Tag Archive | Food

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.

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.

Aging Like A Fine Wine

I probably wouldn’t have written about my birthday, other than to say it happened and it was a good day as expected. But things happened, and I ended up crying for about half of the day.

When I woke up this morning, it wasn’t because I slept as late as I wanted to and then sat up and stretched like a Disney princess. I woke up to the sound of cats licking milk out of a cereal bowl that one of the kids left on the bookshelf. The cats’ drinking fountain was running low on water, and while there was enough to drink, it wasn’t enough to keep the motor from sputtering. I couldn’t just close my eyes and hope for another hour of shut-eye, especially since the sun was brightly shining which triggered my brain to stay awake.

The house was empty, a product of circumstances out of everyone’s control because my friend has to be elsewhere this week. I slowly ate my breakfast while navigating the offerings of the internet. Eventually I got dressed, debating between whether to wear a more feminine shirt with rhinestones or to wear my Hard Rock Cafe NYC shirt. The Hard Rock Cafe shirt won out, which I wore with blue jeans and my boots. I decided to bring Mom along with me, so I put on the necklace that’s holding her wedding rings. Since the weather was like spring, I donned a black hooded sweatshirt and stepped out the door.

I drove to the mall, opting to get a movie ticket first and then plan my mall trip around that. It was just before noon, and the 11:50 showing of Beauty And The Beast would have been starting already. When I asked for a ticket, I was sold one for the 11:50 showing, so I had no time to waste. I raced across to the other side of the mall’s third floor, away from the box office and towards the theaters. I entered my theater just before the last preview played, and found a decent seat near the center of the room.

Beauty And The Beast was absolutely fantastic! By the time the title card was on the screen, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. Up to that point, it was a beautiful reimagining of the animated movie that I saw in the theater with my parents. I thought about how much Mom would have enjoyed seeing the movie. I thought about her as if she was there in the theater beside me, because she would have been there if she was still alive. But there were so many moments in the movie that made me cry, because so much of the story is dedicated to a parent’s love for their child and the child’s love for their parents in return. If you dropped a hat during that movie, I would start crying, that’s how easily the waterworks began to flow.

And then the movie ended, and I had to compose myself.

Before I did anything else, my next stop needed to be the craft store. The cord on my bracelet was starting to fray, and it seemed like a matter of time before it would snap. While in the craft store at the mall, there was a sale on beads. Okay, I didn’t need to spend any more money than the $1.50 for the cord, but some of the beads caught my eye and I was inspired to make a bracelet like what I’ve seen Kyosuke Himuro wear. I bought the beads, and the cord that I needed, and proceeded to my next stop.

Being a member for every rewards program is sometimes beneficial, even if you don’t frequent the business. I had a free dessert, no purchase required, from TGI Friday’s because it’s been my birth month. I hadn’t used the offer, so I figured that since I would be at the mall anyway, I would redeem it as a treat to myself. I only had a single dollar bill, and I wanted to leave a tip, so I ordered a soda so I had an excuse to use my credit card. I ate the brownie I ordered, then worked to finish my soda while I waited for the bartender to give me the bill. When the bartender asked if I wanted a refill on the soda, I politely declined, but asked for the bill at that moment. He waved me off, wishing me a happy birthday.

I was floored. I couldn’t think straight, not of the dollar bill in my wallet that I could have thrown down or anything. I walked out of the restaurant, trying to process my thoughts. My bladder was suggesting that I should find the bathroom, so I did. While sitting on the toilet, I pulled out my phone and pulled up TGI Friday’s page on Facebook, then typed up a thank you for the good service I had. The person behind their social media responded to me, wishing me a happy birthday and asking for my rewards account information. I passed it along to them, and was eventually gifted with 100 reward points. So not only did I get free dessert today, but I have enough points to go back and get a burger. Or I could get another dessert, if I so desired. The whole thing made me cry, because it wasn’t expected or needed, but I appreciated the gesture so much that it got to me.

Back in the car, because I was trying to figure out how to waste time before dinner, I typed up an e-mail to my friend in Japan. I started by telling him how much of a mess I’ve been. I cried through a movie. I cried over a free drink that I had with my free dessert, that I received free points for appreciating. And I still had dinner with friends to get through, but I didn’t know if I was going to cry through that. I didn’t tell him, but I was crying while typing the e-mail. I wanted to say that I felt like I didn’t deserve to be treated so well by people, but then I couldn’t help but think that maybe I have been good or otherwise deserving of the kindness. I sent the brief message, which helped me feel a little more grounded again.

I drove to where we would be having dinner, then parked my car. It was a gray, cloudy drive. Where did the sun go? I had a pair of nail clippers in the car, and I used the clippers as scissors while I restrung my bracelet to pass the time. Of course, there was still more time that I needed to occupy, so I made my Himuro bracelet. At one of his concerts, Himuro wears a couple of bracelets, one of which looks like a string of onyx beads. I bought black glass beads, which I alternated with wooden beads so it would look similar to the tigers eye and wood bracelet I had restrung.

I also bought some black glass beads that have blue iridescent enamel on one side, and I made a second bracelet with those beads and some wooden beads. As the blue iridescent side doesn’t always show, the bracelet takes on a personality where it coordinates with the Himuro bracelet for part of the time, then stands out on its own at other times. The name I gave that bracelet is rather personal to me, as it evokes feelings of a person I want to see. I was hoping they would surprise me and show up for dinner, but I told myself it wasn’t going to happen because I knew that it would require sacrifices that couldn’t be made so easily. So as expected, I didn’t see the person.

I did, however, have an awesome time with the ones who were there. I had one friend and my cousin, and my friend brought her significant other’s daughter, which made a total of four of us. As the party was all girls, things did get a bit silly.

After dinner was karaoke. I thought I’d start off the night by singing Vamps, but I didn’t pull the English-only song, and I didn’t bring up the romaji lyrics on my phone. As soon as the Japanese characters showed up on screen, a combination of kanji and hiragana, I cancelled the song and uttered an expletive. I could hear laughing out in the lobby, which I hoped was aimed at me because I was laughing at myself so much at that point. My friend picked out a song and performed while I looked for another song to do.

I started to look for anything performed by Himuro at that point. All I could find were two songs by him and one song by Boøwy. The Boowy song was Marionette, which I haven’t listened to too many times and don’t know how the song goes. I would have preferred Welcome To The Twilight or 16. The Kyosuke Himuro songs, which I recognized only by title and the kanji spelling of his name, were Jealousy and Kiss Me. I’m familiar with Jealousy, but I’m more familiar with Kiss Me because YouTube puts it as the first song for my Himuro playlist that’s automatically generated. So, I tried to do Kiss Me, and I stumbled over the timing and pronunciations. I would have rather had his ballads to perform,

Oh well, I still had anything performed by Hyde in one way or another, along with Tetsuya’s music. I did the Tetsu69 song Tightrope, eventually finding the Vamps song that was all-English (Love Addict) and then finishing with Horizon by Hyde. My friend sang Lady Marmalade, Taylor Swift’s song Love Story, and Scarborough Fair along with one other song.

Everyone had places to be, except for me, so we all ended the karaoke session. In the process of leaving, I managed to get a shot of pineapple vodka as a kind of free birthday drink. Then we all headed to our cars… in the rain.

I drove around to waste some more time, as I had a friend who wanted to celebrate with me but couldn’t get out of work until after midnight. So I walked around a grocery store where I used to work, and managed to be seen by people who I didn’t expect to see. One person I talked to was a friend on Facebook who had already wished me a happy birthday on the website, and then wished me a happy birthday again upon seeing me. It was pretty special that I ran into him after the events of my day. I actually paid for his $30-something grocery order after he accidentally left his wallet where he works. To pay me back, he gave me two prints for free of things in the Syracuse area that he’s photographed, one of the prints was framed and would have cost $200.

When I left the grocery store, it was just before midnight. The rain had started to freeze, and snow was falling. I sent a message to the friend who was working until midnight, asking if we could postpone because I didn’t want to be tired, out half the night, and driving on icy roads to get back to where I’m resting my head.

As soon as I got changed into my night clothes, exhaustion set in.

It was an amazing birthday! I don’t think I could ever have a birthday that ends up being “just another day.” I didn’t even try that hard to make this birthday amazing. Between the laughter and the tears, I certainly wouldn’t have changed anything. I’m alive, I made it through another year, and that’s cause for celebration and emotion and anything else that my heart calls out for.

Such as this little guy. My heart wanted him, and I had a coupon because of my birthday. Things will always work out well.