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Wednesday, September 24

Shopping Apparently Kills… At Least the Fun in Life

Defying direct orders from the Kimono household command, I got off the couch and headed out yesterday to the Daiei shopping mall. I had a few last minute additions I needed to get for several boxes I am shipping back to the states. Lo and behold, I should have listened to command for several reasons. First, it was the worst possible day to leave house as it turned out to be some Japanese holiday called shubun no hi (or Autumn Equinox Day). My many Japanese resource books (that I didn’t consult prior to heading out obviously) said that this is a national holiday where the Japanese typically visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects, but I swear to you that where most of them really went was the mall to play the impromptu party bingo game that had been set up for the big day. The roads there… backlogged and slow. The parking lot… packed. The lines… longer than I have ever seen before (but not as bad as Christmas lines, thank the Lord). The stores… full… especially of the younger set. Just maneuvering my big ole girth around the narrow aisles in each store was a major issue that even my gently stated “summimasens” couldn’t help with. To add insult to injury, I didn’t find half of what I was looking for and had to make a lot of compromises.

If just the pure torture of dealing with the whatnot of the holiday wasn’t enough, my little soiree into the real world cost me even more. I mentioned my blood pressure was being uncooperative in yesterday’s post? Well, before I even got out of bed this morning, I started taking it again only to discover that it was slowly rising. I knew if I waited to tell command, he would rip me a new one, so I instantly called OB/GYN. Who then told me to call Labor and Delivery. Who then passed me to a nurse that insisted that I drive my butt in there within the hour or else they would call back again and again until I showed. I pulled on the first dirty outfit I found on the floor, shoved my contacts in and squished make-up on in an not-so-nice fashion and was on my way. All is well. I guess. For now, we are just going to call it chronic pregnancy high blood pressure and not give it any bigger names just yet. I now get to go back and see my friendly doctors much more frequently than the planned trips every four weeks. And I get to do one horrible test that I haven’t had to do since last September when I spent time with my buddy-ole-pal-ole-friend, my ex kidney stone.

Perhaps it serves me right. Perhaps I should have listened to Kimono command. I blame lack of acceptable programming for not being able to keep my butt on the couch. Because it certainly can’t be my own headstrong ways.

Monday, September 22

A Little Work, a Little Baby, and a Little Culture

Life has been all about checking things of the baby-do list, work and Ikebana International lately.

Let’s start with work. Substituting started for me Friday a week and a half ago, and I have since worked every damn day. Good for the bank account that will soon not see my extra pennies. Bad for the swollen ankles that I have developed which refuse to deflate. This is actually why I am home today and not running around, as KH insisted on putting on me on forced bed rest. He keeps saying something about snausage feet and high blood pressure, while he keeps shoving the cuff back onto my arm. I assure you that I am taking care of myself, but I just hate all this ‘rest’! There are things to do and surely the only person who could possibly do them right is myself. As the past years have gone, I have been keeping my work hours at the high school level. This being my third school year there, I know the kids pretty darn well and I must say that I am enjoying them more than ever this year. I have a theory on that, though. I think it is because I see an end in sight to working at all that I am so thoroughly enjoying my time with them. Or it could be that I just haven’t been with too many smack-worthy freshmen this year; they seem to be a much improved crop. Whatever it is, it’s been great. There has also been some amusement with the older kids about the whole pregnancy thing. Only a few knew at the end of last school year, so many are quite surprised when this much larger version of me walked in the door. When they throw out the “you’re pregnant!” comments, I have been known to respond with the “no, I just got really fat over the summer!” Please don’t think I am cruel now! I tell the truth only moments later, but that first reaction is a riot. I even had a freshmen interrupt my lecture the other day just to determine for sure that my wide girth is pregnancy and not just that I am some monster junk food consumer. Once they know, they always have questions. Surprisingly, the boys tend to be the most curious.

Then the baby-do list. It has been quite a success lately… just shy of complete! Aside from missing only one dresser at this point (it being somewhere between here and California) and not being able to buy a rocker for the life of me in Japan, the nursery is pretty much done. Even our bassinet, which a dear friend back home bought for us as a gift, but had multiple aggravations getting it shipped here, has arrived and will be put together tomorrow. I packed for the hospital, all except for a little slip of paper that has six last minute items to add to the bag. We’re going to try to figure out the car seat this weekend and get that installed properly in the car. Beyond that, it’s pretty much wait for the arrival of the main attraction! As of today, that would be only seven weeks away. Yes, I know I am early on some of this stuff, but you just never know what the critter inside is going to decide on the early, late or just on time factor. Since I am a bit anal, I just would rather be safe than sorry. For all of those that have enjoyed the laughter you get from pictorial updates, there will be one taken tonight once KH returns home just for your continued amusement. Patience please. Update: Photographic evidence of the 'big' happening has now been added.

And there has indeed been culture-taking-in lately! The new season of Ikebana International is now fully underway, keeping me busy, busy, busy! I’m back on the Board for the second year in the same position, Publicity, which has kept me attached to my computer in free hours instead of on the couch with my feet above my head. Our first program was on Thursday and it was a great start! Held at the Daibutsu den’s private residence in Kamakura, we had the Ambassador’s Wife from Mozambique, Madam Maria Cuna Antonio, come and speak to the group about life and culture in her country. While Mozambique had never before been on my list of places that I wanted to visit, it has since been added. Madam regaled us with stories about daily life in her country, complete with funny stories about chickens, a fashion show of the typical dress that women wear (with the models including her daughter), a native fruit to try, and then homemade snacks and sweets which she and her staff had gotten up at 4:00 that morning to personally prepare for us. After the program, the Japanese ladies shuffled out, but I took this time to go talk with Madam one on one. She is an unbelievably warm, open, intelligent, well-traveled and articulate woman, who shared many stories about her travels, her family and her work… all in English which is obviously not her preferred Portuguese or African language. At the end of our conversation, she even provided me with her business card, along with the wish that I come to her Embassy home in Tokyo and have lunch some day. This made me not only feel a bit like a rock star, but also quite proud that I didn't do any major damage with my incessantly flapping gums, which could have potentially started some international incident. The only sad part of the day is that I had forgotten my camera, so the friend that was with me was the only one who got pictures of us. She will be sending them to me at some point and I will add them here, but for now, I unfortunately have nothing to show you. What can I say? I’m a slacker these days. And I totally chalk it all up to pregnancy brain.

Once my feet recover to a somewhat normal state (note: the picture is what I see of my feet IF I bend over far enough to check them out) and my husband allows me to get off the couch, I’m going to try to get out a bit more often and enjoy these last few weeks as non-parents. The heat is slowly dying down which helps, but in place of that has been some rain and even a quick little typhoon the other day. Speaking of weather anomalies, did anyone else in this area feel that earthquake on Saturday? It was the closest one I’ve known about to date, happening in Chiba, not even an hour’s drive north and registering a moderate 5.7 on the Richter scale. No major structural damage in the area, but it did indeed shake the baby awake.

Wednesday, September 10

A Love Letter to Home

I must admit to being a bit bummed these past days. I attribute it to a combination of the never-ending cough, my codeine-induced state-of-mind and pregnancy hormones. Looking at my life from the outside, you might think that I don’t have much to complain about. If you are thinking that, you are indeed somewhat right. We live well; we travel frequently; I don’t have to work if I don’t want to; and we are expecting the biggest miracle of our lives in a few weeks. All of this is certainly true, but there remains one gripe I have had since day one of living this far away from home… my friends and family are just not here with me. They are over 6,000 miles and one big ocean away.

Sure, modern technology allows me to call, email or connect with them in many ways, but there are actually many problems with this caused by any number of little things… time zones, email response waiting times, cell phones, expense of regular phones, fickle Skype... Frankly, I really miss just picking up the phone and calling my best friends and my family. The immediate satisfaction of being able to reach someone you really need them can never be overrated in my book. Thankfully, I have lovely friends and family that tell me that no time is a bad time to call them. I know they would be there, but to call them would only add to my misery, worsening whatever mope-y reason I was originally reaching out to them for. So I refrain from calling.

I actually had come to grips with this better as we moved through these past two plus years. There was less of a need to call because I truly felt less lonely. But then another heavy PCS season hit (people moving to new locations for those that don’t know military lingo). And I lost my closest friend here who moved to a seaside village in France. I certainly can’t blame her, but it didn’t make it easier. Again, chalk this up to a major dose of pregnancy hormones, coming down to the home stretch and feeling a little... well?... alone.

But then whenever I get sad, I love being blessed with a shimmer from a surprise silver lining, just when I am needing it the most.

Do you know where it keeps coming from? Those exact friends that I miss being able to easily pick up the phone and call back home.

This week it came from friends in Norfolk who sent us bibs, blankets and burp clothes. Last week, it was a Hawaiian outfit, lotions and blanket from a friend in Washington. A few weeks before it was a highchair, bowls, plates, spoons and another blanket from friends in DC. And there have been many, many more. It isn’t the gift that is the silver lining, although I adore each and every one. It is the fact that with each arriving package, I have been reminded that the friendship and love between us has not been lost or lessened by those thousands of miles and big, blue ocean between us.

I still wish I could grab the phone, call them up and tell them this just so they could hear in my voice how much their thoughtfulness and, more importantly, they themselves mean to me. Instead, I will tell the internet and hope that my love and appreciation is conveyed back to them through the hearts and minds of the random people that might read this. Oh yeah, and I’ll send a thank you card too. I’m not an ingrate.

Bless you for your love and caring. Always.

Sunday, September 7

Sweating, Coughing, and I’m a Snoozing

While I don’t want this to become a pregnancy blog or mommy blog, not that they are bad, but just not what I set out to do, I just don’t have much else to report these days. My touring around has been curbed unless I can go by car, which really hinders exploring for two major reasons… outrageously expensive or no parking and the fact that I have no idea on street directions. Frankly, if I don’t take the train in Japan, I just don’t go. How odd to only know your way around a country through the train network. And, in the case that you are wondering why I am skipping on the train… well, it is still damn hot here. Still in the upper 80s to 90s and there is a definite humidity that still clouds the air. With my lungs being shoved somewhere inbetween my shoulder blades these days, I just don’t have the lung capacity for all that walking in such heat. I truly can’t wait for October when the weather is about perfect for me.

Because of these things, weekends are pretty lame around the Kimono house. My dear husband does keep me entertained, but we are talking more low key like dinner out at one of our favorite places here in Zushi (like the water wheel soba place we hit this weekend… I can’t read the name as you can tell) and then a movie back at home.

There was one wonderful thing that did happen this weekend within our very own walls… KH put up the crib! While this may be nothing to you, it meant a huge deal to me. It means that I no longer look at an entirely empty room. There is now a crib decorated with quilted nautical bedding in a pattern using navy blue, sky blue and white. There is a mobile, and a diaper stacker filled with tiny diapers from the diaper cake my amazing sister-in-law had put together for my shower back in June. Oh, and all the tiny stuffed animals he has received as gifts so far… lots of teddy bears and frogs and one goofy looking goose… are tucked into the corners. I must admit that since the crib has been constructed, I go into that room and stare around even more than I did when it was just one closet filled to the gills with boxes and tiny clothes. I simply can’t believe that nine weeks from now, we are adding to this family the most precious gift we as humans can give ourselves… a darling little boy. I realize I should probably be past this my-mind-is-blown stage, but it seems to be sticking around much longer than I expected.

I did apparently give myself one other little gift this weekend. You may recall my mention of downing Robitussin every 4 hours, six times a day for the past week and a half. Well, it wasn’t working on the cough and seemed to be getting worse… as in moving towards the maybe you have walking pneumonia or something equally horrifying to a preggo girl. Not being one for doctor’s or wanting to be one of those worry wart people, I kept refusing to call. That is, until KH got mad enough to really give me a reaming. After hacking through three phone calls with the hospital, the charge nurse finally couldn’t stand the sound of it anymore and squeezed me in on Friday for an appointment with the doctor. I have tried so hard to make this a medicine free pregnancy, even though there are some things that are considered safe. It still worries me. But frankly, there are times when you just gotta do, what you gotta do. What I deemed lethal in my mind (those previous routine Robitussin shots and the very rare Tylenol) was nothing compared to what the doctor prescribed. I can’t even bring myself to mention everything he put me on, but I can assure you that I thoroughly researched each and every one before I consumed one pill or spoon full. Only one problem, I must have waited too long to get help. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I was waking every hour (even on codeine) for a good coughing session that now leant me these sharp pains. Unbearable pains. Again, I didn’t do much about it for the day, other than double over clutching at my stomach with each cough and take a glance at what the trusty internet said about it. Apparently KH did too, because by Sunday, he was once again all over me to call the hospital. Did you know how easy it is to break a rib from severe coughing when you are pregnant? Something about no room for lungs, baby, ribs, yada yada yada. By afternoon, I was back on the phone and received a diagnosis for costal chondritis. Seriously thinking they were making it up, I again took to the internet. Apparently it is real. And painful. And there isn’t too damn much that can be done about it. Tylenol and those hot sticky pads. Of which I have done neither. At this point, I’m just hoping I can conquer the cough and finally move on with my life.

So what was my point? Oh yeah, we haven’t done crap lately in regards to getting out there and experiencing something noteworthy to talk about. I feel bad taking my hack out and about into Japan, land of masks, of which I don’t ever see myself using unless we are hit with some biochemical crisis like you see in the movies. Plus, it’s hot. So instead, I am feeding my blog with this drivel.

Okay. You got me. I’m just lame these days. Gah.

Wednesday, September 3

Bye Bye Beach Bars

Considering that I am not much on the party scene these days, it makes it really low key on holiday weekends for the KH and I. Not that I don’t try still! Which is exactly why I pushed to head to the beach bars for their last open weekend, coinciding with the American Labor Day holiday.

I know I talked about these bars somewhere last summer. Basically, they open the first weekend in July and close the last weekend in August. Only two short months of fun, sun and drinks on the beach. This is incredibly depressing when summer weather here continues until at least mid October. We can’t figure out why they would close down when there is still plenty of revenue to bring in. It’s the same thing with pools… why close them after Labor Day when the temperatures are still soaring into the 90s for another month or so? They build these wonderful bars, all with some sort of great theme, only to rip them down in two short months! Of course, this is just one more thing I will never understand about the Japanese way. So quit trying, I say.

We headed down early on Saturday night so we could watch the sun set while we had a good meal and KH had a few beers. After strolling up and down the beach checking out each place, we settled on the next to busiest (the first being a Mexican-themed place full of drunk and half dressed Japanese and Americans, which I felt was just rubbing the ‘no drink’ thing in my face a little too much), a thatch-roofed, Reggae-themed bar with a band playing in their sandy manmade alcove. After a little confusion on the where and how to order, we pulled up chairs… that I might add were definitely meant for hips that weren’t spreading in preparation for childbirth… but once I was snuggly down in, I was left in the perfect spot to take in both the ocean and the strange mix of Marley sung in Japanese Engrish.

It didn’t take long before the crowd in the Reggae bar livened up to its competitors further down the beach. Something about the sun setting and it being the last big weekend for beach bars made for the perfect party. Though for some of us, we’re simply all about being the early bird these days. After another stroll up and down the beach, splashing in the usual minimal surf of evening tides on Zushi beach, I was ready to head back home… back to my stretchy pants and quiet time with my husband. We’re trying to get that as much as we can before it all changes just ten short weeks from now.

It may have been one of our most laid back holiday weekends of all time, but it was also one of the best. Quiet, together and filled with love.

I hope yours was the perfect Labor Day weekend too.