Friday, August 27, 2010

The Joy of a Good Book

I love to read. I don't do it nearly as often as I would like, because I have so many hobbies, in addition to the stuff that I SHOULD do (cleaning, etc). But I keep up with several "favorite authors", and when I see one of them has a new book out, I immediately put in a request for it at my local library.

The other day I received an e-mail notice that three books I had requested were ready for pickup at the library. As soon as I got out of work I went and picked them up. I decided which book to start with, and sat down to read.

And then I started to feel guilty.

Guilt is a strange thing. It creeps up on you when you least expect or want it. It makes sense when I'm doing something like putting a grocery store item I don't want in a spot other than where I got it. It makes sense when I tell a little fib, like "Yes, mom, I remembered to stop at your house and check things while you were in Florida."

But feeling guilty about reading? I spent twenty-eight years teaching young kids, encouraging, cajoling, BEGGING them to read. Why would reading bring on feelings of "I shouldn't be doing this"?

It's simple. I'm a mom. In the last twenty-six years I have been conditioned to spend every waking moment taking care of everyone and everything else. Reading is something I do WHILE I'm doing something else - eating, waiting at the doctor's office, or visiting the restroom. Television watching is in the same category. When I watch TV I often have a craft project handy (knitting, cross stitching, or scrapbooking) or I'll be doing something domestic, like folding laundry, ironing, or paying bills.

So sitting down to read, and do nothing else, tends to fall in the realm of "wasting time". My Conscience tells me I should be straightening out my piles of fabric, or dusting off the knickknacks in the living room. Sometimes I tell my Conscience, "Just fifteen minutes, and then I'll get to work." And the fifteen minutes stretches to three hours. Oops.

I think that's why these are my favorite authors. They have the ability to create worlds in which I can lose myself, forgetting - momentarily - the world in which I live. For those hours, I'm wrapped in the lives and the conflicts of someone else. My own problems and concerns fade away. Until I close the book and realize I've lost an entire afternoon or evening.

But doggone it, the kids are fine and don't need me to take care of them. My husband can take care of himself. So taking a few hours a day for myself should NOT make me feel guilty!

Now if only I can convince my Conscience to leave me alone so I can read.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

I got back from Japan this week. We flew from Tokyo to Toronto on Tuesday, and then from Toronto to Michigan on Wednesday morning. The overnight layover wasn't our prime choice, but it turned out to be a fortunate one because our first flight was delayed five hours! So the overnight layover was a good thing. We had a bit more time to adjust to the time change, as well as the culture change.

After three weeks in a fast-paced, crowded society, we were immediately struck by the open spaces much more common here. Houses have yards. The streets are wide enough for cars to pass without fear of losing a side mirror. And rooms in houses are much, much larger.

I am now able to get places in the comfort of my own air-conditioned car, rather than walking, riding a bike, getting on a bus or train, or a combination of the four. I can throw a week's worth of dirty clothes in my washing machine and dryer, rather than washing every morning and hanging clothes outside to dry. And I can store several days' food in my nice big refrigerator, rather than going out daily to buy groceries.

In general, life here tends to be much more convenient. Does that make it better? Not necessarily. According to the World Health Organization, Japan has an obesity rate of less than five percent. Lifestyle has much to do with this. Since I don't have to work at hard as my cousins, I don't work off as much of the food I eat. And since the food I eat isn't as fresh and healthy as their diet, I am a lot bigger than they are.

So what do I do? Do I just shrug and continue my sedentary lifestyle, while commiserating with my overworked Japanese counterparts? Do I begin a stringent diet and exercise regimen in an effort to align myself with the more slender members of my family?

I'm thinking a compromise between the two would be best for me. My doctor keeps telling me I need to exercise more. And it would be nice to wear clothing a size or two smaller. I lost twenty pounds earlier this year, so maybe it's time I lost another twenty. Or forty.

Sigh. Maybe I should ponder this dilemma over a bagel and a cup of cappuccino.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Regret, or Rejoice?

I’m writing this in July, but hopefully this is appearing during week three of my trip.

I'm probably winding down, getting ready for the trip home. And if this trip is going the way things usually go, there are probably some regrets. One regret going into the trip is that I didn't review my Japanese language lessons at all, so communication is a problem. Poor mom. Here are some others:

1. I probably bought something I shouldn't have, or haven't bought something I should have.

2. I'm sure I forgot to thank someone for something they've done for me.

3. I should have gotten up an hour earlier or stayed up an hour later each day so I could experience one more thing.

4. I should have been saving up sooner so I could have come more often and built a relationship with my cousins.

That's enough of the negative. How about some plusses?

1. I've got a wonderful warm family on both sides of the world.

2. I've got my health and can get around fairly well, so there's no reason I can't come again.

3. I'm enjoying this experience with my mom and my daughter and son-in-law. How great is that?

4. If I didn't have something to learn, life would be boring. I'm having so much fun learning about my extended family and their way of life.

As with most things, the good far outweighs the bad. So I should just ignore the regrets and be thankful this trip has happened at all.

If only this place weren't so far away.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Addiction

This post is set to appear while I’m in week two of my trip. This time I thought I’d explore my total addiction to the internet.

Here at home I'm spoiled. I have a DSL connection in my home so I can simply open up my laptop and "get connected" to my e-mail, facebook and so many other sources. But when I travel I won't be able to get online every day. I kept looking for a place to go online in my aunt’s home city, like an internet cafe, but either the places aren't listed on English language sites, or there aren't any in the area. I checked into using my phone but it's going to cost too much to get an international data plan. So it looks like my internet access is going to be extremely limited, if I'm able to get on at all. And that gives me a certain level of apprehension.

There are a few "wi-fi hot spots" nearby (at least the website says they're close by) where I can get online. I haven't been able to find out if it's free or if there's an hourly fee. And I don't know if there will be a lot of time in the three weeks to go and search out these places or if I'll have my days filled. I have a feeling there will be a lot of down time, but I don't know how brave I will be about going about on my own. I really can't depend so much on mom to take me around. At age seventy-six, she's doing well just to go on this trip.

So I have a couple of options. I can make it a priority to get over my timidity and take a proactive approach to seeking out the wi-fi areas near Chigasaki, Japan, or I can resign myself to being totally out of the loop for three weeks. With the first option I'll be able to keep in touch with life back home, share my photos with friends, and read news in English. With the second option I'll have more time to visit with my family and practice my Japanese.

I have a feeling the second one will probably win out. Traveling halfway around the world just to get online and constantly check on things back here doesn't really make sense.

But if I get an opportunity to get online, I'll take it.