Friday, 23 September 2011

In Australia ;-))

I am here.
A beuuuutiful little beach resort called Palm Cove, about 30 mins north of Cairns.
Sitting with a raspberry muffin and cream, and chai latte - looking out at the beach and the ocean.

This is the holiday I have been promising myself for the past 3 years - thru all the shit with Okaasan coming to live with us, thru all the disasters and sadness with my father and step-mum, thru my own health problems.
"When all of this is over, I will have a holiday - a beach, where I will sleep and read and eat and swim..

And here I am finally.

The final few days before holiday were the expected rush of Things I Must Do Before, and then I said goodbye to Okaasan - sorry, you and Yujiro are on your own for a week, I am away to Australia.....she looked SO excited about that idea that I feared she would jump up and follow me out the door to the airport.

But it twas I who escaped.
Ducking Typhoon 15 which blew across Japan in the 24 hours before I left.
Battling through all the crowds of the typhoon-delayed flights.
Realizing with horror at Narita that I had neither; a) a visa for Australia or b) a reentry permit for Japan!!!. I hadn"t thought about either, and as I''d booked the trip myself on the Internet nobody had mentioned it to me....
Luckily Narita Airport JTB travel desk and immigration office could sort me out - otherwise I would face a lonely future caught in Tom Hanks-like stateless limbo in the Narita Terminal 2.

But finally the JetStar plane nosed up and out of cold, rainy Tokyo and away to breezy, sunny Australia.

I"m not going to blog from'"s a holiday.....but I AM here and fine.

Time to catch up on myself.

(and now time to go and try on the new swim suit and shave my legs before I make my beach debut....)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Weeding. With help.

Popo prepares to attack the weeds.

But gets sidetracked...

So comfy!

Bugger the weeding.

neko nabe contender.

Surveying the weeding results.

After weeding.

Cucumber and green pepper given another 2 weeks of life.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Rainy days and Mondays.......

Long holiday weekend in Japan...and it rains. Of course.
The weeds have taken control of key points in the garden and the flowers are holed up in safe places making angry denouncements to the world media.
The UN needs to send me in to attempt rescue. I may have to parachute in behind the petunia and do hand to hand combat.

Spent a lot of time watching videos and funny YouTube videos. Doing a major shopping run to COSTCO, going to the gym, haircut, vets etc etc etc.

The cat is ok - although the wound looks....wound-like...he is licking his wound and feeling better, yesterday he dragged home a huge, fluttery moth - I think it was 6 cm in diameter.

Meanwhile my body is obviously in need of a holiday RIGHT NOW - because I have a nasty eye inflation again....all bloodshot and gungy....recently I haven't been so healthy at all, stomach problems, eye problems, the tooth saga, a rash.....all pretty indicative I believe that I should be treating myself a lot better. By sitting on a beach with a cocktail.

Although....this doesn't look good....Typhoon No. 15 that's been hanging out over Okinawa for days now looks like it'll be heading to Narita airport in time for my 9.35 pm flight Thursday. Oh joy! And the weather forecast for Cairns is....cloudy and rainy next weekend....oh joy...

Okaasan stayed home a lot with the rain. We fed her and gave her chat around the table. Recently I notice she drops food a lot, or tries to pick up difficult things with only chopsticks. At the Couch Surfing guests dinner last week Okaasan was struggling for ages to try and push a large plate into a small cupboard - instead of tilting the plate to make it fit she went on and on pushing it against the glass door...little things are a little bit harder for her.

Family Dinner chat is ok. Yujiro can just talk and talk and Okaasan can sit and listen and make agreeing/surprising/understanding sounds.
In November he'll be away for a week and I'll be on full-time Oyomesan duties - I wonder how much Okaasan will be able to fill out conversations with me this time around? A year ago she could, if I gave her the cue words such as Kawagoe/wartime/food/crab/river/school/Korean food/New York/Africa/Hong Kong - she was usually able to be off and away on one of her hamster-wheel stories. But I wonder this year - has her conversation ability declined?

Today is Respect Old People day in Japan.....yes welll....I shall be respecting my peace of mind by putting food out on the kitchen table for Okaasan and strategically going out myself to have lunch away from her....any meal a deux with Okaasan feels like work and I avoid it if at all possible. She doesn't know what day it is today and whether I am working or not. So food on the table and a quiet exit is in order.

and...shhhh!!!! look what is growing outside the front door again!!! look! Don't think it will flower now, too late and cool in Hokkaido...but it is growing again.:-))

***  The Wonder of Blogging - this weekend I was happily on the inside of a wonderful surprise for a fellow-gaijin-woman-in-Japan blogger (aka Gaijinwife ). A feisty Kiwi lady in south Japan...who is having a hard time this year. Through Facebook I was linked in to plans by people who know her in non-blogging life - to raise some money and give her a bottle of wine and a message from us all! In the end more than 50 ? people donated over Y200,000.........a bottle of wine with a specially designed label listing all the donors and more than enough left over for airticket to New Zealand etc.
This blogging is so amazing - that people you have never met feel a close connection to you. Incredible heart-warming stuff.

I am now off to do some weeding. I may be gone some time.

Friday, 16 September 2011


Okaasan EATS so much!

We always aim for dinner at 7 pm.

Last night I walked into the kitchen at 6.20 pm and found her sitting on the sofa in her room with a plastic box of rice dumplings on sticks smothered in sweet bean paste...scoffing them down.

It's funny for a woman who is always says she is so careful and about what she eats and how much she eats and when she eats!

I was out for Family Dinner because of work - but Yujiro said later that of course she wasn't very hungry for the food he cooked and served.

I am sure Okaasan has put on weight since she came to live with us - partly the food we cook and make sure she eats, but also the eating at all times and when she sees something she likes.....I hope when I am 81 years old I have the same abandon.

Hell - maybe I do now anyway.
Just came away from another dentist trip and I'm sitting here eating chocolates to comfort myself.
One more dentist trip to go before I fly away from all of this next Thursday afternoon.....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


R.I.P.  - my ovaries a.k.a The Yubari Melon Monster.

A year ago my left ovary was an unwelcome star of this blog and I went into hospital to have both left and right ovaries whipped out. Thankfully non-cancerous.

Today is a beautiful, late-summer sunny day in Sapporo and I am sitting in my classroom just round the corner from the KKR Hospital - this time last year I was sitting up there in the Women's Health ward, anxiously waiting and waiting to be taken off to surgery.

All well here - I am about to enter the final week of work before my holiday. The dentist visits are ongoing - but he has found the correct dosage of how to sedate a large, emotional non-Japanese woman and the cat is still wearing his bandage as he jumps around the neighborhood after bugs in the grass and birds on trees. Just hoping he doesn't meet the fox again - we saw it at 3.30 pm the other day! Merrily trotting along under the subway line in the grass area....amazing to see a city fox out in daylight.

Okaasan is doing ok - no hula dance outings, but she is going for late afternoon walks and doing some of the washing up in the kitchen. This morning Yujiro managed to get her out early enough to go to the dentist for a check up. It takes her ages to get bathed and dressed for going out - and she often gets to the front door wearing slightly off choices of clothes or out of season outfits.

I've finished rereading "And Still The Music Plays" (see side panel to the right) - which made me think I should TRY to be more understanding and kinder with Okaasan. Try.
As I cleaned her room this morning - safe in the knowledge that she was at the dentist's - I did it with the thought: "well, it doesn't matter if she has 3 years of magazines all over the place here, it isn't harming anyone and maybe seeing all these magazines gives her some kind of comfort."
The book is full of tales of dementia sufferers and their carers coping with increasingly strange or difficult behaviour - and the author's attempts to try and find out WHY the patients are acting like this.
Okaasan makes endless lists of information about cooking programs and food, and she screws up balls of newspaper and keeps them in plastic bags, and she has underwear everywhere...
I should be grateful that she isn't digging up all the rocks in the garden or following us around the house or shouting at strangers.
Regular incontinence, a messy room and passivity in conversation are things we can deal with. celebrate having no ovaries - well actually the date is just a coincidence - tonight Yujiro and I are going to Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo for a Night Zoo Visit event. Guided walk round the zoo with the staff, dinner and wine and candles etc etc.....a little bit expensive for us (Y6,000 each!), but it is an event organised by one of my old students Saori Abe and sounds like a lot of fun!
Here is a link to a similar event in June....
The rain has finally stopped and I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting experience to visit a zoo at dusk....yippeeee!!!!

Anyway - better go to the gym now and work off some calories, then home to feed cats and Okaasan....and then off to the Zoooooooooo!!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Personal best :-)

Had myself a nice, quiet day - to reflect on a 1 year since Jane, my step-mum died.

And marked the occasion by - climbing the local hill for the first time in THREE whole years.

Mount Moiwa, overlooking Sapporo city, is actually only 531 m. high, so "mountain" it ain't. But it's the most popular local hike. I used to do this twice or three times a week before classes - swarming up it in 40-50 mins on a good day, cheerily saying "konichiwa!" to other climbers and on speaking terms with other regulars. Experiencing the seasons from Moiwa.
Of course I used to climb all sorts of hills and real mountains - it was one of my great loves - all over Hokkaido the muddy trails and volcanic rocks, the views, the silence - mountain climbing.
I climbed all over, but Mount Moiwa here in the city was the home ground

That was three years ago.
Then boyfriend's mother came to live with us, we prepared for her coming, we moved to a part of the city further away from Moiwa...and then I buggered up my knee cartiledge...and spent two years with much, much smaller walking goals: the subway station, the supermarket, the Home Care center, downtown shops, the park, the subway stairs....
My whole world got smaller, more domestic, hemmed in. I doubt I will ever climb a volcano again.

I was back on Moiwa. In a small way, but back.
Only 15 minutes up to the big tree where the squirrels play, followed by a very careful 15 minutes down.
But I did it.

And after that I took myself to a cute local cafe with a garden and ordered up a strawberry and cranberry cheesecake with coffee, and sat there with the newspapers...and relaxed.

And then I came home to Oyomesan life again - the burned pans in the kitchen where Okaasan had heated up rice and egg for her lunch, the laundry, the cat ripping at his bandage...and I picked flowers in the garden and put them in the flower vase that step-mum Jane always had in the entrance hall of her home - and I sat and read newspapers, watched TV and prepared an easy family dinner.

People say, and I think now it IS true: when your parents die you realize that now...from now on - this IS your life. You become a real adult somehow. Of course you are an adult from the moment you start work, pay taxes, get married, have kids etc etc - but the psychological "adult" starts when you are no longer someone's child. Every decision you make will be yours, for good and for bad.

I had 4 parents, two real and two step. Mum, Peter, Dad and Jane. Now they are all gone and somehow this 1st year anniversary of Jane's death leaves me sad of course, but kind of calm inside.

Onwards, onwards, onwards...............

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Memories. September 11th.

The world remembers 9/11 today.

My 9/11 memory is waking up in Japan and hearing Yujiro say from the living room: "Come and look at the Tv, maybe you can't go to Hawaii next week, there are plane crashes in New York...look!".
And we watched, and watched and watched.
And 5 days later I climbed on a nearly empty plane from Nagoya to Hawaii. Dad and Jane's plane was one of the first Europe-U.S. planes to fly, and they managed to fly London to L.A. to Hawaii.
The three of us had a very surreal family holiday in Hawaii - deserted holiday resorts, while the aftermath of the horror of it all unfolded on the hotel TV.

This is also the day I heard a year ago that Jane, my step-mum had died peacefully at her home in the UK, after 2 years of dramas and sadness.
Jane, my step-mum.

I was sitting outside on the doorstep pulling weeds from the flowerbed - nursing my huge stomach with the multiplying ovaries and 2 days away from entering hospital - when Yujiro called me into the house to read the just arrived e mail from my step-aunt.....


So. Today is a day to do something nice. I should do weeding - which Jane would probably feel an appropriate activity in fact! - but maybe I'll go off and do something better...

Last night we had a successful Guests Coming to Dinner evening with Okaasan. She didn't climb out the living room window and head for the hills in terror at all.
This week's Couch Surfer is Tom, a 23 year old British university student who is about to do a year of study at a university in Sapporo. He's waiting for his university room to be available and staying in my English classroom for a week.
So he came to dinner with his Japanese uni friend Ayaka - so two nice, young, Japanese speaking people....I decided to risk it with Okaasan and invited them to come for Family Dinner.
Actually a success: Ayaka was a very polite young woman and OMG!!! - she came from Saitama!!! = so she and Okaasan had something in common :-)) Saitama! Train stations! Shop names! Oh joy.

Okaasan slipped into hostess-mode - chatting brightly ( a little repetition), fighting Ayaka away from the dish washing and making Japanese tea for everyone, and doing the dishes while the young people talked...she spent years hosting people like this and you can see what she once was - Yujiro's Dad was an accountant and then senior manager in some kind of company....and they hosted the staff to parties at their home (in the days when Japanese bosses paternally invited staff to abandon their own families and come watch his wife work hard).

So. That was a success. Okaasan enjoyed that visitors coming experience.

Other stuff?
Well, tired really.
I haven't had a full night's sleep all week.
Popo has made a big recovery with the infected wound. He is fighting to get the bandage off and I am seeing a lot of the young vet as we try to fashion enough bandages to cover the operation wound. Mid-week Popo switched from looking like a Sumo Cat to Egyptian Mummy mode.
The main problem? Night time. Of course we don't want the cats to be out at night and meet the stray-with-fangs again. So we are locking them inside.
Oh......the miowing! scratching...catterwauling.............feline whinging....YOWL!!! YOWL! 

TWO cats get up about 2 am or 3 am and try to open all the windows, fight with the gate at the bottom of the stairs, yowl mournfully, pace up and down the bedroom....yowl some more.
Yujiro sleeps through it all.
I don't. I hurl cushions, bottles of moisturiser from the bedside table, socks....
And finally at 5 am I get up.

I love the two cats. But. Once Tom has gone off to his university room next week I will probably go to my classroom and try and get a good night's sleep....I'm just about functioning every day...

At this rate I will get to Australia IN TWO WEEKS TIME!!!!! and sleep. Great Barrier Reef tour ??? Nah...just sleep.

And talking of which.....Australia that is.
My friend in Melbourne has just realized that my last day is Australian Football Finals day! She and husband are planning a barbie at home with a big screen TV and friends, MeatLoaf is the pre-game entertainment, and two teams I've never heard of, in a sport I have no idea about will be battling it out with a whole country going crazy...

I can't wait. Sounds like a wonderful last-day-in-Australia. A real cultural eye-opener :-)

Oh - but sorry, yes, nobody will be in any shape to take me to the airport early on the Sunday morning!!!!! Well, of course. No problem. I've booked myself an airport hotel, where drink footy fans will probably be rampaging up and down the corridors.

So the cats are only getting me in training for all of that....

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Hula hoops.

Dear Son is looking for the hula solution for Okaasan.

How to ease the terrible panic about the performance days that her group does three times a year.
She can't, of course, learn the new dances and little by little gets negative about going to the class as they practice in the weeks...and months...before the performance at the community center.

We want her to continue hula as long as possible because:
a) she enjoys it and is good at it to a certain hobby level,
b) exercise is good for her
c) meeting classmates is the only social interaction she has all week apart from us.

We checked out some other community center classes and asked if THEY did performance days too....and then Yujiro talked to the current class' teacher...poor woman must be glad to hear that we'll keep Okaasan away from this Sunday's performance so she won't have to design a group performance around hiding Okaasan in the back row - she can let her ladies shine equally.

But interestingly, the teacher said Okaasan always volunteers to join the performance days - even though there is ANOTHER class member always declines and doesn't join. 
Why? Why doesn't Okaasan sit-it-out with that woman?
I guess, of course, that Okaasan doesn't want to feel she can't do it...and doesn't want to sit out the practice sessions with the other woman...but as the weeks go on and the practice gets more intense...her confidence declines and then we get into the "I don't like hula, I wanna quit hula".

Yujiro thinks to tell Okaasan directly that she can just sit out the performances with another classmate. I don't think that solves anything. 
He can say that NOW, and she'll agree NOW. But in a few months time as they start to practice for yet another performance day....she won't want to sit out of practices or admit she can't do it. 
And so it all starts again.

Ho hum. The hula hoops we go through on all of this.
Okaasan has so little going on in her life - so little that she can do and enjoy with other people - we really expend a lot of energy on this topic.

*  Okaasan Cute: I got Yujiro to write a sign for our entrance hall door for Okaasan: "Don't open the door and let the cat in or out."
We are trying to limit Popo's outside trips, so that he goes under escort case crows attack an injured animal or he gets into another fight...very hard with two cats and three doors.
We put up the notice this morning. Sometimes Okaasan "helps" by opening a door for a cat and it would be awful if Popo got out unaccompanied.

I came home and Okaasan asked: "That sign on the door, is it OK if I open the door to go out? Should I stay inside?"
Cute!!!!  She really wondered if she should never open the door? Stay home until told it is ok?
I giggled and joked with her that SHE is healthy and can go out on her own...the cat can't.

Thankgoodness the cat doesn't do hula, it would rip up his stitches something awful.
HE is making a big recovery - stitches out today and noticably angry at having to go to the vet. Last week he was all sad and panicky. Today healthily angry about it.

*...and! and....I got emails from the holiday apartments in Australia...about airport pickup etc and the bakery is open from 7 am...and ..and...YES. I am going on holiday 2 weeks from tomorrow.....yes...yes...yes....

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


1 hour of pain. Tears. Squeaking. Squirming.
He was trying to measure how deep my teeth nerves were...

Oh. And two typhoons heading our way.

I live under those UTC letters.

Oh and Okaasan's comment on Tooth Drama: "That's a shame. You know, if you don't eat for a few days things heal themselves".

I nearly killed her.

Bright news: Popo the cutest cat in the world is eating and shitting and playing again.
So, THAT's alright then.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Caring for the afflicted.

A sloooow weekend at home as the slowest typhoon ever edged sloooowly toward Japan.....and the rain went on and on and on and on and on......

Just as well really. Needed a quiet weekend to be home and take care of things.

Popo - Yujiro and I took him to the vet again and this time got to see the bite wound that is causing all the trouble. The vet gently peeled and clipped away the sumo belt to reveal a hairless flank and three bite punctures. Redressed it all and sent us home with Recuperation Food and medicine.
We are all sleeping better and our daytime is spent monitoring our little neko-chan (cat) as he sloooowly eases himself around the house.
"He's drinking water!" "He's looking out the window!" "He's eaten two dried pellets!" "He's climbed down the stairs!" "He's walked onto the front door step!"

I had flashbacks to myself in hospital last September - when just sitting up, then swinging my legs down from the bed, walking to the ward toilet, walking to the hallway toilet, walking to the dayroom - everything seemed a "first".

Anyway - Popo does seem to be slowly making a recovery. But nightime open windows will be thing of the past from now on. We must make sure that both cats are home and safe from the local stray. I have learnt that lesson very well this week, seeing this baby so hurt and sad.
Thankgoodness this happened now and not near my Australian holiday - it would be very hard to leave Yujiro with a sick cat...

Maybe I feel ok...

Okaasan - caring for the Okaasan too. Days of rain meant she hasn't been out  either. So yesterday we did another Family Outting. Stimulate her brain and legs.
Took her to one of the big shopping malls - walked around the shops a bit and ate sushi for lunch.
Okaasan brought some Tshirts for dry cleaning - because she always wants to go to the dry cleaning shop near the old apartment. 
So we made a detour round to that we pulled up outside the drycleaning shop: "Oh, we used to live here! I used to come to this shop!"
"Err, yes, you ASKED to come to this shop today. That's why we are here!"
"Did I? We came here for me? Oh yes, this cleaning!"
And in she went.....

Later at the sushi bar, Okaasan and Yujiro ordered and ate their way through huge bowls of crab miso soup, picking out the crab meat and chatting happily about it all. We sat at the counter eating plates of sushi.
"The crab soup hasn't come has it? Did we order it yet?"
"Did I eat it already? I did didn't I?!"

While I was sitting on the doorstep monitoring Popo's garden chair adventure I started rereading one of my books about dementia - "And Still the Music Plays" by Graham Stokes, personal stories of patients from a clinical psychologist. He writes interestingly about how early stage dementia patients cope with their failings and inabilities - the list making, the excuses for forgetting, the withdrawing from social interaction, the fixed, safe disturbing those patterns that sufferers create for themselves can worsen the condition.

I thought about Okaasan's table full of bits of paper and notes, the comments about weather and shopping and food, the reluctance to engage with visitors and the routine of Going to Seicomart and Drinking a Coffee at 5 pm.
We have created a very safe life for Okaasan here - and that's good.

Do I feel well?

Friday, 2 September 2011


Oh - why not?

Let's throw in root canal work on the remaining 30% of my back tooth.

Two hours of root canal work on a wet windy Friday afternoon and booked up from now to Australia...and beyond spend lots of time with my dentist.

And I can't even drink some alcohol tonight to drown it all out.

Better have dinner with Yujiro and Okaasan and see if THAT cheers me up!

**  But I caught up with awful, far sadder news on Gaijin Wife's blog this troubles are tiny, little ones. Thinking of you Gaijin Wife.

Any OTHER problems we can cram in here?

I'm going to work today for a break from all my problems:

Popo the sumo wrestler.

1)  Popo.
It was a long, long night with him and Chichi, and me and Yujiro all getting up and down and moving around. I think I had about 3 hours sleep. 
Popo cried in pain and walked slowly from bed to cupboard, and back to bed, and behind the door, and under the 3 am he was walking better and drank some water and nosed around a few dry snacks. Visited the old toilet box...which had no toilet sand in it......and then tipped it over on the surrounding carpet....He is wearing a sumo-style bandage around the operation place.....
His brother was not so sympathetic....a bit of nose to nose sniffing, but obviously doesn't like the smells of operation/wound/hospital. Chichi was noisily desperate to go outside in the first heavy rain of the approaching 4 am I finally let him out.

2)  My tooth.
Off to the dentist finally this afternoon. Something split or fell out on Sunday...and today is the first time my dentist can see me. Back bottom tooth has maybe fallen away from the filling? i'm eating on one side and having to do deep tooth pick work to keep the whole area feels like the Ridgeback Mountains in my mouth.

3)  I am wearing one of Okaasan's diapers.
Yup. You read that correctly.
Sitting here wearing a diaper.
I've had a few stomach problems this week....but suddenly after breakfast (coffee and cerial)....all hell broke..... loose.....I didn't make it to the toilet in we had to wash carpet tiles and sofa cover and my clothes...and was all horriblly like my step-mum's problems in her final year of life.
I don't know if this is stress from a night of no sleep - or something worse.

In Japan this week, Gusto, a popular chain of cheap restaurants has been closed after customers all over the north-east got dysentry from the food prepping factory...maybe a staff member's unwashed hands???.
I haven't been to that restaurant. But I remember feeling a bit bloated and strange last Sunday after a convenience store egg sandwich.........

So today.
I have to be home enough to check on the cat and make sure he doesn't try to jump into dangerous places. Yujiro is at a ski instructor license lecture all day. I have two lessons AND a needed dental appointment.
And I am wearing a diaper. 
And it's Friday. So hospitals will be closed tomorrow.

Can we possibly squeeze ANYTHING else into this day?

Squeeeze. Maybe not the best word at the moment.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Not blogging.
Part of my tooth/filling fell out and I have to go to the dentist.

And Popo-chan...our smallest cat is sick. He had a cat fight a week ago with a stray and a tiny tiny bite wound got infected. Now we are doing vets etc etc
He had an operation today - it was worse inside than we all thought - he is home tonight and in pain and we are all sleeping indiffetent places and trying to care for him.

Necrosis of the muscle etc - bad bacteria on his leg stomach mescles in only 5 days.

Poor baby.

blocked off the top of the stiars so he doesnt fall. watching his every move and cry of pain.
Its going to be a long night.