Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review-- The Holes in Your Nose

I promise I will put up another origami post very soon, but in the meantime--a book review!  This book was originally written in Japanese, but it's also available in English translation.  Now that I think about it, I think my sister discovered this book and gave it to us....  anyway, it's a favorite in our house.  It's actually part of a series of books called the "My Body Science Series", by Genichiro Yagyu.  The Holes in Your Nose is very straightforwardly written, which has the effect of making it in places side-splitting funny.  The author matter-of-factly compares the shapes of people's nose holes, what noses are for and how they work, how boogers form, that gorillas eat their boogers.... and all in a rather innocent voice that makes it appealing and not as though the writer were trying to hard for a gross-out effect.   The illustrations are as simple and appealing as the writing style.

My middle son (that's him up there in the header photo in the glasses) *loves* this book--it really appeals to his earthy, physical sense of humor.  His older brother (also up there in the header photo), on the other hand, is my Science Guy, so he actually likes all the information and the scattered invitations to the reader to try things with his own nose.  Little Sister *shouts* with laughter when Mommy does the gorilla's voice saying he's going to let his boogers dry then pick them off and eat them:).

It's published by Kane/Miller Book Publishers, and it's available from Amazon (click the link above).  It was published in the US quite a while back, so your library may have it (worth checking anyway, if you like to preview before buying books).

Enjoy!  Mata Asobou, ne!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

...and thanks for all the fish

As though any of us need *any* more distractions in our turbulent, seemingly permanently distracted lives, I post here to spread the word that the world's best website, TED (, i.e.--Technology, Entertainment, Design) has posted one of the last (or possibly the last) lectures given by the inimitable Douglas Adams.

 Dear Mr. Adams--we miss you so much. I have loved the Hitchhiker's Guide since the 7th grade, when a friend gave it to me to read and of course I promptly passed it on to my mother and my sister. My mom liked it so much she named her travel agency after it (Galaxy Travel--what else?)   I think I loved Dirk Gently's even more--I waited and waited for a third one to come out, and when I finally read he'd passed away suddenly I was crushed. 

 It's nearly an hour and a half.  A horrible distraction, and a huge chunk of time, but....well, there it is.  A chance to sit for a glorious hour and a half and be delighted, informed, brought to uncontrollable tears of laughter, and to sober reflection from a writer whose voice we never thought to hear again, as he passed away a few days after this lecture.  He talks about blind river dolphins, blue-footed boobies, lovelorn parrots, the effect on the planet of those bipedal, carbon-based life-forms who are so well-versed in twig technology, and.... this is really important.... he explains about the towel.  Just think about that. 

Clear a space on your calendar.  Use a permanent marker.  Because you're worth it--enjoy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paybacks are Hell

"There should be a statute of limitations on blaming your parents for the problems in your life."

I read that pithy statement somewhere recently (unfortunately mommy alzheimer's prevents me from remembering where--if anybody out there recognizes the quote, please let me know so I can credit it appropiately).  I thought it was one of the truest things I'd heard in a long time.  Of course having three children myself, and being excruciatingly aware of how many things I do wrong on a daily basis, gives me the necessary perspective for appreciating the truth of it.

I just finished reading an essay on the invisible privileges held unawares by men, whites, and others in dominant positions in society (linked to by Dale McGowan at the Meming of Life--one of my favorite bloggers, I wait breathlessly for new posts in spite of knowing that he also has three children and a zillion things to do:)).  An insightful essay, and a well-written post by Dale, which for some reason shot me off on a completely different tangent.
The idea of invisible knapsacks of privilege we carry around with us, unaware of their contents, unaware even that we have such an accessory suddenly made it clear why I have been unable to write the letter to my parents that for years now I have felt a pressing urge, a duty, to compose.  Every time I tried to write it, even just to say "thank you", it seemed so.... incomplete.  So much unsaid.  So much to say, so much I feel grateful for, indebted for, that a few sheets of letter paper seemed woefully inadequate.  One of  those loooooong egyptian scrolls would be better, but probably fussy to read.  An invisible knapsack, with ideas and values, prejudices and preferences, put in by our parents, stuck together with things passed on with things from their parents, things that I'm sometimes only dimly aware of, or that I couldn't even access until I had children myself (all those things your mother tells you you won't understand until you have children of your own--and when you do you discover she was right)--well, no wonder it was so hard.  There's just too much in that knapsack to be able to write about it all at once without it turning into The Illiad, or the Book of Leviticus.

So what this post really is, is the beginning of a *very* long letter to my parents.  The one I've always meant to write, but never had a sheet of paper long enough.  In posts, little by little, as I discover yet another treasure they packed into my knapsack, I'll write about it, and try (however inadequately) to say thank you.  To let them know that I've found what they put in there.  That I understand what it's for, and  how profoundly grateful I am to have it, that they thought to put it in there.  Some of the things maybe they don't know they put into my knapsack, but they should.  Some of the things I find are sometimes things that hurt, things that I should take out and try not to put into my kids' knapsacks.  Now that I'm an adult (most of the time), I can take those sorts of things out.  Look at them, evaluate them, use what I know now as a parent to understand how they got in there, and decide what to do with them. 

I realize this particular post is lacking in specifics, but the specific things I'm thankful for deserve to be elaborated on in posts of their own.  The letter would turn into a bullet point list otherwise.  In fact, most of the things I've written about here are unsaid thank yous, and many things I plan to write about come from that sense of need to tell my mom and dad how much I love them, and how much I have to thank them for.  How grateful I am, now that I see all my less than stellar traits parsed out among my children, that they didn't sell me to the gypsies.  That I understand why we have children exactly like ourselves (what--you thought there was no justice in the world?).  The title of this post is what my mom says my grandma always used to say.  I never really understood it--but I have three good reasons to now:)

I've never said thank you or I love you enough--like Cordelia (and my dad), "I cannot heave my heart into my mouth".  But mom and dad--keep reading, because almost everything I write here is really my way of saying thank you, and I love you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

derailed intentions and excess olympics

How is it that our best intentions, for the betterment of noneother than ourselves, seem invariably to become derailed, laid aside, remembered only now and then with an accompanying jerk of guilt? Usually it's no great thing which throws me off track, causes me to give up for weeks (months) at a time a new diet plan, exercise plan, sleep plan, budget, blog, so...why? A cold, a sore shoulder, too much coffee, too little sleep, a sale, the Olympics.  In short, anything or nothing.

 I gave up daily push-ups after throwing out my shoulder trying to throw a baseball too far (don't show off for your kids if you're over 37). Alas and alack, during the week it took for my shoulder to heal, I was able to think of any number of excuses not to start exercising again when my shoulder did feel better--and in less than a parsec that space of open time was erased by an incoming tide of other "things to do". The time just seemed to disappear out of my day. Where did it go? I do wonder...

So what's my excuse this time?  Too much olympics, two sick kids, and a feverish, sick, sick, me...(singable to 12 Days of Xmas).   Mostly, too much olympics.  Long time skating fan (chinese zodiac--monkey.  skating zodiac--Peggy Fleming),  *loved* the skating this olympics.  I told my mom 4 years ago after Torino that the next olympics was going to come down to two (at the time) little girls-- Asada Mao from Japan and Kim Yu-Na from Korea.  (Bowing) thank you, thank you very much.  In spite of the fact that I live here in the Land of the (Cute) Rising Sun, and I've been pulling for Mao-chan to bring home the gold.... well, it was Yu-Na's to take home this time.  Were the judges on the Yu-Na crack with a 150 point LP score?  Maybe.  But the gold was hers, no question.  Several things came together for Yu-Na this time--good coach, music that suited her style well, smart move to Toronto to train (less paparazzi for her), no 3X....

My heart broke watching Mao be interviewed by the Japanese press just after the LP (before the medal ceremony--so she had to keep dabbing at her eyes so's not to smear her mascara)--poor kid stood there beating up on herself over singling a triple toe.  I have read comments on other blogs and skating forums saying that Mao was "stubborn"--insisting on keeping the 3X in the program, in spite of problems landing it, not changing the music, not going to Russia to train with Tarasova, staying in Japan instead.  I have to defend Mao here.  It's not stubbornness!!  Mao is a "Gambari-ko" and an "Akiramenai-ko", two major parenting goals for Japanese parents (at least judging from the titles of parenting books in bookstores over here, and listening to mom friends talk).  "Akiramenai" is "won't give up".  "Gambaru" is "perservere".  We hear people say "don't give up" in English fairly frequently.  "Perservere!"--not too often.  It would be hard to overstate how often that word is said in Japanese--a hundred times a day is probably low.  The maternity nurse said it to my oldest son 3 days after he was born (we were having trouble with breastfeeding--he couldn't latch on right. So--"Gambare!!" came the natural response from the nurse.  He did, too--latched right on.  I was hum-dingered.  How the heck did he know what she meant?).  "Gambare!" is something that can be shouted casually to a stranger by way of friendly encouragement.   When Mao started having trouble with her 3X (I watched her fall on the *take-off* for her 3X one time--fell hard on her side, slid clear across the ice, and slammed  into the wall.  ouch.), she simply would not have taken it out of her routine.  She would not have blamed her coach.  She would simply have thought, "I can't give up.  I must not be working hard enough.  I have to perservere!  Gambaranitoikenai!"  What looks like stubbornness through western-colored glasses, is Gambare-spirit if you put on eastern-tinted lenses.  Trying to picture kawaii Mao-chan as a stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway diva trying to picture Phyllis Diller as Miss America.  Nope.  So why didn't she go to Russia to train 24/7 with her coach (who couldn't leave Russia easily since apparently she was caring for an ailing relative)?  Mao does not have the Princess Di-level superstar status in Japan that Yu-Na has in Korea (Yu-Na's coach described travelling with Yu-Na that way).  Mao has a nice rink in Japan to train in, little or no paparazzi,  and the needed support of family and friends here.  For Yu-Na, leaving friends and family to train with Orser in Toronto was probably the lesser of the two evils as compared to not being able to walk outside her house in Korea without bodyguards.  Much calmer in Toronto for her, I'm sure, and much easier to achieve the necessary focus.

So what happened to Mao--the prodigy from Japan who had Dick Button and Peggy Flemming gushing at the 2006 Skate America (watch it here if you'd like to see how Mao *really* skates:)?

Bells of Moscow, for one thing.  Who on earth thought it would be a good idea for a light, effervescent skater like Mao to skate to orchestral Rachmaninov??  Did Satan pick that music?  Wrong, wrong, wrong music.  And the heavy-footed walz for the SP was no better.  For crying out loud, Tarasova--why did you have little Mao skating to music that should have been skated by elephants in tutus?

A commenter at Aunt Joyce's Ice Cream Stand came the closest to what I think might really be going on:
"I wonder if Mao was complicit with the dark and dramatic programs becuase maybe she thought lighter programs = too immature and juniorish?".   I think that might very well be exactly what's behind not just the music choices, but Mao seeming so... off-center, somehow.  Like she's trying to put a personna out there on the ice that just isn't her.  Right around 2007-08, here came Yu-Na (who up to that time looked not too different from Mao--young, girlish, and slight) in a sexy black skating dress and a much more "adult" personna on the ice.  She says she's shy, and it's something she's had to work at--but it had to be there to begin with for her to draw on.  And Yu-Na is pretty.  Mao is cute.  One is not better than the other, just sayin'.  Mao's sister Mai is the model, not Mao.  Mao will probably alway look somewhat girlish and cute--her cuteness cup runneth over, in fact.  Mao--you are not Yu-Na!!  You will not ever be a Bond Girl--and you don't need to be!  You can be yourself and win, Mao.  You really can.  Growing pains are hard, girl, and the only way to ease that kind of pain is to stay true to yourself.  Mao, if you read this, click on that link above and watch yourself skating the Nocturnes for us all.  That's not behind you--that *is* you.  It's still there inside, and if you stay true to you, you can find it.

Sorry to go on.  Just had to get that out, instead of leaving it in dribs and drabs in blog comments.

Congratulations to all the skaters at this year's olympics--very high level of skating overall!

2014 nen--gambatte, Mao-chan!

mata asobou, ne!