Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Three seems to be an auspicious number in Japan.

The third of November, Is "Culture day". Children of three, five, and seven are dressed in fine Japanese clothing and taken to the shrine for a special blessing ... and usually a photograph of the occasion.

Shochikubal, The three plants, (Pine, Bamboo, and Plum) The first two stay green throughout the winter and plum is the first to flower in the late winter. They are often combined in flower arrangements and used in New Year's decorations, standing for hope and good fortune.

Then, there are those three monkeys ... see no evil. hear no evil. and speak no evil.

Well then, it took three weeks in three different locations to finally get my new senior driver's license.
Might I say, "The third time is a charm"?
Today, as I passed through the train station, the man at the ticket window wished me well. When I got off at the city hall in Shinjuku, I didn't know which building to head for so I asked a man that seemed to be looking for something too. He replied he was going to the same place so let's find it together.

The first building we entered was full pf police and people in fancy black suits. It looked like the way was blocked but my "guide" politely told the guards he was taking me to the driver's license place. The guard said, "follow me", so we set off through the building with other police saluting him as we went. At the top of an escalator, he sent us off, giving my guide directions as to the route to take.

We found the place and compared with three years ago it was working very efficiently. There were lots of people but I had very little waiting while moving from window to window to window. Heading to the last window, I met up with my "guide" who gave me a high five as I thanked him again.

The reverse route had to be changed as the first building was still not allowing entry. I wonder what was going on in that place. Still, I was able to locate the train station as it is much better marked on signs... and when I came out of the ticket gate at Toshimaen, the man in the window greeted me home with another high five.

So, that is one more thing off my list for the next three years.

The next thing off my list is the mug-rug for Wally.  DONE! When I skyped with my two daughters in Oregon, they suggested I make him a napkin and whittle him a napkin ring. Hmm... Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Friday is my quilt group.How much more time can I whack out of what's left of this week?

I will not need a turkey dinner or pumpkin pie to be grateful. Even in the most trying times, family and friends and even strangers have brought me love and comfort and aid. Blessings abound.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friends in high places

Along with a box of munchable goodies and Christmas tree lights and carving wood that came flying in from Boston, was this night shirt that my son and DIL picked up at a birder's store on the cape.

I love these long nightshirts but I can only enjoy the design until the warm weather returns next summer.
I have added some feathers to my bedding and thinking that soon the sleeping bag will have to come out of hiding.

Meanwhile this shirt hangs to remind me of so many special friends ... and one for whom I am preparing a small mug-rug to celebrate his 90th birthday in another week.

Wally was one of my husband's best friends, and since he was getting on in years, he had put all his money and property into his wife's name so she would have little trouble should he pass away.

Sadly, she died first, and in Japan, all the property is then divided up by the relatives. To make matters worse, his wife's relatives were not on good terms and not even speaking to each other. Paul, to rescue his friend, stepped in and worked for a year or more, negotiating with the far-flung relatives so that Wally could keep some of his property. Can you imagine having to sell your house so the money can be divided up between relatives, leaving only a portion for one's self?

When Paul died, it was Wally who came to my rescue with money to live off of while the year passed trying to dis-inherit all the debts. His claim was that Paul had refused payment and it was what Wally owed him. Now the time Paul and he spent together over lunch after church or meetings has become my time to share with Wally. I have certainly learned why the two were such good friends.

Wally has worked through the years with JR (Japan Railways) and is a great historian of the evolution of trains in Japan.

He is also the historian of our church and working on the archives as we near 2020.

He has sold his house in Shizuoka ... where my daughter's family and I acquired many plants from his wife's lovely garden ... and is now living in a senior residence in Tokyo.

He moved the things he wished to keep and does not have large quarters.
I have begun now quilting a small mug-rug for his birthday and Norie is thinking of getting him a mug and matching dessert plate. The train fabric I have used for the backing.

Today I finished quilting the crane using white thread and now have begun the background in light turquoise. It was suggested I make a napkin to match and whittle him a napkin ring.  We shall see what kind of time I have left by a week from tomorrow when the celebration is planned.

"Choir Sunday" is nearing and we are working hard on Benjamin Britten, "A Ceremony of Carols", to be sung at both services in place of the sermon. Over many years I have sung this piece and the only thing I need the music for is to know the order of the pieces. We are also beginning to prepare for a Valentines choral event where I will be part of a barbershop quartet and another small group. I was handed the first piece, "Let there be Music! Let there be Love" about a month ago, and we have practiced together a few times. The result of these preparations is all that music running through my brain. Luckily I can quilt and hum and it takes my mind off the coming driving test too.

Great way to spend a cold rainy day!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My other life

On Friday evening, at the end of our monthly pack meeting, I was presented this certificate by my assistant cubmaster. It may seem important but no one serves scouting alone and behind anything I have done, there are many un-sung heroes.

Years ago, I ran cub leader roundtables. They were attended by both pack and den leaders.

We usually had a theme and leaders brought something to share.
Sometimes it was games we could use for our meetings. After learning the game, we discussed how it might be tweaked to fit indoor or outdoors and different age groups. Some were for fun and some were learning games.

Sometimes the theme was a craft we could use to meet advancement requirements. We could actually do the craft and discuss how to use it at a meeting.

Sometimes it was a song with motions.
Sometimes a skit or a group skit to involve the whole group.

We laughed a lot. We got to know other leaders ... who we might go to for ideas ... where we could find support and help. We discussed places to go on outings, campgrounds, exhibits boys might enjoy, We became a team ... because actually, no one leads a group in scouting alone.

Now ...
We have reached the digital age. The meetings are set up on line go-to-meeting at the convenience of the person running the meeting. If I am at home at all, it might fall while I am eating my dinner. Even so, we log in if we can bring our computer to the table and listen to the printed agenda with little discussion. We may thank that person running the meeting but there is no real contact with others attending, no laughter, no sense of camaraderie.

Last evening, the postman delivered this plaque and the enclosed note apologising for lack of "an appropriate venue".

I don't need special recognition. I really don't mind that lack, but I do mind missing an opportunity to thank my fellow dedicated scouters who plan all those events that I just show up at and do whatever they ask.
Since meetings today have become more convenient to do on line, I feel sorry that now leaders have traded convenience without even knowing what they are missing. Will the day come when the scouts themselves will come to virtual meetings and camp out on line? Can one out-of-touch old lady, no matter how honored, make any difference? I wonder.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The trials of ageing

Well, not a whole lot of quilting to report, If I posted a picture of progress on my mola, you would have to look hard to find what I have added since a former picture.

The big focus for this month is getting my driver's license renewed. It expires one month after my birthday which means the end of November.

In Japan, when you reach 70, you have to begin a series of driving tests every three years. One has to book an appointment at a driving school for the lecture and assorted tests. The first one I took at a driving school in Suginami where we were living at the time. It had the usual eye tests and reaction time tests and a "road" test on what I call a Micky Mouse course, plus several hours of lecture pointing out how dangerous old people are when they get behind the wheel. Rather a depressing way to spend half a day.

The last two tests I took at a driving school near my home in Nerima. My husband booked the test day and I just drove over there and took all the assorted tests in one half day. Now it is my fourth time to go through the process and the local school could not be booked.

Actually, I was not able to do any booking. My daughter, Norie offered to make the calls for me but with much trying, was told it wasn't possible to fit me in until after the new year as they were all booked up. It took her husband, Hiro, an hour to finally get the driving school to schedule me. At that, it was not a great deal. There was something about a postcard from the local police (something I never got and there was no information on what it was or how to get it) The location they chose was not the one in my neighborhood, but one farthest from where I live in a strange area that has changed so much over the years, one would never find your way even if you had lived there formerly.

Today Norie helped me figure out the route and met me at the station. It was a good thing too because there was no information where the bus was to meet people. By the time we figured out that white bus was the "Green" one, and waited for the crossing light to change, the bus took off without us. So ... we waited and waited for the next one. At last that one was green. Well, finally we got to the school. I probably could have walked it in the time it took to wait ... had I known which way to walk.
Of course there were more papers to fill out but this time I had Norie's help. Then wait some more ... pay the fee ... then wait again.

Finally, I was ushered up to the 4th floor and Norie had to leave as the projected time did not fit her schedule. I got separated from the rest ... all men ... and sent off to another room. There it was explained to me that if I passed the test with a score above 75, I could come back for a two-hour lecture and the Micky mouse course. If my grade was below 75, I would have to take the three-hour lecture instead. Then came the test. First question ... what time is it now? Yes, on previous tests they did that ... make you put away your watch and then ask you to record the time. No problem there.
Then came the questions about what day is it month. year, etc etc. OK, then four sets of four pictures.

Look at one card, listen to the guy say what it was ... tank, drum, eye, stereo set, OK, the tank was referred to as a weapon, so the tank shoots, it sounds like a drum beat, I open my eye to see where it is and find a stereo set. Good. give me the next  set. Three more sets making 16 pictures, then I was asked to write down what I saw. No problem. Then I was given a sheet if clues as to the pictures and wrote down the 16 words again in that order. Then there was a puzzle with numbers where I had to go down a page filled with numbers and cross off all the 2s and 4s. OK, I can do that. Then I was given three more numbers to cross out. I am wondering what this is testing me for. Then I had to draw the face of a clock and put the hands at a certain time. Well, I guess it was a good thing I didn't have to convert it to am and pm with bigger numbers. In all, I finished the test and they took it off to go over my answers.

The guy brought me a cup of Japanese tea and told me I had aced the test at 100%. Well, do I go out and say I got 100% on a senility test? Am I 100% senile? anyway, I was not allowed to book my actual driving test and the two hour lecture while I was there at the school but must do it sometime after getting home. The paper they handed me was all in Japanese except for my name and the 100% at the top. Hopefully Hiro can wangle me the next session before my current license runs out.

My take on this whole thing is that they are trying to make taking the test so difficult that senior citizens will just give up. A schedule that takes you on numerous trains you are not familiar with to a strange station ... requiring you to ride during rush hour with no chance to sit and some dude shoving past with a backpack in your face, knocking your glasses to the floor and bending them out of shape. The "post card from the police"not an item really needed.  And the need now to start all over again trying to book the next segment. I have heard that lecture already three times and it is very demeaning, on and on about how dangerous the old people are. Then a chance to get behind the wheel of a car that is much different from what you usually drive.

When I was growing up, the elderly were respected for their knowledge and experience, In Japan they have begun "Respect for the aged day". What a laugh. I had to work, riding to and from school that day. Any chance to sit went to the youngest and fastest and I was lucky not to be shoved out the door at the stops. I have heard a member of the government say that old people should go out to the mountains and die so as not to take up space and finances.

So ... I decided not to get old. When I reached 50 I began counting in the other direction. This year I am a teenager again (and this time around I am going to get it right). Sunday I went to join a group of Americans at Shibuya where we protested the Trump ... who was enjoying a sunny day (for once) playing golf.

And, upon coming home from the trial, I enjoyed a piece of celebratory cake that Norie had made for the occasion.

She passed it to me as she left the driving school saying to be sure and light the candle. Done!

 I have so many things on my plate but I am afraid to fill in events on my calendar, lest I get a conflict with the #1 driving test.

It would have been nice if I had assembled a bit of take-along work to soothe my ruffled nerves. Maybe while listening to a two-hour lecture ...?

A week or so ago I read an article in the paper about the problem of senior drivers and requiring them to only drive those new self-braking cars. Yeah, and where do they get the money to buy one of those? My list of four accidents were all caused by young men with cell phones. Three while I was stopped for a red light and one when I was parked and unloading my car. I drive a van and can look down into passing cars and it is scary to see how many young people are texting with the phone held below the steering wheel.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All done ...

... including removing random threads and dog hair.

Today the sun popped out long enough to get a snapshot. Good timing!  Now I have finished a hanging sleeve at the top and bottom.

Tokyo Union Church was first formed in the foreign community of Tsukiji, a former mud flat where, in the 1860s, all foreigners other than diplomats and those working for the Japanese government, were allowed to live. Around 1870, Protestant missionary families began holding informal worship services in their homes and in 1872, fund-raising was begun to put up a building.

As the foreign community grew (and out-grew the Tsukiji area), around the early 1900s, the church began to meet in Japanese churches ... on Sunday afternoons when their missionary duties were over for the day. Most members were missionary families, but as the foreign community increased, there became a need for a place of their own and a piece of property in Toronomon, not too far from the US and other foreign embassies, was purchased.

With the great earthquake in 1923, the area was decimated by fire storms, less than a month after groundbreaking. The church continued to meet in assorted other locations. By 1928, though, it was decided to sell the plot and build a house of worship at the current location on Omotesando, not far from the Meiji Shrine. By 1930, the church was built and dedicated.

Then, in December 1941, war began and enemy foreigners were rounded up. The church opened up to the greater community to ward off government takeover. The church went on through the war until a fire bomb in May of '45 came through the roof and burned about anything that would burn, leaving two rooms to the side and a basement full of burned junk.

At the end of the war in August, foreigners began to return and by Dec. 1951, services resumed in the restored building. That is the building Paul and I first came to in August 1963. In those days, most members were not only missionaries but rich ex-pats of assorted embassies and businesses. We were told, "Japanese have their own churches, so go there". I think it was expected that Japanese wanted only to practice their English at that place. We did sneak in for some special occasions like Easter or Christmas, but were seated in the basement to only listen to the service over a speaker.

It was in 1973, when Paul was hired by Banker's Trust, that we were allowed to come to services but there were few Japanese at that time and not really welcomed.

In 1979, plans for a new building were put into gear. I have old photos of the ground-breaking ceremony with my young son giving the shovel a big push into the soil.  In all the years since, there has been talk of selling that piece of expensive property and moving to some other location. The area now is full of high-end shops ... every big name in fashion seems to have a glittering store there and walking down the street, one can often hear more Chinese spoken than Japanese. The congregation has evolved as well to maybe 40 different countries represented and many different denominations building on that which we all have in common and giving opportunities for service.

This year, starting in the summer, the basement "Fellowship Hall" has been renovated ... now almost finished and ready to be dedicated. This will be it's second renovation as well as a number of other up-dates to the kitchen and 4th floor which once held a pre-school.That seems to be where the word "Renew" came from when it looking to the coming Stewardship campaign.

I really had no idea for the banner and one quick sketch a committee member made was a computer icon of the round arrow and a finger pushing the button. Certainly that would have made a simpler idea to put on a quilted piece but somehow, something as simple as pushing a button didn't speak to me as a way of really getting involved. A meeting with the very artistic pastor's wife came up with other images ... the sun coming up ... a rainbow in celebration ... a bible verse contributed by the associate pastor ... and some gold  thread suggested by another friend at the choir retreat.

The glittering beads on the window could maybe be more but are inspired by this window we in the choir stand before each Sunday to song the introit and anthem.

I can't say this is my all-time favourite as banners go, but I am glad to have it all done ... and hope it might inspire some passing member to renew their pledge of time and talent or finances to this house of God.

In 1980 there was a small book written, "A Church For All Seasons".
I believe as another anniversary approaches, that book too will be updated.

All the quilting except the gold thread was completed during the choir retreat.... another weekend of heavy rain, no Mt. Fuji in view. Sunday evening was spent with family and friends at a nearby Indian restaurant with heavy rain beating on the windows and seeping in on the floor. Luckily that typhoon held off the heavy crowds in Shibuya so that I was able to park and make the rice delivery.
It could have been very bad because the bus home last night was held up by Halloween revellers swarming the Shibuya area. It is extremely rare for a train or bus in Tokyo to be more than a minute behind schedule but last night's was 58 minutes behind and the driver said it was due to the mess in Shibuya around the station ... people all over the place ... the parade on Sunday had been cancelled so it seems they were taking the opportunity to show off their costumes there.
Interestingly, the Christmas lights had begun going up along Omotesando when I went to pick up the onigiri on Monday morning.  A dozen or so trees were lit all the way to the top and a few dozen more had the lights installed on the lower trunks. I guess Halloween is about costumes and Christmas about lights. (And Valentines day is about chocolate). What will be the next foreign holiday to be embraced by shops, I wonder?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A bit of sun!

I was wondering if I added all the hours of clear blue sky we have had in October, would it even come to a total day's worth. Well, I think the six hours we have had so far today might push it up to that much.

At least the inside time has allowed me to finish up sewing all those little letters on to the banner.

I still have some words to go but I have decided to embroider them in a curve below the rainbow. Appliquéing all those curvy lower case letters was more of a challenge than I wanted.

I will also add details to the church building with stitchery.

After taking this picture to send to the committee, I spread it out on the floor and basted the sandwich. Now I will be able to move this to take-along work ... starting tomorrow on the way to Gotemba for the choir retreat. As I recall, at last year's retreat I was working on the quilting on last year's project.

So, here is the basted piece. This is far from my favourite but if it meets expectations, I will be satisfied. I do miss my husband who could take the drawing and have it enlarged to make a pattern.

Now, maybe I should find an excuse to go outside and grab a bit of that sun before the next typhoon moves in....

Friday, October 20, 2017

It has been a while ....

Not much quilting to report ...
even though my last post was ten days ago.

We have had rain, rain, and more rain, and it seems to be fogging up my brain. The 13th was my regular Cub Scout pack meeting and it was after 11:pm when I got home. I was to go to the Boy Scout Friendship Patrol-o-ree but decided to get some sleep and leave early Saturday morning.

I woke several times to the pounding of rain on the roof above my futon, and though I had set the alarm for an early rise, I over-slept. Then, I couldn't find my car keys. I thought I might have left them in the car when I went to get the camping gear organized the day before so Nikko and I set off to the car park. Nope! No keys there. Then I walked along our dog-walking route to see if I might have dropped the keys on the roundabout way home. Nope, no keys. Then I came back home and went through all the bags and pockets again. Yep, at the very bottom of my rain jacket. Bad me! I usually hang the keys on the hook right inside the front door when I come in but with the dog and carrying stuff from the car, my attention to detail was not working.

By the time I set off, the traffic was super heavy so I ended up taking the "expensive" route using the expressway. Even that was slow with traffic, and when I finally got through the gate to the camp, the cars were stopped on the lower road because there was a cross-country run going on.  I have to admit I was not a lot of use to the program once I got there, but it was really nice to meet so many of my Scouting friends ... some of the Japanese Scouters I had not seen in many years. I had to leave before the campfire ... no idea how that went as it was dumping rain all weekend ... I had to have Nikko walked and be out the door by 7:00 am Sunday, because the choir was singing at the early service. I was glad I didn't have to find some place to dry and fold a wet tent as we have only had half a day of sun all week.

Monday I overslept again and ran out with Nikko for rice delivery. I was an hour and a half later than usual but with heavy rain, even though the trains had begun running, there were lots of homeless in the B1 and B2 basements and 30 packs went out quickly. It was much later than usual when I returned home so I grabbed a quick bite and set out for school, happy for the water-proof shoes my son bought me a few years ago.

Nothing getting done on the mola ... It is time for making the next Stewardship banner so I have been measuring and marking and cutting and now beginning to sew. I have been dragging my feet on this one as the theme selected is "Renew". The church basement/fellowship hall is in process of renovation so the committee thought it a good theme. I am wondering what "renew" might mean to those who have never made any commitment in the first place ... but dithering has put me behind the curve. So ... if there are no posts for another ten days, don't be surprised.

I woke to rain on the roof today and it is still raining. This weekend ... from tonight through Sunday ... is another Scout event ... the Order of the Arrow ... that I always take part in, leading the "Brotherhood walk". It was still not known last night if there were any Brotherhood candidates going to be there so one of my brother scouts sent a message that he would take my place if needed. I will be glad to stay home tomorrow ... skype with the kids ... teach english, and SEW! There is a typhoon heading in our direction ... supposed to arrive in time for rice delivery on Monday. Hopefully my brain won't get any more mushy than it already is.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where does time go?

Well, I do know where some of it went. The weekend of the 30th was the fall cub rally. Since Nikko went along, it involved driving, and though I have driven there a number of times in the past, the roads keep changing as well as the access to the campsite which used to be part of some military housing area. The trip, even with the navigator on my i-phone, took about 4 hours.

A new Stewardship banner has to be made and I have not been happy with the theme, so getting my act together has involved some meetings and discussions and sketches. In the end, I do not have a program to design graphics on my laptop. I used to turn the plans over to my husband for that aspect.

Finally this week I am getting some help from someone who can do that part ... but it means the design is getting changed too. Hopefully Sunday we will look at all the plans and decide so I can get going on this one.

Monday was a holiday, so no school.

I still had to go out at 4:am for "rice delivery". Actually, since the church kitchen is involved in the basement renovations, the team could not meet to make the onigiri and what I delivered were packs of 5 small bean-jam buns.
After a summer break, it was interesting that on the first day of deliveries, those homeless spotted me ... that old lady with the white dog has got the goods ... and all 30 packs found welcoming hands.

We took advantage of the day off for our Halloween cookie factory.

Aunt Marie had sent some fancy sprinkles from Boston and we made good use of the variety.
We had a skype visit with daughters and cousins in Oregon.

Leia went home that evening with two boxes of fancy cookies to share with her friends.

The day went by so quickly.

I have to admit, I spent (wasted) so much time looking for things that I put somewhere two weeks ago when "tidying up" for the quilt group visit.

Some things I just have not been able to find ... mostly things that had been living on my coffee table right under my nose for the entire summer.
Even fabrics I had laid out to use on my mola have walked off.

I added a bit of fill-in design but I spent a lot of time un-sewing things I didn't like after putting them on.

This weekend is the boy scout friendship Patrol-o-ree with Japanese scouts and before running off there, I have my pack meeting.

Choir will sing at the early service Sunday and I will be very lucky to have even one back-up tenor ... and even luckier if that person comes for rehearsal before-hand.

Fall is a busy time of year with scouting starting up, school starting up, choir practice picking up, rice delivery starting up,  and meetings for planning of all kinds of things. The sweet olive that perfumes the air took clues from the spider lilies and is dropping its tiny orange flowers weeks before it usually blooms. The toad lily has buds so still something to look forward to beforeI begin sweeping up fallen leaves.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mr. Frog got some company

The light border on the dragonfly's front wings doesn't show much considering how hard it was to sew. Now I have to start thinking about the background. When I set it next to the butterfly, the balance is way off.

I am not sure where I want to go with this.

Maybe I will play around with the owl and turtle while I think it over....

Friday, September 22, 2017

Frogs like rainy days

The rain began as Nikko and I were walking home from our morning outing... and it has been raining off and on all day ... a perfect time to spend on a bit of Mola stitchery. As you may notice, I gave in to calls from my scrap box to be included in the challenge.
I have never seen a mola using prints but as long as I am making up my own designs, I may as well use some scraps from my stash. This is never going to look like a traditional mola anyway.

In the late afternoon, Nikko and I took a walk to the next station to find a few things the local shop doesn't have stocked. Since it was raining, I tied Nikko under the roofed area outside the store while I shopped. When I came out, her fan club had gathered, and as I was getting ready to untie her, a lady came running up so happy to see her saying how glad she was and how worried she had been since it had been such a long time.

As it turns out, she often met up with Paul and Nikko in that same spot and had been looking there for the last year and a half. Even more surprising, she reached in her shopping bag and pulled out a package of doggy treats she had been carrying each trip to the store, hoping to see Nikko again.
Well, Nikko was delighted to see her and performed a "lie-down-roll-over " plus a "wait" and "itadakimasu" to get one of the treats. The lady commented that Nikko is looking more slim and fit. Yes, I am not as generous with "people-food" as Paul had been.

The rain had let up a bit and I said thank you to one happy lady and returned home with one happy dog ... and the rest of the package of treats. (those I will stuff in her kong when I need to leave her alone for a while).