Tag Archive | friends

Thoughts You Never Want To Think About

“Mommy wants to throw you out,” said the 8-year-old boy at the dinner table. I don’t even remember what was said before that, I just remember the context. He wasn’t trying to scare me, it was an “out of the mouths of babes” moment.

So I replied, “Oh really? Tell me more.”

“You’ll have to ask Mommy… I don’t remember.”

“Mommy,” the friend I’m staying with who I’ve known for over a decade, was playing World of Warcraft while eating her dinner. The rest of us were around the table in the dining room.

I knew if I asked her why she wanted to “throw me out,” she would begin by sighing, as if it was so hard to give me an honest answer, and then she would give me a nice answer that wouldn’t be the truth. So instead, I asked her significant other.

“Did she say that out of anger, or does she really want to throw me out?”

He sighed. “She wants her space back.”

“I have a few things here. I’m not stopping her from sitting on her couch, I’m not taking up the last chair at the dinner table. I don’t tell her to go to bed so I can get to sleep. If she wants to watch TV downstairs with the boys, I’m not going to stop her. But this is how she’s always been; every time I’ve come over to hang out with her, she’s had her back to me while she’s played WoW, she doesn’t sit on the couch with me and talk like friends.”

The only way I can get out is to get a secure job that will pay me enough that I can afford my bills, I can afford rent, and have enough coming in that I can pay off my debts. But applying for work and sending my resume isn’t enough to get a job, I also need to find an employer who looks at my application and likes what they see. Years ago, I could submit enough applications to count on one hand, and from that I could get an interview and a job. It’s no wonder that I’m getting so discouraged these days.

It was my night to wash the dishes, which presented me with about an hour’s worth of Thoughts You Never Want To Think About.

Like, I miss the days when one of us would mention on Facebook that we wanted to go to the store, and the other liked the idea and asked to go as well. In my case, I had the car, so if she wanted to go and I had the day off from work, I could take her to the store. Usually I go shopping by myself, but there were times when I’d try to see if anyone else wanted to go along.

Now, I’m right here. My car is across the street. If she wants to go to the store, or she just wants to get away from everything, we could go. But no, she asks her significant other to take time off from work if she needs him in the afternoon, or some of her other friends rescue her in the evenings on rare occasions.

But not me. Because I can’t rescue her right now. Instead, I’m the problem in her life. I can’t help her escape from her problems when I have to stay back at the house to try and fix whatever I’ve screwed up.

It’s not as if I don’t try to be a good houseguest. But there’s a level of anxiety involved with being a houseguest. It’s one thing to do some cleaning to earn your keep, and I do have a daily chore assigned to me which I do every night. But there’s other things I notice here and there, things I’d do at random when I lived in my parents’ house. I’ve cleaned grime off the bannisters, light switch plates, door frames, and even the walls themselves. I’ve dusted shelves just because I was tired of seeing dust. I don’t do things like that here, unless we’re going through another period of, “I’ve turned off everyone’s wifi until this place is clean.” If I do tasks like that, they go unnoticed, but it also takes time away from other things I could be doing, like finding work. Also, I’m always worried that I’ll be told, “oh, you don’t have to clean that! You’re doing more than you need to.” Not to mention, I’d be doing the most cleaning in this house, and would likely be cleaning up messes that existed before I even started living here, and in rooms I don’t even use. And for what? Even when I do my nightly task, I’ve been told I haven’t done it as well as I could have done it, even when I swear I’ve done exactly what she claims I didn’t do.

Sometimes I play video games. She won’t say it to me, but she apparently doesn’t like when I play video games. All she does is play WoW and Diablo. I just want to lose myself for a few hours in a world where I can defend myself in a fight and make money from it, or at least I’m on a Yakuza binge right now. I can’t spend every waking minute between job searches and cleaning, I need something that will make me feel like I accomplished something without having a reason to scream, “I JUST cleaned that!” It’s an escape from my problems, and I would think that she would understand that, of all people.

Worst of all, this situation is making me think I should cut ties with so many people, not just the friend I’m staying with. Back in the day, I was working part-time while living at home with Mom. Instead of contributing to my own household, I didn’t mind skimming a little money here and there, what I could afford, just to help out a friend. You need a ride? I’ve got this. Something broke, and you can’t afford to replace it? It’s in the mail, just wait a week. Right now, I can’t afford to be that friend to anyone, and I feel helpless. But then I look around and think about the friends I’ve tried to help, and what have I got? I’m staying with the friend I did a lot of things for, and she wants me out of her house so she can “have her space back.”

And that hurts.

It hurts because,… well, maybe it’s a fantasy, maybe it’s just an ideal situation that one would hope for, but I wish I had a friend who would think, “she’s done a lot for me/others, and now she just needs to figure her life out and get something started.” I don’t know, maybe I’m not explaining it as well as I could. I guess I wish I had a friend who would sit down with me and be like, “so how are you feeling about your ex? You guys broke up, it’s pretty lousy, but let’s get you past that. Cry if you need to, vent to me if you want, but let’s start to forget him because your life will be better without him. Now, you do need to find a job, so let’s talk about what you’re good at doing and let’s see what we can find for you.”

It’s not like I have the exact opposite of that. But lately I’ve started telling her less about what’s going on, because she won’t tell me everything in regards to how she feels about me still being here. I feel like ending my friendship with her, but I can’t do that until I can get out of here. So maybe I excuse some of the things she says and does, and I tell myself she’s just trying to help me in her own way. And yet, I feel like if she was a friend, she’d be more sympathetic to my problems and not try to add more stress. But then on the other hand, I tell myself how selfish I’m being by thinking that, because I expect her to think only of me and not about what would make her feel better. So are we working together to come up with a compromise? No, because that would be the rational thing to do.

I’ve been honest with her about the whole situation. I had another friend who offered a trailer home for me to live in, rent-free, but it still needed some work done on it. A month past his original time estimate, the place still wasn’t livable, and I wasted two hour-long trips to find that my time was being wasted and that friend wasn’t being completely honest with me. I couldn’t keep excusing his behavior, especially since I couldn’t afford to keep wasting my time and gasoline. He lost my trust, and I felt like the friend I’m staying with was losing her trust in me. Things were out of my control, but I was trying to communicate everything I knew about what was going on.

I really wish things were different. I wish I wasn’t a burden to anyone, and could go back to helping out friends in need. I wish I wasn’t in debt. I wish I could get a job as easily as I used to. I wish I had the friends that everyone else seems to have.

Some days, it feels like going to Japan is less about the destination and more about the clean slate. I can’t be a burden to anyone in the States if I’m in Japan (or any other country, for that matter), and I can’t help anyone out which means I won’t be kept around just to do things for people who aren’t equally as kind or generous. I don’t have a network of people in Japan, I don’t have people I can rely on and there’s no one that I can help. I have only myself, and if I can get to Japan, it means I did all the work by myself to get there. I’ll start my life over, and maybe I’ll build metaphorical walls to make it harder for people to get into my heart, because I’m really starting to wonder if I let people in just so I wouldn’t be lonely. Well, I haven’t died of loneliness, I’ve actually embraced it a little too well, so maybe I should just learn to live with it.

I never want to be negative in these entries. I always want to find a silver lining. I don’t want to speak ill of people who won’t read this (because I won’t let them know I wrote this). Lately, I’m just stressed, fearful, frustrated,… and I hate it, and hate in any form is probably the worst thing I could feel. But I remember being happy, I remember being confident and courageous. I remember feeling like breaking up with my ex fiancé was the most freeing thing ever, like I could focus on what I wanted to do and didn’t have to worry about trying to motivate him to put any work towards his dreams. I felt like being back in my old stomping grounds was going to be the best thing ever, since it put me back with my friends and not friends I met through my ex. I want to get back to feeling like I can take on the world, like my desire to go to Japan is still something attainable. But for now, I need to stop lying to myself that everything is all right, because it’s not. I am scared. I am angry. The only way to feel less scared and angry is to get money, but I need a job to get money, and not getting a job is making me scared and angry which is probably making it harder to sell myself for the sake of getting a job.

But…

If I don’t acknowledge the negatives, I can’t work past them. I need to understand what’s bothering me, and then I need to fix it.

So if you’re reading this and you don’t like what I’m saying, I am sorry. Life isn’t perfect, at least not for me.

It all makes me think of Algernon. Himuro has an album called Flowers For Algernon, which is the title of a short story or a novel or something. I had to look it up on Wikipedia, but the premise is about this guy who has less intelligence than a normal person. He undergoes some kind of experimental procedure that boosts his intelligence, and while he’s smarter, he understands social cues a little better and realizes how many people had been mean and condescending to him, when he just thought they were being nice to him before. Algernon is apparently the name of a lab rat they perform the experiment on as well, and the main character gets to see the effects of the procedure on the rat, including the eventual deterioration and the death of the rat. So, I think about the friends I thought the world about, and how things change in life and suddenly I see people differently.

And I know I’ve changed, but I don’t know if I’m a better person, if I’m stronger or if I’ve just become colder. I don’t know if isolating myself from people who upset me is good for my well-being, or if I’ll be one less problem to people who don’t want me around.

Welcome to the Thoughts You Never Want To Think About.

Value of You

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The above image appeared in my Facebook feed today. Normally I’d just nod and click to share the post, but today it really got me thinking.

How can you tell the difference between a guy (or anyone, really) who values you, and one who just likes you?

To begin, I think you have to place a value on yourself. What do you believe you’re worth? Think of anything, think of everything. Are you worth living in a mansion or are you worth living in a run-down studio apartment? Are you worth having a clean microwave to cook your food?

You shouldn’t settle for less than that, but you should also be worth the effort it takes to have that. So for the microwave example, if you can’t clean that microwave, you’re not worth having a clean microwave.

Do you know why wealthy men have gorgeous wives? Because the guy believes his worth is to have a gorgeous wife. He worked hard for his money, so he earned her. What is her worth? A man who can afford her lifestyle, because she works hard to be beautiful. His money can go to her outward appearance. The value she placed on herself is such that she believes she deserves a wealthy husband. That’s a completely superficial example, and I hope that if you’re one of my dear readers, your worth is something more valuable than just appearances and money.

Back to the original quote. I thought about my friend from Japan when I pondered the quote’s meaning. Does he value me or does he just like me?

There are days when I think he doesn’t like me, that I’ve said or done something I can’t come back from. But then he writes back, and I think he must like something about me.

But does he value me?

I can’t tell you how many dead horses and broken records there are in our e-mail conversations. If I mention an incident that happened while staying with a friend, he immediately suggests that I should move in with my brother or another close family member. I remind him that it’s not even feasible to do so. If I talk about the job search and my need for money (still not asking him for money), he suggests that I ask family members for any assistance.

Personally, my patience might wear thin if I kept telling someone over and over again what they should do. I don’t know how he puts up with me sometimes.

I can’t move in with my brother because he’s a toxic narcissist. I don’t mean that in the sense that he kisses mirrors because he’s so beautiful. With him, it’s about being seen as the best. If you were exhausted after working 40 hours, you have nothing on him because he worked 50 hours doing back-breaking work. If you won an award, he undermines your achievement and acts like it was undeserved, but if he wins an award, you have to praise him for it because he put a lot into winning. After Mom passed, he bought a car, and I was supposed to be in awe at this expensive sports car that he had to have. I shrugged and acknowledged that he bought a purple car, because that’s all it meant to me. I wasn’t trying to be difficult, it just didn’t matter to me, but that was the wrong reaction.

If I had to determine my value based on who or what kind of person I chose to live with, I am worth more than living with my brother based on his personality. I am worth more than someone who wants to make me feel like I’m less than they are. I am worth being treated as an equal.

But if I had to analyze my Japanese friend’s intentions, it would be to hold on to my friendships.

Living here has had its tense moments, due in part to differences in personality between myself and the friend I’m staying with. A little over a week ago, I was ready to throw in the towel, but I knew I didn’t have any better options for a living space. Even as a bitter moment faded back to calmer attitudes, I was still agitated. But why? Well, my friend wants me off of her sofa, and out of her house. But to do that, I need to have a stable income. To get that income, I need to find a job, and I need the internet going to my computer to do job searches. So after she took the wireless internet away from everyone (but herself) and then returned it, she returned only the internet going to my computer. I’m still livid about that, because I can’t afford to have my cell phone bill incur any charges for going over my data allowance. But if I want that, and don’t want her to keep shutting off my internet, I could always move out.

My friend deserves to keep someone here who isn’t freeloading, but at the moment, I’m doing the best I can.

But does she value me?

She doesn’t like me. She’s trying to get rid of me so she doesn’t have to deal with my puns and other lame jokes and one-liners that come to mind. Actually, while I do understand that she’s bothered by that part of my sense of humor, I don’t really think that she doesn’t like me. And if she didn’t place any value on me, she would have been more forceful about kicking me to the curb, I’m sure. No, I believe that she knows I’m capable of more, that I’m worth having a job and that an employer somewhere needs to find me and see how awesome I really am. That’s why she’s been limiting my access to entertainment (because I can’t watch YouTube on the television if my Playstation 4 doesn’t have internet), so that I’m more focused on searching for a job.

It might be weird, but I’m actually more focused on working if there’s something of interest playing on the TV, or at least I’m calmer. That’s a story for another day.

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Admittedly, that’s my favorite e-mail yet, second only to maybe the Valentine’s Day message. It was a Friday night, after a long day of running errands and dealing with so many things. It had also been two days since his previous message to me. It was almost 1 in the morning my time, so it was about 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday for him. I sent him a quick message to try and get his attention, just in case he could jump on something to make a VoIP-based call of some sort but otherwise to tell him that I had to tell him about my day. That’s what he wrote back to me. I should have gone to sleep at that point, instead of writing back to say I was awake or even typing up my full message, but I figured I would forget some of the details that I thought were important.

If he liked me, he would have called.

But he doesn’t like me.

Because he values me. He wants me to live a healthier lifestyle. He wants my friendships to thrive. He wants my family members to care about me, and to take care of me because I’m a sister, a niece, a cousin. And okay, he does like me.

So if I had to smack someone upside the head with the knowledge of whether someone likes them or values them, I would ask questions until it became obvious. I’ve been liked by guys in the past. It’s fun, it feels nice, but there’s no challenge. Now I feel like a guy values me. Now I have to figure out what I’m worth. I have to figure out how much value I’m placing on the guy.

And you know what?

I’m worth a job that pays no less than $12 an hour. I’m worth a job that makes use of my customer service skills, my computer skills, my Associates degree.

I’m worth a decent shelter. A simple apartment that’s in good shape is enough for me.

I’m worth more than a brick of wavy ramen for meals. I’m worth a processed meat patty, at least. I’m definitely worth a greater variety of flavors than “chicken, beef, shrimp, and oriental.”

I’m worth first-hand clothing. I’m worth my skirts and dresses as much as I’m worth my t-shirts and jeans. I’m worth the fancy occasions and professional atmosphere that would require skirts and dresses, just as much as I’m worth the opportunity to be laid back and relaxed in my t-shirts and jeans.

I’m worth being valued.

And yet, I’m still worth so much more.

 

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.

Bravery To Know The Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Silly Unboxing – Rosetta Stone

So I had nothing to do last night, and I was doing my usual perusal of YouTube. There was a bit of a thunderstorm, and my friend turned off her computer as she left for bed.

She also turned off the wifi. I had no internet. I can’t post anything without the internet. I can’t do YouTube without the internet.

I did have my phone, and I just played games on that until passing out for the night.

But no matter, that much was yesterday, and today was a new day.

I got a message from my friend Pete, saying he had a notification that my package was delivered! I couldn’t wait to get home from work.

What did Pete send to me? Well, let’s take a look…

img_4395Hey, that’s my box, you two! Ugh… okay, I’ll let you two start the unboxing.

img_4396 “Yay, there’s bubbles!”

“There’s more in the box. Get up here and help!”

“I can’t read. What does it say?”

“It says ‘Happy birthday in Japanese!'”

“Wow, you can read Japanese?”

“No, it says… you know what, never mind.”

“Oooh…”

Okay, you two. I’ll take it from here.

The front flap of the box has a product activation code card. The inside of the box slides out…

…like so. Lift up the flap…

…and there’s a quick start guide, the discs, a pair of headphones, and the end user license agreement in print (you know, that thing that everyone agrees to, but no one actually reads?).

 There’s four discs for the Japanese kit, one of which is just for the program itself.

I haven’t started using the program yet, so I’ll tell you about it when I do.

If you’ve never heard of Rosetta Stone, it’s language-learning software that’s been around for years. Expect to pay around $150 USD for the set, but it seems to be worth it for what you get. Part of the “interactive immersion” includes voice recognition, so it seems like it would be almost like working with an instructor.

I plan to use my other apps alongside Rosetta Stone. How can you derail the study of another language? The only way I could do that is if one teaches me formal Japanese and another method teaches me the Kansai dialect (which is often used by Japanese comedians, and is localized into American English by using a Southern drawl or not enunciating properly). Since most Japanese language studies teach formal Japanese, it would be hard to derail that.

I don’t really have much to say for this entry. I’ve had a long day, in that I came home from work and stopping at the store, and then I cooked, and then I cleaned, and now I have to go to bed and wake up early for work tomorrow. It’s all boring and mundane, for the most part. This unboxing was the excitement for my day.

So have you used Rosetta Stone, whether for Japanese or another language? Tell me about it in the comments, because I want to hear what you think of the software.

Once again, thanks to Pete (PeteMosq on all the social media) for the birthday gift! ^_^