Thursday, February 26, 2015

WE TALK ABOUT AFRICAN AMERICAN ISSUES, WATCH LINE DANCING AND EAT JAPANESE TREATS!

      What are we up to? Not much!
     Today!
     Last week was full of activity, though. 
     A friend (MaMa Asale Kimaada) invited us to come to an exhibit of "the African  
American History - From Antiquity To Present Time" It was held in the Church of the Living God in Oakland. I and Roberta picked up Evelyn - one other acquaintance - and we went there. It turned out, the full purpose for the meeting was to talk about the stigmas, suffered by the African American community. A founder of the Tarah Foundation spoke. She is a grandmother, whose granddaughter was born with positive HIV status, having contracted the disease from her mother. The grandmother spoke about the sickness and how it affects people, not only in a physical sense, but also from the attitude others have
toward it. The girl, her granddaughter, told poetry and danced with a friend. She looked fine, but that is the result of being properly medicated.
     It broke my heart to look at the child and think of countless others, suffering because of their or their parents' or partners' negligence. HIV is spread through  dirty needles and sexual contact, or through the infected body fluids. 

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, PLEASE, IF NOT FOR YOUR OWN                            LIFE, THEN FOR THE SAKE                                                             OF YOUR LOVED ONES!

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That's how its suppose to look
     On Monday, a Japanese lady invited us to watch her at a Senior Center in Hayward, line dancing! Did you ever see line dancing?
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That's more how it looked
at the Senior Center
     Roberta and I went to a Senior Center in Hayward. We pulled up chairs and for the next hour watched a large room-full of people doing their best to follow the instructor and do the right steps in the right order. It was fun. My acquaintance, Emi-san is Japanese, and upon completion of the lesson she introduced us to her friend, Shizuka-san, also from Japan. They then took us for a picnic to the Japanese Garden, located next to the Center. 
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2Q== (258×195)     It was not easy for Roberta to walk short distance to a gazebo, standing, raised, by a tiny lake, but it was worth it! At this time of the year, the garden is not at it's best: there are no roses or other flowers yet. I found the garden a little too manicured for my taste, but the air was fresh and delicate plum and almond blossoms begin to appear on the branches all over the green       tangle near the gazebo. Emi-san pulled out the treats: images (274×184)    - homemade spam musubi                                                                                   images (260×194)
                                                       and mochi.                                    I didn't expect to have a lunch as yet (Roberta and I just ate our breakfast before going to the Senior Center). We enjoyed it very much, nevertheless! Emi-san, who sells Mary Kay cosmetics, gave me a small lipstick case and wouldn't take any money for it. 
2Q== (275×183)     We had a marvelous time! Next Monday, we'll do it again, and Mary also wants to come, although, then we'll have to ourselves make some treats for an extra person. Thank you, Emi-san!
     



Monday, February 23, 2015

LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE!

     All through this morning my heart is uneasy. I wrote about the last session  with Mr. P. and some thoughts on finding real friends. He rightly suggests, this could make a great difference in my outlook on life and happiness.
     I spoke of some of my insecurities, though, and some problems, I have with Mr. P. himself. One of them is, when he gets to talking, sometimes its difficult for me find a chance to express myself. I could be mistaken and, perhaps, need to listen to him more carefully. In his comments to my last post, Mr. P. criticized me for "projecting my insecurities and thoughts" onto our conversations and people, who otherwise could become my friends.
     He quoted someone before, who said, we need to develop thick skin and soft heart instead having thin skin and hard heart. I agree with it. That could be, what Mr. P. is talking about. Unfortunately, I also feel hurt by his suggestion that, my former friends forsook me because I was too judgemental and cynical towards them
     If I was a perfect, stable, attractive to everyone person, I wouldn't need therapy, would I? I recognize my limitations. I remember, when I first began to feel all alone. I trusted people around me then. I became more cynical after I understood, they didn't want me and didn't need me for a friend. Now I understand, I don't need such friends either!
     Its funny, Roberta's many times been on a receiving end of my criticism, but she shows herself to be a truer comrade, than others. She depends on me and my good attitude for her well-being, of course, but, I think, there is more to it than just trying to get into my good graces. Then there is Irina, a Russian illustrator, with whom we share a lot in common. Although she lives in San Francisco now, doesn't have a car or a lot of time or money to travel to meet me, we correspond by e-mail. And, of course, Tanya, another friend from Russia, who lives in Moscow. We also write each other almost every day. She is the dearest to me, but, for now, the one to whom I can tell my worries and who hears me out is Roberta. So, be it!
     I apologized to Mr. P. for not showing enough appreciation to  and, maybe, misunderstanding him. Still, I'd like to have a more equal relationship with him: if he can correct me, then so I should be able to do it.
     

Friday, February 20, 2015

AL ANON OR OFF?


     I was s-o-o-o-o tired! Hating myself for doing it, I opened my mouth and told Roberta: "You know, I think, once in two weeks is enough to go to Al Anon. We stay home tonight!"
     That was two days ago. Today Mr. P. raised the question of me attending the meetings again. He fervently believes, that the ideas and traditions of that organization are the key to a person's growth and recovery.
     - "I remember, Dina, how you defined one of your life's goals as building healthy reciprocal friendships. You can meet wonderful people at Al Anon. In fact, you missed a great session on Wednesday!"
     Seven, eight years ago, I would have latched on to the idea that, people, whom I would see one time a week, could become my dearest friends. Fortunately, unfortunately, - I was cured of such delusions by the, so called, "friends" I had, who prefered to forget, I even existed! 
     Mr. P. and I were two thirds into our session this time, when all this came up. Interrupting him is difficult, but I do it, when I consider something too important to keep to myself. So, I expressed my reservations about looking for buddies among the Al Anon bunch.
     Mr. P. calls it "a classical 'Dina' move", when I suddenly touch on some essential topic so late in the session. The thing is, 
                                             1. He has his definite ideas in the                                                              beginning of our appointment, what                                                    we should talk about and leads our                                                     conversation in that direction,                                                             and, 
                                             2. He himself can't (or prefers not to)                                                      leave such things to fester until the                                                      next Friday! 
     And so, on we went, way after the session was over, discussing my difficulties in making real relationships with people whom I know. 
     I tried to tell him the sorry tale of me, trying to tell straight to some of such acquaintances, why I was upset with them, but it didn't seem to help. Mr. P. was unmoved. He insisted: 
    - "I simply state my truth and leave it at that."
   Which, as I see it, means, I need to have a right attitude, when talking to people, not trying to guilt, shame or accuse them of anything or to change them. 
     I don't think, I can be that selfless. Can you? 
     On the other hand, he said, everything I express to them, should be told to make amends to myself, and not impress anyone. If I can focus on that, I can do it! 
     But will that help me make friends?
     
     

Thursday, February 19, 2015

THE BETTER LIFE

     
It was Valentine's Day. 
     Taka and I are married for 26 years and live together for 24 of them. During all that time he never gave me flowers or a present for that holiday. I sulked and cajoled for the first half of the many
years we are together, then stopped even thinking about it.
     Last week, I was driving home from an appointment with Mr. P., thinking, I should buy a cake for the next day: the Valentine's. Then I began having some other concerns and forgot about the cake. When I got home, Taka told me, he sent Sonny to fuel the car. 
     I sat by the laptop, typing, when I saw a beautiful California
sunset. I decided to take a picture of it for my Russian friend. Opened the glass door and the screen to get out into the garden. Chickie streaked by my feet and went straight for the grass in the backyard! I knew, I wouldn't be able to catch him, and Sonny was coming home any minute. I dialed his number and yelled: "S-O-N-N-Y, Chickie is out!!!!!!!!!" At that moment the door opened, Sonny walked in, carrying Chickie in one hand and ... a bouquet of roses and a box of See's

candy - in another! 

     You could've blown me away with a feather! What did it? I lost all hope of winning Taka's affection, at least, in the conventional way, like getting flowers for a holiday! Instead, I began to think, how I can make my own life better and become a stronger person. Time to time go to Al Anon, write about my feelings and talk to a counsel about all that. I started to assert my own dignity in dealings with my husband, not accepting the unacceptable behavior from him, like yelling or patronizing me. You would think, he'd feel threatened and pull even further away... Instead, he began to be more considerate! And now: the roses!

     It was a lovely and unexpected surprise! I feel encouraged by it. I feel, like a door opened into a new, better life.




AT THE DENTIST: NOT IN THE SADDLE, BUT AFRAID

cartoonDentist.gif (200×200)     I am writing a new story about Baba Yaga and, sitting in the dentist's chair, I decided to work on the story instead of feeling the dread, stealing over me. I got so involved in the musings and possible plot twists, that I completely forgot, where I was and why. So, when the doctor came in the room and asked Mrs. Toyoda ("hmm?"), what happened, for a few moments I couldn't understand, what that man in a mask, surgical gloves and goggles meant and wanted from me. Then I realized, things are going to start hurting a lot, and began to tremble.
     Fortunately, my dentist has a very humane approach to treating teeth. It turned out, only a small piece broke off, and the doctor could save the tooth by removing that bit and later putting a crown on the ill-fated molar. 
     He used all kinds of new devices to work on me. I almost had no pain, - at least, - not the pain, I imagined, when I made the appointment. One detail detracted from my relief: even though the doc kept shouting to the nurse: "Suction! Suction!!!" - she ignored him and continued some conversation she started with him before I got into the chair. At that point, I was lying supine in the said contraption and just followed the suction device, which the nurse passionately used to illustrate some point in her monologue, waving in front of my eyes, where it did me no good, whatsoever!    mighty-like-a-moose-the-dentist.gif (272×231)    Some stuff went down my throat: saliva mixed with blood and medicine; the dentist yelled in growing desperation: "suction, she is swallowing it!" - and I broke down and laughed.
     I was never known for having a lot of the common sense. It became apparent again, because, as I made one explosive "Ha!", - all the liquid, collected in my gullet, flew out in a picturesque stream and hit the dentist straight in the nose! 
     The man switched off the drill. He looked at me for a few long moments, as I lay cowering in mortal embarrassment, then resumed his work. The nurse rolled her eyes at me (the cheek, it was all her fault!) and began to suck out the goo. I wouldn't blame them, if they don't want to see me anymore at their practice!
     

BACK IN THE SADDLE AND... SCARED?

     All morning Roberta is asking me the same questions. 
- "Are we going tonight to, you know?.."
- "What, Roberta, you mean, Al Anon?"
- "Yes!"
- "Why? Our group meets on Wednesdays, and today is Thursday".
- "Ah, OK."
In three minutes:
- "Are we going to, you know?..."
     She forgets my answers, as soon as she hears them, it seems. Although, I can only hope that, when I am her age, I'll remember how to chew, Roberta's memory is getting worse and worse. I ended up writing the answers to all the questions she kept asking this morning and holding the paper up to her, when she decided to ask them again!
     In these few weeks, when I didn't write my blog, things were going pretty smoothly. My knee is getting better, so I can do more about the housework and shopping. At first, Sonny had to help more, than usual (and more, than he was willing to do). I tried to stand firm on my assertion that, he can use the car only if he does his household chores. 
   
The weeds and the flowers grow in harmony
in our garden. Taka is too busy with taxes.




tumblr_n4khfrktaN1r4ueyro1_500.gif (500×261)  Its springtime in California! The East of the country is drowning in snow piles, "poor" children have to stay home from school (they must be devastated!). And here the flowers are blooming in the garden, the hills are green, and we walk around in our short sleeves.
A result of California's pollution problem:
beautiful sunset.
I know, I know: there is no justice in the world.

     My diet is ... gone the way of the dodo? Yeah, even though I make a decision every night to start anew the next day and be conscientious about, what I eat, it never sticks to my actual behavior. 
     I, actually, paid for my lapse in diet. A couple of days ago I got tempted to get a roll of white bread: something I didn't eat in a long while. As I was munching on chewy goodness, I heard a crack... Upon poking with tongue around my mouth, I discovered that, a piece of a molar seemed to move! 
child-afraid-of-dentist-fakes-kidnapping.gif (410×231)     One, I am from Russia. We used to get our teeth worked on and even pulled, or the root canals done without anesthetic. I have a healthy and substantial fear about going to a dentist, therefore.
Two, I haven't been to a dentist for, at least, seven, eight years, and am afraid, what they will do to me, once I show my face at the office!
     Nevertheless, I did the responsible thing and called to make an appointment. The receptionist, darn her, was very sympathetic and let me come on the same afternoon. 

To be continued

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE CITIES: OSAKA/KYOTO/NAGANO/TOKYO, JAPAN - repost

NAGANO/TOKYOJAPAN

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     It's always hard to understand, what people from another culture are really thinking. The Americans, mostly, say, what's on their mind. The Japanese don't. The time we spent with Taka's family turned to resemble the United Nations' assemblies: Taka's parents would say something in Japanese, he'd translate it into English, I - into Russian. Then the order would be reversed, with my parents speaking in Russian, I translating it into English and Taka - into Japanese.
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     It seemed like we got along fine together. His family took us on a trip to a spa in the snowy mountains. The way there, on the roads covered with snow and ice, was an adventure in itself! images (275×183)
     The spa was, actually, a rustic retreat, images (241×209)with thick, wooden walls, baths and lovely softly glowing wooden furniture everywhere. We, again, had a Japanese style room with futons, we put away in the morning. The spa was built on the natural hot springs, and we went to the baths with children. I don't think I've ever felt so taken care of! 
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     At night, we all went to Taka's parents' room for dinner. His brother's and sister's families also came to the spa with us. When we got in there, we found a bunch of kids wrestling in the area where the futons were folded and put away. Sonny's cousin, whole two months older than him, took him by the hand and brought him into the melee, where she proceeded to soundly defeat him! It was such a cute picture: a laughing little girl sitting on Sonny's chest and  proudly waiving at us!
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     My mother made a grand entrance. Earlier in the evening, she was worrying, what to wear. Fortunately, the spa provided simple kimonos for all. They were too small for us, so she put one of them backwards and one - on top - the right way, - so she was all covered. She looked gracious and felt it too, because her smile on a picture from that gathering is sure and relaxed. It was the best photo that we could find for her grave when she passed away.                        After the spa all of us (except Taka's brother's family) went to Tokyo. My in-laws did everything to show their hospitality. They bought us presents after presents, took us to restaurants and spoiled their grandchildren. We were overwhelmed by their generosity.
    That's why it's so hard to write the rest of the story. In a few years after we came back to the U.S., little by little, it became apparent that they wanted nothing to do with us! At first I thought that it was me, that I, somehow, offended their sensibilities with my behavior. Then I thought, a reason for Taka's parents not communicating or responding to us anymore was that, his sister, whom he brought to the Unification Church, had a baby with Down Syndrome,                                                               images (284×178)   and the grandparents blamed Taka for going against their religion and invoking the wrath of the ancestors. I still don't know, what's true. For many, many years, there were no phone calls or greeting cards or presents for children from Japan, although we always sent our own holiday greetings there.
     A year ago we heard that Taka's father had cancer. We worried and prayed for him. Then, perhaps because he felt better or just felt  that, it was time to make peace with his oldest son, my father-in-law told us, he wants to visit in the summer. Amid my anxiety about welcoming him and my mother-in-law, I am tremendously relieved, they decided to become closer to us. Thank you, Heavenly  Father!