  I have my doubts about this.

The day before the big day, you’re done with solid food.  And who cares!?  Soon most everything in your world will be loosening up.  You can drink clear liquids and eat hard candies and popsicles as long as they don’t contain any brightly colored dyes (red and purple, in particular, should be avoided.)

The consumption of the NuLytely begins the evening before and the portions and times are strictly defined.  You should fudge this schedule equal to or less than the amount of fudging you did to your diet for the previous three days.  I know there is a bag of colorful gummies in your desk!  How many did you eat?  

 

You might want to further prepare yourself by continuing on with your usual Sunday evening meal prep.  #mealprepper

Fill cups with the correct amount of liquid.

There are 8 cups of important liquid.  You will need to drink half a cup every 10 minutes.  Add flavoring if you like, but remember, no food coloring or chunks.

You will then repeat during the night.  I wonder if I’ll still be up blogging then….

 

To be continued…

 

 

Update #1

7:25  Drunk by 7:37 – vanilla orange flavoring – quite drinkable

7:47 #2 – pineapple coconut additive unsuccessful.

7:49 – stomach gurgling ensues.

Gurgling increases.

Halfway!

Whoa.  This is really a lot of gurgling– baño emergency style

Heater on in the post-prep room.  Lid up.  Window open.

 

 

Update #2

Radio silence.

 

 

Update #3

It just occurred to me (yes, just now) that I’m about to get a lot of information that I might not want to hear.  Well, not hear– receive.

I should probably go get a beer.

 

 

Update #4

Jiggles in the stomach, small intestine, and large.

 

 

Update #5

We all know what’s happening on-site, so let’s take a moment to look at the hard facts.  We’re halfway through the prescribed NuLytely intake.  It is 2 hours and 10 minutes since the first sip.  That’s not a bad turnaround!  BUT!  That’s too fast if you are unprepared.

Before you thrown the first one back, make sure to:

  1. Put on warm socks
  2. Arrange for proper ventilation
  3. Fill your water bottle and lean it on tp dispenser (you won’t need that until the end, anyway)
  4. Stockpile a decent amount of reading and bingewatching material, or lure in an entertaining creature like a turtle or cat
  5. Suggestions?

130 minutes*–take this into consideration when planning your own evening of sipping colon cleansing cocktail.

*Results vary.  #gentle

 

 

Update #6 “The Giggle Sprint”

At this point in the evening, I, the colon reporter on duty, can no longer receive firsthand information.  I am getting hashtags and quotes from my secondary source**, some of which can be shared online without censor.  I can at least tell you that this experience will not be that bad.  You may find yourself exclaiming enthusiastically at the speed at which your system progresses.  You may have to #gigglesprint or just stay put af, but I can confirm that at the minimum, you can continue to check on your incoming Amazon packages at will. #deliverytomorrow #can’tchatnow #poohbearsaysgoodnight

**DB in the LR not the BA

 

Good luck!

#prevention

 

 

 

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