Sunday, July 03, 2011


My mom would call it 'a long time coming', but after 5 years abroad and 6 trips to the States within that time, I've finally come over and cleaned the garage of all of my 'stuff'.

For years, and as the bane of my mother's existence, the garagefull of my belongings have taken precious space as dusty collection of verylarge tubs. Boxes full of children's books and teaching materials, Beanie Babies (come on, admit you went through that stage too!?), and old yearbooks, as well as baby clothes and pictures compile the majority of the me that once was.

So, this past weekend, after a four-hour process of opening each tub, gasping in surprise, taking laughing trips down memory lanes, and culling huge piles for our upcoming garage sale, I can say (to Mom's utter joy) that my garagefull of stuff has been visibly reduced to two large tubs and a handful of small buckets.

That, combined with a mere 1.5 m3 (imagine about 10 large duffels) of my personal belongings on their way to Munich, as well as the two suitcases I have with me for the summer make up everything that I own. This does include my clothing (imagine three of those duffels for this) and shoes too (imagine one large duffel of it's own for those) and combined, you could pretty much fit it all comfortably into the the bed of a medium-sized Ford truck.

(Dear future suitors: It's not to say that I don't come with a lot of baggage, it's just that it's not the physical kind...)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reflections (part 2)

This past week, students in grade 2 were asked to, again, honestly reflect on their own growth/learning/ability within each of the 10 'Learner Profiles' (see previous post: December: Reflections). Like in December, these self-reflective scores will be used on the upcoming end-of-year report cards.

As it was then, it's my pleasure to now share them with you, hoping you'll find them as enjoyable as I always do. So, listed below are reflections that caught my eye, made me smile, or just reminded me how much I enjoy the language of 8-year olds...

"I'm not much of a risk taker because I don't really try things that smell bad because I just can't stand it..."
"I think I'm a 2 because whenever I'm on a project I make a mistake and I whan to do it again but know I noticed that nothing's perfect."

"I talk a looooooot at home. I don't know why I talk nonstop. I talk in the car, shower (sing), and even in bed! Sometimes I talk too much to my parents that they tell me to stop talking."
"Sometimes when I want to communicate I do. When I don't want to communicate, I don't. It also depends on the topic of what people are talking about."
"I picked score 3 because I don't speak a lot in conversation and sharing time. I have many thinking in my mind but it is in Japanese and I don't know how to descrive the words into English. I would like to be a communicator/"

"I'm kind of, but mostly I only listen to myself. Only sometimes I listen to others"

"When I'm [usually] at school when I herd a word before. And at class Miss F said do you know what this word means and what word she says it just popps right up into my mind."

"On sunny mornings I have a good breakfast, I brush my teeth and my hair, and when I get to school, I run around the playground."

"I think I give 3 because sometimes I mess around when nobody is watching and sometimes I bother my brother when my mom is not watching. Also, in [another student's] sleepover when we were sopousted to sleep we played video games."

"I picked score 3 because at school I am caring but when I go home I fight with my brother. I think it is not my fault because my brother starts the fight."


Lastly is my favorite (possibly of all time?), which was good enough to not only make this positing, but in it's original form:


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mein neue Haus

It's been decided, and it's official, that after all of this time, I've finally chosen a place to live in my new hometown.

For those of you who are in the loop, you'll know that making this decision has been difficult, as for the last month, I have had two choices of amazing places. The first, a small apartment just on the outer edge of the main city boasts cheap-as-chips rent, amazing skylights, a lot of vintage character, and a five-flight stair climb up and down each day (maybe only I'm the only one who would find value in that athletic benefit, actually!?). The second would be right in the heart of town, boasting two roommates from my new school, close proximity to anything and everything I could possibly want to see/do, and reasonable rent as well.

Would you laugh to know that I actually had been secretly hoping that one would fall through if only so I could not have to decide between the two!?

Although neither fell through, I am glad (and relieved) to say that after a month of going back and forth and back, I finally made the choice on the solo place on the edge of town for reasons too numerous to list. A few, though: my new apartment has a good feel to it, comes with a charitable current tenant who is undoubtedly the most helpful person I've met so far in Munich, and promises to have real fix-up potential (huge grin).

I tell all of you this, though, most importantly so you understand one of the larger reason I chose it - my living room comes with a beautiful and generous three-seated couch that folds out into a sofa bed, perfect for all visitors who come through.

In that respect, please sign your name up for a spot on it sometime in the next two years. That is, if you don't mind stairs...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Memoir: Learning to Read. (Again).

I will never forget the humbling experience of moving to a country that lacked a Roman language. The addition of ‘characters’ in three different forms to my visual vernacular was a challenge I will never forget, nor that I ever took lightly.

Composing text from symbols is a classic art form that I admire and respect. The precision required to create a Kanji character, in a certain stroke order, making thousands of picture symbols using the same basic lines – wow. The background and history of this language dates back thousands of years, and is well documented (as the best of linguistic historians will tell you).

More pertinent (yet annoying) to myself, though, were the simple ‘Katakana’ and ‘Hiragana’ symbols, two sets of messes of shapes that I knew I would need to understand in order to have any ease in the country in which I chose to spend a 4-year block of my life.

So I started right away with the easier Hiragana. I bought simple books, complicated books, Kanji books, picture books, acronym books, mnemonic books, roman-letters-accompanying-symbols books; you name it, I had it. A plethora of resources all meant to further my understanding of the complicated Japanese language, all eventually collecting dust in the corner shelves of my study room (er, kitchen). For my first months here, symbols such as: き、ぎ、じ、ず were all Greek to me, and to make it even more complicated, Hiragana words, when read, are only written forms of Japanese words. So, once you've mastered how to read 'とり', you have to then know what a 'tori' is.

More challenging yet, though were the simpler form of the Hiragana symbols, the ‘Katakana’ script, given to gaijin (foreign) words. Symbols such as: キ、ギ、ジ、and ズ were evidently intended to not only make foreign words stand out, but to make my reading life more difficult. I came to refer to the act of synthesizing Katakana as the ‘partner game’; played with one person as the reader, and the other as the one who listens for possible matches in the English language.

Friend 1 (reading label): ブルーベリー. Bu-ru-be-ri.
Friend 2: Bu-ru-be-ri?
Friend 1: Yeah, that’s what it says: ‘Buuu-ruu-beh-ree’.
Friend 2: Hmmm. Bu-ru-be-ri? Buu-ru-be-- oh! Blueberry!?
Friend 1: Oh yeah! Blueberry…


One thing that can be said about this return to illiteracy is that it gives an adult (and especially a teacher) a window back into childhood, and the adoption of one’s mother tongue, in both written, oral, and auditory form. As I imagine it sounded when we were babies, unintelligible at first, words begin to slowly sound familiar, take meaning, and eventually, make sense in longer strains. Similarly as a reader, the more symbols one can learn to read, the more sense the world makes, and the more intrigued you are to practice more. It’s a startling (yet, obvious?) correlation to our youngest readers, who, after learning the dynamics of the English language, take off reading it in obsessive forms. So it was with my reading as well, and still is, as I find myself constantly (and mindlessly) reading ads on trains. Sure, I don’t have any idea what they’re saying, but I can often get the gist.

And for now, I’ll call that a win, because when in Rome…

Monday, February 14, 2011


I was a late-comer to Facebook. I put it off, time after time, not caring or wanting to be a part of the new trend that it was a few years ago. Then, after my first Asian holiday in Bali, and after meeting so many great young people, I decided to get on the Facebook bandwagon, and have been riding happily along ever since.

There's a strong learning curve to Facebook regarding various facets of social networking, including the number of friends one might want to have, what to post and not to post (and who to block more privately), which applications might or might not be viruses, and how to not be a Facebook stalker.

One of the silliest personal quirks that I have developed as a result of being on Facebook for the last three years, though, is finding myself continually sharing my day, out loud to myself, in the third person - just like I would write in my 'status updates'. Like the events I write in this blog, I guess I often think that the minute-by-minute stuff that happens to me is of some value to others, or will make someone smile, or that someone will even care what I've just done in the last three minutes of my life (and remark with a cute/funny/sad/LOL comment). But, the problem is is that they happen so often that, were I to paste them all down, my status would change too, too many times a day. And frankly, nobody likes an overzealous Facebook updater.

But, just for fun's sake, I decided, for a week, to write down all of the third-person, one-liners that came to me throughout 7 days' worth of day-to-day living.

Now, many of them might not make sense because you've got no context for what I'm talking about. They are commonly inside-jokes, internal dialogue, or silly little lines that are often only funny/sensical to me and have come from part of an exchange I've had with someone (that I later remember and turn into the familiar one-liner) Publicly, those are most commonly the ones I don't post, as I don't see the point of posting something that's only funny/interesting/known to me. Although these would be the ones that would typically hit the imaginary cutting room floor of my mind before ever reaching my profile page, they do make up a good part of the never-ending one-line dialogue in my mind,which is ever so fascinating (to me, of course).

So, below they are posted - a week's worth of random thoughts. In the upcoming weeks and months I could look back through these, smile, and tell the story/time/place/thought train that brought each one about. If you'd ever like to sit down with coffee with me, I'd be happy to spill the more scandalous/interesting of the group of them. Until then, you'll have to try to make heads and tails of it all on your own, and that should be a fun game indeed.

(And of course, in Facebook-style, third-person fashion, you must read each one proceeded by the words: 'Wendy Foreman...')

... still gets goosebumps whenever she watches 'The Sound of Music'.
... wonders if his hands will be big enough?
... has changed her game plan.
... is striped from head to toe.
... "If you're loved by someone you're never rejected..."
... hates jerks.
... (is back in black.)
... is following Buddhist principle: "Smile as abuse is hurled your way and this too shall pass."
... is secretly urging the cherry blossoms to come, and quick!
... spricht sie Deutsch.
... thinks Elton John is a lyrical genius.
... wonders if she should be worried that her new contract for Germany has a large section for 'termination of contract' legalities on the first and second pages.
... now enjoys HCFS guilt-free.
... has a new obsession with pink grapefruits.
... wishes she could dance like Michael Jackson.
... hates jerks.
... thinks Bernie Taupin is a lyrical genius.
... hates waiting. Hates, hates, hates.
... is working on her patience bone.
... wonders if she should write a last will and testament?
... still loves Sixlets (only not up her nose).
... is feeling wiser every day. (No, seriously, I am!)
... actually gets a lunch hour today (whoopee!).
... praying for a snow day (but isn't holding her breath).
... thinks the simple act of unsubscribing to junk mail is so cleansing.
... still gets goosebumps whenever she watches 'The Shawshank Redemption'.

*actual posts

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Memoir: The Chef

When it comes to food that’s amazing, it is all, of course, in the mouth of the critic. For those who read the title thinking, ‘The Chef?’ and have come looking for stories of gourmet cuisine (the likes of which you’d find in a magazine), please read no further. Chicken Florentine and crème brulee are hardly the stuff of my childhood memories. But for those who remember the particular way even the most basic of food tastes when served from the kitchen of someone you love, this post is for you.

For me, though, this post is for my grandpa.

A farmer for life and a butcher by trade, my grandpa grew up understanding and cutting meat as naturally as one can. So valuable were his services, in fact, that when drafted into the Korean War, he was spared from active duty due to the fact that, as a meat-cutter, he couldn’t be replaced. My grandfather literally missed serving on the front lines in order to serve the front lines, and without this exception, it would be possible to assume that I, nor my extended family, might not be here to tell the stories of such times.

My grandfather’s past as a butcher held no importance to me in my youth though. Instead, it was what ended up on the table in front of me as a child that I hold on to most dearly in my mind. Good, old-fashioned and simple farm meals of fried chicken and sweet corn, pot roasts with boiled potatoes, beef stews, and, beginning in my teenage years, homemade bread from the bread maker, are what I remember most. On one too many occasions, my auntie and I would both be caught with our spoons (or hands) in the pots of this or that, or in the just-opened bread maker. To this day, if only to be obstinate, still insist on first dibs of any freshly baked slices.

The crowning achievement of my grandfather’s culinary prowess, though, was his homemade ice cream, for which he found local fame (if not within the small community town in which he lived, most definitely within the family). Often duplicated but never replicated, the smooth creamy perfectness of his fresh ice cream on a warm summer night was the perfect compliment to a fully belly of rich foods. A promised ending to any meal, it was also offered as a ‘bedtime treat’ for all guests at the Bed and Breakfast my grandparents ran out on the farm. Of course, once the guests were served, free reign on seconds for the rest of us was always assumed.

It can be seen as interesting how the foods of our youth can shape our adult palates, and although I don’t think anyone will can make a perfect 7-layer jell-o salads or amazingly juicy meatloaf as well has he did, it is those meals that I continue to play with as favourites in my mind. Although my diet today is as far of a resemblance to farm-styled fare as you could possibly get, those meals continue to be the foods that bring back a small slice of childhood to me when I think about them. It is likely that among the healthier fare I choose in these days, the recipes I loved as a child will likely be passed on as favourites to my children someday as well. It'll be my own secret way of ensuring that the memory of my grandpa (and his homemade ice cream) will never die.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Memoir: Hands


My great grandmother’s hands and feet are some of the wrinkliest things I have ever seen.

Suffering from arthritis, she has knuckles the shape and size of large marbles, fingers that crook in all directions, and toes that bend in instead of lay straight. Although it looks painful, Grandma (in her usually steadfast (stubborn?) way) assures that they are no problem, and true to her resolve, her hands and feet move just as they should.

I am ashamed to say that I don’t know much about her childhood or upbringing, nor that of my great grandpa – I often feel that stories like those are lost on these generations. Although it was not too long before I was born, I am not sure exactly when or how Great Grandpa died, but I can say that he was handsome, and looks much like my grandpa and great uncle. A charming grin, and a strong chin passed down through generations (including, regretfully, mine), he was remembered as a hard-working man. In his generation, they all were, but maybe few with a great-grandma as strong and proud as mine.

When I was younger, too young to appreciate or remember, Grandpa used to take me out to the farm where he grew up, raised as one of four children to parents who valued a good day’s work. Being a bored child many generations removed, though, I’d quickly run out to the woods to run across the logs that would transverse small, cold cricks. Other days I’d gather gnawed corncobs, left empty by hungry birds and squirrels.

My grandpa once remarked that his mother’s hands were one of the things he remembered most fondly from his childhood. To him, they were the hands of an angel, rubbing Vapo-rub onto his chest during one of his many childhood fevers. Those same hands have held generations of babies, made countless orange Jell-o salads, and have played thousands and thousands of games of Yahtzee with anyone who dare to challenge her.

I visit her as often as I can during the summers, usually between games of golf with Grandpa, or on a quiet summer afternoon. Sitting down to eat or throw the dice around, I marvel to have made it another time to be able to sit and do so. Because I know she won’t be around much longer, I always take care to lovingly notice those hands, and snap a picture into the deepest folds of my memory. Through the crooked, wrinkled, and spotted skin, I see years of life having been lived, and as we enjoy each other’s company, I often quietly think that I would like to live a life as long and fine as she so that my hands, too, will have touched as many as hers.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


This post was brought to you today by the letters J and C.

J (for Jayden) and C (for Cheryl) indirectly planted seeds for what is to be a new set of posts for me. But first, a brief explanation.

You see, I was recently explaining to Cheryl, my former secretary at Waukee Elementary, that I hadn't been blogging lately. 'It's just,' I told her, 'that nothing in Japan seems interesting to me anymore. My blogs, truthfully, come from the unexpected, odd, funny, and random, and truthfully, my life here is no longer any of those.'

On an unrelated note, I've been reading Beverly Cleary's memoir, 'A Girl From Yamhill' with one of my cherubs, Jayden, for the last few weeks. As our work together usually includes working on writing, I asked him to produce brief vignettes, much as Mrs. Cleary does, about his own life. Of course, it wouldn't be genuine if I didn't offer to do the same work myself, and so, a new style of writing for me, the personal memoir, was unexpectedly expected.

Being quite happy to be writing again, I felt to share the new works with you as well, if for nothing than to share my pieces, or write things that my family will (hopefully) enjoy reading. Of course, I do love to flaunt my way with words, and of course I wouldn't want to let my (small but supportive) audience down!

My first vignette was based from Mrs. Cleary's chapter called, 'Earliest Memories'. I asked Jayden to write his earliest memory (getting lost at Disneyland when he was 3), and I chose mine (my mother mowing the lawn). Below, and in subsequent posts, I share my memoirs with you.



The yard was quite small in the house where my mother and I lived, no bigger than the space where a large garage could have sat, and barely enough room for a small girl to play. Mowing the lawn was one of my mother’s favourite things to do, and whenever the weather was just right, that’s where she’d be.

As she walked back and forth, mowing even straight patterns in the grass, I could see her strong pale legs and her tattered lawn clothes, her hair matted to her sweaty forehead. I had seen the underside of a mower before, and knew better than to come too close as she moved. I chose to instead play with the neighbours, or around the rusting junk pile behind the house – an accumulation of once-new treasures that had built up over the years. No matter how far away I would play, though, I could never escape the combination of fresh cut grass mixed with dirty lawn clothes and sweat, the smells of a hard afternoon’s work in the yard.

On the rare occurrence when she’d ask if I wanted to help, I’d nod with trepid anticipation, slightly weary of the roaring blades that would soon be closer to my feet than hers. As I walked in front of her, barely tall enough to reach the bar, I pretended that it was important, the work I was doing, but secretly, I was always glad when the job was done. A big glass of ice water for both of us was always the reward, and although a simple treat, was all the more delicious for the work that went in to earning it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sad guy

(well, sad girl)

January's been tough, and as it comes to an end, I'd like to write my first and last post of the month as a recognition (I was going to use the word 'tribute', but thought better of the positive connotation it insinuates) of loss.

This month, two people whom I love, care for, and cherish very dearly have walked abruptly out of my life. One was foreseen, and the other just disappeared without a trace or word of warning. Although experiencing this kind of loss in those two different ways provided me with alternate ways of acceptance, it made neither easier than the other.

I am not going to go into detail about either of these situations, as most who read this post will have already spoken of the details of these two losses with me (at great lengths, even (and if you're reading this (and you know who you are), I am sorry about going on and on and on...)). However, as I was laying in bed last night, thinking of both of them, a familiar poem came to mind. This particular poem, a classic, is a favorite of mine, and reminds me that in times of loss, that we are not alone. It seems through the wisdom of the ages that poets and lovers alike have written of the same feelings:

by Langston Hughes

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began ---
I loved my friend.

A good, good friend, Patrick, has been a rock of mine for ages. In my times of trouble, like Hughes, he always knows just what to say. The following were words he remarked to me in a Facebook chat more than 2 years ago, which I copied, pasted to my desktop, and refer to often. In this situation, his words again guide my thoughts and actions, and I refer to them often to remind me to take the high road. He famously (well, maybe not famously to you, but to me) quoted:

The point is this: you have no control over what people will do. All you have control over is what kind of person you choose to be while you go through all this. You can honor and acknowledge everything that swirls inside you --- hurt, anticipated loss, exclusion, etc. --- and then look outward and still see every opportunity to be happy...

Thanks to Patrick, I am taking my losses for what they are and wearing my big girl panties about it (the moral high road, as some say). Mostly, though, it's' another (continual) reassessment of life's ups and downs and our reactions to them, and that no matter what, I'm not alone.

Experience is a brutal teacher. But, my god, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis