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Staying put

Today is the last day of a three day local Bluegrass festival, ROMP (River of the Music Party). I went the first two days and enjoyed Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Punch Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, and other fine bands. Tonight's fare includes Emmy Lou Harris and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It has rained a lot today, and the festival is in a large local park. With my broken foot, it is not as easy as I would like to dodge mud puddles. So, I believe I will stay home with the crew and watch a Netflix number.

My youngest little person is Suki, a coonhound mix. She has a beautiful, timid spirit. This summer we have discovered that Suki loves cold watermelon and cantaloupe. She turns her nose up at them is they're fresh, room temperature though. I, myself, feel the same way, and it's interesting to see a personal preference parlayed into a canine form.

An old friend of mine died this week. I've been sad about it. He was very influential on me when I was young. Although we had not spoken in more than a decade, it was comforting to know he was still in the world. I believe in reincarnation and this causes me to wonder, how did I know him before, and if and when I will ever run into him again. I hope life's not a one shot deal because that would really blow my theory.

My Life with AIG

On Sunday, we had a really bad windstorm due to Hurricane Ike. I didn't have electricity from Sunday to Tuesday, and I was lucky. There are still people who without. My next-door neighbor just got it back today.

This week, AIG was bailed out, at least temporarily, by the US federal government. This took me completely by surprise. I had no idea AIG had become so big.

In 1993, I worked for AIG as a Language Trainer in Tokyo. My office was in Chiyoda-ku, close to Tokyo Station; it's the Japanese business district equivalent of Wall Street. My building was right next to the Imperial Palace. Encompassed by a beautiful park, it was a pleasure walking to work to and from the train station everyday. 

When I originally got the job, I had never heard of AIG. In a country where English is often used quite creatively and doesn't make sense to a native English speaker , it didn't strike me as all that odd that a company with the word "American" wasn't founded in America nor was well known in the States. 

Originally, I was contracted to teach for a two week recruit training session. Although it was temp work,  I made $4,000 for two weeks work, which is more money than I had ever made in such a short period. I couldn't believe my good luck.

Every March in Japan, fresh-out-of college graduates start new jobs just as the cherry blossoms are coming to bloom. AIG's Japanese recruits were divided into two groups, those working for ALICO (American Life Insurance Company) and those working for AIU (American International Underwriters). As a teacher, I want to think that all my students have equal potential; however, by and far, the more intelligent and harder working students were those to be employed by AIU. It was very easy to guess who worked where. Also, out of the approximately seventy recruits, six of them were females. At the time, it was very common for women to solely make and serve tea, answer the phone, greet customers, and xerox copies.  

The two work session was great fun. I really enjoyed it. I was asked to fill a permanent position, and I took it. After working there for a few months, I went apartment hunting. I was commuting two hours to work and two hours home. This meant leaving at 5:45 a.m. and getting home at 8:00 p.m. Every night, my roommate expected English lessons. She made me beautiful bento box lunches everyday and took care of my dog when I was at work. My Japanese was horrible, and she wanted to learn English. But, frankly it was more trouble than it was worth. It took forever to get a story out of her, and I was exhausted by both talking to her and the commute.

What I found in apartments was not encouraging. For almost any apartment meeting my specifications, I would have to pay an $11,000 nonrefundable down payment, comprised of the security deposit and the "thank you money" (meaning something like, "I am not worthy to live here, you have saved my life, and I want to give you $5,500 for taking me in"). For about $2,200, I found a two bedroom just out of the main subway circle (Yamanote).

And all of the sudden, nothing made sense. Who in their right American mind gives away $11,000 as a "deposit" and $2,200 a month for rent? By 1993, I was homesick. If one gives away $11,000 to secure an apartment, it would only make sense to stay many years in said residence. It was with mixed feelings I gave up my new job with all of its opportunities and returned to the US. I had always wanted to get in the ex-pat community in Tokyo, and AIG was a key to door. Just as I was leaving, they were looking for members to join the Tokyo American Club.

As I look back, I'm glad I made the decision to return, but at the time, it was so difficult to do so. Hmm, memories.


Back again

I've been away from posting for a really long time. It seems I've taken the summer off.

Yesterday, friends and I drove to Louisville for a friend's belly dancing show. It was held had a restaurant called "Road to Morocco." Both my male friend and his female partner were excellent.

Watching strangers' facial reactions to belly dancing can be so interesting. "Hmmm, a male belly dancer. Should I watch? What does my partner/wife/friend think?" "I'd better not look too interested in this woman shaking provocatively in front of me. My wife would kill me."

I haven't been out of town all summer long. I've felt grounded. It was so nice just to drive, drive, drive over to Louisville. By chance, I was the only one who didn't drink, so I drove us all home. My depth sense of perception wacks out  night, and there was lots of Interstate construction. We got back at 12:30 a.m., but somehow, I didn't make it to bed until 4:30 a.m.

The storms from Hurricane Ike are blowing through today. I found plants strewed across the backyard. I brought my Japanese Emperor One Maple in for a rest from the wind. The TV satellite is "waiting for a signal." The electricity is starting to flicker. The dogs jump up when some really big falls outside. I wish I were out at the cabin, on the screened-in porch, watching the storm across the fields.

gurdonark  posed a question on Friday, "What would make your Friday special?" That would be for my mother to be feeling better and up to an outing.

Today's Sunday sermon is "Capital Spiritualism." I just can't do it. It has all the makings for an unfortunate book report. Plugging in a Pema Chodron CD would be much more helpful. Om.

May. 16th, 2008

In the backyard, the dogs run along the fence to keep up with the neighbor dog who is doing the same. A bare dirt path tells of their activity. I've been asking all the gardeners I know about hardy groundcovers that can hold up to the fence chasing game. Luckily, I found Stepables online, and they're sold at a local nursery. Yesterday, I planted two before the rain began. I'm really excited to see how they work out

This morning, Bill Clinton will be at a local college campaigning for his wife. When I was in elementary school and then again in middle school, I spent a day being a state senate page in Arkansas' capitol. One of my friend's father was a state senator, and a whole bunch of us would go up to Little Rock for the big day. One perk of being a page was getting a picture taken with the Governor. Clinton was the governor at the time. So, somewhere, I've hidden those two pictures. 
More and more, I find myself  taking over the medical care of my LOLs. Last night, I called an ambulance for Mrs. B, again. In the Emergency Room, I explained her medical crisis to the physician because she was in no shape to describe what happened. Thank goodness, we had just updated her medication list. Incredibly enough, if you give a medication list when admitted to the hospital, those are the medications you will be given during your stay. Wouldn't be interesting to have a list with Oxycontin and medicinal marijuana? The only problem is being coherent enough to leave. And, would your insurance actually pay for the visit?

This afternoon, I did my mother's hair. Her hair is really easy to do, which makes it seem that I'm a talented hair dresser. As I blew out her hair, I thought of getting a blow out at Buzz, of going through the professional hair stylist course at Vidal Sassoon, and of getting Nick Arrojo, Sally Hershberger, or Oscar Blandi to create a cut and color for me. Not only do I dream in color, I dream of having my hair dry-cut. I think  about hair, a lot.

Tonight, my mother and I went to chorale concert. Miss A.S.'s son sang in the Kentucky Youth Chorale. They were quite good. A local community college choir sang a few numbers with them, as well as singing quite a few selections on their own. Singing a capella is not for the faint of heart or of ear. It takes much practice. For choruses that practice but once a week, accompanied pieces are good choices.

Summer projects are swirling around my head - aerating the lawn, creating a dog-proof flower bed, digging a basin, re-doing the porch, painting the interior of the house, remodeling the kitchen. Summer is only three good months. How does one chose the projects to tackle? I wish I were the sort of person who could check a book on installing a ceiling fan out of the public library, and then actually install a ceiling fan. I would love to have the courage to rip up my carpeting, rent a nail gun, and install a hardwood floor. Think of the money saved and of the satisfaction of a job well-done.

Mr. Uncle S has renewed my interest in facebook.  Magnolia Helen's Summer Music Smackdown Challenge was too much to resist. If you're on facebook, and you would like to join in the fun, let me know. It is quite addictive.

Bollywood mets Safer Sex

As often happens with the Internet, a friend of a friend told me about this video. It's an excellent PSA (public service announcement) for condoms. The video is in Telugu, spoken in southeastern India, even though I can't speak Telugu, I found the song very catchy.

May. 2nd, 2008

My mother lives in an assisted-living apartment complex. On Wednesday, I helped her move from a third floor apartment to a first floor one. 

When she first moved there, we didn't consider what would happen in case of a fire or a fire alarm. You see, she has COPD (emphysema), has pulsated oxygen, and rides an electric scooter. When there's a fire alarm, the elevator is turned off. She has had to use the stairs to get out of the building, but the process is so hard on her physically, that she quit leaving the building during fire alarms. And, there are a surprising number of fire alarms in this facility which has stoves and ovens in every apartment. People are forever burning tea towels and toast and forgetting about pots put on to cook.

This week has been all about preparing her to move, moving her, and unpacking her things. As an adult child of an elderly mother, I am often surprised at how things have changed in our relationship. My mother called me in a panic on Monday morning because there was so much packing left to be done. I had planned on going to her house on Monday afternoon to help out, and I pretty much knew what needed to be done. Although she was with me the whole time, she mostly watched me do all the work. My mother used to be abuzz with activity. She was a workhouse. She could get incredible amounts of things done and outwork me in almost every situation. I feel kind of sad for those days. Things are mostly out of boxes now, and she seems to be settling in nicely to life on the ground floor.

Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby. People here really take that seriously, at least a party event. There are many parties around town to celebrate the Run for the Roses. Most include wearing a special hat, drinking mint juleps, and watching the race. Happy Derby Day to you!



Today turned out to be a bit cool and cloudy. It was the perfect day for gardening. The house I live in used to be my mother's. She was quite a gardener. Last year, when I moved in, I neglected to do any gardening maintenance whatsoever. Now, I'm trying to clean up from last year by doing things like pulling up all the mint and digging up tree saplings of various sizes.Tonight, when I told my mother about pulling up the mint, she didn't remember having any. It would seem that the mint has run roughshod over the garden in a fairly short period of time. As for all the saplings, my neighbors have a quite prolific maple tree which is in the process of spreading its seeds. Another neighbor somewhere must have an equally prolific elm. Both tree's progeny can be found all over the yard in various stages. Some can be pull up and others must be slowly dug out.  I really miss my mother doing the work and complaining about it. I would much rather her do it and complain than for me to do it.

Basically, I'm an indoor person. When I lived out at the family cabin, I almost never went outside. I had everything I needed inside - books, a radio, TV/DVD player, a computer, and a cell phone. The dogs and cats spent a lot of time outside hunting moles, squirrels, birds, possum, and deer. They had a great time outside, as I did inside. That's still the case. However, there is pride in seeing all the gardening I've accomplished. Oh, I do hope I can get through all the beds before I need to start over weeding them again!

Apr. 22nd, 2008

I go to a Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, which is really just a loose definition for a community of people. We have fifty members, translating into fifty unique sets of religious beliefs. In my community, as far as I know, we have Christians, Pagans, Secular Humanists, Neo-Pagans, Atheists, and Vedics. Some people are members of our community and another church of their choosing; UU doesn't require exclusive membership. A few Catholics go to mass on Saturday evening and join us Sunday morning. As any church in the South, a lot of the members' social activities come from church.

I like my church because it's extremely liberal. In general, you have to be somewhat cautious of discussing political stances in this town. The majority here are conservative Christians. In a sense, I and many others often "hide" who we really are with people outside our church. So, it's nice to be in a setting where you can express your religious and political ideas.

There are some differences that could be perceived as negative. One difference is in our services, we don't pray. At some UU churches, there might be the odd prayer. However, for the most part, it is a lacking component in any UU service. Another difference is our church tends to attract the periphery element. As I mentioned, we are in a conservative town. Sometimes, people who don't fit in other places, try our church. For example, during the candle lighting ceremony for joys and concerns, a gentleman, who often visits,  tries to educate us on the pros of gun ownership and how the War on Terror and the War in Iraq are good things. It's rather odd. It's not a joy or concern, so it doesn't fit in. Also, I dare say, he's the only one in attendance with those ideals. I'm concerned he may bring a weapon to church one day and use it. So far, we've been OK though.

Two of the reasons I joined the church were because you can bring your dog to church and because of the following principles--I especially like the first one.
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.


The Mandolin is not a Play Thing

In making dinner tonight, I almost severed my right index fingertip off. I had just put the broccoli quiche into the oven and decided that parmesan potatoes sounded like a good side. I even got out a mandolin I bought at a yard sale last year and was excited to use it. The mandolin had all the pieces with it, including a vegetable holder. I figured I could wait on using it until I got close to the end of a potato, that I would know when to use the vegetable holder. Right after I sliced the tip of my finger, I knew it was time to use the vegetable holder. [ugh!]

Fortunately, I was talking to Miss A.S. on the phone, and she's a nurse. She told me to run it under cold water for a few minutes to both clean it out and to constrict the blood vessels. I was bleeding like a stuck pig and really kind of scared, so I was willing to do anything, even though the water hurt. And, who wants to check out the ER on a Friday night?

Next, she told me to apply pressure to it for five minutes, but after five minutes, it was still bleeding. :( Then, I called my brother, and he told me to come over to his house in order to assess it. So, the dogs and I piled into the car and drove through the rain out to his house. The dogs were happy just to be out in the car. It's really hard to drive without your right hand. How do you fasten the seat belt, take off the emergency brake, or put the car into drive?

When I got to Bubba's house, he was cleaning his gun. They' (brothers and nephew) are going turkey hunting tomorrow. He got a bird Tuesday morning and was really proud. My brother who lives in Tennessee couldn't take it (someone besides him bagging a bird), so he drove up to go hunting this weekend. Being a vegetarian, I just sit and look interested when they tell hunting stories.

Oh, yes, my finger, Bubba said that we could do stitches or steri-strips. Since steri-strips were the only thing he had at home, that was what we did. It still really hurts, but at least I'm hurting outside of the ER.

The moral of this story is to use the vegetable holder which goes with the mandolin. The blade is really, really  sharp.