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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All’s Well That Ends Well

Today’s my last day at work. I wonder what will happen next. I can’t remember the last time I did not have a job. Giving up a career to go onto something else can be a terrifying experience. It can also be exhilarating. It’s terrifying to take that first step off the cliff, but it’s exhilarating to look at where you’re going. I’ve always tried to live by the rule: Don’t look back. I guess for me, I shouldn’t look up. Every time that I do, I see my past career…airplanes. I told Erika that I wanted to move somewhere that didn’t have airplanes flying overhead. Fortunately, Tsukahara is located where only contrails are visible. That’s close enough for me.
Saying goodbye to coworkers has been an interesting experience. Many of them say, “Good luck in Japan.” I know that they mean well, but I wonder who should be wishing whom good luck. I feel like I’m embarking on a new life’s journey. It’s taken a lot of hard work and careful planning over the course of the past ten or so years. This is in comparison to many people who are stuck at the same old job doing the same thing day after day. I wish for those people to have good luck in finding fulfillment before it’s too late. Life is short and I plan to make the most of it…good or bad.

Kiley and Lucky go to the veterinarian tomorrow to get their health certificates. Then it’s on to the USDA in Olympia to get the official stamps on the paperwork. All of our belongings have been shipped and the house is empty. Rather than sitting in an empty house, we’ll be heading for the coast for a couple of days of relaxation before we board the plane. It’s been a wild ride so far and I’m sure that we have only just begun. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This and That

A huge gasp of relief was expressed as we heard the great news of Kiley’s biopsy and blood test results being normal. Dr. Morlan assured us that Kiley should be fit for travel by the time we board our flight. She is a tough little dog and a fighter. Ganbatte, Kiley!
My left eyelid has improved. The doctor said that it will heal on its own provided that I keep the area clean and use a hot potato as a compress. “A hot potato?” Erika asked the doctor. “Yes, the potato provides heat that lasts and it also moisturizes the area. The heat opens the pores so that the pores can be cleansed,” replied the doctor. Of course my frugal wife asked, “Can we reuse the potato when we are done?” Good grief.
My mother will be making an unscheduled visit next week. I had a feeling that she would see me again before I left for Japan.  She wanted to make sure that she would be of some help in preparing for our move. I reassured her that she would be of great help and to be prepared to do some touchup painting. I don’t know why she just didn’t come out and say that she wanted to say goodbye in person. I’m relieved and glad that she is visiting. Humm, maybe she just wants to see the dogs?
As Erika’s time in the U.S. winds down, I’m starting to feel guilty and sad. She loves this country. She is comfortable here. She is leaving because of me. She is leaving because she wants to see me smile. My smile brings her happiness. Health and happiness are the two most important pieces of the puzzle that we call life. “As long as we are healthy and happy together, we can make it through anything,” Erika often tells me. I have heard those words many times over the course of our marriage. The impact of those precious words is being felt in my heart. She is sacrificing everything to make my dream come true. Erika says that I have made her life perfect for the past 14 years and that all she is doing is returning the favor. Erika and I have never exchanged gifts. We have never purchased presents for birthdays, Christmas, or even anniversaries. We try to show how much we care for each other; not by exchanging gifts, but by how we treat each other on a daily basis. The process of caring is a precious gift onto itself. I’ve reached a point in my life where I should accept her precious gift and take on the immense responsibilities that go along with it. George

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Look Out Below!

Today marks “One month to go” before we begin our journey to Japan. I wish I could say that we are ready, but that’s not the case. We are waiting for Kiley’s lab results and my left eye is questionable. The shipper is trying to get us the best deal, but I’m worried that he still has not decided if we ship by ocean or air. Right now, it looks like air. I have a huge “To do” list in order to get the house ready for renting. I’ve never been a landlord before. I’ve heard of all kinds of nightmarish stories. Living 5000 miles away doesn’t help matters. We hope that our property manager can do a good job for us. This wasn’t in our original plans. We had hoped that we could have sold and used those funds to remodel our home in Tsukahara. Those plans will have to remain on hold until the economy improves or I win the lottery. Both scenarios are long shots. Realistically, we will have to live in a warehouse condition for a long time. Nakatsu will be a place for business and Tsukahara will be a place to work (on the house). I don’t think we will be bored anytime soon.
The economies around the world are looking dismal. Japan has fallen to number 3, behind China and the U.S. I’m not sure what that means in the future except that the yen is not going in the direction we had hoped. Purchasing a car in Japan is painfully expensive for us. Actually, purchasing anything in Japan using American dollars is expensive. I guess our timing couldn’t have been worse, but…at least we are moving forward towards a change. I think of change as jumping off a cliff…a very high and steep cliff. Our backs are against the wall and I really don’t want to look down. Who knows what will happen when we hit bottom. The motivation to jump is driven by many factors with one of them being regret. I can’t turn back now. If I did, I would regret that decision for the rest of my life. To force a dramatic change in life requires a lot of energy, stamina, perseverance, and courage. I’ve never experienced anything like this, so I don’t have something I can compare it to. Erika has helped give me the courage to face this change, but it’s up to me to make the jump. My first foot off the cliff occurs when I leave my career of 20 years. I start falling when the plane takes off from Seattle. Look out below!!!!! This will be a heck of a ride.

Changing Attitude

We found a renter quickly. Is that good or bad? We could have asked for higher rent, but George has always told me, “Greed is a bad thing.”

I happened to be there when the couple came to look at the house. They were a very young professional couple. They seemed to be not interested in maintaining the yard at all. They were more concerned about maintaining their privacy.

The bad thing is that they have a dog. We told the property manager, “No pets and no smoking.” We learned of the pet issue after we heard the news that they were serious about renting our home. Yes, we have our own pets, but this is my house. I don’t want other dogs marking on the carpet and leaving hair all over the place. The property manager said, “If the owners are responsible people, the dog is usual well trained.” “Okay, if you can guarantee that in writing, then I will agree.” The property manager was quiet.

I know I can be harsh and difficult at times, but I have been so tired of fighting against so many people to keep my life perfect. My perfect life has been crumbling. Especially after dealing with Kiley’s illness, how could I say, “No dog.” I know I have to take responsibility for my words and actions, but I have to learn to accept others and their differences a little more.

The property manager wanted to find a renter ASAP, using as little expense and effort as possible. Who can blame them for that? That’s their business. I prefer that they honestly express their intentions, but I know that’s impossible. Realtors, car salesmen and property managers are all the same. They say that, “We are doing this for you. We care about you.” No, they are doing this for themselves. But, if I always keep the negative thought in my mind when I do business with them, I can never reach my goal either. Instead, I have to find a common denominator and work on myself. It’s tough, but working on others’ minds can be more difficult. George has helped me a lot.

The funny thing is that when I tried to be positive, flexible and tolerant, I found that I could let go of the problems and at the same time, Kiley’s health has been improving. There have been so many negative aspects surrounding our life this past year along with a downpour of bad karma this past month.  Through it all, we have managed to find someone to help us.

We had a terrible experience trying to sell the house and we ended up not selling. After struggling with a couple of crooked realtors, we managed to find a good realtor. Sure, it was a little late, but we found that we could rely on him to take care of our home in the future. When we were sick, our friends supported us. After we leave the country, we know that we have great neighbors watching our home. The past negative experiences have opened our eyes and guided us to move forward with our lives along with helping us learn to appreciate these people and to create a positive environment around us.

Erika

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another Worry

We just recently had a young guest from Japan. We met her through my friend who said that she had a lot of similarities with me. I was a bit frustrated with our guest while she stayed with us in Seattle. It was not her fault. She was so different from me.  I had problems figuring out what she wanted to do or liked. She did not have an opinion about anything.  I showed her all that Seattle had to offer. I cooked and planned everything. It was just okay for her, not excellent or horrible. When I asked if she wanted to go or do something, her reply was, “Shall we?” I said, “If you asked me, I don’t want to do anything. I’d rather spend time with my doggies and husband. Looking around Seattle was wasting my time and money, but if you want, I’m more than happy to do so for you. So, don’t ask me. Just simply express your feelings and thoughts.” Then she said, “Okay, then let’s try.” She, however, didn’t want to do anything by herself. I said, “I’m more than happy to read a book in the car and wait for you with the doggies. Anything you want to know, ask me. I can find everything on the net.”
I shared my experience with my aunt. My aunt said, “That’s Japanese. You don’t want to say anything bad, but probably she wasn’t satisfied or wasn’t certain of the answer. She chose the most polite answer. You have to adapt to Japanese culture and learn how to express yourself.” “Ha, ha, I can express myself more than enough,” I said. “That’s the problem,” she said.
George jokingly tells people, “Erika was kicked out of her country.” Sadly, some people believe him. I love the U.S. because I can express myself freely. I just have to be responsible with my words. I have regretted a lot for what I have said, but George always supported me. I hope he works harder for me in Japan.
Erika

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Countdown Begins

With a little less than a month to go before I put in my 2 week notice, I’m beginning to get anxious. I’ve complained countless of times about my job to Erika. The past 20 years at work has taken its toll on my health. I have neck and shoulder problems that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I wished that my company hadn’t closed the hangar in California. The bitterness I feel towards my company has been reflected in my work attitude over the past 7 years. With the help of Erika, I’ve tried to channel those negative thoughts into giving me courage to make this move. I recently asked one of my senior coworkers how they managed to stay with the company for so long. His reply was, “I do as little as possible”.  That reply reminded me as to why I was leaving. I can’t imagine not having regrets about life with the notion that you had spent your life doing as little as possible.
The mountain of paperwork for the dogs is just about complete. The veterinarian needs to issue a health certificate on Sept 28th and the USDA needs to give the official government stamp on the 29th. If everything goes as planned, the quarantine office in Osaka will keep the dogs for no longer than a couple of hours. Customs will be a major obstacle when we reach Japan. This will be a test to see if our shipper knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, we will be the one to suffer for their negligence.  Who knows…maybe everything will go as planned. I also believe in Santa Claus.  George

Sunday, September 4, 2011

犬の魅力

ここ最近、カイリーがずっと入退院を繰り返した。原因は未だ不明だが、食事を受け付けず、吐いてばかりで、脱水症状まで陥ってしまった。緊急病院に入れて、少し快復したと思ったら、また悪化して入院。やっとで、ここ2日ほど落ち着いている。できるだけ自然食でドッグフードを作りたいと、ジョージが一日中ネットで調べ、オーガニックショップで材料を買って、必要なビタミンやボーンミルなどを加え、彼女の食事療法にも気を付けている。

ということで、最近は、ラッキーだけを散歩に連れて行くことが多かった。そうすると、あちこちからカイリーはどうしたのかと心配のお声が掛けられた。私は、会ったこともなければ、話をしたことのない人まで。ちょっと離れたご近所さんは、毎日のように電話を掛けきて、カイリーの様子を心配してくれる。ジョージや私たちが病気になっても、これだけの人から心配されたことなんて一度もない。

カイリーが病気になって初めて便が出たとき、喜んでジョージに電話して知らせた。電話の向こうで、彼がすごく喜んで大騒ぎしている様子がよくわかった。ジョージ曰く、あまりにも喜んでいたので、同僚から理由を聞かれ説明したら、周りにいた、今まで話すらしたことのない同僚まで、自分たちの経験を語り出した。無口で、無愛想な同僚たちまで、財布から写真を出して、自分たちの犬の話を熱心にしたらしい。奥さんや子供の写真は持ち歩かなくても、犬たちの写真は常に持ち歩いている人がほとんどだったという。一度、そういうことをニュースで聞いたことがあったけど、本当なんだと、改めて犬たちが人間に与える魅力を感じた。その日の午前中の仕事は、犬の話でおしまい。つまらないミーティングより、ずっといい情報交換ができたとか?はははっ、アメリカらしいな。

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Excitement Continues to Build

Imagine trying to purchase items for a remodel that hasn’t even occurred yet. I have a rough idea as to how I want to expand our home in Tsukahara, but what about the dimensions? How about compatibility, metric vs. English, 120 volts vs. 100 volts, Japanese vs. American construction methods, availability of parts, Japanese vs. American codes, etc.? The list goes on and on. For example, I had to guess on the amount of tiles and flooring I would need to complete the remodel in Japan. Some the rooms do not exist yet; just a rough sketch on a piece of paper. I think Erika is spoiled. She has this notion that I can do anything if she asks for it. She said, “Order all of the items now for Tsukahara that will be too big to carry in suitcases when we visit the U.S. in a couple of years.” “Ummm, okay,” I replied. My answer was, “Okay,” but my mind thought, “Good grief. You must be kidding!”
The pallets of tiles, laminate flooring, stains and wood finishes, cabinet doors, wood stove and chimney piping, sinks, faucets, and plumbing are here and ready to ship. It wasn’t easy or cheap, but it’s here. The future remodel will be designed according to the materials that were purchased and not the other way around. I guess I’m used to doing things backwards. The first winter in Tsukahara will be miserable. We won’t have a stove or any room to move around in. I’m guessing that we will probably spend most of our time in Nakatsu trying to get the business going. The home in Tsukahara will be used mainly for storage.
I’m worried about the blue tarp hanging on the side of the house. I hope it will withstand another brutal winter and prevent anymore leaks. I know I have a few more areas that need to be protected from rot. If I can keep the house from falling down until next summer, maybe we will be okay. We heard some good news about our water heater. The gas lines have been installed and maybe we have a new water heater. I’m not sure what is going on since our neighbor (Namba-san) is handling all of this for us. I better remember to make an insulated box for that water pump. I don’t want to have another one explode because of the intense cold.  George

Friday, September 2, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

The past few weeks have been very stressful for the entire family. Kiley has been very ill and in the Animal Hospital for three nights. She hadn’t eaten and she had been growing weaker.
We took her to the emergency clinic after she showed signs of being in pain. Her back was arched and she was trying to find a place to hide in the backyard. We had taken her to her regular veterinarian first and we were told that she might have something wrong with her pancreas. The vet prescribed anti-vomiting pills and had some blood drawn. Kiley was sent home. I don’t understand why she was not placed on an IV and given fluids. We explained that she kept vomiting, even water, and she stopped drinking. She should have had x-rays or at least an ultrasound ordered. Later that night, Kiley had difficulty vomiting and the pain must have been excruciating. The emergency room vet immediately put Kiley on an IV and ordered up a bunch of tests. When trying to narrow down a liver problem, it’s a process of elimination. They knew what the problem wasn’t. We were agonizing as friends and loved ones waited for news of Kiley’s prognosis.

Kiley returned home after the doctor was satisfied that she could keep food and water down. She wasn’t sure though because Kiley was a picky eater. She ordered Kiley to return home so that we could feed her in a familiar environment. We fed her anything she wanted. It was five days since she was able to keep food down. Kiley started vomiting again and had to return to the hospital. She received an ultrasound and biopsy of her liver and stomach. The ultrasound revealed that her stomach and liver were inflamed. She spent the night at the hospital. It was heart wrenching to leave her there. The following day, Kiley rushed to greet us in the waiting room. We were given 7 different medications to get her stomach and liver under control. We would have to wait for the biopsy results for at least 5 days. She is home and in good spirits. She ate dog food for the first time in a week! We’ve been careful not to feed her too much at one time. Lucky has been quiet and somewhat reserved recently. I think he is jealous of all the attention his sister is receiving. We took Lucky to Point Defiance Park on the same day that Kiley had her biopsy because we were in the same area as Kiley and we wanted to give some attention to Lucky.

On the same day that Kiley received her biopsy, Erika received hers. Erika’s doctor found a questionable spot in her breast during a mammogram. This was the kind of news that shook the foundation of our lives. We were sick with worry. I was beginning to think that we were being punished for leaving the country. After a very tense couple of sleepless nights, we received the news that Erika was cancer free! A group sigh of relief was expressed with the news.  It’s hard to be too enthusiastic right now until we receive the test results from Kiley’s biopsy. If Kiley is found to have a serious condition with her organs we will have to reconsider leaving in October. We want her to be 100% when we make the journey to Japan.

I have been having problems with my knee and left eye. I’ve had some kind of lump and redness in my lower eyelid. I’ve been on steroids to get the inflammation down and I will have to have the eyelid looked at by an ophthalmologist next week. I guess when it rains, it pours.

From my past experiences, bad news always comes in three’s. Kiley, Erika, and I make three. I think we’ve had enough bad news for awhile. It’s time to concentrate on getting our little girl healthy and the rest of us need to stay healthy. If you haven’t had a mammogram done in the past year, please do so. It could save your life. George