Monday, March 30, 2009

At Random

Well, I have a lot of things running through my head, so I will put them down here, and hopefully they will go away.

1. I am now suffering through my 3rd cold in the past month.

2. That Snow Angels movie was the most depressing movie EVER!!!!!!!!!!! I cannot put enough exclamation marks behind ever to express just how depressing it was. The last scenes make you want to throw up. The ending was, it was expected once you realize that the main characters of the movie are all a bit off and when you get to the "puking" scenes, you just know it's gonna end badly. If you enjoy this type of movie, go rent it. If not, please forget I ever mentioned it and do not EVER consider watching it.

3. Following Dr Laura's advice takes a lot of work and if one is not consistantly doing all the suggested things, everything will fall apart. I'm trying, but it is hard when you have a cold.

4. In using up vacation days before the end of the school year, I took one day off last week to sew bibs for Ailin's daycare. A working mom's vacation day is not necessarily meant for FUN.

5. Yesterday, I took the day off to organize Ailin's dresser drawers, haul out the baby stuff from the closet and separate out any unnecessary items.

6. On Thursday, I plan to take one more day off before the new school year's schedule is released and the real work begins. I need to scrub the floors and re-organize two of the closets.

7. I SO miss the days when I could take the day off and spend a whole day at the Tokyo Imperial Hotel drinking tea and eating scones with a close girl friend.

8. After grocery shopping on Sunday evening, I realized today when I woke up this morning that I had neglected to buy any of the essentials - eggs, milk, bread, etc. I need to leave work early today and get that stuff before picking Ailin up.

9. Tomorrow is April 1st, and Ailin will move up to the 2-year old class called "The Penguins." She'll have 19 other kids in her class and 4 teachers. Her teacher, Tomoko, (whom she likes to call Mokoroko-sensei) will be moving to the new class with her.

10. I am listening to Grooveshark right now. Follow the link on my blog and it will take you to a world of free, undownloadable music. You can listen to entire songs rather then little snippets like on iTunes.

11. I am taking an on-line course for scrapbooking these days. It is a 4-week class called "Telling Stories Deeply." I am learning how to write more deeply on my scrapbook pages. It is harder than I thought!

12. After a big fight on Sunday, Yusuke seemed to realize how stressed I feel about cleaning/organizing/preparing for the baby. He canceled his plans with his mother, arranged for Ailin to spend the day at her house, and then stayed home to help me with cleaning. He actually went through his clothes and threw out 2 bags of clothing! Now, we can actually close his dresser drawers for the first time in several months! He also cleaned his (Ailin's) room so that I could get in there and start organizing baby stuff. I can now actually open the closet door in that room!

13. Is it weird to buy a baby bassinette or basket from a recycle shop? Should I just go ahead and buy a brand new one? Or rent a used one?

14. Tomorrow, the garbage people are coming to take away our rocking chair, an old plastic garbage basket and a bookshelf. I am thinking that I still would like a cool reading chair or a rocking chair and am considering buying one at Ikea. But, I am afraid the same problem will happen again. Yusuke will use the chair as his own personal closet and it will be piled high with his coat and clothes-that-aren't-dirty-enough-to-be-washed-yet. It will really add to the scrapbooking/computer room decor though, and it will be a nice place to nurse baby #2 in those first months when that is about all you do.

14. If I was actually doing my work right now, I would be ... cleaning the staff room some more, cleaning my desk some more, planning for next week's EXCEL tutorial. (The other native teachers want a lesson in using Excel for class projects and for grades.)

I should go do something.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Funny Quotes

This past week, I heard some funny things in passing and wanted to put them here.

"Hmmm. What should I do first? Water the weeds or feed the bugs?"
-Eyore on an episode of Winnie the Pooh.

"Ailin no wan wan mark no doggy da yo."
-said by my daughter after seeing a picture of a dog on TV. She is referring to her doggy symbol at the daycare which is drawn on anything that belongs to her.

And, finally a conversation between me & my beloved:
Yusuke: What's this movie about anyway? (pointing out a DVD I had rented but not yet watched.)
Mande: Snow Angels? I don't know.
Yusuke: Why would you rent something without knowing what's it's about?
Mande: Well, Kate Beckingsale is in it, so I thought it might be good. And, besides, I can't read the back cover, I just assume it is good.
Yusuke: Still, why would you rent it if you have no idea about the movie?
(Mande goes to check IMDB for more info about said movie.)
Mande: Um, it's your typical white-trash, single mom romance drama. You'll love it.
Yusuke: What?
Mande: White trash. It's like the movie "In the Bedroom."
Yusuke: Sounds good. Let's watch it this weekend.

(As you can see, I know what he likes.)


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It Works!

I am just taking a much-needed break from work to write. I am in a position where I am not officially a supervisor, but I have been here the longest by far. I wish I could say that I get a nice title or a bigger paycheck to go with some of the nasty duties of this job, but instead I have to deal with certain people without the compensation. I also wish I could say that I am really good at managing people, but alas, I am just learning on the job.

Okay, what works is this...Dr Laura's advice has been working so far. My husband did something for me that he NEVER EVER EVER would have done in the last 7 1/2 years we have been married.

First of all, last Friday, we got in an argument just as I was leaving for work. It had to do with him not waking up in time, then complaining that he wanted to shower before leaving, me saying that I didn't have time to wait for him, but I waited anyway. While I waited, I THOUGHT he was in the shower, but actually he had gone back to bed without telling me and was pouting. That just took the cake! And, by the time I discovered this, I would inevitably be late for work. So, of course, an argument ensued and somehow all of this was my fault. A few hour later, he called my cell phone and left a voice mail apologizing.

Apologizing? I can't even remember that last time Yusuke apologized for anything!!!

Later that evening, we talked on the phone again and he mentioned how sorry he was.

Another apology? This is too much.

Anyway, the next thing that happened was my dilemma concerning an English department party that was to take place on a Wednesday evening. I really wanted to go as most of the English dept members had RSVPd, and when it was being planned, I was the one who had insisted on the date and the location simply because it would make it easier for me to attend. I realized that Yusuke and his mom would be leaving the next day for a trip to Korea (long story, don't ask!), but I figured his mom would gladly babysit for a few hours.

The problem was that I dropped the ball and put off asking her. Meanwhile, she made a hair appointment in Tokyo. I suppose she wants to look her best for her trip abroad (the 2nd time in her life, actually!), and she claimed that she would not be back in time to pick Ailin up. I felt bad that I would have to cancel my RSVP, but Yusuke offered other solutions.

He actually offered to ask his boss if he could take half a day off so that I could go to the party. I was like, (in the words of Randy from American Idol) "Wha-a-a-a-a-t?!"

This is definitely a first!

So, he did get the 1/2 day off and he was back in town by 3pm, and he was ready to go pick up Ailin and take her home. Of course, there was a bit of whinging - he had some work to do that night, he still had to pack, he has to get up at 4am to go to the airport, could I possibly come home AS SOON AS the party is over.

Despite that, I was very happy and had a nice time at the party. I didn't have to worry about Ailin or picking her up by a certain time. When I got home at 10pm, they were both sound asleep and I had to wake him up so he could pack and finish his work. In any case, it was a good night.

Thanks, Dr Laura. Being nice to Yusuke is truly paying off.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What I Learned from Dr Laura

The basic premise of her advice is the Golden Rule. How long have I been hearing that rule? I remember that my 1st grade teacher had a bulletin board in her classroom decorated to express this exact rule.

“Treat others how you would like to be treated.”

Other things that Dr Laura makes a point about in this book:
1. Don’t act like a martyr, as if you are doing all the work and you are too busy to stop and acknowledge your husband’s day, his tiredness or his needs.
2. Don’t treat your husband like an irresponsible child who needs constant in-your-face reminders and complaints about what he does, how he does it, or what he does not do.
3. Remember that men have feelings but they express them in different ways. In fact, he may not give much detail at all or even be able/willing to explain his reasons sufficiently enough for our standards, but their feelings need to be acknowledged and respected.
4. Men and women communicate differently. Women like to describe everything in great detail while men like to get to the point. Men like action, so if there is a problem, they want to fix it while women just want to vent. Women shouldn’t expect their husbands to take the place of their mothers or girl friends. That is why friendships are so important and why we hang on to them for life – because we need people to talk with.
5. Physical affection is the best way to show a man how much you appreciate him, desire him, need him & love him. Do it often, even if it is just a hug or a kiss. Or a wink or a pat on the butt.
6. Respect his opinion. Both partners have opinions and don’t always agree, but women tend to think that men should just go along with whatever she thinks is best, and come hell or high water, she is going to manipulate him into doing what she wants. But, he is a human being who most likely has been educated and is working to earn money for the family. His opinion deserves just as much respect as yours does.
7. Guys like to be alone or have some alone time. Encourage it and he will come back to you refreshed and ready for more.

Well, some of these things I have learned along the way by making the same mistakes myself.

#1 Appreciation
I only recently learned. Perhaps just prior to reading the book, I had realized that I should pay more attention to him, especially when he comes home at night. If I am still awake and, say, using the computer, I quickly finish what I am doing and turn it off so that I can greet him when he walks into the living room. This small gesture makes a huge difference in his mood. I also try to do the basic chores before he comes home so that the house is looking decent – the dishes are washed, floor is picked up, laundry is folded, etc. It is hard on some nights, but I do it for myself too. Before I go off to bed, I say goodnight and give him a hug and kiss. I know he probably doesn’t want to talk much, so I save the talking for the weekends when we have more time. I let him do his thing without nagging, even if that means he is watching annoying Japanese TV shows, eating something stinky, surfing the internet and ignoring me. I don’t think of it as ignoring me anymore. I can easily sit down next to him on the couch (while he watches TV and eats stinky food) and read my book. That physical closeness is enough to make him feel good.
In the mornings, Yusuke has a hard time waking up because of his late working nights. I hate feeling like the mother of a teenage boy, yelling at him to wake up. I hate feeling that resentment towards him while I rush around caring for my daughter and getting ready for work. But, I have to keep two things in mind. 1. I don’t have to work. I could stay home and have leisurely mornings with my daughter. I could stay home and cook a nice breakfast for everyone. I could even stay home and sleep in with Ailin, but I choose not to. And, my husband doesn’t force me to leave a job that I love in order to do this. I shouldn’t complain about my choice. Many of his friends’ wives are not working, but he doesn’t compare and complain about it. Now that Ailin is getting older, she helps me wake him up by yelling “Uuuu-sukeeee! Papa!” several times and even goes into his room and tries to wake him. How can he resist that little girl getting right in his face and saying “Papa!”? And 2. That it would be awfully embarrassing for him to show up late to work so on that note, I better make sure he wakes up in time.
Finally, I realized how easy it is show my love for him. He told me how, but for a long time, I didn’t want to do it because I was too busy and stressed out. But, once I started doing it, I realized how easy it is and how much he appreciated it. For example, when arriving home from work, he simply wanted me to say “Okaerinasai” or “Otsukeresama.” When he had a cold, he wanted me to take care of him somehow. I realized that he always did that for me, so I tried to think of what he would really want, and it was simple. Make sure there is some sport drink in the fridge, prepare a hot water bottle for him and let him sleep. When I do this for him, he seems to get over his colds much quicker.
This book helped to reinforce #1 for me and to keep in mind how grateful I should be to Yusuke and how easy it is acknowledge him or show that I care.

#2 Not helping
I am guilty of this. Oh so guilty. Not only that, I complain to anyone who will listen about how little my husband does around the house. In reading this book, I realized that most women have the same complaint, so it means Yusuke is not the ONLY guy who doesn’t help much.
What I learned from her book was that going around telling all my friends and family my complaints about him does not help much. For one, they usually listen and then say things like “Right! That sucks. Why do you stay with someone like that? I feel so sorry for you. At least my husband will do such and such.” Okay, okay – what they are doing is just making it worse.
I learned a long time ago to just appreciate when he does something, but to not complain HOW he does it. That part was easy for me. I also figured out there were certain chores he was willing to do and certain he was not willing to do. For example, he will clean the toilet and vacuum the floors, but he will not dust or pick up stuff and put it away. Up until Ailin was born, he did help out a lot, but while I was home for a year, he basically stopped helping out. That has become somewhat of a habit, and I have been struggling since returning to work a year ago. I have even considering hiring a cleaning lady to come in once a week and help out. I am still looking for solutions, but what had to change first was my attitude involving him.
I had to stop and think what were the simplest, easiest things he could do during the week to help me keep up with housework so that I wouldn’t feel resentful. That is why I made the list that I blogged about recently. I finally gave him the list last night. Not the best timing, I might add, but he had been forewarned so it was not a surprise. If he does these things to the best of his ability, I will be totally fine about all the rest of the chores.

#3 Opinions
Like most guys, Yusuke doesn’t talk much. He would rather watch TV, surf the internet, play with our daughter, watch movies, etc. When we do talk, I do most of the talking. Sometimes, a glimmer of his feelings starts to surface when he talks about work or his family. I make sure to listen without judgement, but I often wonder if I should give advice, find a solution or just let him vent. This is still a mystery.
However, there are times when I want to do something and I tell him about it. His reaction is like “I don’t want to do that. It’s too hard.” Or “That’s not a good idea.” And my attitude was “I don’t care what you think. It’s my decision.” I am not going to do that anymore. I am going to respect his feelings about these things and try to understand his reasoning, even if he can’t express it well. And, I am not going to second-guess him by trying to predict his actions or reactions. I was often guilty of this too. What I learned from this book is that most guys are not vindictive…they are not thinking about ways to get revenge on someone or how best to piss off their wives. I am 99% sure that Yusuke does not want me to be pissed off.

#4 Communication
I learned this a long time ago, and I am okay with it. But, I have to keep in mind that when I DO tell Yusuke about a problem in my life, he will work like a dog trying to find ways to solve it. Case in point, when I was having problems with a certain (ex)friend a couple years ago, he asked me for updates almost every day. He put forth so many ideas about how these problems occurred and how I should resolve the issue. Truth be told, I knew that what was done was done, and I wanted to completely forget about the whole thing, but it was driving him crazy. For six months, he broached the topic at least 2x a week. I knew, even at that time, that he was showing his love for me and I respected that. Now, I don’t tell him my problems unless I am looking for a solution, or I tell him about the problem after I have a solution in the works. It is important to help him feel needed though, so I do tell him some problems and ask him to help come up with solutions. I am more aware of that now.

#5 S-x
I can’t get into much detail on this one, but I will say that everything she says in her book is true. And, so simple. Why is it that some women get “turned off” by sex? Why is it that some seem repelled by their own husbands? Showing a little physical affection does not have to lead to sex, but so what if it is does? Good for both people involved, right?
Well, as I have mentioned before, women have a lot of power over men if they can use their bodies and facial expressions to show their “sexiness.” Use it – not for manipulation but for an expression of love. If women think that a husband who helps her around the house is expressing his love for her, then she better live up to her end of the bargain and show love for him in the way he best understands it. It is not a difficult thing to do.

#6 Respect
I learned a lot from reading this book. I realized that though I expect my opinion to be respected, I wasn’t really showing respect for him. He works hard, has bad days, gets extremely stressed out, rides a jam-packed train to and from work and then gets home where he is made to feel like he has NO CONTROL over anything that happens in his own house. How assinine of me to expect him to be satisfied with that? He is college-educated, 30-some year old father who owns a car, a condo and a dog. He works hard to make sure we can keep all that material stuff we have bought, and he deserves respect from me. If he can’t get respect at home, where is he going to get it from?

#7 Guy time.
Guys can be quite demanding about having time to themselves, so I have learned to also be demanding about it. But, I still somehow felt like I got the shaft. Every evening, I put Ailin to bed by 9pm and I have at least 2 or 3 hours to myself – some of that time is spent doing chores, but admittedly, much of that time is spent doing my own hobbies. Then, one weekend a month, I spend mornings doing Craft ‘n’ Chat with my friends while Yusuke stays with Ailin. Other times, I have volunteer meetings to attend to. There are times of the year when my job is not so busy and I can take vacation days to meet up with friends for tea or lunch. What the hell am I complaining about? Poor Yusuke gets to see his friends at the occasional wedding. He has no hobbies. His one stress-reliever is a weekly massage if he can fit it in on our busy weekends. His other passion is to take me on a date, even if it is just to see a movie and have dinner together. Needless to say, I do encourage him to do more things for himself, but where can he possibly fit such activities into his life?

Basic Lessons not Mentioned Above:
1. The more you give, the more he will give.
2. Don’t sit around and complain to girl friends about how horrible your husband is. Try to think of ways in which you can be a better wife.
3. Be a woman for your husband. Be his wife and lover. Then, be the mother of your children. Your children will benefit from living in a loving household.
4. Think of how respectful and kind you are to your friends. Treat your husband even better than that!
5. Think of how loving and giving you are to your children. Your husband deserves that love as well.
6. Women tend to never be satisfied…they always want more. Don’t be one of those women.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dr Laura to the Rescue

I am not even finished reading this book yet, but I feel compelled to write about it.

Some of you know who Dr Laura Schlessinger is, as you may have heard her radio show. She is also broadcast on the military station on Sunday nights here in Japan. Often, Yusuke and I are driving home from grocery shopping at that time and we can catch a few minutes. Always interesting, I try to translate a little for him.

I first heard of Dr Laura years ago and wrote her off as some overtly conservative extremist until I started actually listening to her program. Some of what she said made sense, but still, I thought she was a little too much. Sometimes, she really rips in to her callers.

Then, one day, my co-worker who has been married almost 20 years, gave some advice to me. He gave credit to Dr Laura for it as he had heard it on her show once long ago. He said that if a woman has sex with her husband on a regular basis, he will walk through fire for her. In other words, he will do what ever chores or projects around the house she wants him to do without complaining!

Wow! How simple is that? On the surface, it sounds like a woman should use sex to manipulate her husband into doing what she wants. But, if you dig a little deeper, you will realize that “sex with your husband” should be part of the deal anyway. Why not make him feel good and happy so he will gladly help out around the house? And, besides, I thought at the time when I got this advice, I actually like doing it with my husband. Why not do it more?

Several weeks ago, in listening to Dr Laura’s show, I heard her give this exact advice to someone. She explained it is easy for a woman to change her husband’s mood just by flashing him a little shoulder, wiggling her butt when she walks by, giving him a coquettish smile, etc. The particular woman was complaining that her husband is the boss at work, so when he comes home, he tends to act bossy towards her. Dr Laura suggested these simple ways to completely change his mood – she claimed he would go from “boss” to “loving husband” in seconds. When I heard that, I realized how true this is! I tend to do those exact things to Yusuke, but only when I am in the mood. It is not necessarily to help him feel relaxed or desired…it’s just because I myself am in a good mood and want to joke around with him. But, I realized that when I do any of the above things, he instantly changes. So, I decided then and there on two things:

1. To make sure he feels like my husband (and not my annoying roommate or needy child) when he comes home from work.
2. To get Dr Laura’s book and read it from cover to cover.

I did get the book and will explore some of the issues in the my next entry. However, I want to comment on one more thing. One of my New Years Goals is to not be annoyed by Yusuke. My main reason for making this goal was because the feeling of “annoyance” causes a lot of stress to one’s mind and heart, and who wants to walk around stressed out all the time? The home should be a peaceful, loving environment rather than the kind of home where everyone feels stressed out, annoyed, irritated and angry. After a long, long day at work, I realized that what my husband needs is motivation to come home and relax.

Proper Care
Dr. Laura Schlessinger published a book called The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands in 2004. Akin to the way you would treat your dog, this book shows you how to properly treat your husband in such a way to make him feel “like a man”, “loved & desired” and “appreciated”. If you think about it, how do you treat your dog or cat?

I’ll tell you how I treat my dog, Max. When I come home from work, Max gets a happy greeting and a pat or a hug from me. Often, Ailin and I sit on the couch with him and hug him and tell him how much we love him. Later, we make sure he eats his dinner and then we play with him some more before Ailin’s bedtime routine starts. After Ailin goes to bed, I try to keep in mind that Max (who is sleeping on the couch or chewing on his bone), enjoys a little cuddle. Even though I am usually busy with chores, computer-time & scrapbooking, I try to remember to go and sit on the couch for a portion of the evening so Max can get some skinship.

Now, what is wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing, but then I’ll tell you how I used to treat my own husband.

When he came home after a long day at work (usually midnight), I was quite tired by this time and usually getting ready for bed myself. Sometimes, I was still on the computer and I would ignore him. Other times, I was watching TV and without even getting up to say “hello”, I’d just let him go about fixing his own dinner. Still other times, I was running madly around the house trying to finish up chores. “Sorry, no time to talk!” Imagine how that made him feel?

No wonder he was always so insanely jealous of the dog.