Category Archives: Personal Stories

The Christmas Trap

What does Christmas mean to you? As I walk the malls, I see people carrying lists, packages, boxes, and crying children. Why are the children crying? Aren’t they supposed to be happy? Their parents have tired and not so happy faces. They have spent their hard-earned money on presents that Santa is supposed to bring. There is no Santa. They are Santa.

When did Christmas become a time for store sales, lots of candy, more food, and bankruptcy? Christmas is a time when people commit suicide, steal packages, and murder their families. They become depressed. The bills arrive in the mail. The creditors are after them because they can’t pay the bills. They begin to drink or take drugs. They see no way out but to eliminate their entire family. Drive them off the edge of the cliff into the ocean, kill them while they are sleeping, or set the house on fire when everyone is inside.

These are not the memories we want to have when Christmas comes along. I purpose that we change. Buy one gift for each of your children and spouse. Prepare dinner and invite your friends to share with you. Sing Christmas carols. Bring the birth of Christ back into Christmas. If it wasn’t for Christ, we would not have Christmas.

Instead of giving your children everything they want on one day, give them gifts during the year. You don’t have to be a rich Santa. Be a caring Santa. Give your children hugs and kisses instead of wrapped presents. Let them know you love them. Tell them the story of a true Christmas. The real meaning of Christmas is very important. If you don’t believe in Christ don’t celebrate Christmas.

In Japan Christmas is celebrated by children. Santa brings one gift to them on Christmas Eve. Japanese toy companies saw the opportunity to make more money. The toy stores began to convince the Japanese parents that children wanted toys from Santa. The Japanese took the idea and expanded.  Men representing Santa in Japan are very skinny and not as jolly as some of the American ones. Japanese stores and outside parks are decorated in colorful lights that radiate the feeling of Christmas. Christmas decorations include fake Christmas trees, posters of Santa in his sleigh, and Christmas music.

Japanese Christmas tradition includes some very interesting ideas. The father goes to Kentucky Fried chicken and buys a bucket of chicken and then goes to the bakery to get the Christmas cake. I am not sure where these ideas come from. Japanese are good at inventing their own traditions. The Japanese father comes home from work around 9:00 and everyone eats fried chicken. Yes, I mean everyone. The Colonial is happy with this. He goes to the bank laughing every Christmas. The Christmas cake comes in all sizes and always includes whipped cream, chocolate icing, and some kind of Santa decoration.

Not all families buy their Christmas cakes. Many of the women make their cakes at home. I lived in Japan for five years and made the Christmas cake every year. We didn’t have enough money to buy the cake. I must admit that my Christmas cakes did not look like the ones professionally baked.

Following the tradition of giving one gift to a child on Christmas, my husband and I gave one gift to our daughter. She was very happy. We moved to the USA when she was three years old. We continued the Japanese tradition of Santa bringing only one gift. It didn’t hit her until she was in the second grade. The children at school were going down their lists of the gifts they received from Santa.

Lisa, our daughter, came home from school crying. “Why did I only get one gift when my best friend got ten?” She stopped crying and I explained to her that Santa would only bring her one gift and it was a very special gift.

We traveled for Christmas. It was the only time my husband spent time with us. He didn’t have to worry about work and he could be with his family. The talk lasted about one hour, and she finally decided that traveling was more fun than receiving more gifts. I think!

Christmas should be a time that we share with our friends and families. Don’t pile gifts on your friends and family. Give a gift of time. Time is power. Time is gold. Time is important. You are not going to be on this earth for the rest of your life.

Forget the material things. Think of what you can give to your children and spouse or significant other in time. Don’t make the companies richer and you poorer by making such a big investment at Christmas. Don’t make yourself depressed. Make yourself happy.

Go for a walk with your family. Eat pizza. Make a quick dinner, read a book, watch a movie. Don’t fall into the Christmas trap!

The Reluctant Cookie Baker

christmas cookies

Tis the season to get your mother’s Betty Crocker book down from the shelf in your kitchen. Dust it off, and crack it open. The pages are covered with sticky molasses stains and memories of when you baked cookies with your mother.

Now it is your turn. Your daughter is begging you to make cookies with her friends. All you can think about is the mess. The flour, powder sugar, eggs, sugar, and butter, lots of butter. You don’t even cook dinner every night. If you do, it is simple. Maybe you belong to Blue Apron or Simply Fresh. The ingredients for meals are wrapped in individual packages with labels. A recipe comes with the box. You follow the directions exactly as they are written. You are a hard -working mother and don’t have the time or the desire to create healthy dishes for your family. It’s easier to order a pizza or call a restaurant that delivers.

It is now the season to bake. It is Christmas. You have to make cookies, or your children will be very disappointed, and they will tell everyone you don’t know how to bake or cook. Your friends will invite you to “cookie exchanges”. You get nervous. You must bake two dozen cookies to pass around to the others who have brought their delicious homemade goods. You don’t want to be the only one who brings store-bought cookies. Those are frowned upon, and you will never be invited to a “cookie exchange” again.

Don’t let your children down. Get into that kitchen and start baking. Soften the butter, add the sugar, vanilla,  and eggs. Mix with a mixer. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, into the mixture. Mix with your handheld or fancy Kitchin Aid mixer your mom gave you when you got married. Is it still in its original box? Don’t worry. Now, is the time to use it.  Heat the oven, follow the directions, put cookies on a cookie sheet. Bake. You did it. You made some cookies.

Don’t stop there. Try some more recipes. Your children are proud of you. Send some of the cookies in their lunch. You might win mother of the year award. Invite your friends over for coffee and serve them your cookies. Or maybe not.

Take your cookies to the “cookie exchange “. Be proud of your cookies.

Women all over the world who don’t bake the entire year are on a mission when it comes to Christmas. Do we get inspired by what we see on TV, the Internet, Instagram?

No one uses their mother’s cookbook anymore. We have Pinterest, Delish, and other cooking sites popping up on Facebook. They make it look so easy, and many of the recipes are easy. A video usually accompanies the recipe. This makes it easier to understand how the ingredients should be added, mixed, and cooked.

So many people can now make money with their cooking videos, easy to follow recipe books that can be printed from the web. Cooking is not as difficult as it used to be. It does require some time and creativity. I now after thirty-five years of marriage enjoy cooking. I have the time. If women were given more time at home, they would be able to create healthy food.

Families are very busy. Children have after-school activities, you don’t get home until about 6:00. You have to pick up the kids, feed them, and tie up any loose ends from work. There is no time for creativity.

I now have the time to look through recipes and be creative. The problem is there is no one to eat my food but me. I must create for myself. Why is it that when we need the time, we can’t get it? By the time we have extra time, there is no one around.

I ask you, please take the time to cook, bake, and spend time with your family. You never know how long they will be around. What would life be like if everyone could live a part of their retirement each year? You would enjoy it more than waiting for the exact day to retire. By then everyone will be gone. There will be no one to bake cookies, enjoy your dinner, or converse with. You will be alone.

I know because this is what happened to me. It would be so lovely to look in the mirror and see the future. Most of us would change our ways.

Don’t wait! Do it now.

The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“The opposite of love is not to hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Close your eyes and imagine a place where children can climb trees, slide, rollerblade, swing, and run around without their parents fearing for their safety. A place where children under four are securely gated in space for running around. Parents sit on benches and chat with each other while their children are safe. No hard surfaces to fall on. The ground is made of spongy colorful material. None of the children are playing with iPhones, iPads, or other electronic devices. Children cry not because they fall down, but because they have to go home. Now, open your eyes. You have entered The Gathering Place.

Children climbing on pods

The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is open 365 days a year. It has 80 plus tree species. It is a place for both adults, teenagers, and small children. It engages, excites, and educates. Children use their muscles, improve their physical growth, laugh, run, and learn about getting along with others by interacting peacefully with each other face to face.

Tulsa has its problems as do other towns and cities in the USA. People tend to stay close to home. Children don’t play with neighborhood children. There are cultural tensions. People who don’t meet with others who are not like them are more apt to hate or have bad feelings for those who are different. The Gathering place was an idea by George Kaiser to serve as an anchor for the community of Tulsa.  A ship that won’t sink. The Gathering Place will help to improve the social, economic, and environmental sustainability in Tulsa.

It is Thanksgiving Day, and my adult daughter has brought me to the park. It is 2:30 and an unusually warm day in Tulsa. The turkey is in the oven, and the cranberry sauce is made. We have two hours to explore the park.

The park brings together all people, black, brown, Muslim, Indian, Native Americans, and white. Grandparents and parents holding tightly on to the hands of children walk the pathways.

It is a place that inspires imagination. A place to play, learn, interact, relax, and “gather together.” There are 120 ft. of a suspension bridge. There is a pirate ship, a small village, canoes, kayaks, restaurants, and bathrooms.

A small children’s village

It is funded by the George Kaiser family foundation and given as a gift to Tulsa. There were no tax funds used. A combination of 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations was involved. The project began in September 2014 and opened to the public in September 2018. It is built on 100 acres of Tulsa waterfront along the Arkansas River at the cost of 465 million dollars. It is the largest public park gifted in US history.

If you live or visit Tulsa, don’t forget to include the Gathering Place in your itinerary.

Rocking chairs facing the water

 

 

I am Lucky

irishimmigrants_Fotor_Fotor

Early Irish Immigrants

I am lucky

I have never been raped, sexually abused, or beaten

I have never been homeless, hungry, or unemployed

I have never had my husband, brothers, or father dragged out of my home by policemen and killed in the streets

I have never had to walk 2,000 miles to enter a country for a better life

 

I was born in a country where

I can speak against the government without going to jail

I can attend the church I want or not attend any church

I can go to the supermarket and buy food for my children

I can choose the school my children will attend

 

I am the great-grand child of immigrants

Who came to the US on a ship from Ireland

They (my great grandparents) were seventeen and eighteen years old

Their parents sent them to the US alone

There were no jobs in Ireland

The English  had taken over the country and refused to hire them

The English kicked them out of their own country

The Irish were starving, unclean, and carried diseases

Look what the Irish have done for our country

 

Immigrants are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

They are walking 2,000 miles to the US border

They are dirty, hungry, and homeless

They are children, babies, women, and men

They have seen the male members of their families taken away, shot and killed

The women have experienced rape, sexual abuse, and beatings

Their children can’t attend schools

The majority of them are not criminals, rapists, or murderers

They are people seeking a better life

Look what the Hispanics have done for our country

 

The US exists because of immigration

Imagine if the Native Americans won the war against the Europeans who invaded the USA

None of us would be in the USA

The Europeans came ready to fight

They had weapons

The Central Americans making their way to the border

Don’t have weapons

The American military has called 5,600 soldiers to protect our border against this “caravan”

This is not who we are

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring on the Rain

It is raining. I am feeling happy. My friends in the Midwest would probably not agree with me. Rain in the Midwest is an unwanted guest. It arrives at graduations, carefully planned weddings, summer BBQs and state fairs. I can’t count the time’s events were canceled and rescheduled when I lived in Michigan.

The lighting would cut the dark black sky in half and perform the most spectacular fireworks display. The thunder would shake the house until I was convinced the house was strong enough to last. Hurricanes in Japan scared me the most. The rain beat against the outside aluminum doors used to protect the windows from getting broken. The sky would turn a very dark color, and a strong wind began to blow. The house would shake back and forth, and I would hide under the blankets. I never knew if we were going to escape these storms. We always did. I was born a desert rat.

My husband was fascinated with the weather. He would stand out on the patio while I pleaded for him to come in. I didn’t want him to get hit by a bolt of lighting.

I obtained a whole new vocabulary of weather terms while living in Michigan: black ice, whiteouts, lake effect snow, blizzards, tornados, and gustnados (a term invented by the insurance companies so they wouldn’t have to pay for damages).

I moved back to Phoenix, AZ after living away for more than 42 years. We have monsoons, dust storms, haboobs (a word taken from the Arabic language meaning powerful dust storm), and flash flooding.

Phoenicians don’t know what to do when it rains. They slow down on the freeways or speed up on the local streets. The rain causes flooding in the desert. There is nowhere for the water to go. Washes are constructed with river rock to guide the water to run off into various valleys of the desert instead of the streets.

donotenter

Signs are posted everywhere warning drivers not to drive in areas when it rains. People don’t read the signs. Many natives and visitors are not aware of the dangers rain causes in the desert areas. They drive past signs warning them not to operate in this area when flooded. They end up in ditches or dips in the roads that have flooded. They get stuck in the sand and water and have to be rescued.

I am happy for the rain because it makes the flowers bloom and the other plants to multiply. The desert is beautiful after the storm. The smell of the wet dirt, howls of coyotes, and the sound of chirping birds. Rain in the desert is a welcome relief of the constant heat we have felt for the last six months.

Bring on the rain!

Forty Plus Years Later

Finding an old friend is like finding a lost treasure.

Anthony Douglas Williams

I don’t remember much about my High School classmates. What are their memories of me? I didn’t really like High School. I wasn’t popular. I didn’t excel in sports or academics. I dog-paddled my way to graduation. After graduation, I left my home, my city, my state, and my country. I didn’t come back to live until 2010, forty-five years later.

I sit in a pink plastic Adrindock chair on the front porch of a rented Airbnb in Sedona, Arizona. I have a glass of red wine in my right hand. I am mesmerized by the full moon encased in a very thin cloud above the peak of the mountain right in front of our rental. It is very quiet except for the voices of four women sharing their stories and laughing. We are reconnecting.  After communicating with each other for almost one year on Facebook we decide to have an adult “slumber party” with wine, lots of wine, crackers, and cheese sounded like a great idea. This brings us to the Airbnb in Sedona.

We sit on the porch sipping our Arizona produced wine supplied to us by Nancy who is an Arizona wine connoisseur. Myra, Nancy, and Shelly tell stories about some of our other classmates. I don’t remember many of them. Their names sound familiar, but I can only match up a few of them in my mind. Why can’t I remember these people? Nancy tells us about her grandchildren and how she gets along with both her ex-husband and her now husband. Shelly tells us about taking care of her aging mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Myra tells us about her children and how she thinks about their future. Both Myra and I lost our husbands to cancer in the last three years. I tell stories of my travels and previous life. First living in Mexico, then living in Japan, followed by living in Michigan. The end of the journey was moving back to Arizona. We try to fill in the memory gaps. I am the only one who seems to have memory gaps. I don’t feel too bad because Myra also suffers from memory gaps too. Not as much as I do.

What happened to me? Why can’t I remember my classmates from Bourgade High School?

We talk, eat, and drink for two days. We get to know each other once again. I feel like I have found three new friends. We visit wineries in Page Springs, eat cheese and crackers, and chocolate, we stop at antique and clothing stores. We eat dinner in town, drive back to the cabin, open another bottle of Arizona wine, and continue to talk. We talk about our families, other classmates, those who have passed away, those who are sick, and those who are doing well.

I wasn’t sure if we would get along. We could just pretend that we liked each other. That was not the case. I am so happy to have this great group of women as friends. I don’t remember being their friends in High School, but I don’t need to. They are my friends now, and we have a whole new future to continue our new found friendship.

Reconnecting is not all that hard and has its benefits. We can relate to each other as adult women with experiences, grown children, and work experience.  No permission slips needed.

Why didn’t I learn to fish?

A walk along a creek brings back memories of my husband, Sumio.

My family and I used to go camping when I was a child. My grandfather would patiently sit on the banks of Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona, Arizona and put the worms on my fishing line. I hated the feel of the worms. They were so slimy. He also used salmon eggs. Nobody really paid much attention. My three brothers ran through the creek kicking up water and throwing stones and watching them skip and yelling. My grandfather would say “Don’t scare the fish”.  My grandfather never became angry. He would get them to be quiet for about three minutes. The noise started again. I was the only girl and I wanted my grandfather to like me. I sat there patiently waiting for the fish to bite. They never did.

I met a man who loved to fish. This time I am catching eel in the Toyokawa river in Japan. I still do not like touching worms. Sumio carefully puts the bait on the hook and I throw the line into the river. Fishing for eel takes place at night. I can’t see anything. The moon is very bright and is giving off some light. My pole begins to wiggle, and I scream, “It’s a snake.” My husband calmly says, “It’s an unagi.” I continue to fish with Sumio.

We move to Michigan. Sumio checks out all of the lakes and streams. On Saturdays and Sundays, we leave the house about 4:00 am. We prepare sandwiches, onigiri, fruits, boiled eggs, and coffee. We throw blankets and pillows into the car for our daughter to sleep on. The happiness he feels when he catches a fish shows all over his face. Sometimes he is not very successful. There is always tomorrow.

We travel to California for the holidays to visit my family. We always stop at the piers. He walks up and down the pier and looks inside the plastic buckets and identifies the fish. He knows the name of all the fish. He wants to go ocean fishing. We inquire about the cost and the equipment. He decides that it will take too much time. An ocean fishing trip is about 4-5 hours. He fishes off the pier a couple of times. He doesn’t have much luck. He never goes on vacation without his fishing equipment.

His daughter takes him on a fishing trip on Lake Michigan. He isn’t feeling to well because of the treatment he is going through. He is living with lung cancer. He never gives up. He catches fish with the help of his daughter and the men on the boat. He is thankful his daughter gave him this opportunity.

We move to Arizona. He goes fishing in Payson, AZ. He finds the perfect spot and keeps it a secret. Chloe and I sit with him.  I read and Chloe sleeps. He gets me a fishing license, so he can catch beyond his limit. I never touch the pole only if the rangers come around. He always catches rainbow trout. He throws it into the ice chest and cleans them as soon as we get home. Sometimes I can’t go with him because I have to work. I can smell the fish as soon as I walk in the door. There he stands proud of his fish. The fish is displayed on the dish surrounded by grated cabbage and a slice of lemon. The fish doesn’t have bones because he has already removed them. He knows how bad I am at removing fish bones.

I can still taste that trout. We froze the trout and ate it for the next month. Fishing was his way of dealing with the problems he was facing. In Michigan it was the pressure of work. In California it was vacation time. In Arizona it was a release from the grueling pain and knowledge he would not live for much longer.  On the day he died there were a dozen trout in the freezer. I would eat two each month. The day I ate the last trout, tears poured down my cheeks. My fisherman was gone. I will never eat fresh caught rainbow trout again.

Why didn’t I learn to fish? Oh, how I miss you, Sumio!