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Bravery To Know The Truth

I haven’t posted anything in about a week, and that post was on the serious side. What can I really say? I’m back to the desperate job seeking, money is tight, so I’m not really going anywhere and doing anything special. Not only that, but one of the cats is routinely urinating on the blankets I use at night, and my friend thinks it’s funny because “he’s just an animal who doesn’t know any better.”

So my self-worth has tanked. I was sitting on the sofa last night, staring randomly towards the floor, while my blankets were in the wash, and I was thinking there was no point to washing the quilt covering the sofa if it was going to get peed on again, that I might as well just deal with it since my skin never actually touched the part that got wet. Maybe I should just stop caring when the living room smells like cat urine, and let my friend deal with the smell while I’ve been blessed right now with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel worthy of sleeping with clean bedding. I didn’t even feel like my friend cared, like she would think differently if it was her things getting ruined and she had to clean her bedding before sleeping, but I just had to put up with it.

But that much wasn’t important, other than to say I was feeling pretty miserable. My phone, which was sitting on my lap, alerted me to a new e-mail message: “I can talk in about 30 minutes, if you would like.” It was from my friend in Japan.

We hadn’t talked in about two or three weeks. There was a disagreement between us, which resulted in the usual bout of silence. I had the last words, which I used to get a few things off my chest which had been bothering me, but I knew those words could also be my last words ever so I stressed that what I was saying wasn’t out of anger or spite but my own concerns.

If I hadn’t thought about him every day, then it was every other day. I thought about what I said, and I know how it sounded. When I was feeling weak, I considered apologizing for the things I said, but then I reminded myself to stand behind my words. I had concerns, I needed to address them, and I did, so why turn around and wave it off like I wasn’t bothered? I imagined conversations with him and how they would go. And I often looked out the windows towards the street and towards my car, on the off-chance that he got the nerve to come all this way to see me just to say what he needed to say. At night, I just had to pull the blankets over my shoulder and tell myself to stop trying to imagine that I’m living in some romantic comedy.

I really didn’t think that I was going to hear from him again. I questioned how long it would be before I would stop thinking of him. But then his message was met with a bit of uncertainty on my part, so I responded with an “okay.” When he messaged me later to say he was ready to call, I responded with another, “okay.” It’s not the greatest way to begin a conversation, I’ll admit, because I could have been in any kind of mood to give a simple “okay” and he wouldn’t know if things were fine or if I’d bite his head off. The phone conversation started with telling me he was only going to be on the phone for about a half hour. When he got into what he wanted to say, which was his response to my last e-mail and a few things left unanswered, I started to interject and he told me not to interrupt him. He had things he wanted to say, things I didn’t quite understand, and he wanted to make sure he said as much as he could in the time he had.

At one point, I noticed his voice was a bit shaky. I’ve thought about that a few times over the past day. Was it hard for him to say what he did? Was he nervous? Was he determined? Was he scared that I would escalate the argument and start screaming at him?

After two hours, he said he was ending the call. It was only the fourth or fifth time during that call that he said he was going to hang up, so part of me wondered if he was going to think of yet another thing to talk about with me. We got past the worst of the call, as we started talking about my job search. I was laid off a few days after our argument, and I never wrote to him to tell him about that. I just wanted him to think I was still doing okay, that I had a grasp on life and was taking care of things. So when he mentioned me working, I had to let him know what happened. I think it changed his mood a bit, because the conversation did shift gears. It wasn’t about resolving conflicts and having courage to do so, it was about realizing that I had more pressing issues than how things were going with him.

And then we talked about Himuro, which was the most fun part of the conversation. So it’s no wonder that the conversation as a whole lasted almost two hours. It wasn’t spoken, but perhaps we just miss each other at times like these.

I went to bed feeling a little better about things between us. Well, that and my blankets were fresh from the dryer and they were amazingly warm and cozy. I desperately needed the pick-me-up, and my Japanese friend will never realize how meaningful it was to hear from him at all at that moment.

Well, the sun is coming up. I’m not even tired, but this is exactly what my friend would complain about: my habitual bedtimes that fall in the early hours of the morning. It’s only 6 pm in Japan, which means if he finds this before he goes to bed, I’m going to wake up to a potentially unhappy e-mail from him. So… nighty-night!

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Missing Persons

And so we close out the month of May on an introspective note.

I had a family get-together on Sunday. Leading up to that, I had to consider what I wanted to bring for food, what I might wear, what I would discuss with my extended family, and what I would do if my brother showed up.

I made a macaroni salad, which in my case isn’t quite like anything you could get from the supermarket. I mixed everything together; a pound box of pasta, a can of tuna, some frozen sweet peas, a few hard-boiled eggs, and my secret condiment combination. When I tasted it once everything was mixed together, it didn’t taste right. Something was missing.

Mom. Mom was missing. The macaroni salad was fine.

I thought about how Mom would have been stressed while getting ready to leave for the get-together. Then again, I’m not sure if her mood could be described as stressed. Dad would have one of two moods: either he would sigh and say, “you know your mother gets like this when we get together with the family,” or he would be angry and firmly tell me not to upset Mom any further. But Mom would usually look for certain things on the day of the get-together, not have them ready to go beforehand. Things had to be “just so,” even though she wasn’t a perfectionist, but she did have a certain way of doing things.

I rolled out of bed, if you want to call it rolling and you want to call the couch a bed, and had a bit of a stiff back from how I slept. I took a hot shower, trying to relieve the stiffness of the muscles in my lower back. I found my shirt that has an American flag design printed on an electric guitar and wore that with a pair of jeans and my leather Ren faire boots. I really didn’t leave until the get-together was supposed to start, mainly because punctuality wasn’t as important as being there.

I walked in and was greeted by relatives who seemed surprised to see me, but some of them hadn’t seen me in over a year. I had been asked if I had spoken to my brother, to which I honestly replied that I haven’t spoken to him since Easter when I left his place crying after an argument. One of my cousins, the hostess of the party, mentioned an incident involving some photos being given to my brother, and my brother removing family members from Facebook in return. I vaguely remembered him telling me his side of things, and all I can say is that there was a misunderstanding.

I sat down and ate my plate of food while talking with other family members about life and such. The more I thought about my brother’s reactions to things, the more I realized that he wouldn’t be coming, that I wouldn’t see him at all. And he never did show up.

I needed a moment of zen, so I went back to my car and took out one of two kites I had in my backseat. I managed to get some wind, and had the kite up in the air a couple of times before the line knotted up as I was reeling it in after the kite came down. I sat down at a picnic table to fix the knot, but this picnic table was away from most of the people and close to the river that ran near the house. It was a nice day, only partially cloudy and not too cold outside, and the view near the river was quite peaceful and lovely. So I stopped flying the kite for a little while, and enjoyed the scenery. That, and another cousin’s daughter was quickly becoming a spectacle in a canoe, and a few of us were watching her to see if she would make it back to shore. I managed another flight of the kite as I headed back towards the house, but yet another cousin started singing a song lyric that went something like, “what goes up, must come down” and my kite inevitably landed in the bushes that time.

As I was packing the kite into its box, I had a few people talk to me about the kite and watching me fly it. It made me feel a little better, not that I was looking for attention from flying the kite. I just never had the opportunity to fly the kite since I bought it, so it was nice that it wasn’t too complicated (it is a little more advanced than the plastic kites I grew up using) and I didn’t get frustrated as a result. But it was easier to talk about a kite with my family than some of my other interests, and I wasn’t talking about my brother either.

So what is it with my brother? Well, he’s adopted. (Mom: “He’s still your brother!”) I know, I know. But a lot of things factor into his personality, and I think that’s one of the major things.

You see, his adoption has been on his mind a lot, especially since Mom passed. He actually mentioned to me that his records are apparently locked even to him, and while I knew his records were locked, I never thought about who could and couldn’t access them. When I thought about him saying that, it said to me that he was actually looking for his birth mother, that he probably had questions and was trying to understand his origins.

After Easter, something on Facebook prompted me to look up “toxic narcissism.” Sadly, everything I was reading was describing my brother. One part of it basically said that it came from issues with his mother, and maybe I’m being nice to my own birth mother by pointing the finger at his birth mother.

Think about it, though: he probably feels abandoned by his birth mother, unwanted, unloved. Maybe he resents her, I don’t know. I want to think that she didn’t want to get pregnant in the first place, that maybe something about her situation wouldn’t have allowed for her to care for a child at that time. She didn’t get an abortion, and maybe she could have, or maybe she didn’t realize she was pregnant until it was too late to abort. Maybe she assumed she wasn’t going to become pregnant.

Regardless, she did give birth to him, and then put him up for adoption sometime after that. I don’t know how soon after, maybe she tried to raise him but realized a month later that babies are too much work. Whatever happened, she figured that someone else might be able to raise him better than she could, and she wanted him to have a life that she couldn’t give to him.

But I can’t tell that to my brother. We don’t have the warm and fuzzy relationship between us, so I can’t be all heartwarming around him.

He is quick to anger, and not really one to look at more than his side of an argument. So that misunderstanding over photographs? He probably won’t try to understand that the family meant nothing by it, and if they really didn’t want to look at our faces, the photos could have gone in the garbage.

The family enjoyed seeing my face this weekend, and it was nice to let everyone know what I was doing with my life. They don’t know everything, but they didn’t seem too concerned for me, so I’ll just let them be satisfied knowing I’m nearby and doing relatively fine. I can only speak for myself, but that should be enough.

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Senpai Noticed My E-Mail!

I know I’ve mentioned so many things in this blog, from ways to learn and practice Japanese to foods, restaurants, musicians, songs, you name it. As of yet, no one is asking for me to review their products or services, no one is asking for me to go to their restaurants, no one is asking anything of me. Everything I’ve mentioned is something I’ve experienced and I felt I had to talk about it.

I’ve considered sending an e-mail to every person and company that I’ve referenced in each entry. I hesitate, however, because I feel like it would seem awkward to the recipient. “Just so you know, I talked about this thing you do on my WordPress blog. Thank you for doing the thing you do!” If I got such an e-mail, I don’t know how I would respond. Does this person want something free? Does this person want me to turn around and advertise their existence?

To be honest, I don’t even know what I want or expect from these other people. They’ve already done what they needed to do, which is to provide me with something. If I talk about a restaurant, it’s because I had a meal there, but I don’t need free food. If I talk about a language learning app, I might have already paid for the use of that app, but I don’t want a refund. Even if I talk about people, whether they’re musicians or YouTube vloggers, I just want them to keep doing what they’re doing.

In an entry that’s part of the Self-Awareness Exercises series I’m working on, I mentioned J-vlogger Victor (Gimmeabreakman, Gimmeaflakeman) in question three. After writing that entry, I sent him an e-mail to let him know I linked to him, but I also asked about his recommendations for Japanese language schools to attend. I briefly talked about this blog, why I write, what I write about, and told him that I only have 23 followers.

I wrote that e-mail over a month ago.

I think I picked up a follower or two while I was writing that e-mail. I vaguely remember checking my statistics and noticing that the follower count had changed. The point being, I don’t have much of an influence. I’m not going to affect his views and subscriber totals by leaps and bounds. On my end, that doesn’t matter. I do smile when I see I gained a follower. But, I have so little to offer, and since this isn’t a business, since I’m not relying on this to earn money, my subscriber count is merely a number that doesn’t matter to me.

That number has increased, from the 23 I mentioned in my e-mail, to the current total of 31. If it becomes 32 as I type this, I’m going to giggle, just because. Hey, it motivates me to keep going, to keep writing, even if I can’t entertain everyone.

But that’s not even the best part. I woke up this morning, and I actually had a response from Victor. He apologized for not getting back to me sooner, and just asked where I was thinking of going to in Japan.

I came back with more words than necessary, but if it helps, then it wasn’t a terrible move. But remember how I was worried about making things awkward? I might have done that.

So now I wait for a reply to that message. But you know something? He’s busy with his videos, with his real job, and with a new daughter. I wasn’t expecting a reply at all, but I did hope for one, and I assumed that his reply would take a while with everything he has going on in his life. So I don’t expect that I’ll have a reply from him tomorrow morning when I wake up. It might be a few days, or a few weeks, or even another month before I get a reply. And that’s all right, because while his response will be helpful, I don’t need that response right away. I still have much to take care of in my own life.

So my advice to anyone who decides to write to someone they see online, whether it’s a lowly blogger with a small follower count like myself, or it’s a YouTube personality with thousands of subscribers and a new video at least once a week… my advice to you is to understand that no matter how much you see of that person’s life, you won’t see everything that is going on. So if you write to that person, be respectful of their time. A few short sentences will be excellent, especially if those sentences honor the recipient and display your own honorable intentions as well. If you’re going to be rude or critical, don’t bother writing, because you also don’t know if they’re dealing with something stressful that they don’t want to reveal to their public. And if you don’t get a response, even if you asked a question or two, accept that they haven’t responded to you. It could be that they were going to get to your e-mail a day after you wrote a rude and scathing e-mail to them because you couldn’t stand to wait any longer, but rather than amplify that anger, they might have decided that ignoring you outright is more advantageous.

If you’re respectful, your senpai will notice you.

I’m only calling Victor “senpai” because it’s funny to me. I got noticed. So if I call him senpai, then I got noticed by senpai. Not to mention, if I learn a thing or two from his experiences, then he would have taught me something. But.. I’m shutting up now.

Stealing Is Bad, Unless It’s A Flower For Mom

I have to begin by apologizing.

For the past two weeks, my life has involved late-night shifts at work. In theory, it wasn’t something I minded accepting, because I’m up late at night usually anyway. But after the first shift on this schedule, I came home and still had to do the dishes, and I was exhausted! So I started drinking the coffee at work, which helped, unless I drank two cups or started drinking too close to the end of the evening.

Mornings lately have involved me waking up an hour or two ahead of my alarm. More often than not, I’ve also had my Nintendo 3DS and Game Boy Color handed back to me along with some of the games. The first time this happened, I was too drowsy to understand why my portable gaming devices weren’t still in the Doctor Whooves purse I kept them in. When this became an everyday occurrence, I started getting annoyed and frustrated. The thefts weren’t limited to video gaming things, in fact I lost my lightsaber chopsticks and my Fitbit in this way. My level of trust, in general, has gone down as a result of this, and I can honestly say I’ve had a bit of anxiety.

Wednesday, I had to squeeze in a trip to an auto repair shop after my car overheated on my way home from work Tuesday night. I had to replace the radiator, which meant I never got to see the paycheck that was deposited into my account that morning, and I lost the cushion I made for myself in case an emergency came up. Well, I guess it was an emergency, but then I had to worry about every other expense that I needed to cover over the course of the week. To date, I’m still doing fine, which means I’m still fairly magical when it comes to money.

I had Friday off from work. And I had the greatest intention to post something here, of some variety. I intended to make good use of WordPress’ ability to schedule posts, so that I could sit down, write a few things, and then I wouldn’t need to worry about actually writing something every day or every other day. But that never happened.

So, please forgive me for the lack of updates.

What happened Friday? I’m glad you asked!

My other idea for something to do on Friday was to move my bins of video game console equipment and other miscellaneous stuff out of the hallway where it’s being kept, and put it into my car after swapping out some of the more boring things that I retrieved from storage when I last visited New Jersey. It sounds like it wouldn’t take much time, but it was a matter of figuring where to put things in general and what I wanted to bring into the house (yeah, don’t ask about my car being a rolling miniature storage unit as well). In the end, I had towels where I once had electronics, I had more of my clothes in the house, and I had reduced the likelihood of some random things getting “misplaced.”

In addition to that, I did a load of laundry, ran errands, and even made dinner to take to work while washing the dishes. I was exhausted by the time I had my laundry put back into the suitcase I’m living out of and put other things into a decent place in the house.

And then, my friend from Japan wrote to me. And I felt too compelled to respond, so I wrote back and told him to give me a few minutes. He told me to just go to bed, but I needed to unwind. I’ve been going almost nonstop for well over a week, my sleep has been reduced, and I gave it my all on Friday to get as much done as I could. I felt like, if I was losing more sleep, it would be worth it just to get things off my mind. And, well, I said some things that weren’t taken as I had intended. But if I’m going to upset an audience, I’d rather upset a single person than a whole crowd.

And so, I apologized to him before I left for work. I almost made myself late for work because I just HAD to write back right away.

In my contrition, I considered giving up my plans for Sunday. But I was still asleep, and the morning coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. In fact, I was still waiting for the coffee to not burn my tongue when I had a good start to my day at work. No, that’s being modest about it, I had an unbelievably amazing start that I wasn’t expecting. And then when the project I was working on for the morning was switched to another project when I came back from lunch, it was a project that wasn’t yielding the best of results overall but I was still doing fairly well compared to others that day. I wasn’t able to hate myself while at work, I was doing well enough that the endorphins made me feel like I wasn’t solely to blame for the argument, if at all.

Since I was definitely following through with my Sunday plans, that meant that I was spending Saturday night in the kitchen, nonstop. I made dark chocolate mochi based on the recipe printed on the Mochiko box, as well as tuna salad-stuffed onigiri (rice balls) and a dish of fruit sliced and arranged in layers. By the time I was done, I really couldn’t stand up for much longer,… and I was exhausted.

This morning, I woke up… and it was quiet. I got to sleep a bit longer than normal. It was nice! You’d think I was a mother, and this was part of my Mother’s Day treatment. Actually, the kids were in their mother’s bedroom, where she had breakfast in bed. But I had only a couple of hours to get ready, which always seems like more than enough time until other things come up.

I intended to do a few dishes that were left over from my cooking, so that was my first order of business. Since I also planned to take a shower, I took off my bracelets and my rings and threaded the Fitbit through them all to keep them together. When I had finished with the dishes, I heard one of the boys going, “look at me, I’m married!” I came out of the kitchen to see that he was wearing my sterling silver band with moons and stars on it, which I’ve had for a decade now and have rarely removed it except to shower. I panicked and probably raised my voice more than necessary, but I didn’t want it getting lost. As he was taking off my ring and handing it back to me, I noticed he was also wearing my bracelets. I asked for those back as well. The Fitbit, however, was still missing. The other boy started looking under the couch for it, but somehow couldn’t find the Fitbit at all. His father knew where it was, and sent him to his room to bring it back.

“Why did you take it?” I asked.

“I always wanted a Fitbit,” was his reply.

I only have a Flex, which displays up to five pips based on how many steps you’ve taken for the day, each pip being about 20% of your goal. So I tapped on the device and asked him if he could read how many steps he’s taken for the day. “Um,… none?” Without a smartphone or a computer with which to sync the data, there’s really nothing he could do with a Fitbit, aside from losing it on me. And being only eight years old and slender, there’s nothing he needs to do with a Fitbit. But I will admit, I was careless in leaving the Fitbit lying around, thinking that it would be fine.

I was actually glad to get out of the house, and especially because I wasn’t going to work. I needed to get away and just relax.

But, it rained.

Rain never stops the annual garden tour that’s held at this one person’s home every year. There is at least five acres of land that’s just a garden. There are koi ponds, cherry trees, stepping stones, statues of various mythological creatures and from different cultures, and flowers and other trees and shrubbery. There are gongs and wind chimes, there are benches and chairs scattered throughout. There is even a hedge maze, which I didn’t get to.

Saying I’ve already seen this garden from my car is an understatement. Yes, you can drive by the residence and see that there is, indeed, a sizable garden to behold. I actually had a chance to drive through the garden, keeping to the stone paths, while my Grandma rode along with me. I remember I had my first car at the time, and I was quietly playing the Silent Hill 3 soundtrack, and that it was autumn so nothing was really in bloom. I’ll admit, it helps to know the owners of the residence.

It also helps to know the crossing guard as you’re entering the garden tour. The county sheriff who was directing traffic happened to be one of my cousins. He called me by my Mom’s name at first, but I hesitated to correct him although he realized his own mistake after a moment. Although he said the rest of his family was already at the tour, I didn’t see them.

Once I was on the grounds, I saw one of the people who I was supposed to meet up with. After a few minutes, and wondering if the rain was going to hold off, we headed to the “usual spot.” For the past few years, the Japanese Culture Meetup group has gathered under the cherry blossoms for a picnic during the Mother’s Day garden tour. When we arrived, one of the members was already there and had put a tarp on the ground for us to sit on. She also brought matcha and hot water, and was starting to make tea for us when the heavens above decided that we needed rain. That lasted about a minute, long enough to get things wet if they weren’t covered. Later on, the sun came out and it was warm, but then there were also moments of passing clouds which cooled things off again. When the garden tour was ending, the rain was starting up again.

If you think you missed anything, the meet up was a few of us talking about Japan, traveling in general, upcoming meet ups, and enjoying food. But if you wanted to stray from that, you could wander the gardens, which I did do for a bit. I even took a selfie with a dragon statue, because… you know… that’s just how I roll.

As we all were leaving, I did what I saw most people doing, which was to take a flower (or two, or three) from those which had been planted in a few rows. Part of me didn’t want to take any flowers, because I was thinking of how that’s frowned upon in Japan to pick flowers or take branches of sakura off the trees, and I was also unsure if the owners even allowed people to take flowers like that at all. But I took a daffodil and two tulips, then I put them into my bag and headed to my car before it started to rain.

Unfortunately, when I got to the cemetery, it was raining. So there I stood, wearing a black and white dress, holding a black umbrella. You’d think it was a funeral, or that I was still mourning, but it was all coincidental. I gave the daffodil to my Mom, and I gave one of the tulips to Grandma. The other tulip, I kept for myself. Mom never had a chance to see the garden, so I could at least say I brought the garden to her. I spoke a few words, expressed some confidence and determination for the future, hoped I could make her happy in the afterlife, and even cried a bit. The cemetery was a popular place, and as I was leaving, I was momentarily blocked by cars of other people paying their respects.

Overall, today turned into what I needed. Well, I’ll always need my Mom by my side, even though I carry her with me in spirit these days. But I needed a bit of an adventure, and even though what I’ve mentioned doesn’t sound too adventurous, it felt like it to be there. I was neither trying to remember my Mom or forget her on this day, but I managed to do something that allowed me to live in both states of mind, to honor her and yet to not dwell on her loss from my life.

If you’re reading this and you didn’t do so yesterday, call your mom. Do something with your mom, or at least make plans with her that you intend to keep. The conversation might not be the best, but if you can still have conversations with your mom right now, do so. In the end, I’ll admit that regardless of how much time you do spend with your mom, it will never be enough. But at least try to do the things she has always wanted to do, because you will still have time to do the things in life that you want to do for yourself when she’s gone. If you learn anything from me, it’s that your life will never be the same once you don’t have your mother anymore. So call your mom now.

I Suck At Chopsticks – Mitsuba

I have had an amazing week!

Although I was coached at work, I did have a 92 percent score on a “harshly graded” audit of one of the calls I made. After that, I tweaked the rhythm and tone that I use when I recite the introduction script, and I went from having one or two completed surveys a day to having five completes on Friday and six completes today!

Not only that, but I called someone who greeted me by saying, “Moshi moshi!” After my introduction, the woman said a few things, and it wasn’t until I heard her say “nihongo” that it dawned on me that she was speaking Japanese! I apologized, explaining that I don’t know much Nihongo, and I ended the call by saying “gomen nasai” and “sayounara.” I was so hyped about that call! I think my supervisor was about as interested in hearing that I’m learning Japanese and that I got that call, that I could have told him what I ate for breakfast and he would be just as interested. I asked if I could get a copy of the recording, even if someone had to censor out the introduction or something, but I was told that it wouldn’t be allowed. I feel like no one would believe that I had such luck, which is why I wanted a copy of the recording.

I made a trip to New Jersey this week, and one of the errands I made while down there was to return the internet equipment to my former service provider. Two days later, I received a call from the debt collection agency that was handling that account, and I scheduled the payment for the remaining balance. So, that takes care of one of my many debts!

When I got home from work tonight, the house was empty. My friend’s daughter was at her prom, and I assume the rest of the family was off taking pictures and talking to other parents. There was nothing made for dinner and left behind, and I didn’t have enough ingredients to make anything worthwhile. The idea of conveyer belt sushi danced in my mind, but the one conveyer belt sushi restaurant in the area that I’m aware of has mediocre Yelp reviews. I couldn’t get the thought of Japanese food out of my mind, despite having the ability to get free American food from TGI Friday’s, so I decided to go to someplace close by for whatever they offered.

If you’ve been here a while or have perused the archives, then you know I’m not a fan of the abundance of hibachi-style Japanese restaurants in the area. Seriously, the only way a restaurant seems to qualify as a Japanese restaurant is if it has hibachi, which is western-style Asian food, and rolled sushi, which is also western-style (california rolls are not Japanese in any way). That being said, you would think that I would be avoiding all Japanese restaurants, turning my nose up at the mere mention of hibachi. If I did that, I’d have to make my own Japanese food all the time, which takes away from being able to just relax and enjoy myself.

While I was working on moving to New Jersey, there was a vacant lot of land that was in the process of being renovated. At the time, there was barely anything built. I did visit the new Costco one time before I had finished moving out of the area. When I returned to the area, that location was filled with new restaurants, a movie theater, a bank, and a few other little shops. Among the restaurants was a place called Mitsuba, which was yet another hibachi/sushi place. I never vowed I wouldn’t go there, and tonight, that’s where I went.

Now, this isn’t a food blog. I’m not here to analyze the presentation, and I don’t consider myself to be a foodie so I won’t be judging the way things tasted. I’m just a girl who is celebrating life, who isn’t about to be held back by bad times. So then, let’s have some fun!

I walked in and was seated quickly, which was pretty good for a Saturday night around 7 at night. I also didn’t have a seating preference, so I didn’t mind when I was given a regular table instead of being escorted to the hibachi tables.

Before I had a chance to look through the menu, a waitress came to the table and asked if I wanted a hot towel, which I accepted. After she walked away, my mind was reeling – what do I do with this? All I could think was to not use it on the face, the hot towel is not meant to wash the face and that’s frowned upon in Japan. Okay, so what… do… I… do? I actually pulled out my phone and looked it up on Google, just to confirm that it’s for washing the hands before eating. The downside was, there was nothing saying if I should leave it wadded up when I was done using it, or if I should neatly fold it, or if that much even mattered.

I flipped through the menu to find something to drink, and while I was going to ask for the free rice tea, I reminded myself that I was treating myself. I decided on ordering a Thai tea, which interested an older woman dining at the table next to mine later on in the evening. After she asked what I was drinking, I told her what it was, that it’s black tea with other spices added which gives the tea its unique orange color, and then milk and ice are added to the steeped tea. She thought I might have had something fruit-flavored, which is understandable considering the coloration of the drink.

After placing my entire order, one of the waiters placed a small square plate in front of me. The plate had what looked like rice rolled up inside of nori, then topped with a drizzle of sriracha mayonnaise. I was told that the dish was on the house, which made me feel special. They probably give that dish to everyone, but please just let me have my moment.

I opened up my chopsticks so I could use them to eat my free food. I thought about what I had learned from Joe Inoue, because I had otherwise built up a “this kinda works for me” mentality when trying to eat with chopsticks. The funny thing is, when I put Joe’s lesson into practice, I realized I had to do one more thing to make it work… I had to press the stationary chopstick into the padding between my thumb and index finger, and press it deeply until I felt it. I also had to press the tip of my ring finger against the chopstick to keep it stationary. But, I made it work, and I ate my rice rolls with ease!

Not long after finishing those rice rolls, my shumai appetizer came out of the kitchen. Awesome, right? That’s good timing. So once again, I put my chopstick skills to use, lifting the shrimp dumplings and dipping them into the horseradish-based sauce. I cleared out my sinuses, but it was delicious!

After that, I had a bit of a wait for my main dish. When I was looking over the menu, I went back and forth between pages, debating whether I wanted sushi or tempura or katsudon. I finally decided on the house nabe, which was a soup-style dish with thinly-sliced steak and seafood with noodles and vegetables in a soy broth. I couldn’t help but think of Great Teacher Onizuka, with the title character Onizuka’s voice in my head, shouting “NABE!” There is a part in the series where he demands that his students make nabe, and if I’m wrong, then I’m confusing it with The Wallflower. However, if I remember correctly, The Wallflower has a scene where one of the guys demands shabu-shabu in the winter, not nabe. I’ve digressed to the point where I know I’m going to watch anime tomorrow to prove to myself that I was right.

Anyway, NABE! And the waiter or manager came over to me, not long after I placed my order, to tell me they were out of the noodles that normally go into the nabe. He asked if I would mind if they substituted udon instead, and I said that was all right. Unfortunately, that reminded me of my ex-fiance, but it made me appreciate the fact that he and I don’t have a relationship anymore. His family is “cursed,” in that they can’t go to a restaurant without something going wrong. If the kitchen runs out of an ingredient, “OH NO, THE CURSE HAS STRUCK AGAIN!” Me? They substituted something, that’s fine. I’d rather have a kitchen run out of ingredients from time to time, because it means they have to replace them, and if they’re replacing ingredients, they’re not letting anything spoil or rot. Besides, it also means I’m probably eating something that other people enjoy or would recommend, so I must have chosen well for my dinner.

That nabe was delicious! The steak was tender, the seafood was done well, and the broth wasn’t too salty. I was halfway done when two things happened.

First, I was starting to think I had eaten enough. I could tell by the counter in front of me, which held various supplies for dining and such, that this establishment would allow you to take food home. However, that’s not something that’s done in Japan. “But Luna, you’re not in Japan!” Yeah, I know that. In fact, I wondered if I was eating an American portion of nabe, if I was actually trying to eat more than I would be given if I were in Japan. I decided to press on, going so far as to finish all of my noodles and all of the meat. I left quite a bit of broth and some of the vegetables in the dish.

Second, the waiter came over while I was adjusting my chopsticks and trying to grasp a noodle. He asked if I wanted a fork. I smiled, even laughed a bit, as I explained to him that I could use chopsticks just fine, but that my hand would sometimes move the stationary chopstick out of place. I was willing to struggle with chopsticks for the sake of trying to improve my skill, possibly even my dexterity. I would say I succeeded! I mean, I did struggle, but I also ate well without using my bare hands.

Dessert was half of an orange, which was cut into quarters and impaled with a toothpick. The bill was handed to me as I ate my orange, and because I downloaded Mitsuba’s app onto my phone, I got $5 off my total. I wanted to leave a note on the restaurant’s copy of the receipt, but I thought I probably shouldn’t. I wanted to say something along the lines of, “In Japan, they don’t leave a tip. When I finally go to Japan, I hope the restaurant service is as good as it was here.” I thought of adding more words to that, or maybe not, because it might not be understood in the same way as what I was trying to say. However, I did leave a 20% tip because the service was worth it. The staff was attentive, checking on me to see that I was ready to order or if my order was already placed, making sure everything was enjoyed by me, even offering me a fork so that I didn’t have too many issues.

I left the restaurant and walked back to my car, which was parked about a hundred feet away from the establishment. Maybe it was closer than that, possibly only eighty feet away, but it had been the best parking spot I could find. The movie theater was nearby, so I assumed that most of the spots were taken by movie-goers. Past the movie theater was a frozen yogurt shop, but my stomach didn’t feel like I had any room left for dessert.

When I got to my car, I got in and drove to the grocery store. I still needed to get a few things so I could make actual meals for the week, most of which would be my lunch at work. With a full stomach, I was sure to buy only what I absolutely needed.

I might have purchased Akira as well, which I absolutely didn’t need, but it was $5. I basically took myself out for dinner and a movie. I’m dating myself. I think I’m going to make it a long-term relationship, because I see some potential. Should I wait until three days have passed before calling myself? I don’t want to seem too eager.

All joking aside, it was the perfect ending to an already amazing week! I don’t know if the next week could get any better, but I’ll take whatever comes my way.

Self-Awareness Exercises, Question Five

I’m somewhat angered in regards to Rosetta Stone. However, I think my anger would be better directed towards the amplifier cable of my Turtle Beach headset. Perhaps the audio was cutting out because there’s an issue with that cable. Regardless, I haven’t tried using Rosetta Stone since then, but part of that is because I haven’t taken the time.

Things have been interesting, just the same. But this is yet another one of those self-awareness posts, so we won’t get into the latest happenings of my life… or will we?

For those of you playing along at home, there’s a five-minute timer in which I answer a writing prompt as a stream of consciousness. Of course, I explain myself after the five minutes are done, because it seems like a good idea to me but I’m sure it’s useful so I do it. I’m a rebel like that.

There’s also an introduction paragraph, which I’ll put… here:

“We each write our own story for our life.  What story are you writing for yours?  Set a timer (there should be one on your phone if no where else) for 5 minutes for each prompt and write as fast as you can for those five minutes.  If it goes off mid sentence, finish your sentence and stop.  You can always go back and do them again.  And if nothing come out at first, just start writing random words, and free write even if it seems like gibberish.  Remember to give yourself at least a little time to digest everything that comes to the surface for each prompt.  It may not hit all at once, or it may do so and it may even possibly overwhelm you.  Let it out and let it go.  There are no right or wrong answers here, only your deepest truths.  If it helps, look at these exercises as writing prompts for a novel, with you as the hero/heroine and write your story.”

Now for the magical prompt:

5.  The most incredible thing I ever did was. . .

And five minutes on the timer begins NOW!

The most incredible thing I did was selling a used flat screen television where the screen didn’t work anymore? I sold it for $50. That’s not my best work. Lately I seem to be recognizing my ability to make money appear out of nowhere. I’m the personification of taking your coat out of the closet and finding $20 in the pockets. I managed to have over $2,000 in the bank in NY when I thought I had very little, and that lasted me until now, but I have a job again so that helps. I was given a nickname by my Dad for my ability to always have money somehow. I don’t know how I do it, unless I’m irresponsible and lucky.

Stop the clock!

Yes, I sold a TV for $50. My brother said that no one would buy it. I might have been trying to sell it for too little, who knows. Mom and I had a few offers on it. We were trying to get it repaired, but the repair guy said there was nothing he could do. The guys who bought it from us said that they knew a way to fix it. That was fine by us. The television that Mom bought to replace that one is now my TV, and it travelled with me to New Jersey and back. It also has lasted longer than the TV it replaced, so I highly recommend buying Vizio televisions over Polaroid.

So I thought I was getting paid over the weekend. I checked my account, and there was nothing directly deposited into my account. I had an offer to settle one of my credit card debts, but “the offer would expire” on the 24th. Maybe it would, maybe not, but it’s an effective means of trying to get the debtor to pay back some of what’s owed. I made the call just the same, and I set up automatic payments to get this over and done with for that account. I told them I hadn’t been paid this weekend, and asked if they could postpone the payment by a week. So they set up the payment for the end of the month. And then my paycheck arrived in today’s mail. I’m not even mad, this actually gives me a bit of a cushion, but I still have to see what I have to work with before the weekend.

As for making a couple thousand dollars appear? I guess it wasn’t out of nowhere, but I had forgotten about it. I don’t remember if I set up my brother or my ex fiancé as the beneficiary, but one of those two… um, fine, upstanding gentlemen… one of them would have benefitted a bit off of my forgetfulness, assuming that either one of them considered accessing that account. And I don’t even know why I left that money in the account, when I knew I was moving to New Jersey and wouldn’t be near any branches of that bank. But I did, and leaving a little something for myself helped me out quite a bit.

One of my Dad’s nicknames for me was Moneybags. Part of that came from playing Monopoly, though my brother usually won while playing. Usually, it was my ability to make actual, real world money appear out of nowhere, as if I shouldn’t have some of the money that I did have. Part of my secret comes from having a frugal Mom, and part comes from having willpower at times, if I’m not just stashing money somewhere and forgetting all about it.

And yeah, irresponsible and lucky are both fitting. I’m probably making my Japanese friend panic because I told him I might overdraft my checking account this weekend. He already told me I should borrow a bit from family, just to get by and pay them back in a week or two when I’m able. I was sure that I would be able to get by, and that I might have enough if I moved some money around. I told him I still had something for gas, as I have cash in my wallet, and I had something for food because I still have a balance on my food stamps card. So even though finances would end up being the ultimate exercise in penny-pinching, I figured I still had enough to get by. And then my paycheck arrived in the mail. His mind is probably reeling, wondering if he can trust me with money and managing even my own finances. Then again, I’m already in debt and he’s still around, and I promised I’d never ask him for a dime and I haven’t needed to do so. And I have documents proving that I have this debt, so I’m not faking it for sympathy. All I can think is, despite my reckless behavior with money and my moments of derp, he must love me for me.

So, I must be pretty awesome.

If you want to participate in these self-awareness exercises, post in the comments or grab your own journal of some sort, or you can pop over to Facebook and post there! Don’t forget to check the “self-awareness questions” tag for all the fun I’ve had so far.

Self-Awareness Exercises, Question Four

I am dumb. There’s a retraction I might have to post in regards to a confession I made.

Then again, as far as going forward, I’m second-guessing things. It’s not him, it’s me, and it has to do with the Easter fallout with my brother and my trust being shaken. Well, my trust is shaken in the sense that my brother seems to be a textbook narcissist, so I’m really questioning how much my brother cared about me and if I might actually be part of the problem. But then that’s more baggage for other people in my life to deal with, which isn’t fair to them. So I have to work through it, maybe stop talking about my brother and just claim to be an only child (which, biologically, I am).

Ugh. So then, let’s work through another one of these self-awareness questions, shall we? It should help.

Just a refresher of the introduction:

“We each write our own story for our life.  What story are you writing for yours?  Set a timer (there should be one on your phone if no where else) for 5 minutes for each prompt and write as fast as you can for those five minutes.  If it goes off mid sentence, finish your sentence and stop.  You can always go back and do them again.  And if nothing come out at first, just start writing random words, and free write even if it seems like gibberish.  Remember to give yourself at least a little time to digest everything that comes to the surface for each prompt.  It may not hit all at once, or it may do so and it may even possibly overwhelm you.  Let it out and let it go.  There are no right or wrong answers here, only your deepest truths.  If it helps, look at these exercises as writing prompts for a novel, with you as the hero/heroine and write your story.”

And what’s the task at hand?

4.  If I were to descirbe myself, I would say that I am. . .

I am dumb.

Okay, let’s take this seriously! Five minutes on the clock… and GO!

If I were to describe myself, I would say that I’m relatively intelligent. I would also say that I’m a nice person, perhaps too nice at times. Usually I wouldn’t say that I’m compassionate, but then I have moments when I see something and I actually care, like my heartstrings are pulled or something. I don’t really know if I’m introverted or extroverted, so because I seem to go both ways, I must be an ambivert. I would say I’m antisocial, but then I do want to socialize with people, and then I just want to be in my own little world when I’m around people I can socialize with. As for looks, I don’t think I look terrible. I think I actually look pretty cute at times. Then there’s moments when I’m self-conscious but don’t have the means to fix the issues I see, like my skin breaking out because I stopped caring since I wasn’t going anywhere. But I don’t think I’m a terrible person overall.

And that was five minutes.

I use the words “relatively intelligent” because of a quote about everyone being a genius, but if you judge a fish on it’s ability to fly, it will always think it’s stupid… or something like that. I believe Einstein is quoted as having said that, and I could look it up, but then I’d probably find a page that says, “this was originally quoted as this person, but it was actually said by this other person years ago in this ancient manuscript.” Long story short, there’s a quote, I wasn’t smart enough or old enough to think of it first, and it applies. So when I say I’m relatively intelligent, I might know more about computers than you, but I know there are people who are hackers, networking specialists, programmers, you name it, and they can run circles around me. I might know my way around a kitchen, but I’m not a five-star chef. I might not be working up to my potential as it is, I could probably do more if I focused on something and honed my skills in that one thing for a while.

I’d say I’m too nice at times, not in the sense that I would tell others I’m nice and they should believe it, but because there are times when I feel like something should run its course because I can’t find a way to excuse myself that doesn’t seem rude to me. I’m not entirely sweet, because I can be sarcastic or cynical at times. But I try to use my manners, I try to allow others the right of way before myself, I try to save or hold things for people. I try to care for others, sometimes putting strangers over myself.

In regards to being compassionate, some things don’t affect me. Starving children or dying pets in those commercials? I’m sorry, but if these charities have money for advertising, then they have enough money to allocate more resources to help those in need. But if my friends have a pet or a child in need of help? What do you need? What can I do? I want to help, if I can.

No people, some people, a lot of people, it’s all the same to me. Talking to everyone, talking to people I feel comfortable with, talking to no one, it doesn’t matter. I can exhaust myself if I’m left to my own devices, I can be exhausted after being with people. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m an ambivert. I do have antisocial moments, but then I have other times when I want to be around people and get disappointed when I can only get a small group of people together. Again, it’s all the same to me.

Ugh, I let myself go and my complexion is suffering right now. I need to get to Lush and get some of my favorite facial scrub. My face has some good days, but this isn’t one of them. But I wouldn’t use that to describe myself, because there are times when my complexion is better than this.

And again, I don’t consider myself to be a terrible person overall. I don’t really try to make new friends, but sometimes it just happens. I don’t usually try to reach out to people, but sometimes I need people for something and I get to see who’s looking out for me. I don’t think I’m anything too special, and I’m probably not interesting to most people. But I’m not going to try to be popular, or highly sought after, or even loved. I’m going to let things fall where they may. Right now, I’m comfortable with my existence. There ARE people who care about me. There ARE people who I care about, who matter to me. But there’s things I have to do for me, that I can’t ask of others, because it’s my burden to bear.

That’s about all I have to say for that question. If you’re following along, click the “self-awareness questions” tag for everything so far. And if you want to do the question for yourself, you can post in the comments or write in your own journal or blog. I keep forgetting to mention, you could also post on Facebook if you so desire, or just go there to follow me and any brief updates I might have to make.