Monday, September 28, 2009

Oceans Apart, (Day after Day)*

Living across the world from where I was just a few months ago I occasionally feel a sense of displacement. On the one hand I feel very grounded and rooted in my life here, but on the other, I can't shake the sense that something is missing. I was recently reminded that it's time for the rice harvest. This means that it's been almost a year since we left for Japan to help my father-in-law with the rice harvest. I can't believe it! We won't be there for the harvest this year, and as a result I have that sense of displacement, "How could I almost forget?!" Likewise, I keep thinking, "Is it almost time for the olives yet?" It's too early but I can't wait until we hear from my mother-in-law that they're ready to be picked.

In that vein of thinking about how we integrate our cross-cultural partners and lives, I've been reading some interesting articles in the paper lately and wonder if you've seen these stories? The first story is about a pair who has been living in the U.S. for several years and would like to stay in New Hampshire operating their authentic French bakery but the U.S. government assessed the bakery and its profits as marginal and therefore made the lady's application for an extension on her work/investor's visa ineligible . The people of the town essentially lobbied the State Department - writing letters etc. saying that this small business was more than "marginal" to their community. I found it touching and think I'd do the same. How wonderful would it be to have an authentic French bakery in your little community and why would you want to chase that away?

The second story is about a newly married couple right here in the Pacific Northwest, he's American and she's Canadian and they're currently unable to live together in one country.

What I find most frustrating about both stories is that there's such a tangle of legal....stuff. The boundaries that exist among nations are often arbitrary, although in some cases there are natural geographic constructs (like rivers, mountains, etc.) that act as dividers. It just seems like all of these problems could be easily avoided or resolved if we didn't have these rules. Naturally it's easy for me to say all this, and I'm clearly biased as all of this legal stuff occasionally makes things challenging for my husband and I and especially my daughter who, as things stand right now, will be forced to choose between her Japanese and American citizenship statuses once she is 22 years old.

Having said all of this, I should also emphasize that I'm in no hurry to give up my American citizenship. While that might simplify things in some ways (if my husband and daughter and I were all Japanese citizens) I just can't wrap my head around revoking a status that really feels like a part of my identity. In other words, it's not just that I'd choose not to be Japanese, I don't think I'd feel able to adopt the citizenship of any other nation either. Maybe there really is something to the notion of national identity and boundaries after all?

If you had to revoke your citizenship in order to become a citizen of another country would you (i.e. no dual citizenship allowed)? What if that was the only way for you to be with your partner/spouse?

*Yes I was a Richard Marx fan once upon a time. Don't mock.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cry Me a Puddle

Anthropologa has this post about crying and how one survey of women revealed that we cry an average of 2.24 hours per week. Whoa. Sounds like an awful lot to me.

Yet, I'm pretty free with the tears. I just need to see someone else crying and that's enough to set me off. Lately, I'm feeling like I'm on the verge of tears even more often. I'm convinced it has to do with the wacky hormones. I feel this...imbalance. And since I can't write anything else here without feeling like I'm *always* writing about how badly I want Baby #2, etc. I'm going to do some posting at my old blog on occasion. Because clearly, I need the outlet.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Multi-cultural books for toddlers

Before I forget I thought I'd list a few of my favorite multicultural books. In an effort to present Peanut with a variety of books depicting kids of all colors, races and ethnicities, I'm constantly on the lookout for books and stories that are quality materials. Here's a sampling of what we've found recently:

Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
The story is simple and sweet and perfectly geared for a toddler or preschooler. Amazing illustrations. I want to find all the books by this illustrator. The colors are vibrant and the child is adorable.

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Beautiful story about all the everyday things that babies do - depicts babies of all colors from all kinds of families. Wonderful illustration of the many shapes and colors of babies as well as they families with which they live.

Where is Baby's Bellybutton? by Karen Katz
I love the simplicity of this book. In the board book format it only has about 6 pages total, but each one has a lift the flap and depicts children of different colors. My daughter has loved this book since she was maybe 6 months old. She's almost too old for it now (at 1 1/2) but many of Katz's works appear to be similarly illustrated and worth checking out.

Baby Faces by DK Publishing
This board book is a simple collection of baby photos paired with a word ("happy") or short phrase ("peek-a-boo"). Adorable. And babies love photos of other babies making this an almost sure-fire hit with little ones. Peanut *loves* this book. The words are too easy for her, but I think she's more interested in studying the photos and expressions on the faces of the babies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesdays of Grace

There's an old saying that goes something like this:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.

In the spirit of this saying, I want to encourage more grace - and by this I mean acts of kindness. I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer once saying that acts of kindness actually improve our immune systems and can make us feel good physically as well as emotionally. Additionally those who witness an act of kindness (not just the giver and receiver but the by-standers!) are said to benefit as well. Isn't that just one more amazingly inspirational reason to do something nice?!

There's a lot of space on the web for sharing our emotions and purging our secrets, venting our frustrations, etc. I rely on my blog for that comfortable and non-judgmental space. But I also think that there's a missed opportunity here. Why shouldn't we also use our space for the sharing of good things? What I'm hoping to do is start a series of Tuesday posts wherein we use the comments of the post to share good deeds and random act of kindness. Hopefully, just reading the kind acts performed by others will be enough to lift the spirits of *all* of us.

I encourage everyone to use anonymous commenting since the desire and intent to do something kind shouldn't be judged in any way ("Oh she's always doing things like this. What a goody two-shoes." or conversely, "So and so never comments here. Doesn't she like to do kind things?"). I'm sure all of you who are regulars would never indulge in this kind of petty thinking, but I'm hoping that new readers and commentors will join in and I want to be clear about having some ground rules and expectations.

So tell me, what act of kindness have you performed on this Tuesday?

Note: If you ever need any ideas, you can always check out Help Others.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aki Matsuri

You are all wonderful and encouraging friends! I don't feel like such a dolt - unable to balance the needs of others in my family and feeling selfish for wanting to cram 36 hours into each single day hoping for more time with all of them!

Things have evened out a bit. Mom and Dad depart tomorrow. We've been all over in the last week or so. We spent several days in Leavenworth, WA enjoying the sunshine, sausages, and goats that live across from the hotel. Peanut *loves* goats and couldn't get enough of them! On our way home, we stopped near Wenatchee at a farm stand where we stocked up on tons of fresh peaches and apples and corn. There were lots of activities for little kids and since Peanut was the only kid around, she had the place to herself. We had an impromptu picnic and have been gobbling up the last days of beautiful summer weather along with her bounty!

Today we're hoping to head over to the local Aki Matsuri - a fall fair or festival celebrating performing arts, crafts and martial arts from Japan. There's even an enka performance at 4pm. Peanut *loves* enka!! She's like a 60 year old man trapped inside the body of a toddler. Additionally, I'd love for my parents to get to experience some of the Japanese cultural activities there as they've only been to Japan once and I don't expect that they'll visit again anytime soon.

As for me...while I've been terrible about practicing any Japanese or calligraphy since we've been back in the U.S., I find myself longing for bits and parts of our life there. Several of you suggested it might happen (the whole "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome that is) but I truly couldn't see it coming. Now I'm looking forward to a bit of Japan again. No sushi please. I like sushi but I had more than enough during our last stay there! But some tempura, a little enka, and a taiyaki would be more than welcome!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Too much of a good thing

Maybe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Although if you had asked me one week ago if that was possible I would have firmly asserted that this is impossible. But here I am in the late hours listening to Peanut wail as she struggles once again to sleep. It was a long night last night (read: we were awake for 3+ hours straight during the middle of the night) and here we are again. I think the excitement of having her grandparents here is contributing to some weirdness in the sleep department.

As for me personally, I am struggling to meet the needs of all involved. My father has well and truly lost his hearing and although he has finally admitted that he needs hearing aids, he hasn't yet taken steps to get any. This means that everything must be repeated at least twice for him, and there is a great deal of yelling in our house. At times this is comical, for instance when Peanut asks Grampa for juice and looks at him as though he hung the moon while he in return stares at her blankly. At other times, I just find it all to be a bit exhausting and sad. It is difficult to watch one's parents age. Additionally, it is frustrating to me that although he served both in the military police and the local police department for his entire career (and therefore spent ample time on the gun range to possibly have contributed to his hearing loss) neither the Veteran's Administration or police department is apparently willing to contribute a great deal towards the hearing aids. *sigh*

It's also difficult to continue to balance the needs of my husband when weighed against those of my parents. My folks would love to spend time with all of us (me, Peanut and Gboy) but my husband would like time alone with me now and then as well. I'm torn as I would like to spend as much time as possible (of the little time that I get with them) with my parents. It's a pickle.

In the end, we'll all survive it and have fun doing it, I'm sure. But the late nights and low sleep are once again wreaking a bit of havoc on my fuzzy brain and making it hard for me to think clearly.

Also, why must drunk people staggering home late at night make so much noise? Each time Peanut seems to quiet, they scream or squeal and set her off again. Argh.