Tag Archive | Food

Forgotten Relics

We watched Eddie Izzard last night.

I don’t remember how the conversation started, but J asked me which Eddie Izzard specials I had on DVD. Being unable to think of their titles besides one of them having Wembley in the name, I ran upstairs and retrieved one of my binders of DVDs. Instead of just flipping to the page as quickly as possible, we flipped through my binder one page at a time, reviewing my collection as a whole and discussing what was good and what hasn’t been seen yet. Finally we got to the page where I had standup comedy, to which he approved of my Blue Collar DVDs and Jeff Dunham as well. But we discovered that I had Definite Article and Live From Wembley. So we watched a special that was filmed in San Francisco, and found it to be relevant to current events as much as the bits were relevant back when that special was filmed.

Why do I even have those Eddie Izzard DVDs, anyway? I bought them out of curiosity. No, I wasn’t curious about what a transvestite looks like, I’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show, not to mention I’ve seen one in the Walmart where I used to work. Seeing men run around in high heels is impressive, considering I just put them on and can already imagine myself spraining my ankle before I’ve even stood up. But enough about men who dress more like women than I do on a regular basis.

I bought those two DVDs because someone had mentioned Eddie Izzard’s comedy routines. And as I watched J recite the show verbatim, all I could think, all I can think now, is that he was the one that got me interested and I bought the DVDs as a result.

I also think J was the one who suggested what kind of strings to get when I realized I had to restring my Mom’s guitar. I believe this, because I had just picked up the guitar when my car was rear-ended for the second time in 2011. I had to pay Guitar Center to restring a guitar, because I don’t play and don’t know how. Don’t judge me, at least not for that.

How many things did I lose from my memory?

I accidentally woke up and prepared for a 9 am shift today, only to realize that my shift started 4 hours later than that. I didn’t realize that until I was finishing my breakfast, and would only need to put my boots on before heading out the door. I’d say that on the bright side, I wasn’t late, however I can’t deal with an abundance of time because I actually do end up running late after occupying my time in other ways. Today was no exception.

In my abundance of time, I Googled the term “why would fate bring you back to unrequited love.” The results were mixed, but not quite what I was looking for. There were articles about what happens when it works out well, what to do so you’re not torturing yourself when it doesn’t work out, but nothing about unrequited love as an act of a cruel mistress.

In one of the positive articles, where meeting a past unrequited love would be for the better, it was said that the love would be stronger, better. For a moment I lived in a love story yet to be told, two hearts reunited under desperate circumstances find that… something… something… oh, who am I kidding? The only reason there’s a love story at all is because I have an amazing imagination.

When I got home from work, I ducked into J’s room to check in and talk about stuff. We discussed timelines, namely his because I was trying to figure out who visited him at work one time, back when we worked together. We got on the topic of dating, to which I was running between vague and blatantly obvious that I wanted to date him. Prior to this discussion, if I had to call what I sensed about him, it was that he was into me but reserved. I was pretty much spot-on, which means I might actually be energy sensitive… that’s another story and a small bag of crazy. Anyway, he said all this stuff about us getting along so well, but he doesn’t feel anything romantic for me, but would probably unleash his lustful side if it wouldn’t screw things up. There was something about me technically being homeless if it weren’t for him keeping me right now, and I’m not sure if he meant that as if to say he wouldn’t have taken me in if he couldn’t control himself, or if I’d be out of here if I unleash the wrong kind of crazy while living here.

I sat there in stunned silence. I had questions. I wanted to ask things. I wanted to say things. Heck, I wanted to cry, because that would mean I’d be living here and torturing myself.

He kept asking what was on my mind, and after a couple times of being asked, I threw caution to the wind. I asked about 2011, about how I remember being kissed and about the way things seemed to be back then. Was it timing? Was it because I went a bit crazy back then, with everything going on and not knowing what to do about any of it? Honestly I don’t remember his answers to those questions, but for good reason.

He invited me to watch some George Carlin before I went to my room for the night. After that, he asked if I needed anything before I went to bed. I said things like, “a million dollars… a stash of good chocolate…” and then I said “surprise me.”

So he kissed me. Not a forehead kiss like he’s been doing. Not a peck on the cheek like I had managed to get him to do, to see if he would open up some more. And no, it wasn’t a simple peck on the lips, like I kissed him last night to thank him for cooking Puerto Rican food and making a tasty meal. This was a kiss, a real, genuine, bonafide kiss.

I couldn’t properly walk down the hallway to my room after that. I was in a dreamy state, like Cinderella on the morning after the ball.

I have no clue as to where this is going. But at least the torture is seeing some improvements.

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The Tension And The Spark

Tonight marks the eighth night that I’ve slept in this house, and the seventh night I’ve slept in this room.

It’s been a week that hasn’t gone by my expectations, and has been better than I could have hoped for!

There is a problem… or two… or so…

The first problem is that my friend and new landlord, who I’ll call J, plays guitar. And he sings. And he has taught himself how to play piano. Mind you, when he has played this past week, he has played for himself, more often than not just to pass the time. I’ve known him for years, so I already knew he played guitar and sang.

The second problem is that now that I’m away from someone who expects people to do things for her and complains if things weren’t done to her expectations, I’ve reverted back to… well, it’s one of my love languages, which is to do things for others.

I was making a lot of sandwiches for the first few days, using about half a loaf of bread in less than a week as well as the pack of deli meat that J requested I buy when I was getting cat food. So when I got groceries after work mid-week, I bought him more wheat bread and a loaf of white bread for myself and another pack of cheese slices. When I brought in my bin of pantry items, I set it where the remainder of a pack of water bottles was sitting, after I emptied the pack and put the water bottles in the fridge so they would be cold. And over the past 24 hours I tried to rekindle a friendship of his with a somewhat mutual guy friend, only to learn that the friend is only willing to hang out if J will go to him, he won’t come and visit J.

I mean the third problem is that I expected to be antisocial for at least this first week. I figured I’d come home from work, make dinner, take it up to my room, and eat it while watching YouTube on the television or something. I’d spend my free time playing video games or doing whatever on the internet. Instead, J went through all of his movies, asked me if I had seen particular ones or if I wanted to, and had me make a list of movies that needed to be seen. My nights have been spent sitting on his couch while he sits in the chair, and we’ve been watching a few different movies such as Birdman and the new Ghostbusters movie.

If I have a night shift at work, I’ll either text him to tell him I’m on my way back or he will ask when I’m returning. One night after I came home, I fixed myself a dish of ice cream, to which he asked if that was my dinner and I truthfully told him no, that I had brought dinner to work with me. He watches out for me, which is more than I had hoped for, but I certainly appreciate it.

So what IS the problem?

Well, I had a thing for him.

2011 wasn’t my year, even though it wasn’t quite as bad as 2016. 2011 began when J, a previous coworker from a previous call center job, found me on a lesser-known social media site. Later that year, things happened between us. So far he’s been the only one, at least that I can remember, who has pinned me up against the wall (or in this case, a door) and kissed me passionately. You’re probably wondering how things ended, and to be honest I don’t quite remember. I just know his girlfriend at the time claimed to be okay with opening up their relationship, especially since he’s polyamorous and it would make things easier for him, but shortly after that their relationship ended. I had a lot going on, and I don’t remember if I stopped talking to him for a while after the first time my car was rear-ended or the second time that year, because I’m pretty sure we had parted ways before the third time my car was rear-ended that year. Like I said, 2011 wasn’t my year.

Since then, communication was off and on. We might have talked for a day or two or so, and then said nothing to each other for months. So when he texted me a few weeks ago out of the blue, I was a bit reluctant to ask if he had a room to rent, but I was getting desperate and knew I’d have better chances of finding a place to live if it was with another friend.

How did I ask for a room? I asked to stay here platonically. That’s right, I didn’t want any funny business. I didn’t want to move in for sexual reasons, or romantic reasons, or anything like that. I didn’t want to bother him, especially if he had other friends staying here or visiting or whatever. I wanted all of that off the table so it wouldn’t get weird and awkward.

But I forgot, I had a thing for him.

We get each other’s humor. We’re both nerdy and geeky, and will make references that the other one understands and plays off of. We have similar life views. He plays guitar, and I melt a bit when I hear someone play guitar in front of me, especially acoustic.

I still have a thing for my friend in Japan, whose name was incorporated into my self-selected password for work. I kept telling myself, I’m choosing my friend from Japan, I don’t want to get tied down here in the States because then I might never leave and go live in Japan like I want to do. Even if I don’t end up with my friend from Japan, I’ll still have every reason to be focused on going over there.

And suddenly I understand why J is polyamorous. Because I know that my personality goes so well with J’s, but my friend from Japan makes me want to improve myself or otherwise be a better version of what I already am. J doesn’t share my love of Japanese stuff aside from some anime, but I could discuss the whole culture with my friend from Japan and get his thoughts if he’s willing to share them.

Just the same, it’s another reason why I’m in no hurry to find my next significant other. The question has become, “what do I really want in my next relationship?” The only answer I can give is, “to not make another mistake.” For now, it feels easier to not be in a relationship, to just spend time and observe, to not have hopes and expectations of marriage, and to not complicate things by having sexual involvement with anyone.

I may, in fact, be torturing myself. However, it feels like it’s been too long since I’ve been kind and thoughtful and generous without expectation for it. I like feeling as if I’ve done something nice, and then feeling like it’s been appreciated. I also enjoy feeling like my presence matters, like someone cares enough to make sure I’m getting home without a scratch. I wouldn’t have that much if I lived alone, and it might even be awkward if I moved in with people I didn’t know. So I’ll deal with the torture.

If nothing else, then I’ll know the reasons why the girl who has his heart will be a really lucky girl. I’ll know the things that would bother her, that she might have to overlook or compensate for if she got involved with him for the long term. I might be the one who decides between A, B, and C, with my choice being the thing that makes her happy. And even if he’s not with me, does that really matter? Because J is a good person, he cares about others and he deserves to be happy, So I want him to be happy.

And I want to stay here for a while. Not just because of him, but there is so much I enjoy about being here. I like not coming home to just my cat, I like living so close to work that I can walk there. I like the fact that I haven’t had to buy something to sleep on yet, that it was provided and it’s not a couch. I like that the only reason why I won’t have a wireless internet signal is because I’m too far from the router, not because someone else didn’t sweep a dust particle from the corner of the room and so the whole house looks trashed because of it and everyone has to be punished. Let’s not forget, I’m paying less to live here than I would elsewhere, and it’s a pretty good deal if you consider that utilities are included and I also get a person who gives a damn about me. Let’s not screw that up.

Supposedly my Facebook page, not my personal page but the one where these posts are published to, has been popping up for some people who I’ve spoken to in the past. Chances are, J will see this post as a result of that… and things will get awkward. Or my friend from Japan will see this post… and he will stop talking to me because he will say that someone else might be better for me or something.

Regardless of what happens, life will continue on the path it was meant to go, and I can only hope for the best possible outcome. It doesn’t matter what happens for me. I’d rather find out I wasn’t meant for a person before I get involved with them. I’d rather have J be happy with whoever and however many women it takes to make him feel complete. I’d rather have my friend from Japan find someone who is less of a pain in the ass than I am, but I don’t mind staying if he really enjoys me being a challenge.

There will always be a guitarist, somewhere.

There will always be someone who gets my humor.

There will always be someone who gives a damn about my safety and well-being.

And there will always be someone whose day was improved by my presence.

Pounding More Than Pavement: My Frustrations of Job Searching

Unless you’re looking for work, there’s no way you could understand how difficult it can be just to find a decent job.

If I submit 20 applications in a week, you would think that at least one of those would result in an interview, right? It’s a 5 percent success rate. That’s what I hope for, and I’ve turned up empty-handed.

The hardest part is just filling out the application. I have to fill out information for at least 8 different jobs, more if I want to list repeat performances at the same employer. Some places expect a phone number and the name of a manager. My work history spans over 12 years, and includes a store that filed for bankruptcy and closed. At least one of my past supervisors has retired, while others have moved around to different store locations and others have just moved on to other companies. And then, one of my more recent employers happens to be the brother of my ex fiancé, so I’m nervous about any biases he might have against me. If I have to fill out an application where I can’t just import data from somewhere else, I’m spending an hour flipping between tabs in Firefox just to review all of my employment information, with another tab to Google for phone numbers for all of these jobs. And to be honest, I really don’t remember exactly what I had been getting paid, other than my lowest has been $6.25 an hour and my highest has been $12 per hour.

My experience puts me in a bad spot. I have a lot of experience as a sales associate and cashier working in retail environments. I don’t have a lot of management experience. For some places, I’m going to be seen as overqualified. With my experience, I could ask for higher wages. Unfortunately, companies could hire someone who they can pay less. So if I apply for a low-rung management job, I’m up against people with more management experience than I have, which looks better to an employer. In that sense, I’m actually unqualified. It’s like the fact that I have an Associates degree, in that I’m not seen as qualified for a position that requires a Bachelors degree even if I do have the knowledge and experience required.

So if I’m not getting interviews, it looks like I haven’t done anything.

That’s when people step in and offer advice, such as, “have you tried actually pounding pavement? Some places won’t post their jobs online.”

Thank you! I did spend a day trying to pound pavement. Between four different Asian restaurants, I filled out one application, left my name and phone number at two locations, and at the fourth location I was told they weren’t hiring and just sent away. I figured an Asian restaurant would give me an excuse to work on my Japanese, possibly even whipping up okonomiyaki in the kitchen if I was able.

At another restaurant, I asked for an application and was handed one to fill out, and then I was told to complete the form outside of the establishment. This was in the afternoon, and the restaurant was absolutely not busy, so they could have allowed me to sit at their bar or one of their tables and made it look like they were working. I’m fairly certain that my application was filed in the circular filing cabinet anyway, just based on how the one waitress acted towards me.

“Well do you have any waitressing skills?” No, but I could be a dishwasher, or I could bus tables. Does it matter what my skills are? You probably asked me to apply everywhere that was hiring, even though I’ve been trying to find work related to things I know I can do.

Which brings me to my next issue, and that’s the people who act like there is someone, somewhere, who is handing out jobs, but they can’t seem to tell you who that person is. I’m already dealing with my own thoughts about my debt, the bills I have to pay, the ways I’ve probably messed up an application, the fact that I’m not getting phone calls for interviews. Adding to my stress by making me feel like I’m not already spending enough time on job applications, or that I must be making mistakes that no normal person would ever make, is not helping my situation.

And then there’s McDonald’s.

Anyone who suggests that I should work at McDonald’s is the most infuriating person I could meet. I’m not saying the work is beneath me. I will say that there are easier positions that pay more. I just worked at a call center, getting paid $11 to sit in front of a computer and call people. If they were angry, I just had to hear them complain before they hung up the phone as forcefully as they could manage. If I work at McDonald’s, I might be lucky to make $9 an hour, but I certainly won’t be given a full-time shift of 40 hours a week. If I get 20 hours a week, I’ll have to deal with the possibility of hot grease burns on my skin, I’ll have to deal with customers who are irate,…

Actually, let’s talk about McDonald’s customers. People who unleash their temper over an ingredient being put on a burger that they didn’t want, even though they’re not allergic to that ingredient. People who throw things at the employees because things didn’t go their way. People who say the workers are incompetent, even if they make simple mistakes that can easily be fixed if the customer had any patience. People who leave their trash on the tables because they don’t feel like picking up after themselves.

A $2 cut in pay and being scheduled for half as many hours is not worth having to deal with all of that. I’d rather work at the porn store and deal with an armed robbery. If you work in fast food, I really hope the minimum wage goes up and you get paid what you deserve.

If you were wondering, I’ve been trying to work with staffing agencies as well. My last staffing agency hasn’t returned my call after I found a position I was interested in applying for. I just met with another staffing agency today which has two positions lined up that would work with my skills. I’m hoping for that to be my silver lining in all of this, and even if it’s not a permanent position, it should hopefully be something to get me back on my feet for a little while.

I want to be more than I am. I just need an opportunity to show what I can do in the meantime.

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

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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Japanese Food Is Expensive In The States?

I have, on numerous occasions, had people advise me not to shop at the Asian food stores that I might visit once a month. This advice comes after I’ve been to the Asian food stores and have picked up a few things for myself.

Their reasoning is simple. My friends don’t want me spending more money on food than what’s necessary. They’re not wrong, there are some things that are on the pricier side in regards to imported food. However, I manage to keep my shopping trips under $50 by buying food items that I’ll make last longer than a week.

And yet, lately it’s like I’ve been eating Japanese food for about half of my meals.

I’ve been making the same three things in rotation: okonomiyaki, omuraisu (omelette rice), and curry. That’s not to say I’ve eaten the same three things all the time, or that there aren’t variations to keep things interesting. Besides, the ingredients for each can be used for other recipes, and some ingredients are probably in most kitchens already.

Your basic shopping list will look like:

  • flour
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • cabbage
  • cooking oil (extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, your choice)
  • ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • rice
  • carrots
  • green onions/scallions
  • cooking onions
  • potatoes
  • chicken
  • bacon
  • mayonaise (in a squeeze container)
  • Japanese curry mix (I’ve seen Walmart and Wegmans carry Golden Curry in their Asian food section, so it is possible to buy it at a regular grocery store)
  • instant ramen, any flavor (the brick form, not cup, and you won’t be using the flavor packet anyway)

If you want to get fancy, and by fancy I mean you have an Asian market near where you live, then look for these items:

  • okonomiyaki flour (you won’t need the flour, baking powder, and sugar from the above list if you choose to get okonomiyaki flour instead)
  • okonomi sauce (you won’t need Worcestershire sauce)
  • straight ramen noodles
  • udon noodles
  • Japanese mayonaise
  • yakisoba sauce
  • nori sheets (yes, dried seaweed sheets used for sushi and such)

Chances are, you probably have many of these things already, making a run to the store even less expensive.

If you already have rice, eggs, ketchup, cooking onions, and chicken, you can make omelette rice! That’s probably the simplest recipe I could pass along, not to mention that it might be the only one where you already have everything you need. Start by making a lot of rice, maybe about 2 or 3 cups of cooked rice. Honestly you could make 10 cups of cooked rice for all I care, but unless you’re making a lot of omuraisu, you won’t be using it all right now and can save it for some of the other recipes. Once you have some cooked rice, even if you just cooked it or it was left over from another recipe or last night’s Chinese takeout, set it aside. Chop about half of an onion, more if you’d like, less if you don’t like onion. Cut a chicken breast into small pieces, then cook the chicken with the chopped onion in a pan with a tablespoon or two of cooking oil until the chicken is cooked. Add about two cups of rice, and maybe about two or three tablespoons of ketchup, in with the chicken and rice and stir it all together. Add more ketchup until it’s light pink, but not too much because you want it to hold together. If you add too much ketchup and the mix won’t hold together, add the other cup of rice if you reserved any. Put this mix aside and get out a skillet. Grease the skillet with butter, cooking oil, or nonstick cooking spray, your choice. In a small bowl, beat two eggs until scrambled. Fry the eggs in the skillet, though I personally recommend only cooking the eggs halfway and leaving a tiny bit of runny egg. The next part, you can do this as you’re supposed to or you can do my lazy technique. You’re supposed to press the rice mixture into a bowl so it takes on that shape, then flip the bowl onto a plate, and then put the omelette on top of the now-shaped rice. Trying to cut down on dishes, or maybe I’m boxing it up for work, I just press the rice mixture into a bowl and then put the egg on top of the bowl (runny side down, so the egg mixes in with the rice a bit). With some extra ketchup, you can draw on top of the omelette, or just add a little bit as a topping.

That’s the most basic way to make omuraisu. You can also add peppers or other vegetables to your liking, or you can use spicy ketchup instead of regular ketchup. There’s also a bacon omuraisu recipe on the internet, which I’ve tried and approve of (at that point, you’re eating breakfast because you’ve got bacon and eggs). You did buy bacon for the okonomiyaki, right?

One head of regular green cabbage will make about 6 to 8 cabbage pancakes, or okonomiyaki. It’s not difficult to find the recipe, either: if you bought the okonomiyaki flour, the recipe is on the package. If you bought the okonomi sauce, the recipe is on the package. If you bought an okonomiyaki kit, the recipe is on the package and your portions are measured out. But there’s so many recipes out there, depending on how you want to make okonomiyaki, and this is one I haven’t done completely from scratch before. Start by chopping your cabbage into short, narrow strips. To that, add okonomiyaki flour, water, eggs, and scallions, and mix everything together. Grease a skillet or griddle, then put some of the cabbage mix onto the heated skillet, press it down until it’s about an inch thick and top with bacon. After a few minutes, flip the okonomiyaki and let the bacon get cooked. Serve it bacon-side-up after topping with mayo and okonomi sauce.

Hiroshima-yaki is okonomiyaki cooked in layers. Instead of mixing everything together, you make a circle of pancake batter and put the shredded cabbage on top of that, and then other toppings including your bacon, then put some of the batter on top so it holds everything together when you flip everything. Don’t make Hiroshima-yaki if you’re trying to impress someone, at least not until you’ve made it a few times without making a mess of your stove.

Modan-yaki is easy to make and is quite good. Start with the regular Osaka-style okonomiyaki, but before you throw down your bacon, cook some noodles (ramen, udon, soba, whatever you have) and then mix those noodles with either some okonomi sauce or even yakisoba sauce. Put that noodle mixture on top of the cabbage mix in the skillet and spread it out to cover the cabbage, and then put the bacon on top of that. Once everything has cooked and you put it on a plate, fry an egg or two (scrambled, over-easy, I personally don’t care. It’s supposed to be over-easy, I believe) and then put the egg on top of the bacon and noodles. Finish by drizzling the mayo and okonomi sauce over the top of everything.

Since we’ve been neglecting the rest of the rice you made, because you insisted on making 10 cups earlier, we’ll serve it with the curry. Mild Japanese curry is really mild, so if you’re worried about spiciness, I can assure you that you will enjoy it. But first, chop an entire onion. One onion is supposedly not enough based on the directions, but my friends keep telling me it’s too much onion because you can smell it across the house. Anyway, one diced onion is enough unless you want more onion, I’m not going to stop you. Cut a chicken breast into small pieces, or you can use beef or seafood instead. Cook the onion with the meat until browned, at the very least. Next, chop up some potatoes, carrots, and any other vegetables you want to add. Pour in the recommended amount of water, although I suggest adding a bit more than that because my curry always seems to be between a stew and barbecue pulled pork. Cook everything together until your potatoes are tender, and then add in the curry seasoning and remove from heat. Once the curry seasoning has dissolved and everything is mixed together, it’s ready to serve alongside rice or udon.

Do you still have rice? Make onigiri, or rice balls. Basic onigiri is rice that’s shaped into a triangular ball, and a rectangle of nori is wrapped around the bottom. You can also fill the rice balls with chicken or seafood, you can mix seasonings into the rice, and you can make the balls as large or as small as you want.

Do you still have cabbage, noodles, carrots, and some yakisoba or okonomi sauce? Make yakisoba! It’s like Chinese lo mein, but the flavor is a bit different. Also, if you’re starting with okonomi sauce, add more soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or it might taste too sweet.

And now you’re making Japanese food! And unless you bought ingredients from a specialty store, you made Japanese food for cheap!

Okay, I’ll admit I kept the necessary ingredients to a minimum. To make some of these things so they’re closer in taste to what’s in Japan, there are some harder-to-find ingredients involved, and your costs will also go up. Also, if you substitute ingredients because of allergies or dietary restrictions, it will change the cost of the ingredients as well. But if you stick with what I’ve listed, then you can make simple Japanese food without spending too much money.

Do you already cook Japanese food? Leave a comment with any other simple recipes you wish to share, because I’d like to make a few more things but don’t know where to begin. And if you do shop at Asian grocery stores, leave a comment about what you like to buy most often that you can’t seem to get just anywhere.

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.