27 February, 2010

So you're a writer?

One of the challenging things about doing creative things like writing, is that the proof is in the product. So to go around saying, "I like to write" or "I'm a writer" is welcoming questions like, "SO what do you write?" or "Where can I buy your book?" Well I haven't written a book, but slowly I'm managing to not only write stuff that is publishable, but getting it published. This year I've had two articles published already. I'm chuffed. Here's proof: I've also received an invitation to an in-house writer's workshop that our mission is running. It is being held in Hong Kong in late August. The timing is not so great for our family - the second week of their new school year in Tokyo. But the opportunity is rare and valuable. It is encouraging that not only have I received this invitation, but my supervisor and colleagues in Japan have encouraged me to go. Exciting!

26 February, 2010

Tithing Test Me in This

I've found a place to get free Christian books, in exchange for a small amount of work. Reading the book and posting a review here. Here's my first review:
Tithing Test Me in This by Douglas LeBlanc

Far from being a long and tedious theological argument for tithing, this book takes a fresh approach. The author tells experiences of number of Americans who practice tithing. The overwhelming impression is that tithing is a basic guideline that God gives to believers. The interviewees felt that it was a bare basic in the generosity God expects of us.

The denominational backgrounds vary, most of which I wasn't familiar with. Their perspectives on tithing varied too. However none of them are considering giving it up. All felt themselves blessed. One couple said felt that tithing is not only a matter of obeying God. It is also a conscious way to resist the self-worship that accompanies greed and stinginess.

Most had chosen to live simply and their lives expressed generosity beyond the sharing of their finances.

I enjoyed the book, though in places there were terms and traditions I was unfamiliar with. As missionaries we have learned to live simply, minimising our belongings and thinking carefully about how we use our money and time.

It was refreshing to read about others who live simply. Challenging to read about the generosity of others. Inspiring to read about how God’s blessings flow through His people to others and back to the giver. Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review by Thomas Nelson Books <http://BookSneeze.com>. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

25 February, 2010

A success in the pursuit of heart health

I marked up a success last night. I followed this site's advice on a Low Fat White Sauce. By the way, the site has a tremendous amount of free recipes. I'll be back there! Here's the recipe: Ingredients 1 cup low fat milk (250ml) 2 teaspoon cornflour black pepper Optional 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese Method * Prepare white sauce by mixing together milk, cornflour, black pepper and parmesan cheese (if using) in a saucepan. * Cook slowly while stirring until thick and smooth. I found I needed more cornflour than this. I also tripled the recipe and added to it tuna, boiled eggs and a little low fat cheese and served it over brown rice for a very tasty low fat Tuna Mornay. We declared it a success (even our visitor, Anika - who often comments on this blog). And plan to use it in the future too.

23 February, 2010

I had it harder than you...maybe

When our 10 y.o. complained about uniforms I showed him this photo of my uniform in years 8-10. Unfortunately that strategy doesn't always work. If they complain about small bedrooms, I cannot show them the next photos of my childhood bedroom (and lounge room)! My bedroom was big enough for two beds and room to dance, besides. And this was not an upmarket house, just an old Queenslander. Cold in winter, hot in summer, but the rooms were generous!

20 February, 2010

Easy deputation

We engaged in fun, easy deputation today. Lunch with friends at their house. We talked about Japan (they asked good questions!), but we also talked about their weird hospital stories, ukuleles, fencing, old movies, books, home renovation and more. What a lovely afternoon. It wasn't all about us or our work. It much more closely resembled 'old' friends getting together again after five years!

19 February, 2010

Unexpected wet eyes

Today I found myself unexpectedly teary. It took me a while to figure out why. I was sitting on short, plastic chairs listening to our youngest's Prep teacher talk about her plans for the year and other need-to-know information. I found myself blinking away tears. It is not usual to feel teary at such an event, so why? Eventually I realised they were probably joyful tears as well as a little sadness. Joyful, because I easily understood everything the teacher said and because it sounded like our son was really going to enjoy his six months in this class. A little sad because I have sat through many such meeting (see photo) in Japan, hardly understanding a word and terrified about the time when we'd be asked to do a self-introduction (traditional in Japan in a new group) or make some understandable comment about the year that had passed. It still hurts deeply that I cannot easily understand (or speak) Japanese, the dominant language where I spend most of my time. And a little sad because we couldn't leave our kids in this terrific Australian school; that we'd force them to say goodbye in six months time. So, meanwhile I run around putting on a public face talking bravely about our adventures in Japan. If you ask me how we feel about going back. If you press me for a short answer, you'll hear, "Fine". However the deep truth is murkier. The truth is, we'd like Australia and Japan to be closer - so when we are living in one, we can visit the other on weekends! Ours is not an ideal lifestyle. So, with my temporary citizenship here on earth, I must expect tears, even at the most unexpected times.

18 February, 2010

A feast of nostalgia

You might have thought the weekend at Kingaroy was enough nostalgia for one week, but apparently not. Today I went back to university. Back to my old haunt. Back to hitting the books. I've mentioned earlier here and here that one of my goals during this year in Australia was to refresh my knowledge and skills in Occupational Therapy and specifically kids and handwriting. So, when two separate things were cancelled for today, leaving a big empty square in my diary, I made a quick decision to go to the uni library, where I knew I could access research and textbooks at almost no cost. It was a little scary this morning before I left, I'm not sure why. Maybe a case of being off the horse for too long? But once I'd found a park and started wading into journals, I had no problem slipping back into the whole deal. I spent about four hours reading, taking notes and photocopying. Trying to not only catch-up on what's happened in research over the last 10 years, but also trying to get a grasp on how I could apply that to working in Japan. I think I've made some progress. I also think that I'll have to go back and do a little more research and a lot more thinking. In the meantime, I'm pretty pleased with myself. The whole day of professional development cost me only $10 (not including petrol or food). There isn't much you can get for $10 these days!

16 February, 2010

Japanese house plan

With our thoughts turning to Japan, we're thinking about what we might rent to live in. We found a website that has some properties on it, but not ones in the area we're looking for (thankfully - they're all frightfully expensive). However, I thought you might be interested to see the house plan of something that we wouldn't mind living in - if the location and price were right. Very different indeed to what we're currently living in, in Australia. Check it out here. And, yes, I probably won't have to work too hard on my gluts once I move into a house like this - 3 stories!


One of the spin-off from our medicals in December was an interesting blood test result for my husband, David. His triglyceride levels are higher than usual. Here it says:
There is another type of normal fat (triglyceride) in the blood. The levels in the blood tend to become elevated by excessive amounts of refined sugar, saturated fats and alcohol in the diet. Elevated triglyceride levels are more common in the overweight and inactive and often accompany elevated cholesterol levels.
Well, he is neither overweight nor an imbiber of alcohol. His cholesterol levels are fine. Perhaps he is a little inactive and a lover of refined sugar, but essentially healthy, except for this little blood test result. Anyway, this is the second time this blood result has come back (previous medical in Australia 4 and a half years ago). So, we really need to do something about it. The main way to improve the situation, so my research tells me, is to exercise and to reduce the refined sugar and fat intake in your diet. I cannot do much about his exercise, except to encourage. So I've been working on the food end of things. That our diet is pretty healthy is evident that neither of us is overweight. No one in our family has food allergies, so I haven't been in the position of having to be very careful about what we eat. But now I have to reconsider family favourites like white sauce based meals, white toast, hot dogs, cheese, cake and biscuits and so on. As I tour the grocery store it appears to me that it is challenging to eat cheaply without blowing out on simple sugars and fat. Whole grain stuff is usually more expensive. Cheap, easy snacks are sugar-high biscuits and cakes. My long-held criteria for recipes that make it into the regular menu are
  • quick and easy to prepare (i.e. under an hour from beginning to end)
  • don't have a zillion ingredients
  • don't cost a lot
  • are reasonably tolerated by our three boys
  • have easily available ingredients (this becomes even more important in Japan)
The new recipes need to fit these categories too. I'm am struggling a little. I've been trying out new recipes as well as modifying old favourites. I am well aware that not all the ingredients I can buy here are available or easily available in Japan, like low fat cheese or wholemeal pasta. I am not about to commit to spending most of any day doing groceries and cooking. I simply have more important things to do. It's a challenge that I cannot avoid. I'll let you know how we're going in a few months time!

Hermit crab update

Our little hermit crabitat was just fine, especially for ultimate portability. In it Jaz, Jessica and Spikey have already travelled to Toowoomba, Springsure and the Sunshine Coast, in their short lives, with no problem at all. However, when I spied the unused aquarium at my parents (left over from a short-lived fish experiment as a child), I decided to snaffle it for the remainder of our home assignment. Mum and Dad were all too pleased to hand it over and we've had fun decorating it and watching them explore their much expanded home. Here is what their home looks like now: We were tickled to find them all climbing on the pine cones the other night. We'd read they like to climb, but their previous accommodation didn't allow us much room to provide 'climbing frames'. Does anyone have unusual pet stories to share with us?

Cool kitchen appliance!

Last week we bought this cool apple slicer/peeler. It is so fun. It creates an apple slinky in the blink of an eye!

15 February, 2010

I wasn't prepared

On the weekend we drove out to Kingaroy for deputation. For non-Queenslanders, Kingaroy is a country town about 250km west-north-west of Brisbane. They have a population around 10 000 people. (Photo is of my apartment as it was back then.) I wasn't prepared for the wave of nostalgia which swelled over me as we travelled back that road up to Kingaroy. You see, I lived there for more than two years immediately after I graduated from university. I was the Occupational Therapist for the region surrounding (and including) Kingaroy - some 11 000 square kilometres! It was a daunting task for a new graduate. But it turned out to be my most satisfying job as an OT thus far. The variety was awesome. The freedom I had to make choices was inspiring. The opportunities to develop my own skills and the scope of the department were fantastic. In addition to this wonderful challenge, I lived on my own for the first time in my life. Something I was very keen to do after four years of living in community at a university college. The down side was the loneliness that came with it all. Working on my own much of the time, living on my own and going to church on my own. No young adults group to enjoy. At 21 I was the only person between the lone young teenager and two parents in their ?30s. Now I can look back with fondness at the whole experience, however. I'm glad I did it. It often helps when I'm feeling low about my own ability to cope with life in Japan, to know that I once did manage independently (admittedly, in Australia, not a foreign country). I wasn't prepared, though I should have been, for how I felt on Saturday. The closer we got to the town, the more memories surfaced (my poor husband!). We first landed at the church and did the preparation for our deputation with the church. Then I took the kids down the road to a park. I sat while they played, and memory after memory washed over me. Through the trees I could just see the church that I two-timed with the Presbyterian church, going there for fellowship and livelier music in the evenings. I remembered the weekly Bible studies I attended and the long-term friends I made there. The volleyball games where I enjoyed being just another player, rather than the OT. The shopping centre where I'd learnt about shopping and cooking for myself for the first time. The news agency I wandered around, in a strange kind of echoing of the future, hoping for a bookshop to materialise out of nowhere! The block I circled looking in vain for Christmas presents. The set of traffic lights which were the first ones in the district and the cars which used to slow down up to a kilometre away, wondering if the lights would turn red before they got there! It has been more than 12 years since I left that post to go to Brisbane where my fiancé lived. Some changes have occurred in Kingaroy during that time. Probably mostly superficial ones. The church has a lot of different people, many have moved away, new ones have come. But the age range is still about the same. Much has changed for me! I didn't know back then that living and working on my own in Kingaroy would be good preparation for living and working in a foreign country, but it was. I learned many things, but not least among them, that I need to be responsible for my own spiritual growth. I cannot defer that to the church I happen to be attending at the time.

Japanese marriages

I just found this blog post about Japanese marriages. I always love to hear instances of people going against the norm in a positive way and this post gives us examples of just that.

13 February, 2010

The Year on Ladybug Farm

"The Year on Ladybug Farm" by Donna Ball This books is about three ladies in their 50s who decide it is time to make a big change, but what they take on is bigger than they ever imagined - a 100+ year old dilapidated house and property in the country.
"Three close friends and neighbors, Cici, Bridget and Lindsey, find themselves at a crossroads in life and long to do something different, something unique. Bridget has recently become widowed, Cici divorced, and Lindsey retired from her teaching position. So when the opportunity to purchase a dilapidated old house in the Shenandoah Valley comes up, the ladies decide to make the leap from their comfortable suburban lives and become lady farmers."
I've just read this book. It is delightful. I'm trying to figure out why. Maybe because I know what it is like to leave the city and "go bush" and a little of what living in the country is like. Maybe because there is no violence or mystery and I've read quite a lot of murder mysteries lately? There is no romance (or minimal). Yet it was compelling reading, mostly because you want to know whether they make it to the end of the year they've promised each other and whether they'll go longer than that. There are also enough 'incidents' to make you wonder what on earth they'll come up against next in their effort to restore this house and reclaim the farm. To be honest, the relationships between the women are appealing too - honest, yet deep, abiding friendships, everything a woman might want in a girlfriend. Now I find there is a sequel and I want to read it...now. But the library doesn't have it yet. Sigh.

12 February, 2010

Thoughts turning to Japan

Now that our big summer adventure adventure is over (summary: visit family across Queensland for Christmas, do Scripture Union camp, take family holidays) our thoughts are turning to the rest of the year. The biggie in 2010 for us is, of course, returning to Japan. No one is letting us forget, either, the question frequently gracing our interactions with others: "So, when are you going back?" The way I think of it is that people are thinking of how much longer they have to put up with us hanging around OR they're wondering if they can already say goodbye and forget about us. Either way (or possibly neither), we don't need much encouragement to turn our thoughts to Japan. Our boys are missing their Lego and other toys which were packed away and stored with 95% of our belongings. They're missing friends (and we are too). We're not yet tired of this crazy deputation lifestyle, but it is going to start to get tiresome as we tell the same stories again and again. Not to mention answer those questions, especially..."How much longer till you go?" We've started to accumulate some of those things which we cannot get in Japan and specifically want to take back with us, like an ironing board cover, two-handed-oven mitts, an Australian atlas etc. Later on I'll get over-the-counter medication stuff stocked up on too. Oh yes, Golden syrup, Promite and Vegemite as well. I've also been shopping for summer clothes for myself, which has been fun. Now I'm waiting for some winter specials to replace my aging jumpers and skivvies. I noted with interest that stirrup pants are back in...I must be getting old, I still have some stirrup pants from last time they were 'in'! Ah well, I guess I'll just be ahead of the curve this time, instead of the other way around. But, please don't plan our funeral yet. We WILL be around until early July, even if we start planning for our return early!

10 February, 2010

Reverse culture shock again?

A missionary friend of mine wrote recently on her blog that culture shock can have a fresh wave at the six month mark and guessed that reverse-culture shock could work the same way. Maybe that explains why I've had a few step-back-and-think-about-it moments recently. Yesterday when I went to the haematologist, his office was on the first floor of a multi storey building. I went looking on the ground floor and ended up in a cancer outpatients department! In Australia, for those of you overseas, floors are numbered like this Ground, 1st, 2nd and so on. In Japan and in many other countries, floors start at the 1st floor. No ground floor! I eventually found my way in. During our 'chat' he asked my some questions about my medical history. I couldn't remember the English word for a problem I'd been having. Just the English equivalent of a Japanese word that has been borrowed from English, but not any longer in regular use in English! He figured out what I meant and I just explained that it was 'one of those days'. And then today I went to fill up the car with petrol. It is something I've been doing since we came home (I had to learn to do it again after four years away, for various reasons I don't do it in Japan). First 'problem' I struck was a large line-up at all the pumps except the one closest to the entrance, which no one was using. In Japan, because I very often can't read important signs, I read a lot into what other people do. If there is a crowd at the place you are going, then you are probably in the right place. If it is deserted, then you are probably in the wrong place (this theory doesn't work so well in Australia, we are so much less populated). But today this instinct rolled in automatically and I wondered what was wrong with the bowser (petrol pump)! Because I was high alert due to the "there's no line-up at this bowser, therefore there is probably something wrong with it" worry. I suddenly found myself panicked by a choice. I had to choose between Unleaded fuel and Unleaded fuel with 10% ethanol. The latter was cheaper and won out, but I was plagued with doubts and envisaging all the bad things I could be doing to our car. My husband assures me it is fine but how come I haven't seen this before? I do wonder if yesterday's bout with Japanese confusion was brought on by the train journey I took to get to the doctor. Trains are irrevocably connected with Japan for me now. A temporary ill, I'm sure. Just a little disconcerting as you never know when it is going to strike!

09 February, 2010

More medical adventures

I mentioned once before the stringent medicals we frequently undergo in the missionary line of work. Today I had a follow-up on the medical I had in December. Another interesting encounter with the medical-kind. I met a haematologist. The routine blood test I had in December came up with a couple of slight irregularities, therefore I had to get it checked by a specialist. His basic opinion, after he heard my occupation and we chatted about Japan for a bit, was that while my occupation was interesting, my blood is basically "boring". That is, to a man accustomed to dealing with serious blood conditions, I am very healthy and in no need, even of a repeat blood test. Phew! This isn't the first time we've had intersting medical appointments. Over the last 12 years we've collectively seen a cardiologist, radiologist, urologist, and paediatrician as a result of medicals. We've had multiple immunisation (including one several times over for it refuses to cause immunity), blood tests, x-rays and unmentionable probing. Even an invasive 24 hour cardiac test. Interestingly, not long ago my husband concluded that he was healthier than he was 12 years ago and probably as a result of regular medicals. There is something to being questioned, poked and probed, weighed and measured on a regular basis, that motivates you to take better care of yourself.

The most "Buddhist" Buddhist I've met.

The title to this post comes out of a prayer letter I read yesterday. The writer is a missionary in Japan. He's been there for more than 20 years. He goes on to say this:
"Almost all of the other "Buddhists" I have met have little or no clue what (classical) Buddhism actually teaches. Mr E, on the other hand, actually does! Not surprising I suppose for a Buddhist priest."
Occasionally I have people ask me about Japan's religion/s. It is often difficult to explain. The country claims a couple of religions as their own - Buddhism and Shintoism. But, as our missionary above explained, most Japanese cannot tell you what they believe. It is not like adhering to Islam or Christianity. It is more a way of life. A bit like Materialism. What Materialist can give you a creed that they live by? I sometimes feel quite at sea in Japan, feeling like I don't really know much about the Japnaese and how they think, especially in a religious way. And even more so when an Australian is trying to press me for a clear, concise answer. So I was encouraged to read this 'veteran' missionary's honest statement about a "Buddhist" Buddhist.

08 February, 2010


Our oldest son imploded over wearing his school uniform today, I nearly didn't get him to school at all. I guess it was a delayed reaction. He cannot wait to go back to Japan where he can wear his own clothes. Yet another difference for these kids to get used to.

07 February, 2010

Car door edge guards

Last post I mentioned rubber things you put on your car doors. Check out these door edge guards (apparently in 30 different colours) and here are some Australian ones. I have to say the ones we used were not as stylish as this! Just plain black rubber that didn't even stick very well.
However maybe we'll see more of them in the future. They certain reduce anxiety for parents!

06 February, 2010

Church is moving

The main church we attend while in Queensland is moving further into the Western suburbs. Check out their new website.

Car button missing

I'm missing a little button in the car. Why, seven months after leaving Japan I am suddenly missing something from there, I don't know. It was a button I used every day, too! The button in question is the "close the side mirror" button. Yes, Japanese cars have buttons you press to fold the mirrors in (see the car in the picture). The roads and car parks are so narrow that it is safer for you (and others) to do this. I've knocked a hip or two on mirrors that weren't folded. I wondered why so many small (read one or two child) families had vans in Tokyo. After owning a van here in Australia I am beginning to suspect that one reasons is because of how narrow the car parks are - with a van, kids can open the door without risking anyone else's car! We ended up buying special rubber things to go on the door so that WHEN it hit other cars, it didn't dint them. Nevermind, I'm sure that I can get another button when we return :-)

04 February, 2010

Left-handers take note!

Being left-handed and an OT I am intrigued by this website and these pens:
There are their claims: The award winning Yoropen is a revolutionary ergonomic pen designed to make writing more natural and comfortable, especially for left-handers.
Yoropen’s offset portion prevents fingers from slipping down towards the pen tip; thus improving posture, saving energy and reducing writing strain. The tripod grip can be adjusted to one’s preferred writing position; left-handers simply twist to the left. It also creates a clear field of vision, prevents hooking and smudging of work. The unique design helps reduce writing strain and is ideal for everyone including; children, students, left-handers, dyspraxia and arthritis sufferers.
Pity they don't ship overseas. But then we do have our very own Lefty store here in Australia. You can even buy a left-handed watch (the opposite to usual, of course).

Where is my mind?

Twice overnight the thought ran through my mind that I REALLY like this house we're renting and that it'll be hard to leave it in June. Then we read this in our morning devotion time:
Colossians 3:1-2 NIV 1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Oops. Turn my eyes to things above. I guess that doesn't involve a nice house here on earth, does it? It was just the re-tuning that my mind required. Not that it is bad to appreciate the earthly things I have, I just need perspective, God's perspective. Especially in this transitory life of moving around that God has given me.

Ancient Japanese Proverb you can read

03 February, 2010

Interesting personality website

Simone pointed in the direction of this website. I learned that my ENFP personality means that I am presumably: outgoing, social, disorganized, easily talked into doing silly things, spontaneous, wild and crazy, acts without thinking, good at getting people to have fun, pleasure seeking, irresponsible, physically affectionate, risk taker, thrill seeker, adventurous, unprepared, attention seeking, hyperactive, easily distracted, open, revealing, comfortable in unfamiliar situations, attracted to strange things, non punctual, likes to stand out, likes to try new things, fun seeker, unconventional, energetic, impulsive, empathetic, loving, attachment prone, Well, I have issue with some of these! I also discovered my beloved INTJ husband is apparently harder to live with than I thought. Here are a selection of his attributes according to the website: loner, more interested in intellectual pursuits than relationships or family, not very altruistic, not very complimentary, would rather be friendless than jobless, observer, values solitude, perfectionist, detached, private, not much fun, does not talk about feelings, hard to impress, analytical, tends to be pessimistic, not spontaneous, does not think they are weird but others do, suspicious of others, can be lonely, rarely shows anger. At least he's orderly, clean, organized, punctual, a finisher, prepared and responsible!

02 February, 2010

Cultural shift within our family

It has just come home to me today, on the day my youngest started school, that our family has made a big cultural shift over the last nine months. And not the one you might think. Nine months ago we essentially had two under-school aged kids and one in primary school. Now we have all three in primary school. It makes a big difference. Now we have swimming lessons, basketball training and games and, it looks like, violin lessons. I have to keep track of three different schedules for sports uniforms, library days, tuckshop, school outings etc. A totally different schedule to a pre-school one. Now my day is dominated by "going to school" and "coming home from school". Everything else I want to do should, ideally, fit in between those two times. Oh, yes, I still have my evenings, at least some of them. Though they are gradually being shortened by our eldest as he heads towards late-night teenage-hood. Joy! Actually I have looked forward to them all being at school for some time now. It has been 10 1/2 years since I had this much child-free time. Now I just need to get that 9-2.30 time organised so that I have something to show for all that extra time.

01 February, 2010

Short questionnaire about radio

Do you have an under 12 y.o. in your house? Perhaps they wouldn't mind helping out Zack, a friend of our eldest son. He was in our son's class in Japan, the class that our son is desperate to return to as soon as possible! Anyway, the point is Zack has a school project that includes a very short online questionnaire that he wants people to fill in. Go to his family's blog if you can help him out.

Mail's not coming?

I was waiting for the post, but the postman flew straight past. They've been holding our mail for two weeks, maybe it was too interesting to let us have? Perhaps they'll pay the bills too. The main thing I'm looking for is evidence of what people have been saying - that I'm in print again!