Saturday, January 30, 2010

Golden Retreat

Last week both Michael and I were suffering from a cold and Michael had just spent six days in the hospital. We were in desperate need of some R&R. Michael had business meetings in Seattle and, of all the weird places, Bainbridge Island. We decided this was a perfect excuse for a retreat to our favorite B&B spot: Ashton Woods. After Michael's meeting in Seattle, we hopped the ferry over to the Island. Since Ashton Woods Retreat is very dog friendly we decided to bring Lily along with us. This was Lily's first ferry ride. She really wanted to get out of the car, but she was also quite pleased with the volume of seagulls flying by...
and the volume of petting she was getting from inside the car.

Ashton Woods is a wonderful place in the middle of the Grand Forest built by a couple of guys from San Francisco who moved up to the rainy Northwest and built themselves a little paradise.

They have great attention to detail. Lily's little note says:
"Hi Lily, get wet get muddy chase ball
but whatever you do, don't chase the deer
they kick!"

Every breakfast is magnificently homemade with eggs, scones, yogurt, fruit & granola, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The room itself is stocked with all kinds of goodies specially picked for each guest plus coffee, tea, hot chocolate, sodas & chocolates, all included. We are not drinkers, but they usually provide wine & beer complimentary as well. This particular morning's eggs included feta and zucchini and the scones were cheddar, scallion and Hefeweizen. Delicious!

Lily was kind of depressed the first night we were there as it was too rainy to go out and play, but her nose told her... for sure there were other dogs around and she wanted to play with them--desperately. She also liked to perch her head very close to the little pine cones on the side table and then just stare at them, but she never touched them. Ashton Woods has two guest spaces, both outside the main house. The cottage, which we stayed in last time and is up a nice windy path away from the house and the Loft, across the breezeway from the house and above the garage. It's so large with a bed area and a living area with fireplace, leather sofa, table, chairs and rain shower in the large bathroom.
Finally, while Michael was at his meeting on Friday, Lily got to go out and meet the four resident Golden Retrievers at Ashton Woods. At first she was very shy. Michael said she must have "fur envy" as the Ashton Goldens are all very fluffy and Lily, strangely enough, has very little fur.

Below Lily is meeting the youngest of their Goldens, Farley. He is a little younger than Lily and he is beautiful! I couldn't stop taking pictures of him. He is also a ham and likes to stop and just pose for pictures.

Lily kept wanting to venture out on the path that led out of the "yard". Ashton Woods is actually on 10 acres, but the path the dogs are on below eventually leads to the neighbor's house.At one point all the dogs just started running up the path to the Cottage. They must do this with their Dads a lot because they were not to be stopped. Oh yeah, Steven one of their Dads, who manages the B&B during the day was waiting inside for his accountant and asked if I wanted the dogs left outside or brought in with him. Of course Lily would have been heartbroken if I had sent her new friends away, so I ended up with five Golden Retrievers.

Obviously I LOVE dogs, so this really wasn't a problem.

The whole property was pretty wet and Lily got so filthy dirty I actually just prolonged the whole play date... procrastinating the inevitable Lily clean up.
and Lily wasn't the only one getting filthy. Goldens are pretty, but they sure like to get dirty.

Above Farley and Etta

Below, Farley the poser

Below: Lily is thinking that must be some stick. Lily was beside herself the whole time. Farley and Etta were great fetchers and totally put Lily to shame. They had a couple of toys out there... like one of those things that holds a tennis ball and you fling it. Lily was so slow, she never even got close to getting the ball. Etta, the three year old was definitely the master retriever. Farley was a close second. Lily kinda just went back and forth trying to catch up. Daryl, the six year old just waited until someone dropped the ball then he picked it up and brought to me all proud like... and old Chase the nine year old just stood by my side waiting to be petted and petted and petted. Obviously I had a blast. We played for a couple hours.
Below: Farley & Etta
Below: Farley is bird watching

Below: beautiful Etta with her scarf reminded me so much of our old Kelsey (she says wiping a tear away)
Daryl is the white faced one:
I guess I didn't get a picture of the old girl Chase. She really stayed right by my side so I guess that is why.

It took a while to clean Lily up before bringing her inside and she was exhausted, but not too exhausted to watch more Goldens on a You Tube video of Animal Planet's Dogs 101: Golden Retrievers.

She did eventually find her favorite sleepy time spot on the bed (where she wasn't actually supposed to be... shhhh, don't tell Steven & Christopher ;).
And our last note from Steven was:
"Please come back soon, Farley definitely has a crush on his new blonde friend"

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 3

Arashiyama Japan, May 1987

Stood up in Yamashina-cont'd
Hmmm, yes, so I had waited for an hour at the Yamashina train station for Michael. The snow was really coming down. At first I was annoyed, then worried. Perhaps he just had to work late? But surely he would let his boss know that he had a date with me, his language-challenged fiancé who had been in the country only about a week and a half? I had no idea the actual location of the company or how far it was from the train station. I tried using the public pay phone and asking for information. Gee, what was the word for address? How was it again that I was supposed to ask if a person spoke English? The phone didn't work. There were no other Gaijin (foreigners) around. I went to the information booth and just blurted out... "Kyocera, doko desu ka?" Where is Kyocera? Amazingly enough this seemed to work. Unfortunately the map he brought out to show me where to proceed was all in kanji and hiragana so I could barely read any of it, but I am pretty good with directions so I set out figuring if I got lost I would just use the same sentence that had worked before. Kyocera was a big presence in Yamashina back then, so surely I would be able to find it.

By now, it was two hours past the meeting time, dark and still snowing. After a 15 minute walk, I found the company. I went in to reception and asked for Michael. There were three girls about my age behind the desk that started conversing in Japanese and then finally they asked me to be seated and they would get him. It was not common, I'm sure, for a female Gaijin to walk in the door of their company. I guess I don't really even know how to describe what it feels like to be a foreigner in a relatively remote area of a city like Kyoto. EVERYONE stares at you. Some people, especially young people, have never seen a foreigner in person before. If you walked into a convenience store, it was not uncommon for children to stop, stare and talk about you while you are standing right there. They assume you do not speak any Japanese. So, sitting there in the reception area of Kyocera, being a foreigner and waiting for the only American that worked at that office and knowing that those girls probably knew a lot more about me than I knew about them, was a little disconcerting. Frankly, I just wanted to bolt and be free, back outside under that universal sky. Where I could let the snow melt on my face and it would not question the fact that my face looked very different from every single other face around me. This feeling of being so different and never ever blending in, never went away the entire seven months I spent in Japan that year.

Michael finally emerged. I was relieved and angry all at the same time. He introduced me to his boss and a few other fellows, then said good-bye to his fan club at the front desk and we headed out to dinner. He explained that he got pulled into a meeting and during the meeting he had had an unfortunate medical situation requiring he return to the dorms. Knowing Michael, there was nothing to do but understand and move on. He knew I would be able to find my way from the train station to the company and I did. This section, of Michael's reasons behind not showing up at the train station and me finding my way to the company, may seem a little abbreviated, but anyone who knows Michael knows that there is no point in elaborating because this situation pretty much defines Michael--and me--and our relationship for the past 26 years. So, we headed to his favorite little restaurant where there were maybe six tables. Very typical old place, dark with rich wood walls and polished mahogany wood floors, and warm with the smiles of the owners, a happy old couple so willing to please the cold, wet Gaijin couple emerging from the dark street. We ate pure comfort food of Japanese style beef stew with a side of white rice and fresh baked rolls. I have tried many times to duplicate this dish, however, it always falls just a little short because it is impossible to duplicate the atmosphere of this little restaurant just down a tiny little side street from the Yamashina train station on a cold snowy winter January night.

One of the worst nights of my life
Speaking of cold snowy winter nights, I was called in for my first night of work the next day. What I did not realize when I took the job with the English School was that my schedule would not coordinate well with Michael's and also that I would be sent all over Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. With me at the boarding house and Michael at the dorm, this was not such a big deal as I relished the thought of being away from the boarding house for very long periods of time, but the dorm/boarding house situation was one I had planned to rectify, and quickly. But for now, back to that fateful night.

My first official class was scheduled for 7:00pm in Otsu. Otsu was on the same train line as Yamashina, but a few stops past it. I did not want to be late to my first class, so I asked for specific directions from Michael's friend, Bruce, the guy who had helped get me the job in the first place. He had worked for the English School for a while and had been to every location. He gave me very specific directions regarding timing of the trains, which platforms to be on (by number) and how long it would take what with walking to my train station, making the transfers and then walking from Otsu station to the school. It was snowing even harder this night than the last. I left my self some extra time due to the snow. I had not had the money to purchase new clothes so I wore one of my dreaded casual outfits, but picked the dressiest of the casual. I actually could not imagine wearing a dress on a night like this anyway. The first part of the trip went smoothly. Unfortunately, Bruce had made a little teeny mistake in giving me the wrong platform for the train to Otsu, so even though Otsu was definitely one of the stops on the line I was on, Bruce had given me the track number for the express train which did NOT stop at Otsu. I realized this just about the time that the train went speeding by Otsu station. The train just kept going and going and going. Eh, I freaked. By the time the express train stopped, it was about 10 stops past Otsu. I hurried off the train and in VERY broken Japanese asked the nearest guy I saw what track number for Otsu. I had to wait a good 15 minutes for the train. Once the train left the station I had 20 minutes to get back to Otsu and then walk the 10-15 minutes to the school. I was NEVER going to make it. When I exited the train at Otsu, I ran smack into Michael's boss, Kitamura-San. Ugh! He was so sweet and as I looked out at the half foot of snow on the ground and my lightweight shoes, I just wanted to collapse, but I knew I couldn't. Kitamura-San offered to walk me, quickly, to the school... which helped a lot. Unfortunately, when I walked into the school looking like a drowned rat and wearing my inappropriate attire and 10 minutes late, the ladies behind the desk just started yelling at me in Japanese, but I got the jest of what they were saying. I was late and I was dressed completely inappropriately and both were unacceptable. But knowing I had students waiting, there was nothing they could really do but rush me into the classroom and there sitting so prim and proper were two well dressed young Japanese business men--just sitting there, staring at me!

Until next time... bye bye.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 2

Outside Kyoto Imperial Palace, Japan, April 1987

Getting There
In December 1986, at the age of 23, I left Portland for Japan. We made a plane change in Anchorage and that is when I realized what my discounted college student airline ticket got me: one of the worst seats on the plane--outside the bathroom with no view of the movie screen. I was exhausted and attempted sleep, but sleep did not come. There was a nice lady sitting next to me, however, every time I even moved a little in my seat, she politely said... "do you want to play scrabble?" ugh!!! By the time we made it to Korea I was exhausted and irritable--and sitting in the Seoul Airport--I was freezing cold. We had a long layover and it was very early in the morning. I wandered over to the window to see what Seoul, Korea looked like and what I saw scared me. It seemed the entire terminal was surrounded by armed military guards. There were many moments during the 24 hour trip to Japan that I questioned my sanity. What was I doing? I was already incredibly lonely. By the time I finally got to Osaka International Airport, I could feel it, for sure, I was getting sick.

The first week I spent in Kyoto, Japan mainly got me the inside of a very small hotel room. I was sick with a cold the entire week and Michael spent a good deal of time trying to find medicine that would help. Even enlisting the aid of both English and Japanese speaking friends did not really get me much relief. Medicine is definitely one of those essentials to bring with to a foreign country. On New Years Day, Michael stayed up to watch the ASU Sun Devils defeat the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl, which aired in the middle of the night. Pretty cool that it was even on TV in Kyoto, Japan in 1987. I sampled some interesting Japanese food that week including Okonomiyaki. I was a little disturbed that they called it Japanese pizza? Really the only similarity to pizza was that it was round and it had toppings. Okonomiyaki is more like a cabbage pancake with toppings like fish flakes or thinly sliced sauteed beef. Different areas of Japan have their own style Okonomiyaki. You rarely see it on American Japanese Restaurant menus. Condiments include Japanese style BBQ sauce and mayonnaise. I do like Okonomiyaki, but it is NOTHING like pizza. I also figured out pretty quick that it was important to wear socks with my shoes when going out to restaurants. Otherwise, when I deposited my shoes at the door upon entering, I was wandering around a cold restaurant in the winter in my bare feet. That was uncomfortable and inappropriate in all sorts of ways. It may seem silly that I wasn't wearing socks, however, remember I had been living in Arizona... I barely even owned socks!

At the end of our little hotel vacation, reality hit like a brick wall. Michael had to go back to work and back to his living arrangements in the corporate dorm on the outskirts of Kyoto, and I had to move into a boarding house room that Michael had found for me in a very old section of Kyoto. The day we moved me in, it was snowing. We lugged my two suitcases up a very steep and narrow flight of stairs and into my room which was approximately 4 feet by 7 feet. There was an old window that looked out to the rooftops of the surrounding buildings and I stood there and watched the snow and thought how gray everything was and then realized how very very cold I was. The walls were so thin, I probably could have put my fist right through them without any trouble. The house itself was maybe 300 years old. The toilets were across the street. The wall between my room and the girl next door was a shoji screen. The first night I spent in that room I thought I would surely freeze to death. Not two weeks before, I had been living in Phoenix.

The boarding house was run by a little old Japanese lady who sat in a recliner across from the Japanese bath tub room, watched TV all day and yelled at her tenants as we went in and out of the room for our Japanese style bath. What did she yell about? I really had no idea since I knew very little Japanese at the time. It was a bit disconcerting nonetheless. Apparently she was yelling that taking a bath cost money. It was not included in the rent? I avoided her as much as I could, but the whole thing was seriously depressing. When Michael came to visit she laid into him about how rude I was and made him pay money for my baths. I never really thought of myself as a big cry baby, but living in this place made me cry every day. The rest of the rooms were occupied by foreigners who taught at the English School where Michael had garnered me an interview. There were a number of Canadians, Australians, British folks and my next door neighbor was German. I had taken no foreign language in high school (gotta love the American school system in the 70's & 80's). In college I had taken a year of German and a semester of Japanese. So really, I had no foreign language skills. Along with the interview, Michael had scheduled me into Japanese classes close to the boarding house. So when Michael left me that first Sunday afternoon in my cold cold room in that old old house, I had a busy week ahead. Hopefully busy enough to keep my mind off of just how miserable I really was.

For whatever reason--my upbringing, my personality--I can honestly say now that I did not enter Japan with the kind of awe and wonder that I think I should have. What I did not understand at the time was just how lucky I was that I had been given the opportunity to experience this amazing country, and especially the amazing city of Kyoto, from such an intimate view point. For as mature as I thought I was, I was immature in my ability to shoulder a little adversity in order to embrace the wonder and adventure that lay before me. My how much we learn over the course of our lives. It makes me wonder just what I will learn in the next 20 years.

On My Own in Kyoto
My first week on my own was a very eventful one. I figured out how to get places, by foot, bus, train. I had never used so much public transportation in my life. I figured out food that I liked to eat. I got invited out to coffee more than a couple times by older Japanese men, but because of the language barrier, I had no idea what they were saying... what they were saying was "Ko-hee" and then they pointed to the nearest coffee shop. Since I didn't drink coffee, I had no idea that Ko-hee was coffee. Clueless!!! I loved the bigger train stations with shops underground and American music playing on the sound system. I can still remember walking into the Polo Store in Kyoto Station and hearing The Bangles: 'Walk like an Egyptian', it all seemed so surreal. It was funny to see commercials and billboards with big American movie stars selling things like energy drinks, Whiskey and Japanese Beer. Big stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone; at the time, it was still a secret that big time actors were getting lots and lots of money in foreign countries to do ads that they would never stoop to doing in America. I spent as much time away from my boarding house as I could and wandered around the streets of Kyoto.

My interview at the English School was not so awesome, however. I was not at all sure what to expect but I had learned from some of the other foreigners at the boarding house that foreigners did not teach beginners. We were special and were given only students who had passed certain exams and the students were expected to speak only English in class. Phew, since clearly I had no Japanese skills. What I was not expecting, however, was the very large, very rude American man that ran the school. Let me just say right now that he took one look at me and did NOT like me. He immediately laid into me about my clothes. My casual leggings (it's the 80's people) and long JAG sweatshirt. It was the warmest outfit I had and very stylish, in my mind. I actually could not wait until things warmed up so I could bring out the mini skirts, the staple of my ASU wardrobe. Well, once he got done lecturing me about the teacher dress code (skirts and dresses preferred and nothing above the knee--no way!!!!), he explained that he may not be able to hire me because I had not graduated college. Apparently ALL the other teachers were college graduates. The only reason he was giving me a chance at all was because I came highly recommended (by Michael's good friend who had taught there for a while) and because I was old enough to have graduated from college. Hmmm. BUT, first I would have to take an extensive English test and score above 85%--that was mandatory. Sheesh, I was starting to get worried. I thought this was going to be a slam dunk and no one had told me about a test. I was given 2 hours to complete the 4 page test. There was a very sweet little Japanese lady brought in as proctor. So even though I was completely unprepared for this, I got right to it. I completed the multiple choice test in less than an hour and scored 100%. Seriously, I think it was a test meant for 4th graders. The Japanese lady graded it and was very pleased with me. The big, rude American came back in and sort of begrudgingly congratulated me for doing well on the test. He said I was hired and would start work in a couple days. They would call me at the boarding house. Yikes, once the landlady found out I was gainfully employed, I'm sure she was going to figure out a way to charge me even more.

Stood up in Yamashina
The day after my interview I was scheduled to meet Michael at the train station nearest the Kyocera Headquarters. I just needed to get my self from Kita-ku (north Kyoto where my boarding house was located) to Yamashina. A couple of trains, not so bad. Michael was to meet me at the station and we would go for dinner to his favorite little neighborhood restaurant. I arrived right on time to the station. It was cold and snowing. I was excited to see this area of Kyoto where Michael had spent so much time since arriving in Japan five months prior. I waited and waited. My excitement slowly turned into frustration as an hour had gone by and no Michael....

Gotta run, until next time, bye bye.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Unfinished Deer

We are so proud of Joey.
He got a Gold Key award from the
Oregon Scholastic Art Awards for three pieces of art he submitted to the contest:

The Scholastic Art Awards of Oregon is a statewide regional affiliation of the national Scholastic Art Awards program, which offers early recognition of creative teenagers and scholarship opportunities for graduating high school seniors. Student entries are submitted by teachers.

The Scholastic Art Awards of Oregon is celebrated with regional exhibitions and ceremonies hosted by various sponsors. Regional Gold Key selected artwork will continue on to the national competition in New York.

Joey has a chance of winning a college scholarship. Yay!

And in other exciting news... while the committee was reviewing the submitted art, they decided they wanted to PURCHASE a piece of Joey's art for the permanent collection at Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA).

Joey calls this painting: St. Helen's Road.
I lovingly call this painting: The Unfinished Deer.

This oil painting sat on its easel in our living room/art studio for some time. Joey pondered its completeness daily. I really wanted to hang it over the fireplace in our newly remodeled family room... "when it was finished". Apparently it was finished all along. First it got chosen to be displayed at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Now it is going away for good. I will miss the "unfinished deer".

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 1

Outside Heian Shrine, Kyoto, Japan February 1987.

A friend's 18 year old son has recently taken off on a 3 month journey to Japan. Reading his blog has triggered some vivid memories for me of my adventures in the land of the rising sun. The first of which goes back almost exactly 23 years.

During the summer of 1986, I was heartbroken. Michael was graduating from college and I wasn't. He had already taken the LSAT's and had been admitted to the University of San Diego Law School for the following Fall. I had thought seriously of transferring to SDSU. Unfortunately, "the Lubitz plan" for Michael included a two-year stint in Japan before heading to Law School. I begged Michael to wait for me. I thought my plan was just as good as theirs. Michael graduates Law School, Kari receives her Undergraduate Degree, Michael & Kari get married and then go to Japan. But as it turns out, my wishes fell on deaf ears.

The year before Michael's graduation had been tumultuous at best. Michael had been seriously ill with colitis and rheumatoid arthritis and they had ravaged his 128 pound body (both illnesses he had been dealing with since he was about 8 years old). He had struggled with keeping up with school work. I had taken two jobs in order to pay for my college. At times I attended his classes along with my own in order to keep him moving forward during his "couch ridden" periods. We had become engaged in the Fall of 1985 and then Michael had been life-flighted to UCLA just before winter break due to severe intestinal cramps and blockage. The doctors managed to patch him up in order to get him through college on time (a goal of his parents). After having been hospitalized at least a half dozen times during his undergraduate years, in early Summer 1986 Michael managed to graduate from ASU--in 4 years.

So the summer of 1986 was all about Michael graduating from ASU, Michael having major surgery (hopefully his last) and then Michael packing up and leaving for Japan for two years. It was a very difficult summer. I just could not see myself leaving school at that time without getting a degree first. Plus I had no money. I was unable to spend the kind of time with him that I wanted because I had to work to support myself. It was torture. He was in LA most of the summer, I was in Tempe. After some persuasion on my part (and saying good-bye to my beloved piano), I got 2 weeks with Michael before his plane left.

After Michael was gone, I honestly felt like a piece of me was missing. Sure I attended my 6 classes and worked 30 hours a week. I barely had time to think of anything else, but when I did think of anything else, it was how miserable I was. Not only that, but there were no fun ways to talk and see each other like there is now. No ichat, no skype. There were long, expensive, and taking into account the 16 hour time difference and Michael's 10-12 hour work day, mostly inconvenient phone calls. I could barely afford to pay my rent. The phone bill was twice the cost of my rent at the time. I felt like I had two choices at that point... call it off and move on with my life, or start planning my departure for Japan. I decided that taking a little break from my college education wouldn't be so bad after all. I gave Michael the choice: either say good-bye, or figure out a way to get me to Japan. I was in charge of paying for the airline ticket and getting a passport, Michael was in charge of everything else. Michael lived in the Kyocera company dorms at the time, and I could not live there, so I needed housing. I also needed a sponsor... and a job. By the time Michael got done paying for his own living expenses, he really had no money left over, so I would definitely need to work. Michael was what they call a "salary man" which basically means you don't really get a salary.

After lots and lots of planning and me begging for money for the plane ticket, I spent Christmas in Portland and then got on a plane bound for Osaka, Japan by way of Anchorage, Alaska and Seoul, Korea. Suffice it to say, the plane rides themselves deserve a whole blog entry.

So, until another day... sayonara, bye bye!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lily loves Pink Martini

We love the musical group Pink Martini.
Last night we were lucky enough to attend their concert at "The Schnitz".
It was fantastic.
This is Lily's favorite song!