Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Grandpa Pumpkin

When Andrew decorates his pumpkin,
Sometime in the Fall,
I have my own opinions, but don’t say a thing at all.

I asked him for his theme –
I knew he’d have some scheme –
And really, I don’t mind at all
Lest he choose something obscene.

“I’ve used those foamy stickers,
and once I made a clown.
But, this year I think I’ll choose instead,
To make my pumpkin Grandpa’s head.”

This was not what I’d expect,
And knew he meant no disrespect.
I knew without inquiring
This is a child’s mere admiring.
And really, I don’t mind at all,
Though I think you’ll owe my Dad a call.

He started with the eyes – all blue and brown and green.
“You know that Grampa’s eyes,” he said, “are the coolest ever seen.”
He put in a button nose and a big red, wide smile,
The kind that stretches ear to ear - nearly a full mile.
If he asked, I would have said, “That smile’s way too tall,”
Anyway, he’s just a kid, it won’t be Grandpa’s head at all.

So quick and sudden I heard him shout.
“The ears must surely stick straight out!”
I’ll need some tape and scissors quick,
I need to make them really stick.”
He was having such a ball.
Grandpa wouldn’t mind at all.

He left the pumpkin nearly bare,
Except a crown of straight black hair.
Grandpa’s likeness made with such care,
I found it hard to stop my stare.
But when Andrew ran off into the hall,
What came next, I couldn’t guess at all.

“Andrew, where are you? I think its done.
Why did you go off in a run?”

“Mom, we can’t leave Grandpa just like that!
He can borrow my favorite hat.”

Its Grandpa for sure – no other guy.
But when I look him in the eye.
This pumpkin will last, and I know why.
I can’t make Dad into pumpkin pie.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Engineers and their Red Coats

This poem was written on behalf of the Northeast Ohio MIT Club. Since you may not be an MIT alumnus reading this poem, please be aware that "Red Coats" are the folks who have celebrated the 50th anniversary of their graduation from MIT. Of course, MIT degrees are always spoken of by course number, thus the Civil Engineering being "one", and Mech E being "two".

And, finally, I extend due apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I'm taking it for granted that Paul Revere was a Massachusetts native and wouldn't mind loaning his namesake poem out for the intended purposes.

Listen my friends and you shall hear,
Of the tireless drive of The Engineers.
William Barton Rodgers in 1861.
Would ne’er believe today what he had begun.
An Institute of Technology now 150 years.

Industrial revolution to nanotechnology,
MIT graduates lead the way.
Through challenges of greater complexity,
Solutions of simplicity rule the day.
We take pride in our casual, confident, grace,
And may collaborate with those who dissent –
A straight path is rare to that hallowed place,
Where open minds create and invent.

The numerical language we all understand,
Helps us communicate as we spread ‘cross the land.
Much like lights in a belfry or a secret shake of the hand.
One if a Civil, two if Mech E,
And the tireless engineers, relentless will be,
Ready to motivate and spread the intent,
The mission we’ve carried wherever we went,
To help the community – and our kids – to invent,
New thinking and learning – ethical fun,
The kind you can’t stop, once it’s begun.

We thank the ‘Red Coats’, in a poem, if we must,
You have all led the way in your sphere.
The Club needs your talents, we ask for your trust,
As we move forward in our MIT Club year.
You have nurtured the Club through decades past,
And built a solid foundation designed to last.
We must leverage our strengths before the die is cast,
Leaving our nation behind the times.
We will grow and attract the very best minds.

If the “Red Coats are Coming!” you happen to hear,
You needn’t shoulder your muskets and stand,
Ready to fight and defend once again this beloved American land.
Instead slow down, take a moment to pause, lend a careful and listening ear.
If we climb our foundation, re-inventing no wheels,
And learn to open our minds without fear,
Without hesitation, our next generation, on the shoulders of giants will stand.

“The Red Coats are Coming!” I laugh with a smile,
Knowing together we’ll go that one extra mile.
Please stay in touch – that’s what we’re here for,
That, and to pursue just one idea more,
Because those tireless engineers are not old-fashioned lore.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spontaneous Tradition

We have this “spontaneous tradition,”
(To speak of it smacks of sedition)
We take some unplanned day,
Throw most rules away,
And out comes this year’s rendition.

The first year we biked 15 miles,
That’s one lap around Kelley’s Isle.
We were relaxed this time,
A mile per granddad’s chime,
But we didn’t cut corners on smiles.

Kids love climbing on those big rocks,
Down by those rough hewn old docks,
They found a very big snake
That wrangled back to the lake.
I prefer animals with legs that can walk!

We stopped by for some great ice cream and –
Some time in the surf and the sand.
I had better not gloat,
But we always make that last boat,
Back home to Ohio’s main land.

And, of course, it is a good thing that I didn't have to drive across that water because those three ounces of gasoline would not have been enough to make it.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bouncing Back

Gladys had not been feeling too keen,
after bouncing on her small trampoline.
But now we all give a sigh, she bounces 30 feet high.
Just please Lord take care of that spleen.

Don't you wish that you knew what you know.
Back then - those "short" years ago.
Kids don't miss one beat, they jump back on both feet,
like watching Larry, Curly, and Moe!

I seem to have gotten off track,
you'd think I had some stroke or attack.
When I can't help but be terse,
I find relief in some verse.
Perhaps it will help me bounce back.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deferred Pain (Now THATS a bellyache)

“It only takes a second.”

“No home is ever completely safe.”

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. We all worry about it a little, but you can’t hover over your children. And, the truth is, it wouldn’t really matter. Some things are just going to happen anyway.

“Mom, I jumped too high on the trampoline and now I have a belly ache.”

Gladys came upstairs on Monday morning around 9am. She had been in the basement with a friend.

“Okay, Sweetie. You okay now?”

“My belly still aches.”

“Let’s take a look. Yeah, I see a little reddish mark actually. Did you bump into the bar?”

“Yeah. I jumped tooooo high.”

“It looks okay, Honey,” I replied, kissing it, “Just lay down for a few minutes if its bothering you.”

She went to rest on the couch, and I went to check on the other kids. They were fine. Gladys continued to hang out on the couch. A little while later, she was in the bathroom throwing up.

“You okay, Honey? Let me get you some water. You really do have a belly ache, huh?”

“Yeah, my belly still hurts a bit.”

I called the mom of the other kids. Gladys must have a stomach bug, I thought. We were all sick – even my husband was upstairs in bed. I expected Andrew’s elementary school to call any moment, surely he would be sick as well. We turned on a video and spent the better part of the day on the couch, watching and reading. After noon, Gladys complained of intense pain in her shoulders and neck. I called the Cleveland Clinic, and mentioned the throwing up, the bellyache, and the strange pain in her neck. I may have said that she was on the trampoline earlier, I can’t remember now. Anyway, her belly didn’t hurt so much anymore. She had barely a fever and intense pain in her neck and shoulders. Gladys asked for juice, so I ran to the store (my husband was home) to buy her very favorite.

Around 5:30pm, Gladys became very hungry. She wanted the spaghetti and meatballs I had planned. I assumed she was through the worst, considering the good appetite, and began cooking. As the meatballs simmered in the pan, Gladys screamed.

She screamed. She thrashed. She gyrated herself off the couch.

My husband and I ran to her like the house was on fire. I had scooped her off the floor, but handed her off when he came running into the room. She wanted more ice for her shoulders – RIGHT NOW. I scrambled for ice as I dialed the Cleveland Clinic.

“Is that her in the background?”

“Yes. She has intense pain in her shoulders and neck. She isn’t a dramatic child. She is clearly in a lot of pain.”

“I see. Does she have a fever? Vomiting?”

They asked all the questions and I answered them. Gladys had calmed down, but she needed me to carry her to the bathroom. I carried her out to the van and we drove to the ER.

I carried her into the hospital, but by the time we were taken to our little room, she seemed cheerful again. We used the restroom, twice. She kept climbing up and down off the bed, investigating all the handles and buttons and St. Patrick’s Day decorations. She enjoyed the Popsicle, Gatorade, and goldfish: no fever, no serious complaints.
But, she told them the same story.

“I jumped toooo high on my trampoline and got a bellyache.”

Her urine had a high sugar count. Her blood showed elevated sugar and high white blood cell count. They couldn’t find anything wrong. Finally, they considered appendicitis. The doctor tapped on her back: nothing. She put her chin to her knees: fine. She raised her legs: no problem. Finally the doctor asked her to get off the bed and jump as high as she could.

She claimed it didn’t hurt so badly, but the look on her face won her a CAT scan.

By 2am, we were in an ambulance on our way to Metro Health Trauma with a Level 3 ruptured spleen. That is NOT a bellyache. That is internal bleeding. Even the sack around the spleen was broken. She had been bleeding into her abdomen all day. The pain in her neck and shoulders was “deferred pain” caused by her bleeding spleen.

Holy Cow.

Our entrance into Metro Health reminded me of those scenes on T.V. The doors opened automatically and the well-rehearsed transport team wheeled her swiftly into a very brightly-lit room filled with doctors who sprang into action.

They were soooo nice. They knew her story. They asked all the expected questions. They also asked if she had siblings and how she hurt her belly. They answered her questions about the ‘rainbow colored drawers.’ I held her hand, and for the very first time she shed a few quick tears.

By 4:30am we were settled into the Pediatric Intensive Care. They monitored everything. They answered my various “and then what would happen” questions that mothers are likely to ask. I fell asleep on the pull-out couch in disbelief.

The next few days were all about recovery. You could tell she was in pain, but she didn’t complain much. The nurses told me that the typical spleen ruptures were high school football players, who usually screamed in pain every hour and a half or so. Gladys required medication about every six hours. I was impressed, yes, but tried to convince her to ask for more pain medication. I could tell by her heart rate she could not be comfortable.

And, that is exactly how I could tell when she finally turned a corner too. One afternoon, we were both asleep when her heart monitor alarm rang. I assumed she had rolled over onto a cord, as she had before, but when I looked at the monitor I could see her heart rate steadily decreasing. Where it had been in the 130s/140s, I saw it decrease from 90 . . . 89 . . . 88 . . . 87.

I sprang off the couch.

“Gladys? Gladys, Honey? You okay?” I tried to sound real calm and sweet.

She rolled over and looked at me. “Yeah, Mommy.”

87 . . . 93 . . .95 . . . 94 . . .94 . . . 94 . . . 94

“Okay, Sweetie, get some rest.”

Her ‘deferred pain’ had finally subsided.

Now the only ‘deferred pain’ is mine – every time I see her jump.

As for the trampoline, we left it on the curb. No one asked why.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There once was a girl who got older.

There once was a girl who got older,
(She certainly couldn't get bolder.)
You might think all your shine,
Fades past twenty-nine,
Not true - but you couldn't have told her.

There once was a girl with a great shoe passion,
She says “Goodwill” wouldn’t accept my foot fashion.
No, I didn’t invite my sister,
But s’pose I would’ve missed her.
She fixed that with some party crashin’.

“Are we There Yet?” led this conspir’cy,
Watch out – she’s clever, gorgeous and (ha!) shifty,
I send thanks my dear Friend,
We must do this (in Vegas?) again,
No rest ‘til we’re flirty and fifty!

There once was a girl wanting no fuss.
Traded her red sports car for a nice micro bus.
But - Oh my! What do ya know - a !
She dances fine with a pink feather boa!
Society will never forgive us.

Thanks for the boa Indy - watch out when you finally turn 40!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mommy has Milestones too - a look back in time

With my birthday fast approaching, I probably ought to wax poetic. The truth is, it just isn't working. How important is a birthday anyway? Do you remember yours? Let's see . . .

For my childhood years, we always had simple at-home parties. My parents would take me out for crab, which was my favorite food. Often, we would lump my brother and my birthday together and go somewhere especially awesome for dinner (like a dinner theatre, for example).

At 15 years old, I had a bunch of my girlfriends over for my party. My brother had a few of his friends over too. (Were my parents crazy? He is three years older than I am). Anyway, being the dangerous type of high school freshman girls, we challenged them to Trivial Pursuit. Yeah, the girls won. Girls rule. Boys drool.

At 16 years old, I was completely snowed in by myself - parents made it to work, but school was out for the day. My high school BFF (who just sent me a card - smile) arranged for a clown to show up at my door. The clown was wearing a heavy overcoat on top of her costume and the helium baloons drooped down to her waist in the cold air. I spent the day writing a paper for school. (My BFF was the lynchpin for the Entertainment category in Trivial Pursuit, by the way).

At 18 years old, I recall standing on the sidewalk in Georgetown (suburb of D.C.) in the snow eating ice cream. Why was that a good idea?

At 19 years old, there was a blackout in Cambridge. Some seniors rewired their stereo through the emergency exit and we had cake and the party by flashlight. When the lights remained off, we decided to all go over to Boston together. MIT disappeared as we walked across the Harvard bridge (which was a pretty amazing gift to this not-so-brilliant freshman chickie).

At 20 years old, I was in the hospital recovering after having a very prolonged high fever. My hospital roommate had been admitted for depression. My dad and sister showed up, washed me like a car wash and asked one my friends to invite more friends to come to the hospital room. They brought in a cake and take-out Chinese food, and made the room feel as crowded as a Tokyo subway. My depressed roommate had such a good time, she was released the next day having been cured of her sadness.

At 21 years old, I was taken "bowling" in Harvard Square. Enough said.

At 22 years old, I went out to dinner in Boston and Julia Child sat a few tables away.

At 23 years old, I moved to Japan a few days before my birthday with three empty holes in my mouth where my wisdom teeth had been the day before I left the U.S. Undaunted, I walked around my new office asking strangers to go to dinner with my on my birthday. Not surprisingly, I ended up with a very rowdy group of young Australian men who revelled in the strange request - and knew the underbelly of Hiroshima far too well. I must have paid that cab driver who took me home. I probably paid him 10,000 yen, who knows?

At 25 years old, Setsumi threw a huge party for me in Hiroshima. She rented out a whole bar, arranged for food, and invited 50+ of the people who in two short years had become family. THAT was a fabulous birthday.

At 26 years old, two days before my boyfriend became my fiance, I told him I wanted to go ice skating on my birthday. We went to the ice rink in Hiroshima, where I met a woman from the Hiroshima Collectors ice hockey team who convinced me to join their league. What a blast.

At 30 years old, I was interrupted from studing for a finance exam for my MBA to attend a surprise lunch held for me by the wives and girlfriends of my husband's friends. I didn't have much time to make friends those years in Michigan.

For most of my thirties, I have made my own cake which my children decorate. I'm guessing that after awhile it will look less like a pile of frosting, M&Ms, and sprinkles and more like a cake. Or, maybe they'll make it like that even when they are in their 20's because they know I can see the love in it. I also made it a point to sneak away with girlfriends after the children were tucked in, and my hubby and I have gone out as well (all fabulous).

At 39 years old, my girlfriend gave me my birthday party.

At 40 years old, well, I'll make the most of this one too.

I am told it’s my 40th year,
And perhaps there is something to fear,
But I haven’t the time,
To waste on the sublime,
Instead join me for some birthday cheer.

For entertainment, I’ll give you this clue,
A great band will be playing for you.
We’ll dance and we’ll twist,
You get the gist,
With luck our husbands will join us too.

Please leave your gifts at the store,
I am too old to accept any more.
I drank your bottle of wine
When I turned thirty-nine,
This time please just walk through the door.

This is the big 4 – 0h,
You have no choice but to get up and go.
Without you, my dear friend,
I might not dance to the end,
And pretend that it just ain’t so.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gladys' 5th Birthday

In this picture, Gladys is hugging a naked Kewpie doll that was given to me by Kawa-san's mother. The pictures of her after she was asked to put down the naked doll and look at the camera didn't capture her raw joy in quite the same way - although, they are much better pictures in the usual sense.

I let Gladys plan her own birthday. She just turned five. It is a very big deal.

"Do you remember what you told me when I turned five, Mom?" Andrew asked when we talking about it and making paper snowflake decorations - we had weeks of preparation.

"No, Andrew, what did I tell you?"

"I can't believe you are a whole hand!" I laughed.

I do remember telling him that now. And, frankly, I still can't believe it.

Gladys wanted a "sledding birthday." I had never heard of anyone doing that before, although I suspect it isn't that terribly original - perhaps just a little old fashioned. She also wanted to play 'pin the carrot nose on the snowman.' She explained that she played a similar game with a jack-o-lantern at Halloween and it was sooo fun.

I wish I could take credit for the idea, but I would have never suggested it. The kids, however, loved it. I had trouble bribing them off the hill with hot chocolate. Even Gladys took three or four "last runs."

"After sledding," Gladys explained. "We have to have hot chocolate."

"You mean, hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows and sprinkles?" I offered.

She grinned. Apparently she was pleased that her mother wasn't entirely daft.

I thought when I took this picture, that George was checking to see how many marshmallows his friend had in her cup. I found out a second later that she was actually spoon feeding him her hot chocolate - in trade for his marshmallows. They both seemed happy with the deal.

Gladys also required that the cake have a sledding hill on top of it with kids sledding. At Andrews birthday, he had a camping party and a campsite on his cake, so I am assuming that this is analogous in her mind.

Yes, I hand piped frosting onto squares of Hershey's chocolate and used different colors of pearl dust to make their shiny snowsuits. Their 'boots' are large sprinkle sugar, heads are M&Ms and hats have a sprinkle for a ball on top. The kids each had their own sledder on their piece. It wasn't hard - and I didn't buy anything new, just used what was in my cabinet.

Of course, I keep an unusually well-stocked cabinet. I never really know for sure what might come out of it. It really depends on the kids. My favorite part of this picture is my MIL sitting calmly at the table amidst my carnival of activity.

Oh, yeah, and the parents had a good time too. (big, cheesy grin)

Happy Birthday, Sweet Gladys!
I hope you are always as fearless and creative as you are at five.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Day Off of School

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought I would spend a relaxing day with the kids. I always have this idea in my mind that we will play a few games. I might even sit on the couch for a few minutes. Maybe we'll read books.

I have these ideas.

When the kids and I finished breakfast this morning, I gave them a number of options.

"Let's finish our volcano!" I declared. "All we really need to do is have it erupt." The truth is that it has been in our basement for a long time, ready to erupt any minute. It took us hours over multiple days to do the paper mache and paint it.

They shrugged their shoulders. We played with baking soda and vinegar a few weeks ago.

"Do you want to play a game? We could play Blokus," I hoped they wouldn't say Monopoly. It takes incredible patience for me to wait for them to calculate their own transactions, and I always lose (yeah, never won Monopoly with the kids, what is up with that?)


I sighed.

"We could make ice cream," I offered. We have a quart of cream that expires next week.

"I have a better idea! Let's make spinach tortellini!!" Andrew cheered.

"Yaaayy!!" Gladys agreed.


The real insanity about "pasta for the insane" is that it never goes away. And, what is worse, it is the only way my children will eat spinach.

It is the old Mom-if-you-let-us-put-flour-on-your-floor-and-play-with-raw-egg-dough-make-you-fold-tortellini-for-an-hour we'll eat spinach!!

"Oh, alright, at least it smells better than Playdough."

Of course, after making tortellini, we went on to make even more paper snowflakes, play with Playdough, paint with watercolors, work on a book report, and fry chicken. I shouldn't have opened my mouth about the Playdough. What was I thinking?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Awesome Eyeballs

I’m not sure I’m smarter than a second grader.

When I visited MIT back in September, I spoke with Professor Woodie Flowers after his presentation on FIRST Robotics & Lego League (Lego League is the ‘little league' for the Robotics challenge). After his very inspiring introduction to the program, I went up to say ‘hello,’ express my general admiration (he is a demi-god of mechanical engineering after all), and ask some questions.

In his friendly sort-of-way, he threw down the gauntlet. I had made the mistake of thanking him for something. I should know better. No, he didn’t say ‘you’re welcome.’ He smiled broadly.

“You owe me, then. Start a team.”

Oops. I should know better.

I was thinking about it when I ran into an old friend outside of the 10-250 lecture hall. A short conversation made it clear his kids were only slightly older than mine, and he was starting a Lego League team this year. The third member of our conversation gushed about her experience.

“It was so incredible. You’ll never, ever regret it,” she went on emphatically. “My kids love it. I really have no choice now that I’ve started it.”
Within a week of returning to Ohio, my team was fully registered, Legos were on the way, the calendar established, and my fate was sealed.

I didn’t think it would be that inspiring, but it would be fun. I would take it for what it was and see where it went. I was sure she was exaggerating.

Except for one thing, I was wrong. It was that inspiring. It was just as awesome as she had described, except the parts that were even better.

The kids were amazing.

Oh, yes, they were jumpy and noisy and a little wild on Friday afternoons, but you’ve never seen kids more excited about learning. I was very prepared for the sessions, of course, but I was never prepared for where the kids would take the sessions.

Have you ever brainstormed with second graders??

I can assure you, I had nothing to do with the name “Awesome Eyeballs.” In fact, if I had taken the time to look, I imagine the mothers were rolling their eyeballs behind the kids. We shrugged our shoulders and all gave three cheers for the “Awesome Eyeballs.”

I also had nothing to do with the subject we studied.

The task was to decide on an object and learn about how that object moved from wherever it was made or grown to where the kids were now. I started by drawing a value chain of a pretzel on freezer paper across my dining room wall.

Did you know that kids understand value chain analysis? They understood it. They added to it. They thought about it. And, while I was busy scribbling all the kids’ thoughts across my wall, someone ate my pretzel (and the rest giggled uncontrollably).

So, we brainstormed ideas for things to analyze. One of the kids suggested electricity, and there was no going back. A mother gave me a look of mild horror. Electricity?? But, it was electricity: too late.

And so I spent a little time contemplating how to explain electricity, “electrons in motion” to second graders. They wanted to know all the details so badly. I wasn’t going to get off easily with this crowd.

We started from the beginning. I gave them magnets and safety pins to feel how magnets pull on the electrons in metal. We talked about how magnets pull electrons in wires to start them in motion. I made up a game in which the kids were the wire and they passed Duplo block “electrons,” but only one at a time, and the electrons could not pass and had to stop if one stopped and their circuit was broken.

They understood everything immediately.

They asked smart questions and made even smarter observations. We easily brainstormed the electron value chain on a new piece of freezer paper, and each child went home to investigate his or her own piece of that chain on the internet.

At the next meeting, they each presented their newfound knowledge to the rest of the team. You could tell they were proud. You could tell they understood it. They brought in pictures and hand-written notes. One of the mothers brought in a circuit with a battery and a lightbulb. Another mother confessed to finding electro-magnetism interesting.

Oh, yes, and we used Legos too.

At one of the early and boisterous sessions, I asked them to build the strongest tower they could out of Legos. Except, of course, they only had ten minutes and they were absolutely not allowed to say a single word or make a noise.

For ten beautiful minutes, I heard nothing but the sound of clinking Legos. I’ve never seen second graders so focused and quiet.

They used Legos at every session, but towards the end we focused on building our electrical grid – wind mill, substation, high-tension power lines, etc. The creativity was astonishing. They worked in teams of two or three on each piece.

As time went on, the parents came up with more and more eyeball themed items. I had always planned on making them t-shirts for the expo, but as time drew near I felt increasingly compelled to make it a truly “awesome” eyeball. They deserved it.

They needed a shirt that would match their pride. The logo designed itself. I just happened to be holding the pencil.

The day of the Expo, they all arrived promptly wearing their t-shirts and eyeball glasses. They were prepared to explain their work. They took turns speaking. They answered the judge’s questions and provided additional information. They were truly an awesome team.

On the way into the auditorium to receive their trophy, they started high-five-ing the other teams as they passed.

My cheeks turned pink with pride.

Now I’m one of “them.” I’m committed, and gushing, and the children will require me to coach them again. Two of them even sent me 'thank you' notes, with hand-drawn pictures. I have "no choice." My fate is sealed.

All of the sudden, I want to thank Woodie Flowers all over again.

Maybe I will. I just don’t learn my lessons as well as those second graders.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Japan #2 Almost Famous

On our way out of security in San Francisco, I paused by the baggage conveyor to zip up my boots. I looked up to see a familiar face. Have you ever seen someone so out of context that you couldn’t discern why his face was familiar? Since we made eye contact, standing face to face across the conveyor belt, I instinctively said ‘hello.’ He returned the greeting and we both moved on. A minute later, I realized that he was the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

“Mom, that was Jesse Jackson,” I said a minute later.

“What?” she asked.

“Never mind. That was Jesse Jackson. I’m sure of it,” I said again. The man next to me agreed.


We shrugged our shoulders and sought out breakfast. I had honestly forgotten about it until I wrote this episode.

Our first stop in Japan was with Kawa-san and his family. I knew I would be welcome in his home. I have known him for 20 years and remember when his college-aged son was carried on his mother’s back. Kawa-san’s children are as wonderful now as they were the day that I met them. His oldest is a handsome father, with a beautiful wife. His daughter has outgrown cute and has become a lovely and confident young woman. And his youngest son is now a chemistry student and rock star. Okay, a budding “rock star,” but if you knew him, you would know what I mean.

I realized I felt at home when I returned to Kawa-san’s home at the end of our trip and went straight to the sink to “freshen up” before giving proper regards. I apologized, of course, but the transgression was taken for what it was.

I forgot to be nervous. I was home.

On the way out of Kyoto (our first time), Kawa-san’s youngest son was pressed into service. The young man had been convinced to carry our baggage as far as Osaka, at which point he was free to continue to his university in Hyogo prefecture. He is a polite young man and appeared to have no hesitation in fulfilling his duty. Of course, my mother and I suspected that at his age he probably had better things to do. We would arrive at Osaka before noon.

My mother is especially clever.

On our train ride to Osaka, we spoke English to Ryo-chan. I would have translated if he needed, but he didn’t require my help. I was twenty years old when I met him (he was just a baby) and we were busy convincing him to come to America, because, after all, he was already twenty. My mother asked him some key questions.

“Have you ever tried American food? Have you ever had a hamburger?” she asked.

“No, no,” he replied, “never tried hamburger.”

“You must come to America and try a hamburger,” my mother explained.

There was a pause. My mother leaned to me and asked me.

“Do you remember when we were in Osaka in 1994? You and your father required that we eat at the Hard Rock Café Osaka. Do you remember that?”

“I wouldn’t have remembered if you hadn’t mentioned it.”

“Well, I remember it because I came all the way to Japan and there I was with you, who had been living here for six months and your father who had been living in India for over a year and you both wanted a hamburger. I come all the way to Japan and I have to eat a hamburger!”

“Sorry,” I replied (and probably rolled my eyes too).

“We are taking Ryo-chan to Hard Rock Café. He is a rock star and has never had American food. It is perfect!” my mother exclaimed.

We briefly explained the plan to our Japanese friend and he began researching it on his Internet phone. He studied his phone carefully. After awhile, I couldn’t help but ask.

“So, do you think we can get there, Ryo-chan?”

“Oh, yes, we can get there,” he replied with great certainty. “We can get there. No problem.”

“Great. Then you know where it is.”

“No, I have no idea.”

He didn’t have any idea. He had never heard of it. But, he could tell by the description that it was an American oasis. It would be very cool. He found it. My mother fed him like any mother would feed a starving child. It is the international language of love. She fed him like she knew Kawa-san had taken care of me so many years ago.

I think it was after 3:30pm when we finally left lunch.

Those are the lunches that count.

And, those are the people that count. Of course, we managed to spend several days in Kyoto and never see anything famous. Well, except a budding rock star, and what is better than that?

Mom with 'famous rock star' from Rad Bandary.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy 2010 !

This is our annual New Years' cake. The children make it on Dec 31st, and then enjoy eating 'year old' cake the next day. We also listen to everyone's New Years' resolutions.

Andrew will bike the entire length of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park trail.

Gladys will eat foods from all different countries.

George will eat cake.

I will cheerfully haul three children (many times) to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park trail, make foods from different countries and, of course, eat more cake. (George is such a sweet boy).

Yes, I have other resolutions as well. Since my glass seems is neither half full nor half empty, but rather 'overfloweth,' I think I will focus on doing less.

In fact, I think I'll start right now.

Excuse me as I go giggle myself to sleep.

Friday, January 1, 2010

MIT Mommy, this is your life

This was my life – as it re-appeared in 2009.

I found my best friend from high school.

I suppose with Facebook this is not a huge shock to anyone besides me. I found her on Facebook. There she was. I hadn’t really spoken with her since 1993. I feel like we are friends as if the past 17 years were merely a week spent in Florida.
Did you ever see that show?? That was 2009 for me. My past came up and grabbed me by the neck.

Thankfully, I have had a rather nice life so far. It turned out to be a rather shocking bear hug.

I remembered that feeling of giddy love.

Do you remember that feeling of falling in love? Can you put yourself back there? The truth is that I can’t really shoehorn myself into the jeans I wore then. But, somehow, driving down the same road, and breaking a Ford truck, brought me back. Yes. It was very nice, and now I am back in Ohio reminding myself that the best smoke comes from long-burning coals. (smile)

I said ‘goodbye’ to my host father (and enjoyed the laughter of my host mother)

When I was 17 years old, I spent 12 weeks in Japan with a host family in Kobe. As I explained to my children, I went back in the day when we didn’t have things like email. I spoke to my parents once all summer. We sent letters. Do you remember letters? My host family didn’t speak English particularly. Those were incredible days, and even more rewarding now that I can know my host mother as an adult. Since my host father passed away last September, I could only visit his grave. There is something poetic about pouring water over someone’s grave in a drowning rainstorm.

It needed to be done and it felt good.

I visited the most beautiful view in the world with my host aunt and uncle.

Yeah, she was the beautiful one in the pink kimono at my wedding. She is the woman who mentioned to me in my kitchen in Hiroshima that I should stay in Japan to have my children, where it is safe and she could help me. The sea in front of her home bore the first fish that I ever ate raw. I remember playing a counting game with my ‘cousins’ at her home because my Japanese was poor, but at least I could count. That was part of my summer in 1987.

I returned to ‘home base’ in Kyoto.

When I was in college, I spent a summer in Kyoto. From my small apartment each morning, I would lace on my Nike’s and explore the city. My boss’ family, Kawa-san’s family, became my second host family in Japan. They welcomed me as if I had never left. I strolled in with such comfort I nearly forgot my manners.

I visited my work friends in Hiroshima.

I should really say that they visited me. The young woman who picked me up at the ANA Hotel Hiroshima in February 1994 now has a child the same age as Gladys. We have kept in touch a little and she arranged a dinner for me at a restaurant in Hiroshima. I thought that maybe one or two old friends might appear – there were 9 of us. In 1995, the director of our technical center died of cancer. We all remember him well. Everyone in the room had worked with him. Unexpectedly, the son of our former director appeared at the restaurant and joined us.

I rediscovered the world’s biggest smile at the world’s most beautiful shrine.

In Hiroshima, I also worked with clients. Two of them (and their families) greeted me like a lost friend. The one family and my husband and I used to go camping together in Japan. We would tent came by the sea and then enjoy the local hot springs and spas.

My other client and I worked together for a number of years. I recall one particular trip when he and I traveled back to America together on business in November. Since I did not have family in Michigan as most ex-pats did, we stayed in the same hotel and socialized after work. One evening, he joined me for dinner and complained that his children were nagging him about what he would bring them from America.

“Oh, that is easy,” I laughed, “tell them that you are a busy man and you haven’t the time for such things on this trip.”

He raised an eyebrow, and then he laughed too. The next morning he greeted me with the news that his children understood that he must work hard to support the family. He hasn’t time for shopping! The next day, we visited Walmart. He and I carted a full artificial Christmas tree and all the trimmings back to Japan, just in time for Christmas. I only wish I could have seen their faces.

I visited my mentor at MIT.

I hadn’t been back to MIT in about 10 years or so, but in so many ways it hasn’t changed. After a brief email exchange a few weeks before my trip announcing my intention to stop by, I searched for her office on campus. When I arrived at the top of the stairs, the rooms stood recently abandoned. I found her, finally, and enjoyed a morning of good conversation and introductions to colleagues.

That was my life that re-appeard to me in 2009. The very best of that life, I will bring with me into 2010.