Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Blame the American Dream

Ok, ok, ok...  I must disclaim:  This is a serious downer post, and it's not at all balanced.  It's my blog, I can cry if I want to.  I'm totally a complaining whiner today.  My friend demanded a blog post, and said that I make whining funny and interesting.  I think she's probably alone in this thinking, but here I go anyway.

I kinda want to go to graduate school...  but I'm finally admitting to myself that I'm afraid to admit what I really want to do, so I'm aiming for graduate school cause it seems like a smart, safe thing to do.  The thing I really want to do doesn't really seem like an option, at this point.  And I have to do something, right?  I can't rely on others to make my happiness, I have to go out there and make it for myself.  Except... I've been trying to do that.  And, ok, ok, maybe it's the whiner day, but my dreams are coming and going and I feel like a little bit of a failure.  On to the (unfair) tirade!!

You can do whatever you put your mind to.

Oh, really?  CAN you?

I used to believe that, but I don't anymore.  Life experience has given me doubts.

Today I had a moment of being mad at the American Dream, the American idea that you can do and have and be anything:  It's the land of opportunity!!  Now, I feel like I've been marketed my perspective for my entire life, and it took me over 30 years to finally realize that it's just not true.  I want my money back.  I strongly, faithfully believed that I could do anything.

I wanted to be a movie star.  Go ahead, laugh.  Raise your eye brows at me.  There are plenty of movie stars and I wanted to be one of them.  As far as I tried, it didn't work out for me, and the version of an actor's life I was dealt wasn't something I wanted, so I folded.  Folds come of different stuff, and my fold was a thought out, conscious decision made based on the cards I was dealt.  Thanks to the American Dream living in every cell of me, I DO NOT GIVE UP.  But I can still change my mind.

Getting married was not a dream of mine.  I never thought about it.  I never planned my wedding in my day dreams.  But once I said "yes" I made that dream, and I wanted to be married forever.  That dream is on the next sonic out of town.  It hasn't left the station yet, but it's sitting there, feet up, waiting to pull out.

I put my mind to that, and yet there it goes.

The idea that you can do anything you set your mind to just isn't true.  That idea is so propagated in America, but it's just not true that every person can do anything they want. People can do amazing things, and amazing things happen to many people, and people can achieve great success that maybe isn't the success they were originally aiming for, but it's just not true what American children grow up hearing:  That we can be anything we want if we just keep trying.

I am a really good tap dancer.  I've been personally complimented by Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, Omar Edwards (Savion's understudy in Bring in da Noise...), and been Henry Le Tang's personal tap class assistant (he taught Gregory Hines pretty much every thing he knew).  I performed tap solos at national competitions for nine years growing up.  I always won first place awards and one time got an extra honorable mention for an overall competition prize.  I tried and tried, but I never won one of those overall competition or country prizes.  And after all that, I don't remember all the first place trophies; I remember the one that got away.  For that, I blame the American Dream that told me it wasn't enough because I didn't reach that idea of my potential.

I think it's supposed to be encouraging, mostly.  Politicians use the idea to create good feelings around themselves even though they know it's bullshit.  But I think using the American Dream as a basis for reference, something we must do as Americans since it has been hammered into us for all our waking lives, is damaging.  The idea that one can be and have and do anything creates this dangerous sense of entitlement that Americans have.  Then, with entitlement in tow, people get to the point where they are like, I am not this, and I don't have that, and it results in a disappointed, dejected population of people.  These people, who were taught their whole lives that they could have everything they dreamed of, start blaming themselves for not being good enough to achieve the status quo (because the American Dream has become a status quo of sorts) they were taught to believe in.

Maybe this is where all the hate springs from in America:  People look around and see all of the things they were told they could have, and they get pissed because they don't have access to it.

Maybe this is where all the abuse of power springs from in America:  People get a little power and they get drunk on the little taste of success that they were taught to so highly anticipate.

Maybe this is where all the crime springs from in America:  People look around at all those things they can't actually have or be, and they decide to hurt those who they perceive as having the success they lack, and taking things from those that have what they were supposed to have; what they were promised they could have if they just tried hard enough.

The dialogue people carry on with themselves is powerful and important, and there's a whole country of people thinking, "What's wrong with me?  Why isn't what I'm doing good enough?"  People who talk to themselves that way feel small.  They feel like victims.  And who made them that way?  Maybe they did it to themselves.  Maybe their parents did it to them.  Or maybe they are victims of the American Dream propaganda.

I have witnessed a whole different perspective in Japan.  I never would have understood or even believed that people could approach life so differently, but the Japanese do.  People do their jobs with pride and dignity, no matter where they work.  Every damn time I buy a drink at the convenience store, I am bowed out of the store with a smile and a thank you.  I have paid ¥5, about 5 cents, for an extra packet of ketchup at a fast food restaurant, and been delivered the packet on a tray.  I have asked students what their dream for their life is.  Students want to be many things, including gas station attendants and nail technicians, and they are happy and satisfied with that.  When I first came to Japan, I was horrified that a 16 year old boy could be telling me that he aspires to nothing more than to pump gas and change oil for his profession.

Today, I see a real beauty in that.  Because you know what, somebody has to pump gas, and why shouldn't that person be as happy and satisfied with his life than the next person?  Why shouldn't that boy grow into a man who fills tanks and wipes windows and feel satisfaction and pride in that?  In America, you cannot say with pride, "My son works at the gas station."  In Japan, people give respect to a service rendered.  Any service.  People in Japan aren't taught to want so, so much as Americans.  People aren't taught to need so much to find happiness.  The truth is that there is no reason that student, who may very well become a service attendant, shouldn't be happy and proud of any job well done.  There's no reason any of us shouldn't be proud of a productive day, but the American Dream doesn't seem to make room for that.  Only reaching your fullest potential will do.

But, God is that stressful!!  'Cause potential goes on and on... who's to say what one can achieve?  And life is riddled with chance occurrences... one seems to have to rely on serendipity to get anywhere... and in America, where the average credit card holder owes more than 16 LARGE and over a million people file bankruptcy every year, it's just never enough.  Of course, to be fair, I'm from Tampa, which apparently is the 2nd most "overspending" city in America after Miami and LA.  (I swear, all the Hasidic Jews in New York must be throwing things off.)  Anyway...

I'm saying the American Dream demands and promises too much.  In middle-age people are asked, "What did you want to do when you were a child?"  I did just what I was supposed to do:  I never gave up on my little girl dreams.  I thought I was honoring myself.  I thought I was being brave and believing in myself.  I lived in New York.  I lived in LA.  I kept training and trying... and I learned a very important lesson:  It is a wonderful thing to have achievable goals.  I wish I had wanted to be a teacher.  I think that young man who wants to pump gas may spend more of his time experiencing a satisfaction in life that I have not enjoyed because my goals were not achievable and nothing I try ever seems to be enough...

And let's not get into how the way America is structured makes it difficult for most people to get ahead today.  People are imprisoned by debt, mortgages, and health care costs, and the cost of education is prohibitive.  But, for real, let's not get into it.

So!  What have we learned from all this?  Probably the biggest lesson is that Tiffany needs therapy.

From Japan,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The ENT and His Muconator

Dudes.  I just went to the coolest ENT clinic I have ever been to, and I've been to a few.  If I were an ENT, I would want all of this guy's ENT toys. 

Let me begin with an explanation of why I ended up at this ENT clinic this morning. 

Not to mention that I had stomach flu February 28th and 29th, I got sick on March 2nd.  I've been sick ever since then and went to my local clinic twice.  Two rounds of antibiotics.  And yet I wasn't getting better.  I decided to go to the hospital instead, which meant I had to take time off of work this morning.  I've said this before, but going to the hospital is kind of an equal option as going to a local clinic, so this was no big deal.  I just needed, at this point, to go somewhere that would give me thorough care, as opposed to my neighborhood doctor who doesn't even look at me and just dispenses pills.  But when I got to the hospital they told me that the ENT is not in on Wednesdays.  Eeek.  I didn't know what I was going to do, until they referred me to an ENT clinic close by.  Luckily I knew the area really well 'cause the map was totally jacked.

The clinic was very clean and well decorated.  They had mini chandeliers over the receptionist's desk.  I don't think it's shallow to admit that the aesthetic of the place gave me confidence.  It's the same as getting a first impression of a person... do they take pride in their appearance?  Do they take care of themselves?  And of course we all expect good hygiene.  It's no rule, but I think if a place pays attention to the details like atmosphere, then the important stuff must be unexceptionable.

The nurses were really nice, but now I'll get to the cool part.  When I sat down the doctor actually looked in my throat, nose, and ears!  Yay!  The doctors here use all stainless steel stuff, which I appreciate cause it must really cut down on the waste of disposables.  He had this cool little stainless steel nostril opener.  He needed a better look at my nose, so you know that thing the dentist uses to suck your saliva out while they work on your mouth?  Well this guy used this tubey thing to suck the mucous out of my sinuses.  I've coined it The Muconator.  (I'm really amused right now by the reactions I must be getting, but wait, there's more!)  Then he shot this menthol kinda smellin' stuff up my nose to open things up before he wielded The Muconator to clear me out again.  It felt great.

He musta been like whoa cause they ushered me right into a little room, also similar to a dentist's office, where they had me rest my face on this plate and took x-rays of my face and skull.  It reminded me of that scene in the first Resident Evil where the black commando dude gets his eyeball melted.  Talk about thorough.  I was really happy to feel well taken care of, and that I might finally get better.  It's not that just under two weeks is SOOO long to be sick, but the fact that I was not getting better and can barely sleep seemed ominous to me.  The pain was creeping into my jaw.  We looked at the x-rays a few minutes later, which showed a lot of cloudy-ness all over my head, he diagnosed me with acute sinusitis, and sent me off to the nasal nebulizer, another cool toy.  It was like a little nose-drug bar.  I sat there with this thing up my nose, doing the old in out -I'm talkin' about breathing here- for a few minutes.  I got the full work down and I felt like this guy knew what he was doing, and if something was wrong with me, he would know what it was and what to do about it, as opposed to my local doctor who is like, "Ummm, yeah, here's some weak antibiotics that are just going to jack up your stomach and prolong your illness, and probably make you antibiotic resistant in the future.  Good luck."

All of this for 20 bucks, and it was probably only that much because I was a first time patient.  National health care is happy dance time!  Then one of the nurses practically walked me to the pharmacy, which was so nice and kid friendly that I wanted to bring Knox there just to play.  I think what I got was an antibiotic, an expectorant, and another thing that I'm not sure about.  All of that was under $15.  I really want to return to the United States, but health care is a serious thing, and the US just doesn't have the system Japan does.  A day at the doctor's like this in America would've set me back, but in Japan you can get impeccable health care for pocket change.  Knox's doctor's appointments are all free, and his medicines usually cost under $1. 

So, I just got done with this a couple of hours ago and I still feel like poo, but I'm confident that I'll feel better very soon.

From Japan,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Missing America

America.  I wanna go.  I haven't left Japan since I got here, and I haven't been to America, home, in 1-year and 7 months.  Knox was 1-year and 4 months old when we got here, so he has now spent more of his life in Japan than in the United States.  He will be 3-years old on April 20th.

Recently I have been reminded of home a lot.  I thought I had a splinter in my foot the other day, and the feeling transported me to Florida, where I've spent so much time running around barefoot and I have often nursed in my feet both wood and glass splinters and bee stings.

My friend mentioned the Strawberry Festival and posted some pictures of their trip there... I wanna go to the Strawberry Festival, where people speak English and I know what all the food is.  I used to perform at the Strawberry Festival every year as a clogger.  I'd enjoy a few good hours watching red necks down corn dogs and elephant ears.  The Florida State Fair would also be a good ole' American time.

I'd like to go shopping at my favorite stores.  I'd like to walk through American Eagle, Banana Republic, or Urban Outfitters and try stuff on for a few hours.  Shopping is still fun here, but it's different.  Do you know, Americanos, about the shoe thing, not only in the home, but in store dressing rooms and public bathrooms.  When you go into a store dressing room, there is either a division in the floor or a step up, and you either leave your shoes just outside the division between clean floor and outside-shoe floor, or you leave your shoes outside the door as you step up into the dressing area.  Many places have store shoes, usually heels, since the Japanese are more formal than Americans, that you can try on with your selections.  Some places won't let you try on shirts at all, and most dressing rooms, if not all that I can remember, have these sort of disposable gauze head covers that you are supposed to put on before you slip clothing over your face.  I very rarely use them, but they are to protect the new clothes from sweat and make up.  And as for bathrooms, most homes, offices, and some restaurants provide bathroom slippers.  Every student at my school changes their school sandals for bathroom sandals each time they go to the bathroom.  I was in a Japanese home the other day, and remember that toilets almost always have a very small room of their own, and in this Japanese home you could just step inside, turn around, and sit on the toilet.  Despite the very small space, there were bathroom slippers, consuming just about all of the space between the door and the toilet.  I wasn't wearing shoes, because of course I had taken them off at the front door, so I slipped my feet into the bathroom slippers like a good Japanese girl.  It seems kinda silly, but I've been assimilated, at least a little.    

I have often missed the grocery store, but I'm going through another strong phase where simple literacy when buying ingredients for a recipe would be a relief.  I want to go to Olive Garden.  I want to peruse a menu I can read, instead of just settling for what's in the picture or what I know the vocabulary to order.

More missing... I have some very important, life-long friends that I made in my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, at the University of Florida.  One of these dear friends had a baby a few days ago, and I am a terrible, regrettable friend who has yet to send a shower present, and my shame is only compounded by the memory of the very timely and large present she sent me when I was pregnant with Knox.  Our sorority flower is the Fleur de Lis, also known as the Blue Iris.  My KKG friend posted a picture of an Iris, which was already nostalgic in itself, but also she took the picture in California, a place I love.  In California, exotic flowers like Birds of Paradise and Blue Irises grow like weeds.  Roses, too.  It made me think of my friends and my sorority house.  I'd like to go to a reunion within the next couple of years.  They have big ones in the summer sometimes but I've never been able to go.  I was a member of my KKG alumni organization in California, and I made some friends there too, and got to go to some special places and events thanks to it.  Which makes me think of my Tampa book club...

When I was pregnant with Knox, I met a wonderful woman and friend at the birth center.  I became friends with her and her family, and we had our babies one week apart.  We spent many hours together at lunch dates and Starbucks.  She's now one of the best of my friends at keeping in touch with me while I'm in Japan.  I'm still baffled by the generosity of the friends she introduced me to.  She has a very strong church group, and many of her friends and members of the church brought meals and gift cards to us when Knox was born (and if you know anyone who has baby, please do this for them.  Just having a few meals taken care of is a major help).  We had never met any of them, but they brought full meals with plenty of left overs to us, and sat and ate with us, and did dishes... they are all amazing, generous people.  Several of them became friends that I would see on a regular basis after that.  They would come over and play with Knox while I did chores, or help me take care of things if I got sick (cause getting sick and being in charge of a baby is REALLY hard), we would go on lunch dates and have game nights, we would go to their houses for dinner and they would come to ours, and I became a member of a book club that a few of them had founded together.   

This book club was awesome.  We read a book, I think it was once a month, and got together to discuss it.  Someone hosted at their house each month, and we would all bring a dish that matched the theme of the book.  For A Tale of Two Cities we did French food, for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle we had southern food, and for Memoirs of a Geisha we had Japanese food, and even did a craft of Chrysanthemum hair clips.  There were so many members that we had a membership cap, and if you didn't show up for three meetings, someone else would get your spot.  Well, it was friendly, but it worked that way, and if you missed a couple of times you would get a friendly call so that the club could find out if you were coming back or if they could add someone from the waiting list.  At Christmas we read As A Driven Leaf, and besides the food, we had a Christmas cookie exchange.  We all took home tons of cookies.  I miss book club a lot.  I thought about trying to start one just like this in Japan, but I'm not much of a club starter.

Challenging is good.  I'm just a little tired of challenging.  I could use an escape.  I need theme park America right around now, where NOTHING is in Japanese.  It's probably partly just being sick, but my brain is tired.  Actually... if I could have one minor wish right at this moment, it would be to get transported to Whole Foods where I could eat gluttonously from the prepared foods section and pick up three carts full of non-perishables for my kitchen in Japan.  I would pick up tons of maple syrup, whole grain flour, vegan cookies, raw nuts and grains from the bulk food section, organic chocolate bars, and a tub of hummus.  That I know.

...and if I could have a major wish, it would be to suddenly have 25 billion dollars in a bank account and once a week sessions with Warren Buffett to learn what to do with it...

I have every intention of visiting America from the approximate dates of December 23rd to January 13th.  I hope I get to see many people, especially the wonderful friends who have kept in touch during my tenure here.    

It hit me today that when we return to America from Japan, Knox will be 4-years old.  I will have one year with him before he starts school.  I've got a lot of thoughts and feelings about that.  I'd like to be home with him right now, and I wonder what the situation will be when I get back.  I just hope I get to enjoy my baby a lot.  I'm planning to apply to school in Gainesville and Miami in Florida, and with this idea of Knox starting school just hitting me, I feel more comfortable with the idea of Knox going to school in Gainesville.  But, I know that's just because I'm not very familiar with Miami.  Miami has more potential of having some super awesome prep-your-kid-to-be-a-genius school, so I could be down with that.  :-)  If I won the lottery or something I could move to Tampa and home-school him with all my crunchy Tampa friends.

I felt something click in the past week or two.  This has been a major transition with Peter moving out.  When and where and why I do things is all pretty different, and I have been flopping around like a fish who grew legs and is breathing air for the first time.  Getting everything done and figuring out how life is going to be now has been major.  If I was looking at it from the outside I don't know that I would see it; I could barely understand from the inside; I've kept asking myself why I feel the way I do cause things aren't that hard.  Now I'm understanding more that it was hard making that transition, and I'm still making it, but over these three plus months I've carved a new groove and I'm able to finally settle into it more.

The short of it is... I'm putting myself in a tunnel when really I live in a vast Universe of possibilities.  At the same time, I have to be more gentle with myself, and forgive myself when I lose sight of things.  The world is your oyster... but only if you know it is. 

From Japan,


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Knox's Play: Team Big Balls

Friday was fun! 

On Friday, March 9th, Knox had a performance at Compall Hall with his preschool, Woodstock.  They have been working on their end-of-year celebratory plays since January.  I took off of work on Friday and went to see it. 

First of all, I started getting sick over a week ago, and I was really down for the count, so my time with Knox was fuzzy and struggling last week.  I was determined to have a great day with him.  I was still sick on Friday, but I got up really early to go eat breakfast with him and take him to the hall.  We parked right next to the Woodstock bus, which Knox spotted way before I did.  He pointed and yelled out, "Mommy!  Bus members!"  They call the kids who ride the bus "bus members" and Knox rides the bus to go on field trips and sometimes to hang out with Peter while he helps on the bus.   It was raining and Knox wanted his yellow umbrella, which I found in the car and we used to get inside, and which was subsequently stolen by the end of the day; in Japan, leave your wallet wherever you will, but we wary of your umbrella.

We all met on the 4th floor of Compall Hall in a large tatami room with a nice stage.  All in great spirits, parents settled their piles of jackets and bags and set up tri-pods while kids ran around and got dressed for their performances.  There are three age groups at Woodstock; the Sugar Bunnies, the Busy Bees, and the Funky Monkeys.  Knox is a Sugar Bunny.  They performed first, doing an exhibition of their English skills and dancing to a song with verses about oranges, bananas, potatoes, guitars, and big balls.  That's right, Knox was Team Big Balls.  Yep.  He wore a red cape kinda thing and a picture of a basketball on his head.  And of course he was perfect and adorable.

He sat so well for the other teams, I was amazed.  I kept looking over at him and he was just sitting in his chair where he was supposed to be, waiting for instructions to go do his little dance and answer questions in English for the parents.  I remember when we got to Japan and went to these kids groups and Knox would never sit still in his chair; he'd be the only kid up and running around the room, but now he is much more disciplined.  He's doing so well.  He learns a ton at preschool.  I think it's really good for him.  I really wish I could stay home with him, or at least be the one to drop him off at 8:30 and pick him up at 2:00, but this is a good thing.      

After his performance Knox sat with me to watch the Busy Bees perform The Three Little Pigs.  Knox was really into it, watching and quoting the lines, and one of his favorite kids, Masaya, played the wolf, so Knox was entranced.  For months it seems I have been reading Knox The Three Little Pigs, playing "hide from the wolf," and listening to Knox talk about wolves and piggies.  He likes to say, "The wolf is coming!" and run to hide under the covers.  Under the covers, we talk about whether or not the wolf is "out there" and then we throw the covers off and scream, "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!!"  Then we run to the kitchen and hide behind a cabinet door.  Then the cycle starts again with, "The wolf is coming!"  Sometimes there is tickling thrown into the whole mix.  Yesterday he was eating animal crackers.  He held one up and said, "This one is a piggy, and I'm the wolf!"  And he ate it.

Following the Busy Bees, the Funky Monkeys performed The Little Mermaid.  All the kids did a great job.  By this time Knox was eating his fingers and his shirt and my hair, and I was happy for lunch time to come.  Lunch was slight mayhem after a few minutes.  Once the kids were fed, they started running around like the wild animals they are.  Several kids brought Knox cookies and chocolate.  I was on mommy alert trying to keep track of where Knox was as he flew back and forth across the room, in and out of sight, and I saw a string of kids run out of the room and not reenter any of the other doors, so, in my sick state, I took off after them.  The bigger kids had run the circle of the whole floor and made it back around to our room.  Knox was nowhere to be seen.  I was calling his name and following in the direction that some other parents had pointed.  I found Knox shuffling toward my voice, and when he saw me I could tell by his voice that, although he had only been alone for a few moments from the time the other kids ran off to the time I got to him, he was getting scared.  I know he got carried away and was just running with no thought.  That's why Mommy must be ever vigilant...

Actually, in moments like that, I witness a dichotomy in my perception of things.  On one hand, I think that he should know not to leave the room, and I know that I charge him with that responsibility; on the other hand I know that a 2-year old cannot be held responsible for anything.  I think that's what a parent has to do though:  I have to make him understand what is expected of him (don't leave the room), and give him the space to achieve personal responsibility (let him run around like a wild animal), while being ready at every moment to swoop in and set things straight (chase him down) while he's gaining the tools he needs (awareness, in this circumstance) to achieve self reliance.  Yeah, yeah, he's TWO.  I'm goal oriented, I guess.

Anyway, At the end of the performance and after lunch, there was a ceremony to celebrate the graduating students, who got big awesome toys, and a chance for each of the teachers to speak to the parents.  The whole day I felt like I could possibly lose consciousness, but I was making it.  Then Knox and I went out for celebratory ice cream!!  We got to Baskin Robbins and it was being remodeled!  Ugh.  I was really disappointed, but Knox didn't care.  He was just focused, like, follow mommy, get ice cream, follow mommy, get ice cream... since we did not yet have ice cream in our hands, that just meant we had to keep going until we did.  We ended up just going to the freezer section of this big store and getting ice cream bars on sticks.  It took us forever to check out, considering all we wanted to do was get ice cream and eat it.  And finally, we sat and ate ice cream.  Knox ate this entire huge ice cream bar.  It was his special day, and he had a lot of fun.

Finally, finally, we got home and lay down for a nap.

It's now day 11 of me being sick.  I went to the doctor again on Saturday and I have a new round of medicine.  I really hope I get better this time.  I'm worried, because even after a full day of the new antibiotics for an ear infection and a sinus infection (I think, it's Japan, I have no idea what's going on when I go to the doctor), I was up in misery at 3 o'clock this morning.  Knox is still quoting the plays, and changing the lines to fit new scenarios that he is coming up with.  We have been reading 101 Dalmatians, and we watched the movie for the first time last night, so this morning he was changing the lines from the play so that we were calling the police to report stolen puppies.     

I had a great weekend with Knox.  He is growing out of the Terribles Twos, I think.  He likes to hold hands when he is going to sleep.  His favorite movie is Peter Pan.  He's my little bubby boo boo. 

From Japan,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dzanc and the GRE and Other Stuff

I'm busy as ever, but when I think about wishing I had more down time, I figure if I did I'd be lonely and bored and get depressed thinking too much.  It's Friday, and it has become a weird day.  When I planned for today I looked at Monday's schedule.  There was no good reason for it, I just do that sometimes, accidentally.  I looked at the wrong day.  So instead of having a class 6th period with one teacher, I had class 2nd period with a teacher that I have uncomfortable classes with.  It was just a little off putting to suddenly realize that I had to get up that second and go to a class I didn't realize I had with a teacher who... well... the situation with that teacher is pretty serious, but I shouldn't talk about it here. 

I have to be more careful when I look at my schedule.  I was so lucky that my copies were ready.  I was only 4 short in class and those students shared.  I have realized this about myself since having this job:  I think about the day ahead of me and really set my self up, mentally.  I had mentally prepared myself for a certain schedule today, and now it's different.  It's fine, cause now I am done for the day, but it's got my head weird. 

As for the thinking ahead and preparing for the next day, one other time it was late on a Wednesday night when I was reminded that the next day was a holiday and I didn't have to work.  I cried.  I was so upset that I had forgotten, and I had worked really hard all day getting ready for Thursday.  I cried because I had lost a whole day of happy anticipation.  I don't really enjoy surprises.  I enjoy anticipation a lot more.

I'm sure that having a child has changed the way I set up for my days, but I also think that moving to this country made me more focused on my plans as a support of some kind; my life is so different now, in Japanese culture, and so many diurnal activities became challenges.  Now, just paying for something electronically requires knowledge of some kanji.  Last night at the grocery store I needed flour, but I basically gave up before I began cause I couldn't read the packages and I just didn't have the time or motivation to go through the rigmarole of finding someone, then trying to get them to understand what I was looking for.   

I've been studying for the GRE.  I think I'll do ok.  Like everything else in life here, it's more work taking the GRE from Japan.  I can't just go down the street and do it any day.  I have to figure everything out in a tangle of English and Japanese, and travel over two hours to the closest city that administers the test.  Its time and money.  And I'm not even really sure... I might have to spend around 3 or 4 hundred dollars and at least one day of work to go to a farther city.  Hopefully the closer city has it, but I'll probably still have to take a day off of work.   

I got my critique back from a writers website that I paid to read my work.  The company is called Dzanc Books, and it was a terrible experience.  I was very disappointed with the whole thing.  I paid for a DZANC session on August 18th, 2011.  I never heard from them, and finally wrote them an e-mail in November.  They apologized for the oversight, gave me a refund, and offered to still provide the service.  I made my submission, paying a little extra so that I could submit more pages.  The refund was great, except that on the website they claim that a critique will be returned to you within two weeks, and I didn't get my critique back for almost 6 times that estimate-- it took DZANC eleven weeks to fulfill their end of the bargain, and that was after more than 10 e-mails requesting updates and me practically begging for my work and critique back.  I submitted my work on December 6th and got my Critique back on February 15th.  Not even the holidays can excuse such negligent business practices.  And on top of all this, they did not give me a critique from the author I chose from their list.  Who knows who this guy is that I got a critique from.  After all of this frustration, I haven't bothered to investigate him.

And after all of this effort and time waiting, I was pretty disappointed with the result.  One e-mail of about 40 lines from an author telling me what he thought of my pages.  I paid for a service described like this: 

"The Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions is an online program designed to allow writers to work one-on-one with published authors and editors to shape their short story, novel, poem, or essay."

I certainly didn't "work with" an author.  He read my stuff and wrote me an e-mail about it.  Great. 

I think I got a little bit of constructive criticism that I'll be able to use to improve my work so I can submit it as part of my application to grad school.  It's the most important part of my application, so I'm nervous about it.  I don't know if it'll be good enough.  I'm going to try to improve it from the advice I just got from that terrible company, then submit it to another critique company I know of that should be much better.  I'm also concerned because my story is fantasy, and schools seem to get nervous about these specific genres for which they have no designated staff.  I think writing is writing, and whatever I learn can be applied to whatever I write.  Maybe in one novel the guy is wearing a suit and his friend is a lawyer, and in another the girl is wearing a cape and her friend is a fairy.  What's the difference, really?  Relationships are relationships and locations are locations, no matter who they are with or what world they are in.

I'm scared I won't get into grad school. 

I'm scared of going back to the United states. 

Next year, in January 2013, I would have to decide if I'm staying in Japan again before I would find out if I got accepted to grad school.  If I declined a 4th year and went home, and then found out that I did not get accepted to school, I would just die.  No health insurance, no financial plan, and a vast alteration in the progress I'd like to make in my life.  Plus, in the US, my stuff gets stolen and I don't have a juicy paycheck.  I guess I don't have to worry about next January just yet, but it's scary to think what little time there is between now and December, when I will want to submit my applications.  In that time I have to bone up on my GRE math skills, take the GRE, and improve my story drastically.  The rest is pretty easy- gathering transcripts and recommendation letters.  I also want to complete a Japanese proficiency test, to get better at Japanese, and so I can put it on applications in the future.  You'll probably think this is a little crazy, but I think about maybe going to Law school after grad school.  But, like always, I am probably getting a little ahead of myself.  I can't very well say that I'm afraid I won't get into grad school and in the next breath say that I want to go to law school when I'm done.

Oh, boy, friends... Thanks for putting up with my perspective today.  I'm focused on the what-if negatives instead of on my goals.  That's one benefit of writing, though; to illuminate things.  I didn't see how I was looking at it before I wrote this... now I can get better.  After lunch I am going to write down my goals, and write an action plan for the year.  I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm just going to start writing.  Good things happen when you just... begin.

From Japan,