Saturday, August 30, 2014


     To continue the story about Chickie and the other food...
     I think, it's a very good addition to Chickie's life. Now he has a new purpose: to open the box with the tasty stuff or get us to do it. 
     He tried the petulant teenager approach. Since I didn't give him enough of the new food, he got into a cupboard where we keep some treats for cats. As I heard the scratching and the thuds of the objects from the cupboard on the floor, I hurried there. He managed to open one door and was in the process of dumping everything out. 
     stop-cat-spraying-urine-800x800.jpg (266×200)
A stream of water from my spray bottle hit him right between the eyes! He tried to sneak by me, but I was mad enough to continue my assault. That cat got really wet!
     You would think that, that would be a good reason to stop. Not for Chickie: I had to run to the dining room, armed with a spray bottle a few more times. 
     Hanah used to tell me to punish cats only right after they did something wrong, because, as she wanted me to believe, they have a bad memory. Well, how do you account for Chickie remembering about the place, where we keep treats? He didn't see them for at least a week! My opinion is that, he either burgled the cupboard because the taste of the new food reminded him of the treats, or he wanted to get my attention!
     My kids think that, they know everything better than I do. W-e-e-l-l!
     Last night I hid the container with new food by putting it next to my feet by the couch. As Sonny and I were watching TV, I heard a thud. 
     - "Wha?!"
     As soon as I understood that I pushed the container and it fell down, I glanced at Chickie. He was sitting at the place where he last saw the container, no doubt, still pining for it. 
     Sonny, who always tells me that, I make cats out to be too much like humans, was rolling on the floor, laughing, because the expression on Chikie's furry  face was: "Aha! I gotcha! It's that food
Chikie looking like he doesn't have any legs.
container!" It was priceless in it's likeness to what a human would look like in this situation!~



    Sonny has been unwilling to feed Goldie, the stray cat, the food that he buys for our cats. It's a very good brand, designed to keep the cats' digestion and immune system healthy. I bought her some cheaper food. 
     Unfortunately, as it is often with the humans, my cats are ravenous for the cheaper and, probably, tastier food now!  
     I offered some of it to Sylvie. She is a girl and, most of the time, behaves appropriately, moreover, she, usually, doesn't like to eat from a hand. In other words, she prefers us to put her food down on the floor or into a bowl. This time, she inhaled the little morsels out of my palm and even bit me in the process! She would take a piece and shake it, like the cats do with their live prey. 
     Chickie, or, as I affectionately refer to him, "the walking stomach", never was too particular, what he eats or how. If Sylvie acted so greedily, he was downright frightening! As soon as I doled out some food to Goldie on a top step of the porch,  he began to scan the air near the screen door for that delicious smell, which he could not identify. When he realized that, Goldie now has the food that he likes better (my cats, of course, might be just interested in it because its something different), he subjected the screen and me to a very rough treatment, demanding fair pay for his job of lying around all day and messing up the house to the best of his abilities. 
     He tried to open the screen, getting his claws stuck in it half a dozen times. He meowed and hopped on and off of me, licking me and rubbing me and making a total nuisance of himself. When I let him have a few pieces of new food in my hand, he gobbled it up and bit me a lot harder than Sylvie did!
     It was clear that, we had to hide the bag with food much better than we usually do it. I put most of it into a plastic container with a little hatch in the lid that can open and close. 

Friday, August 29, 2014


fire-animated.gif (480×360)     It's a question of heat!
     Why do we feel that, everything should is available to us as soon as we need it? 
      I was the first to encounter our problem. The time to leave for an appointment was very near. I decided to take a quick shower. Turned on water. Checked: is it warm
     No, it wasn't! California is in one of the worst droughts, but I stood there for at least three minutes with the water running, waiting for the smallest indication that it was warming up. 
     Huh! It was still cold. I steeled myself and climbed into a cold shower. It wasn't too bad: I used to do that same thing in the East Coast's winters. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!
coldshower.gif (497×249)     Taka came home early that evening. He does it every Wednesday to take a shower and do all the things that he needs to do too. 
     - "There's no hot water!" - he called out from the bathroom. 
     - "Yes", - I yelled back - "I know!"
     Taka asked me to call our electric company the next day to send a technician to repair the water heater. 
     I forgot. It just skipped my mind!
     - "How could you forget?" - whined Taka. His hair and face
shone with oil. Every now and then, his hands crept up to scratch his scalp. I really felt bad about leaving him in this itchy state, but - what could I do now?
images (194×259)     The next morning started on a sour note.
     - "Are you awake?"
     - "I am now."
     - "Are you going to call about the water heater today?"
     - "Yes."
     Taka (a little later): 
     -"Are you awake?"
     -"I am now."
     -"Are you going to call about the water heater today?"
      (I'll skip a couple more times that he woke me up).
     -"Are you awake?"
     -"What do you want?!"
     -"Don't forget to call about the water heater today!"
     -"Didn't I tell you that I will?!"
     -"You forgot yesterday! Are you going to do it?"
   nag.gif (500×281)  
Someone had better promote me into sainthood or give me a gun!
dreamstime_xs_334781.jpg (439×480)     He was right to worry, though. The first appointment the electric company could give us was in five days! I called GE Corporation, who made our heater. The young lady asked me all kinds of questions, because, as she put it: "It's the first time someone is calling about this unit, and I need some information." Information she got, but declared that, the water heater was not under the repair warrantee, so they were not going to send a technician. They even didn't have any technicians in this area (I didn't know that we lived in the middle of a no-technician-zone!). She did try to troubleshoot what was wrong with the heater with Sonny, though, and told me that "she thought," it needed a new "igniting wire". 
scared-kristen-wiig1.gif (355×200)     I won't bore you with the list of the ideas I had, and all the reasons why they didn't work out. Suffice it to say, after all the calling and getting transferred to a wrong department and waiting in vain for a call back, I now feel like screaming in horror every time I look at the phone!
    heat.gif (431×256) It's a question of heat. How much of it do we need? How much is safe to feel and let others feel from you? One thing for sure: I just proved to myself that I am not ready for the sainthood! 

giphy.gif (495×325) 


     "I need time to think it all over! I'll get in touch as soon as I can." - the General strode out of the hut where we talked, called his son and drove away. Sawanni and the children came into the room, and we talked for a while, discussing, what could be our next move. 
     Everyone else, whom Sawanni contacted, declined to meet with him. They all waited to see, if there would be someone of higher rank to make the first move. We had to rely on The General's integrity or find some other way to influence the military.
     Over the next couple of days I noticed how Dular and Amur kept engaging the mercenaries in conversations. They threw conspiratorial looks in mine and Sawanni's direction, so I knew: they were cooking up one of their schemes.
     Midori disappeared in the forest again. She'd come back time to time to play with the boys or have a meal, but we heard other wolves out there, which meant that her family came with her. 
     I took a Jeep into town to do some shopping. The marketplace was noisy and rowdy. I bargained my way through a couple of stalls, when I noticed a man from our camp going into one of the tents with a few soldiers standing in line, waiting for something. Curious, I peeked inside.
     A man was lying face down on a mattress, and one of my sons, Dular, was walking on his back! Amur stood by the entrance and was the first one to see me. "Mom!"- he squawked. 
     Dular wobbled on his precarious perch and fell off. Both of the kids looked panicked and guilty, but I had no words to describe my astonishment.
     The man from the camp shooed Dular's "client" away. 
     -"Well?!" - I asked. Boys began to stutter and talk at the same time.
     - "We thought and thought, how to get to the soldiers!"
     - "The higher-ups take too much time; maybe, we can start from the other end!"
     - "Don't worry, no one knows, what we are doing. We even made some money for massaging the soldier's backs!"
     I thought, Sawanni would swallow his subordinate, who helped the boys, whole. In the end, he had to admit not only that the man couldn't withstand my sons' wishes, but that it was also a good idea. He grudgingly gave permission for one of his soldiers or another to drive the boys into town each day and watch over them there. 

To Be Continued

Copyright Protected


Thursday, August 28, 2014


     General and I talked into the late evening. He paced the room at first, and I sat, not sure, how this conversation should begin.
     "Do you know, how my wife died?" - the man asked suddenly. "She was shopping, when the Americans and the Japanese almost simultaneously sent their missiles at each other. I was on the other side of the world then, preparing a small country to be taken over by the Japanese corporations. Fortunately, Aishi was visiting a friend in Europe at that time. I could not bury my wife. All that's left of my country is burnt earth and ruins."
     The General looked out of the window, where my sons and Aishi were sitting by Midori and watching her gnaw at a giant bone. The boys learned quickly enough not to stick their hands or faces near Midori's food: she could easily get a notion, they tried to take it away. Aishi didn't know it yet. He put his hand on Midori's flank, no doubt, wanting to pet her. Dular and Amur pulled him away just in time to escape clicking, razor sharp incisors. Midori wrinkled her upper lip and nose and growled a blood-curdling warning, then resumed her snack.
     Yokoyama sighed. "You see, how quickly this mad idea of yours can turn deadly?" - he asked.
     I was also watching the children. "Do you know, General, how my husband died?"
     "Dani was in Japan, when the bombs fell. I talked to him the night before, and we laughed a lot about the kids' pranks. I never heard his laughter again. He is somewhere, in that same bunt earth as your wife".
     I got up, went to the General and took his hand. He pulled it away: "Stop that! Sawanni told me how you can brainwash people just by touching them! I won't be coerced!"
     I stepped back. "My children are the ones who can do this. I simply want to show you, we are not a threat! What's happening with the rape of the Earth and its cultures simply can not continue! Soon, there will be nothing left to live for!"

To Be Continued

Copyright protected

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


     I can't decide, whether it was more terrible to face a murderous bear or an enraged Japanese commander!
     Yokoyama first ordered captain Sawanni to meet with him. We tried to ignore the shouting that ensued, but there was no place in the camp, where we couldn't hear Yokoyama's ranting and swearing. 
     Aishi stayed with us. He was older than my boys, but made fast friends with them. Time to time, I glimpsed them talking behind the main house by the trees. 
     All conversation stopped, however, when we heard a lone wolf's howling. The soldiers in the yard looked at each other and then, as one, turned to Dular and Amur. My kids' faces were beaming: "Midori! She found us!"
     I wasn't fast enough to stop them, when they grabbed Aishi by a sleeve and pulled him into the forest. 
    The boys didn't return for hours. The General finished with Sawanni and came out in the yard to see, how his son was doing. Unfortunately, the sight of him walking into the camp next to a green wolf did nothing to allay Yokoyama's misgivings. His hand went for the pistol. Aishi rushed to his father, speaking rapidly in Japanese. Amur and Dular crouched by Midori, hugging and protecting her, as she bared her fangs in either an ingratiating smile or a threat. The blue-red crest on her back was up, but she didn't make any aggressive moves.
     Yokoyama threw Sawanni a disgusted look, turned toward me and spat out a request: "I would like to meet with you and your sons, if you don't mind. Please leave this monster outside!"

To Be continued

Copyright Protected

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


     You wouldn't believe, what I just went through!    
jpeg (234×216)     Which of you would enjoy picking up the phone and hearing: "Dina Toyoda? My name is [so and so], I am calling you from the Internal Revenue Service!"
     The area code on the Caller ID was for Washington DC, but I didn't know it then. I listened quietly, as a man with a very pronounced Filipino accent struggled to convey to me that, there was a case initiated against me in the IRS and an arrest warrant issued.
     My first thought was: why against me? Taka and I file jointly and so, the case should be against both of us. 
     The man realized that, I couldn't understand him properly and passed the phone to someone else, whose English was only slightly better: "Please, maam, write down this number [gives me a number]. It is a number of the warrant for your arrest. In about half an hour police officers will come to your door. They will handcuff you and take you into custody."
   giphy.gif (320×240)  Now, I wrote some fiction before in this blog, and at least my sister got confused, thinking that it was real. THIS TIME IT WAS REAL!
     Blinking didn't help. I was awake and heard it all in my waking life. "What? What?!" - I stuttered. "What is the case against me? We filed taxes every year; didn't do any shenanigans, - just faithfully signed the pages prepared by our CPA agent!"
images (308×164)     The guy on the other end of the line kept saying something about us having to go through the legal proceedings, which would cost us something like $20,000. I began to see the truth of what was happening!
     "Give me your supervisor!" - I roared. Now he began to stutter: "Why? You can talk to me!" I was adamant: "SUPERVISOR! NOW!"
     Another man took the phone: "How can I help you? " - he said. In a very short conversation with him I noticed a flaw: he called me Dina Toyoda, but my legal name is Dina Minsky Toyoda. The IRS would have known it, since I always file under that name. 
     Working at the theater in my youth taught me to project my voice. I don't envy the man who heard me bellow: "You, sir, are a cad and a charlatan! I am calling the police right now!"
     To give him credit, he didn't blink (at least, I wasn't near him to see it): "Go ahead! They are on the way to your house right now!" 
     I hung up and dialed the police. A 911 (emergency) operator assured me that, this was a scam. By that time, Sonny and Roberta, both alerted by my hollering, were standing around me, looking concerned. The words IRS and arrest warrant seem to do it to people! I went to the kitchen and got myself a drink of water.  I said to them: 
     "You wouldn't believe, what I just went through!.."

Monday, August 25, 2014


I'll start at the end:

The airport was busily buzzing. Reina checked in her luggage, we tore Roberta away from a conversation she struck with a perfect stranger from China and went to get some lunch at the food court. It seemed difficult to believe, that soon Reina will be miles away from us in the air! And soon she was off...

Last night, I insisted that we'd go out to properly say goodbye to Reina. 
logo2.png (185×166)         Wait, what?! No, we didn't fly to Africa!

     We went to the Elephant Bar Restaurant. It's an interesting place, offering some good (some - not so good) dishes, allegedly, from different countries of the world. The elephant is in the lobby of the restaurant, and makes a striking impression.

We all had a good time, waiting for our food. Reina and Roberta really seemed to hit it off.


Sonny warmed up to our adventure. 


I was cross with Taka. It looks like every time I think that we are getting closer together, he shoots me down with his insensitive and, let's face it, unloving attitude. 
He felt that something was off (that's an improvement from the past, though!) and tried to act a little bit more attentively, than usually, but you can see the wry expression on his face, giving away his real thoughts.

Taka, actually, started by saying that his mouth was sore, and he could only eat soft food. I offered a few suggestions, such as salmon and mashed potatoes. Guess, what he chose?
jpeg (275×183)

Yep, tri-tip steak! 


We took a picture in front of the elephant before leaving the restaurant. I didn't let small things, like a niggling husband, spoil my mood!

As we walked into the house, both cats were at the door to greet us. Later on, as I was sitting by the laptop, writing a post, I saw some large-ish animal pass by the glass door! A racoon? No, it looked like a cat. I am used to Goldie, who is on a small side, coming around, so that feline looked pretty big in comparison!             

Chickie, who, especially, lately, hardly deigns to leave a comfortable cushion or pay attention to anything,                                                              


that Chikie, strolled across our backyard, like a lion-king! Fortunately, I knew a sure way to get him: I smacked my lips, as when I offer him some food, and the poor glutton ran to me with his tail held high in a hope for a nice meal.
But, as I picked him up and held him to myself, a thought occurred: "What if this is not Chicken Bone, but some other cat of the same coloring? He does seem a little fatter and fluffier than Chickie!" Oh, Heavenly God, what if Chickie will stroll to me right now, and I am holding this strange cat in my hands?!
"Sonny! Sonny!! S-o-o-o-n-y!!!"
I finally heard my 19 year old son's grouchy answer: "Wha-a-t?"
I kept feeling the cat up, and he, obviously, felt that, I was being inappropriate. Sonny came into the living room. "Is this Chickie?" - I asked him faintly. He, probably, thought that, I lost my few remaining marbles. I told him about the reasons for my doubt. By that time, the cat was already by his food bowl. Every time I said "Chickie", he glanced at me (looking quite annoyed after a few times), so we understood that, -yes, - it was he! 
I eyed him warily all through the evening, but since no other gray-black tabby appeared in our livingroom, I accepted the truth: I need more therapy!


     We came home from the restaurant (yes, I made Taka take us out in honor of Reina's leaving tomorrow!)... Let me start again: we came from the restaurant really tired. Today was a full day. I, finally, took Reina and Roberta to my friend's, MaMa Asale's church. It's a small building in a part of San Leandro, where it already meets Oakland. 
     I was quite moved when the pastor, who stood in the doorway (the service started), cordially beckoned us to come in. 295479_485316428180603_1250337311_n.jpg (960×345)
     BASIC Ministry is a black church. Reina was curious to see their style of worship, and that's what she got! Even though a singer had a beautiful voice, it and the music were deafening in a small room. I tried to feel beyond my discomfort at being in an unusual environment and hoped that, Reina and Roberta will also make such an effort. 
images (290×174)     If I was asked to say a few words about my experience there, I would've said: "My ears are still ringing, but I came here as a spectator and am leaving this place in a state of spiritual wonder!" 
     It's true: despite the noise and the shouting, I believe, God tried to say something to me. He said: "Put your problems and suffering in my hands!" 
     What does it mean? Things can get pretty overwhelming sometimes. We cannot even think of how to deal with them, and often hide behind our activities, jobs and addictions to avoid the fear of failing. God says: "Put those things in my hands!" He wants me to put my relationship (or the lack of it) with Taka, my inability to overcome the addiction to food, my fear of aging - put it all in God's hands! 
     The Serenity Prayer that we say in Al Anon goes like this: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference..." What I accepted today at the church was, God knows us intimately and will provide His assistance in the best possible way, at the best possible time. We just need to keep an open and a prayerful heart to see, where our own responsibility lies. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014


     Tomorrow Reina is leaving. One of her  cute Japanese suitcases  is already packed and standing in the living room. 
     On Friday, she and I went shopping for some gifts for her family and friends. Mostly, they included nuts, gummy bears and peach candy. Did I mention nuts? Apparently, that's what's missing in Japan!
     I also bought  some coffee for a sister-in-law and a small plate for one of Reina's cousin's baby. I remember the tall, shy, girl of sixteen, I think, from when we went to Japan, but now she has three (or is it four?) children already!

    Here is an excerpt from my memoirs, The Cities, about our visit to my husband's country.

                                         images (225×225)
                                                                   images (275×183)

     Everything on that trip was a surprise on it's own. Even before we stepped over a pile of shoes in front of Taka's parents' house, we could hear a bunch of kids' voices chanting: "Sanju, Sanju!" Sonny's real name is Sungjoon, and his Japanese cousins changed it to "sanju", which means thirty in their language. My three years old looked at the milling black haired, bright eyed crowd of children and hit one of them right on the nose! He hasn't done anything like that before or ever since! I was so embarrassed, I wanted to fall through the ground. What a way to introduce one's family!
                                                                                                                                                                      images (275×183)

     The Toyoda family lavishly prepared for our arrival. They put a queen size bed in my parents' room and purchased a new style toilet bowl. That thing talked to you, washed all the relevant bits of you and even attempted to dry them with gentle whiffs of warm air. It was a pleasure to visit that room!                                                                                                      images (254×199)
     My family slept Japanese style: on futon mattresses and tiny bean-filled pillows, under soft, thick futon comforters. In the morning we put everything away. I loved that way of living: it's much better than generic rooms that one finds in every place where one travels!
                                         jpeg (100×100)
                                   jpeg (135×90)

images (290×174)

images (209×139)
At the banquet that followed, Taka, LeraGrisha and I came out and sang a song to the guests.   
                                                                                  images (224×167)
                                 images (348×145)    Then there was more drumming, now as an entertainment. 
jpeg (269×188)

     Taka prepared a statement of our family's purpose, as a guide for the Toyoda clan to better understand God and His truth, or something like that: it was in Japanese, I don't remember the details. We were standing in the middle of the room, with Taka reading the statement, when my children, and, especially, Hanah, who didn't like loud noises in general, began to weep and tug on me, like some beggars in Cairo.


     They did not stop, when Taka told me to go to each person at the table, pour them some sake and ask to sign the document. I was, literally, dragging both my kids on my legs, still trying to smile an nod to the family members. The run on my black stocking was so noticeable, you could probably see it from space! Between the drumming and the screaming, my head hurt something fierce. 
                                images (185×272)
     I took the kids out of the room, and they switched the noise off, immediately. A young Buddhist monk got Hanah a doggie from a machine with a claw, and that magically restored her good spirits. I still see that doggie, when I go to Hanah's room. She is not there, but I keep an  echo of her smile on the day when she got the toy, in my heart.
Here they are, my little Hanah  and Sonny