Yokomatsu Family Blog

Hi Everyone! This is our family blog, welcome, sit down, have cuppa and catch up with what we're doing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tour, No Tour

Feeling a bit disappointed, but also a bit relieved, that my tour seems to be coming apart.

Relieved because I was starting to worry about the cost - my goal to pay my visa back in full is proving elusive, partly because of the exchange rate but also just because of stuff, life - things that keep coming up. When I conceived of the tour back in February, I had the extra pay from Daihatsu and the extra classes I was doing, so I was certain it would have been payed back by now.

But also disappointed on a larger scale, since I, silly or not I don't know, kind of conceived of this as the start of something new, a permanent part of my work life, even a new career! Tired of never getting to travel anywhere (the only thing that really interests me longterm) I thought maybe I could recapture lost opportunities by bringing this group, or others, to different places every year. I thought they'd appreciate the chance to travel off-package, with more control or independence, less expense, and with their own private translator to boot.

Ahhh.... Japanese. They like their package tours, they really do!

I at least thought the NZ tour was special - it's the sort of tour *I* would like to take, visiting someone's hometown with them, with a festival going on, personalised invitation-only tours to special places, visiting a family home and attending a family party, a good quality but inexpensive motel, a personal guide who knows the area and can introduce the special, secret places...

The first hitch was K, who brought along a travel agency brochure and said she wanted to also visit Christchurch, Queenstown and Mt. Cook. After I had presented the details of my tour, she had emailed her friend in Christchurch to ask about it, and ask what were the best places to go in NZ. Of course the friend, who lives in Christchurch and probably hasn't even been to the North Island, said Christchurch, Mt. Cook, Queenstown. Typical toursity answer, and not untrue I suppose. K presented it as why would you want to miss out on the best a country had to offer, since this was probably going to be her only chance to go there. I get that in a way, I don't know if I would be happy to go to a small town in New York state for a family birthday party and not get the chance to visit the city! At first I thought I could add a few days, but I miscalculated and realised I couldn't, nor can I afford it. So it was back to plan A.

Then today T showed me a tour she had found. She said her husband said he didn't want to cause me any inconvenience (meiwaku) by having me do all the driving. My protests landed on deaf ears so I can only assume that the truth is that he doesn't trust me, and would prefer the security of a package tour. And actually I have to admit that it's a good one - seven days for 250,000 including hotels, transport and most meals. I have the itinerary beside me, and part of me wants to go too! I would enjoy seeing all those places at least, and being the Kiwi on a Japanese tour of New Zealand would be good for a laugh. But a) it costs too much. My tour worked for me because I could stay at Mum's, get them to cover the car hire, and could expect to charge a gratuity for tour guiding that would pay half my ticket; b) I can't go for a whole week because I have to work on Tuesdays; and c) I would cringe at the waste of money and feel bad that I was paying out so much when I was supposed to be making money out of this and forging a new career!

So at this point in time it looks like it might be squeezed down to just a day or two in the naki, with them after they arrive after doing their South Island tour (if they can finagle the flights, that is, but they probably can't, package tours being generally inflexible). And I wouldn't be able to charge for tour guiding fees since they really would be guests then, so I'd be back to paying for my own ticket. I could take the chance to go back for Mum's birthday but then I'd feel guilty about the fact that it's becoming clear that I won't be able to afford to take the girls for Christmas - my original optimistic plan included all of us going in December - so it's looking more and more like it won't be happening at all. K said today she's not sure if she can go at all. T will go on this tour with her husband and his brother. I will save my cash, go to the mini convention in Huis ten Bosch instead and save my cash to bring my family back to NZ.

That part makes me happy. I was worried about getting too emotional in front of the tour group, returning home after such a long time. I was also afraid I'd feel horribly guilty for not bringing the girls, when they SO want to go. Maybe it's better this way.

A Dream Friday

My dream is to one day, on a sunny Friday afternoon, return home from work and have a glass of wine. 

That sounds very simple, but is in fact very elusive with three hungry, messy children (and one messy, hungry husband) at home waiting for you. 

So... dessert and pie cooked, one laundry load brought in, another folded, another put in the machine, the cat litter changed (and the realisation made that I have some DIY to do in their toilet closet), two kids despatched to Gion gong practice and a third set up at the kitchen table with real, not play, doh and a bunch of cutter (she's decorating our chicken pie) and I finally get a chance to sit down with that drink!

I know that the day will come when I can do just that - come in, sit down, not think of anything else. And I already know that when that day comes, as much as I'll enjoy it, I'll also miss the little darlings, and will probably sit straight down and call them or check their status on whatever social media is the thing then.

I bust my gut to do it now though. I know I've posted about this before, the preparation it takes, going back to menu planning on Thursday morning to get all the shopping done on Thursday afternoon so everything is cooked Friday morning, the running around Friday morning to make things just so at home... and the constant threat of things coming up that stand in your way, an appointment you forgot, a sudden need to buy something, an emergency of some kind.

Well it's done for this week, and I have nothing else to add. Maybe I'll go add to the other blog. I think I did this last week, wrote a post after a few wines. Oh well, maybe one day I'll add some photos to the other days, and it'll be one drunken weekly post and bunch of photos. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwing Things Out


5. Books
4. Skinny Clothes
3. Dead People's Stuff
2. Photographs
1. Stuff That Might Be Useful

This article really resonated with me as I've become significantly more aggressive about my decluttering efforts recently, fuelled partly by sheer frustration at the level of junk we've accumulated in this small house, and partly by the older girls' ideas about going to high school in New Zealand - the realisation that I may only 'have' them for 1.5 to 2.5 years more makes the saving of things they might need, that they use, the just-in-case stuff seem infinitely more useless. The future seems shorter somehow.

4. I can't agree about skinny clothes. Nope. Gonna keep them, dammit, cos I'm going to LOSE IT, dammit! I am! Okay, just the favourites then. Actually I'll probably enjoy getting rid of a lot of it. I haven't done my summer wardrobe overhaul yet this year (I usually go through my clothes twice a year) but I just have a feeling that this year, I'll be more ruthless than usual. I usually like to remove at least one garbage bag, I have a feeling it might be two or three this year...

3. I don't really know about dead people's stuff. Nana had already downgraded a lot in her shift from her home to Mum's, and was never a hoarder anyway. She liked things clean, neat and new. Dad didn't have much stuff to start with, and Mum was not overly sentimental about keeping pointless items like clothes. She wasn't ruthless either, the clothes stayed in the closet for some time. She couldn't understand her friend getting rid of everything the weekend after her husband died. It all went eventually, she just took her time and let it go gently.

As for me, I'd like to think my family would know what to keep and what to lose. You don't need my clothes or shoes or towels or kitchen things (unless you find them convenient or they have nostalgia value to you). Or most of my books and certainly not my papers (not even I want those, but life in modern civilisation forces you to keep a drawer-full of that crap). I'd like to think they'd keep my old treasures and my better jewellery (eek! I'd better sort that out, I would be happy to chuck most of it, but there are a few pieces that either cost more or have more history that I'd like them to keep). I'm already sorting out my treasures by writing a blog about them so the kids always have a record of what they are and what they mean to me, and am starting to put them out around the house so they have actual memories of them, instead of them being just random mysterious junk they found in a cupboard after I died.

1. Stuff that might be useful, hear hear! But... it's a tricky one. The things the article mentions you can't argue about, especially the pertinent point that these things would have been much more use to the world recycled fresh than kept musty and dusty until they are no use to anyone. But living day to day, there are a few things you need to keep around to use. Plastic bags, paper bags, paper clips, rubber bands, bag ties, envelopes and note paper, pencils, erasers, tacs, thread, needles, buttons... I've always been pretty good at keeping a lid on it though - I need newspaper to wrap broken items, but I never have more than six, and usually one or two, not stacks of them. I have a set of 12 tiny drawers (10 x 5 x 5cm) for things like tacs and rubber bands, which is tidy and easy to access and designed so you always have enough and never too much. Sewing things in a sewing box, stationery in a stationery box, pencils etc in a drawer in my desk. I think if you create a space for it, and only use that space, you're doing okay.

But what really got me thinking was the books and photographs. These are two things that, as the article correctly points out, have enormous social value. We've been taught since birth to treasure them. Books are the greatest treasure known to humans. Photos are the first thing we save when the house is on fire, as they are so irreplaceable. How can anyone brought up in modern society view these things as anything other than sacred, and the idea of trashing them as anything other than sacrilege?

5. Life in Japan exacerbated the book maniac in me. It's easy enough to be a bookworm when you have several stores and a LIBRARY always at hand to feed your addiction. Coming to Japan meant facing a sudden and horrifying drought of reading material, begging for hand-me-downs, paying exorbitant postal fees for supplies from home, paying top dollar for new books on rare trips to the big city, and learning to seek out reading material in any place a gaijin was or had been or might be!

Only a few years ago, any AFWJ event or any other occasion when foreigners got together would include a book and magazine exchange, where people would swarm over the new offerings, and snatch up their choices. I would always come home with more than I brought, glorying in my new treasures. Now you're lucky if anyone bothers to look at the pile.

I can trace my changed attitude to books (and magazines, which I also used to treasure inordinately) to late October 2010 when I won the ipad at Tropicoco's Halloween party. It was a first generation ipad, so I was early adopter, and I got an iphone too that year. It didn't take me long to discover the world of electronic books - the endless universe rather, because over those few short years, the provision of digital books has skyrocketed into the ether, to the point now that theoretically, I don't ever have to buy another book ever. With dozens already downloaded to my devices, and hundreds - thousands even - available free or for a few dollars, and endless online magazines and blogs, I know I will never run out of reading material, never run out of choices. I used to keep a book and a magazine in the car, the kitchen, the toilet even, I used to travel with at least two different types of magazines and one or two books so that I'd have different reading choices to suit different moods, but all I need now is to ensure I have a device (and a charger).

This has put the contents of my bookcases in a slightly more tenuous position. I've always loved having bookcases, and the idea of having a house with rooms lined with them. It feels enormously comfortable and glorious to me to have that resource always at hand, to know I can always stroll into a room or up my corridor and choose something I love to read. I don't think that's going to change soon. I keep novels I loved and think I might like to read again, non-fiction that I think I might refer to, and beautiful books I just love to look at or hold in my hands.

And while I've never kept novels that, once read, I know I'm not going to read again (I would sell them or give them away), life in book-starved Japan has inspired me to keep piles of unread hand-me-downs and giveaways and 'hmm, I might like to read that one day' books around in piles, to guard against the threat of  literally having nothing to read - a very real scenario for me in my early days in Japan.

That day is not ever going to come now, which means those piles of already-read, and might-read, and just-took-anyway piles of books really have started to become a liability. They have almost no re-sale value - books are being sold for 100 yen these days, barely worth the effort of selling them. Staff where I work have stopped taking used books (they were once like gold to new staff!). So, do I toss them? Cut them up into book art (really fond of this idea, actually, though it means keeping piles of unwanted books hanging around!)? Try to pass them on? Either way, the article makes a really good point. Books just aren't the treasure they used to be!

2. Photos too. For me it feels almost sinful to say that, as I've always valued my photos, even more than my books (which are theoretically replaceable at least). But I realised two things recently. First, a photo has so much more value if there is only ONE. It really is quite boring to view a folder full of twenty views of the same thing. I'm even getting tired of collages, though I completely understand the impulse to gather a few of the best that you can't choose from into one 'thing' to look at. I've realised *I* value a photo more if it's unique.

This shouldn't be a surprise really. I've always known that professional photographers take a whole roll, or several rolls of film and choose just one for the Vogue or National Geographic magazine article. And as I take them, the dozens of shots of one thing, I always have it in my mind that I'm going to trim them, just choose the best shot. I just have to actually DO it.

A realisation I came to in a different way, is that I just have way. too. many. I have so many that my computer has slowed down, and that's not even all of them - I have stacks of CDs of photos that still aren't on this computer! I have THOUSANDS of photos. Of course, like everyone, I want to 'sort them out', 'someday'.

I'm beginning to realise that 'someday' has to be sooner rather than later, and I have a few ideas about how I'm going to do that, but... what I know is, that if I'm going to get any pleasure out of my photos in the future, and for my children to find any value in them, I'm going to have to be massively selective about what I keep, and delete most of them. I've started, I've gone through iphoto once and destroyed obvious double-ups. Next task on my list is to start with recent albums (I'm less sentimental about recent photos) and try to reduce them by at least half, though my ultimate goal is to reduce them by 75-90% -wish me luck!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Enjoying it

Another busy weekend chasing children comes to an end!

JHS sports day done and dusted, an impromptu Blinky Bits performance and spontaneous overnight stay I should have vetoed, a modelling audition and the usual prowling the streets looking for free-range Erica.

Dipti told me the other week that this is best time of my life and I should enjoy it. She's feeling a little empty-nesty now her two are gone. Mum said something similar. People also told me that about the newborn period and babies, and I really took that advice to heart and did my best to enjoy that period, staying home with my babies, keeping my toddlers out of kindy or daycare until they were three (at the time I assumed they'd be home until 4, the usual time of starting kindy in NZ, or 5 in Japan, and K thought the same. In reality in was plainly obvious once they hit three that they needed more than I could provide and home, and all of them loved kindy - only Amy cried, and only for the first few weeks). But I didn't really 'get it' until Erica was a baby, because by then I had personally experienced how quickly the time flew, and that made me spend many more hours just sitting or lying, talking to her or watching her sleep.

It's true that being busy makes you feel dynamic and useful. I can see why people pile things up on the plate of life. I am speechless with shock when people suggest that because I'm 'only' doing ten lessons a week, that that means I have that strange thing called 'free time'. Like hell I do! Work, work prep, chauffering, paperwork, daily household tasks and the ever-present decluttering mean there's little time for play. I do admit to wasting time on facebook, but that's something you can do over a cup of tea between tasks. It happens precisely because it requires no extra prep, time or thought! It can go overtime though...

But part of it, I think, is just enjoying life as it's given to you, being present and appreciating the moment, timeless wisdom that can be found in many sources, in many different forms. Today it was reading about a teenage boy who just died from cancer four years after being diagnosed, and how he chose to live his very short life. Yes, you should enjoy the baby period and yes, you should enjoy the dynamic chauffeur-and-committee period, because you should strive to enjoy LIFE, period.

And so I will now go drink wine.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I changed my mind. It's not stress. It's the other way around. I remembered I was coping quite well, trying to figure out what was wrong, and taking care of myself, but it just wouldn't go away - and that's when I got stressed, upset, even depressed about it. I began to understand why people with chronic illness get depressed.

I usually wake up feeling positive and energetic, listing in my head all the things I want to get done that day, happy and feeling eager to get started. But with this stupid 'illness' I would wake tired, remember, and groan inwardly at the thought of battling it for another day. That's what was so hard.

When the work stress let up, things got better as I had less to worry about, but it has not gone totally gone away - though I feel less dizzy and have not had any major dizzy spells for a month or so.

So that's that, and I still worry about what it is, and wonder if I should go back to the doctor, and wonder if it would go away if I lived somewhere else, and here I am moaning about it. My toe that was broken last year is playing up too, which I think is hilarious  - I am now officially old as I have a body part to moan about.

I'm pretty sure there was something else I felt I needed to write about, but I've had enough of today so oh well, goodnight.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Universe Provides

I'm feeling very accomplished after a successful day of ticking boxes, just ordinary stuff, but enough to make me feel like supermum and that it would therefore be a good time to re-start the blog.

Good paid work vibe, a bit of decluttering done (while listening to a TED talk so self-education ticked off the list too!), nice healthy delicious dinner finished early, children ferried to various locations in a timely manner, nice mum touches with the special water bottle delivery and tooth fairy letter, and enough laundry done to make me feel like the mountain is being shifted.

And now you're wondering why such a mundane post about housework has such a lofty title.

It was just a thought that came to me last week after two consecutive and nearly identical flashes of serendipity. Two classes which usually had 15 or even over 20 students had six each. This is what teachers are always asking, begging and praying for, of course, but it was just so unexpected - I had no reason to ever believe that either class would be smaller. I couldn't help but think it was the universe throwing me a favour just when I needed my life to be simpler.

Which brought me to my suspicion that part of the reason behind my recent, now-three-month long mystery illness is stress. I also have my suspicions that it's higher blood pressure from my weight gain, and/or allergies, but I think I can throw stress in there too. I asked for that too, in a way.

Now, I'm not professing to believe in 'the secret', but I do think that if you open yourself to opportunities, you notice them more and pick up on them with more confidence and enthusiasm. So it was last April, when I decided I wasn't traveling enough, and therefore needed more money, and therefore needed more jobs. And the jobs came! I know why - the job opportunities were always there, I was just shutting myself off from them because I was busy and needed time and space. So I'd hem and haw when the place I work at asked if could do classes, or shut myself off to privates. I know that previous 'me' would have shied away from the class bequeathed to me by a friend leaving town, whereas after 'opening up' I jumped on it. I started saying 'yes' every single time to extra hours at work, figuring out the childcare details later. And I met potential privates with information and timetables so it would happen.

It reached an apex over the last six months, and especially over the last three, when special lessons on top of relief teaching on top of my usual schedule on top of the at-home schedule (back to 'normal' after Mum left) had me running from here to there with barely space to breathe.

So I found myself fantasising about being sick. In the past, I had, every now and then, when I was *really* tired, idly imagined crashing the car , just lightly, so that I would break a leg and HAVE to stay in hospital for two or four weeks and take an enforced rest from everything. Then I broke my foot, and needless to say, it was much more inconvenient than having a non-broken foot, with paid work and volunteer work and housework and childcare all continuing with the same level of demand as before, just with me incapable of keeping up. So maybe I had switched in my semi-sub-conscious brain to imagining being sick instead, again with that enforced rest. I have to say that even though I was afraid and frustrated by my illness, I *did* appreciate feeling that I was "allowed" to come home and immediately to go bed, or rest for several hours on the sofa, doing nothing. Perhaps I just needed that. Like how I'll have a few more drinks than I know I should because I know that'll make me hungover enough the next day to blithely do nothing all day, giving me the ability to ignore everything that needs to be done in favor of indulging my whims.

And now, finally, I asked for SPACE to think and I have it.

Now I just have to figure out what I am going to ask the universe for next.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How'd that take so damn long?

Okay, so I finished work at 1pm, and had nothing else on for the rest of the day. Images of relaxing at home as the sun went down, nice glass of wine when the sun was still shining.

Reality: run around like a headless chicken and finally crack open the now-not-quite-so refreshing and relaxing champers at 8pm.

Got home, tired, and sat on the sofa reading and 'thinking about' tidying up until Amy reminded me about art class. Drove to art class. Drove to Gooday to get kitty litter. Gaclunked out of Gooday on a flat tyre to K's stand for him to change it (luckily only two blocks away). Picked up L & E, drove to Jiichan and Baachan's stand to get  new tyre. Drove L to salon, picked up A at art, back to salon, to be told that A's hair treatment will take two hours. Back to Baachan's with L to eat ice cream and discuss event timetable, swapping with B one "backstage at the fashion show" for one "karate tournament". Back home for a quick clean up and to change that kitty litter finally. Back to Baachan's to get L then back to salon to fix L's wonky fringe and pick up A, and talk about her new role as spokesmodel for the salon (she gets free cuts and treatment in exchange for generally looking fabulous. Win-win in other words!). Back to salon after driving one block away as I remembered to order Baachan's friends' fashion show tickets. Back to Baachan's to get E. Tyre still not done. Out for dinner with B, A, L & E. Back to Stand, tyre finally done! Drive by cosmos on the way home, get sucked into buying sweets for the children and a shiny new notebook with all new clean pages for A (I share her love of new pages, my Mum will remember how all she needed to do to make me happy was give me blank pages, and A shares this obsession!). Back home yay!!!! Search for The Devil Wears Prada, fail to find it, kids put Gru on (Despicable Me), finally open that damn champagne!!!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


I won't be here long. Very soon, the screen will go black. I will be able to keep typing (I think) and the notification tings will continue but I


will not type and I'll go away and wait until it cools down or gets its groove back or whatever the heck is wrong with it!

Kids are all back at school, I've been a work nearly all my hours since half way through August and all through my birthday week, so that was a bit of a bummer and a bit of a less fun summer than usual - what with Amy's school sports club having 13 practices through summer (very tame compared to some other schools/sports, which practice nearly every day) and all the extra-curricular activities continuing. PLEASE someone remind me next year to cancel EVERYTHING if we're to have a chance to relax, and fit in some day trips and overnights, and maybe even get the bloody homework done!

Well, not much else to add. I really need to use the time I have before the next blank to back up the computer!