Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Laundromat Lady

Lord have mercy, do I have a story to tell today.

I'm at the laundromat last night, and among the other patrons is a 30-ish 40-ish woman accompanied by her five young children. All seems to be business as usual, until the lady becomes upset and starts making a scene because a machine has supposedly eaten her money and isn't working. Sista is literally crying and yelling and cussing and banging on things. On the one hand I'm alarmed (I'm on the phone with Ma when the lady starts up, and Ma even advises me to get in my car and wait, or just leave and come back to get my clothes later.) But then on the other hand I'm also wondering what this woman is going through, because people don't get angry like that just over some laundry. "I'm so f*cking mad right now. This laundromat is p*ssing me off!" and "Y'all just took my money! I want my money back!" and "This sh*t just keeps happening! I'm tired of this! I'm too old for this!" and "My kids need clean clothes! I'm not leaving here until my kids' clothes are clean! Call the police or whatever, but ain't leaving!" I've never seen anyone go off in public like that before, but I can't help thinking that this isn't just much ado about nothing...

She calms down somewhat and apologizes to the attendant for going off on her, after the attendant has calmly and patiently gotten everything sorted out. But then she's still fussing to herself and her kids that this laundromat sucks, the machines aren't working, that they aren't cleaning her stuff right, that she's going to have to go home with dirty clothes and sheets, oh my God, oh my God. And she's still muttering to herself and her kids, "My heart is hurtin'. I'm not feeling good. I can't deal with this.  Something ain't right, something's wrong with me for me to be getting mad and yelling like this. I need to get out of here. I'm not coming back here no more. Come taxes I'm getting my own washer and dryer."

This is not a deranged lady. This is common everyday human pain, distress, and frustration. We all have these feelings. Hers just so happened to come out of her and be expressed in a public place that normally prizes quiet, calm, getting business taken care of, staying out of people's way, and leaving without having caused any disturbance. Maybe she was just having a bad day, or a bad week, a bad few months, maybe even a bad couple of years? We don't know. The woman may have disturbed the peace last night, but who can honestly say to themselves that they've never felt the urge to just let it all out and be heard (recognized), even if that meant making a scene?

Sure, people are definitely responsible for how they react to situations, but when folks do go off, can we really blame them? Can we really look at them crazy as if they're the only ones who've ever been weary and felt like the world is against them, and who've ever been tempted to break the code of public conduct?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sessions with Sue 27

It took me a week to write this because I don't really have anything to say about our first session of the semester last Friday the 23rd. All I did was basically catch Sue up on what's happened in my life during the four or five weeks that've passed since our last session.

You know, since starting in November 2013 I'd always assumed that I would need to be in therapy until I graduate. I figured I'd need to get all the help I could get, since after graduating I'll leave the area and thus be left to deal with my issues on my own without anyone to talk to in depth. (The idea of getting to know a new therapist and having to recount my life story allll over again seems too daunting to be worth it.) But for the past couple months I feel like we've just been chatting. No grand discoveries, epiphanies, or the like. Just talking for talking's sake (and because I never consider cancelling until it's too late, and she needs to be paid). So now I'm wondering how long I actually need to continue counseling.

However, despite my concerns (doubts? boredom?) I think I'll stick with it for now. It gives me a reason to get out during the day on Fridays, since I don't have class. Plus, even if it just feels like chatting, it's still an opportunity for me to actively have a conversation with someone, which isn't something I do often during the week since I largely stay to myself. We'll see if I change my mind, but I guess for now I'm okay with the same ol' same ol'.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Goodness, I'm crying.

Scrolling through my YouTube subscriptions today and happened upon this powerful interview. What I catch of daytime talk show 'The Real' is only the clips that they put on YouTube, and they're usually only the most funny, contentious, or gossip-worthy (occasionally mind-numbing) moments. They try to balance it out and be thought-provoking from time to time, but this is the first segment that's actually touched my heart and made me cry.

Adrienne. Wow. Hers is the exact same reason why I stopped singing. Or rather, why I never really put myself out there in terms of performing in front of others and developing my skill. (I've always been singing and writing, but I keep it to myself). I grew up listening to Adrienne's unique voice and it's shocking to learn that one of the most talented vocalists out there, who's actually had some measure of success, has the same securities I do about making music. Lord have mercy.

Sista Adrienne, thank you for sharing your story, and please don't be scared anymore. And Auntie Tamar, thanks for using your experience to offer some wisdom on what's worth caring about for an artist.

"Young and Beautiful"

Yo! So this girl Jasmine who was my junior in high school recently uploaded this short cover of Lana Del Ray's "Young and Beautiful"... and it's exquisite! The solid harmonies, the fluid runs, the warm and full tone, all of it's just absolutely stunning. There's so much depth and yearning and sadness in this cover; I'm impressed by how much Jasmine's voice has matured even in just the past couple of years. I need to get on her level, haha! And you need to listen to this song because it will bless your ears.

You're welcome.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Girl and Her Outdoor Nighttime Singing Practice.

What luck! I just wrote the other day about walking alone at night, and tonight (late night Sunday) I had a strange yet refreshing encounter while walking "home" from studying. People say music brings people together...

I was nearing my dorm when I noticed this Asian girl walking in the same direction as me on the opposite side of the street. I didn't pay her much mind until I heard singing. I hadn't heard it at first because my earmuffs had stifled the noise. But once I noticed it, I stopped. Because she sounded superb, and from what I could tell she was singing a Japanese song. I was stunned. Is this girl really just walking up and down the street singing like that? That she was.

The girl glanced over to see me looking at her and abruptly halted. She was embarrassed. "Sorry," she tried to explain, "I usually try to stay away from residential areas..." And I assured her, "No, no, you sound really good, your voice is beautiful!" But then that only seemed to embarrass her more. "Thanks... I don't hear that very often." And I told her "Well, I mean it. You're not bothering me at all, so carry on. I'll leave you be. But always keeping singing okay?" Now that I think about it, we must've looked silly yelling to each other from opposite sides of the street like that. Haha. Anyway, we each bid each other good night, and I kept walking.

But then when I'd just about arrived at my dorm I stopped again. For some reason I had this nagging feeling that I needed to turn around, go back, and speak to that girl again. Like hmm, there could be a valuable connection worth making here. So I went back the way I came. She was still pacing slowly, but on my side of the street now, and rather than being weirded-out she waved when she saw me approaching.

I explained that I'd just wanted to know what song she was singing, since it sounded like Japanese and I happen to study the language. She informed me that she was actually singing in Korean (dang earmuffs!), Park Bom's "Don't Cry" to be exact. She's Korean and goes by "Shay", and she frequently practices singing while walking around outside because she's a little shy about singing around others, and she sings too loudly even for the practice room in her dorm. Basically Shay loves to sing but is a little hesitant about actually being heard or drawing attention to herself. We're like timid kindred spirits!

Long story short, we chatted a bit more, I complimented her again and asked her questions about her singing, I told her that I sing a bit too, and then she had me put my number in her phone. I repeatedly urged her not to forget to text me or something so that I'd have her number too. Then maybe we could hang out or even jam together (Hilena included? Ohhh that would be cool.) So hopefully she contacts me soon. And hopefully she didn't stay out there for too much longer, because this Michigan winter cold is nothing to play with!

That has to be one of the most random interactions I've ever had with someone on the street, and after midnight at that. But it was random in an oddly casual and natural way. Like that exchange was supposed to happen for a reason. Maybe I've just made a new musical friend? Or just a regular friend is cool too. I don't know. But whether I hear from her or not, I have a feeling that I'm going to remember this for a very long time. I'm inspired.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pouty Priscilla

Today was my first day back at CAHS in over a month and it was so refreshing! I'd forgotten how much I love walking dogs!

My favorite walking buddy of the day was this not-so-little lady named Priscilla. I describe her as "pouty" only because with her boxer-like jaw and bulldog-like forehead and eyes, she can't help but look sad and concerned on the outside. She has a natural resting sadface. Also when I first went into her kennel she seemed really tired and overwhelmed, so I almost left her alone so as not to distress her.

But after sitting with her and rubbing her head, neck, and shoulders for a while, it became clear to me that Priscilla's actually very affectionate! She's a big, muscular girl but she's gentle, and she's incredibly mellow for her young age of two years. She's also a recent momma who still has a swollen tummy and teats, so maybe that somewhat accounts for the fatigue. I took her for a walk through the woods and she seemed to be more energetic. Most of the time she would gladly lead the way, but there were a couple of stretches where she insisted on walking beside me. At one point I slipped on the snow and fell on my behind (that's what I get for trying to take a picture of her with my phone and not paying attention. ha!), and she even got in my face as if to see if I was okay. Such a sweet girl!

Priscilla and I had an abbreviated yet pleasant walk, and she's a very special pup (as they all are!). I very much hope that she finds a home soon! If you're interested in adopting Priscilla, check out her profile HERE!


PS- The shelter recently implemented a new policy in which they no longer list a breed or estimated breed on he info cards that hang on the door of each dog's kennel. Apparently it's really inaccurate to come to any sort of conclusion based on physical features, and the shelter wants potential adopters to get to know and like the dogs based on how they are individually rather than on what their breed might be. Cool, right? I'd never heard of that before and was wondering if it would cause confusion. I thought, Well aren't people just going to speculate and ask about what breed a dog is anyway, since they probably have a specific one in mind that they want? But today it didn't seem like guests were too concerned about it, so I guess this new system works. So no, I couldn't tell you what Priscilla is, but I know she's a great dog. I guess that's what the shelter was aiming for.

PPS- Check out the pink clouds that I caught during my last walk of the afternoon!

**(UPDATE 1/26)** Priscilla got adopted today! Enjoy your forever home, sweetie-poo!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Walking Alone at Night

The one thing Ma has warned me against the most consistently since I've been in college is walking alone at night. Because it's just soooo dangerous and apparently women don't have lives after the sun goes down...

But walking alone at night, as risky as it might be, is actually something that gives me quite the profound sense of calm and safety. Rather than being by myself in the dark, I prefer to think of it as being "under cover of night." Why?

For one thing, I'm protected: few people around to look at me, fewer still to notice me possibly mouthing words to myself as I think out loud, and there's no temptation for me to mute myself in anyone's presence. Plus, it's quiet and still: minimal noise and movement to either distract me, overstimulate me, or drown me out. And to a certain extent I find my surroundings to be more mysterious and intriguing: everything looks so different in the dark, it's like you're in another world full of things that you can only notice and appreciate during this specific time.

I do some of my clearest thinking while walking at night. I do some of my most playful and reflective songwriting while walking at night. And I feel most at ease out in public when? At night. Maybe this all sounds nonsensical, but it makes sense to me.

My night walks are missing me. This winter's been mild enough where I'm tempted to get back at it. And it's not like I don't have the time to do so. Just wander, meander, stroll and ponder, by myself,  for the heck of it. Yeah, that'd be nice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

BOOKS! (Americanah)

After hearing so much buzz about this novel online and in bookstores in 2013 and 2014, I finally got a chance to read it! I was not disappointed, and for the sake of time I will not be able to do this book justice, but let's go ahead and get right to it.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Ifemelu and Obinze are high school and college sweethearts who while at university make their own separate journeys to the west, she in New England and he in London. Though the novel alternates between the two lovers' points of view, most of it focuses on Ifemelu as she navigates more than a decade in America, gaining citizenship along the way and writing an enormously successful and fire-starting blog on race and blackness in America. The two young adults lose contact with each other, and  Ifemelu largely fares better in gaining security and legal status than Obinze does. But eventually they both return to Nigeria, finding refuge for their experiences abroad in each other as they the negotiate what will become of their relationship after so many years apart.

To put it simply, Americanah is part love story, part tale of two immigrants, part witty yet no-holds-barred treatise on race in America (and a little bit on immigration in Britian), and part ethnographic exposé of life and society in ever-transforming Lagos. After having read it, I wonder why Adichie chose to put all of that in one book; she could've easily written two with all the content, depictions, debate, and poeticism she fits in one. Considering the length of this novel (just short of 600 pages), it must have taken Adichie some long and arduous years to write this. Yet, published in 2013 (and read by yours truly in the transition between 2014 and 2015), the novel's content and references are so impressively contemporary. The internet, smart devices and texting,  the natual hair movement and its resulting online community, Obama's first election, the rise of blogging as a hobby/means of livelihood. It's all so current and shows how well Adichie has a pulse on social phenomena and trends.

And the character development! I didn't realize how much that mattered to me until last year, and Adichie executes hers seamlessly. In addition to Ifemelu and Obinze, you get a feel for nearly every secondary or minor character's story without it becoming jumbled and confusing. You know what kind of people they are, what their dreams were, what their flaws are, what social circles they're in, how they expect the world to be, their hardships, their pasts and how they've changed as people over time. Rather than just characters described on a page, they are living, breathing people! You might think, well duh, that's how it's supposed to be! However, novelists use their characters for different purposes depending on what they're trying to achieve. It's not always important that we know characters intimately, and even when we are meant to know them, some novelists miss the mark. But Americanah certainly isn't a miss for Adichie in this regard.

Lastly, I would like to get into her (or Ifemelu's) politics on race in America and Black/African identity, but it's just too rich, raw, and real! You need to read it for yourself because this lady speaks the truth and she's not afraid of stepping on toes or hurting feelings! I found that Americanah and Baratunde Thurston's How to Be Black speak to each other on numerous aspects, including the significance of and inflated hopes for Obama's election, things that white people (even many of our white liberal "friends") just will never get, and how resilient black people have had to be in order to defend and celebrate their right to be here and be themselves. If you are interested in race relations even in the slightest, Americanah is necessary reading!

Favorite quotes:
"all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him, who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty" (341).

"Racism should have never happened and so you don't get a cookie for reducing it" (378).

Monday, January 19, 2015


Happy MLK Day to the world,  and Happy 2nd Anniversary to me! 

Two years ago today I started this blog, DeelaSees, and it's been so much fun having a such a free, challenging, and productive depository for my thoughts. And I'd like to think that my writing has improved even if just a smidgen in the process!

My only hope for this next year is that I keep writing consistently, and that I push my self to express what is true and interesting to me without too much second-guessing. Oh yeah, and I should probably share this thing more via SNS and word-of-mouth rather than keeping it largely to myself. Need to work on that...

Thanks for reading and be sure to stick around!

-Deela (and Madison, the BOOKS! model)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fat and (trying not to be) Angry About It.

Been really angry lately. For the past 5 and a half weeks I've been working out diligently, making more mindful choices about what I'm consuming, and keeping track of both, but have made barely any progress. I didn't want to be like so many others and make a lofty weight loss goal for the year, because though I hate to acknowledge the fact, it'll most likely take me more than a year to do. But basically,  I'm looking at 100 pounds that I need to get rid of. Since senior year of high school I'd dreamed of not being fat anymore when I graduated college, but since I didn't do what I needed to do to make that happen, I'm trying to get as close as possible. I'd wanted to be presentable when I make my debut into the "real world", so you could say that now in the last stretch I'm starting to get obsessive and desperate.

This stalled progress and my frustration with it tell me two things.  One, that I need to reassess what I'm doing and make some changes in order to see results. Two, that I need to reassess my motivations and the desperate self-imposed imperative of becoming "beautiful" that's been pressuring me. I may never be admired and desired by others for my physical appearance, and I have to be okay with that. For the longest, in addition to "not being fat", that has been my definition of being beautiful,  and the yearning to become beautiful has been my obsession for as long as I can remember...

...but maybe that's played out! Maybe I need to get my mind right and find kinder reasons to keep going.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ma!

Today was my mom's --th birthday! We'd already celebrated on Saturday because I wouldn't be able to be with Ma today to celebrate. However I asked one of her best friends Ms.Yvette to do something with her because I didn't want her to spend her birthday alone, I knew she wouldn't celebrate otherwise, and because I'm a hypocrite.

Can you believe that Ma was too stubborn (too scared?) to ask Ms. Yvette herself? She actually tried to forbid me from asking. Claimed she wanted to be "considerate" because it's a "work night". Pssshh. Well it's a good thing that I didn't listen to her protests and contacted Ms Yvette anyway. While they were out to dinner Ms. Yvette texted me this picture of Ma with a red velvet cupcake! Ma told me later that they'd had a really good time. You see? Sometimes meddling can be good, right?

Seeing Ma with her free cupcake was so special to me because it's our tradition for her to get me red velvet cake or cupcakes on my birthday, but last time I had green tea ice cream instead. (And usually, the red velvet is just for me and we don't share it together.) So it made me so incredibly happy to see Ma receive her own red velvet treat, on a day that she might've otherwise spent alone and let pass like any other day.

Happy Birthday,  Ma!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Right Side of the Dirt

"My momma always told me, any day you wake up on the right side of the dirt is a good day."

 ─the lady who rang up my winter boots at (ironically) Flip Flop Shops yesterday

Thursday, January 8, 2015

BOOKS! (Kokoro)

Funny story about this used copy of mine. Not long after I bought it, I set it on my windowsill thinking I'd get to it right away. But instead I let it sit there for months and it blanched in the sun. (That's alright though; the original mustard yellow of the cover was a little ugly anyway, if you ask me.) Then, when I finally picked it up to read it, within days I mistakenly put the book in a bag along with a leaking water bottle. Only minor water damage, but still. So basically, before even getting into this novel it had already taught me two valuable lessons in how NOT to keep old, used books in pristine condition.

Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki 

The unnamed narrator of 2/3 of this novel is a university student who one day crosses paths with a mysterious man at a beach. He calls this man "Sensei". An almost teacher-student like friendship develops between the two in which the younger man follows the older one around, often picking his brain about his experiences and philosophies on life and love. Sensei is an obviously sad, cynical, and contemplative recluse who is careful not to reveal too much about himself, but later in the novel he finally reveals his past.

In his late teens, Sensei was cheated out of his inheritance by his uncle and developed a severe distrust and suspicion of people. He had given up on the world and nearly all humanity in it. He eased up a bit after renting a room in the home of a widow and falling in love with the widow's daughter. But then he invited a childhood friend of his, "K",  to move into the house with them, and this friend fell in love with the daughter too. Out of jealously Sensei went behind K's back and asked for the young woman's hand in marriage before K could, and his friend killed himself not long after hearing the news.

At present, wracked with guilt and disgusted with the realization that he, as a human being, is not void of the same selfishness and impure tendencies that he condemned in other human beings like is uncle, Sensei has slipped into a depression from which he is unable to free himself. Not only is he despondent as a result of being wronged, but he feels he must also punish himself to atone for having wronged his friend. But the guilt and loneliness become too great, and forcing himself to live an empty life as if he were dead is no longer enough. He writes the narrator what might be the longest suicide letter ever in which he explains his past and the reasons for his behavior, and he takes his own life shortly after writing. 

This novel is rich in themes and symbolism, but something that I picked up on in particular was the theme of people following in others' footsteps toward their own undoing. K, Sensei's friend, is a stoic person who becomes increasingly manic and despondent after being disowned by his family. He kills himself due to immense loneliness and disappointment that his lofty ideals (freedom from the fleshy parts of being human through numbness and spiritual devotion) don't match with reality (falling in love but not being able to act on it, being betrayed by a friend). Sensei 's personality comes to mirror that of K's, and he follows K's example by committing suicide in a similar state of mind. Additionally, the narrator initially has simplistic and optimistic views about life much like Sensei did when he was his age. However, little by little he begins to exhibit that same distance from his family and surety of the world's emptiness that eventually consumed Sensei. One could say that the narrator, Sensei, and K are manifestations of different points on the same successive path to despair and death. Only, the narrator has a chance to find his own way out, as K and Sensei's stories could be seen as cautionary tales for him. This difference could also be indicative of another theme: the transition from the Meiji Era to modern times (in the story, the passing of Emperor Meiji can be interpreted as another impetus to Sensei's suicide). The narrator is not a product of the same generation or era as the two other men, and thus is not bound by the same traditional conventions of guilt, honor, loyalty, and redemption through death.

Obviously this isn't a happy read, but as my first Natsume novel I found it beautifully unsettling. Though often disturbing in its darkly pessimistic musings, if you're interested in reading some challenging arguments about love, friendship, or the weight of loneliness and self-hate, Kokoro has a lot to offer.

Favorite quotes:
"A man capable of love, or I should say rather a man who was by nature incapable of not loving; but a man who could not wholeheartedly accept the love of another─such a one was Sensei" (12).

"He seemed to be under the impression that once one had become accustomed to hardship, one would quickly cease to notice it. The mere repetition of the same stimulus was to him a virtue. He believed, I think, that there would come a time when he would become insensitive to hardship. That it might eventually destroy him never entered his head" (177).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

High Coming Down.

It's creeping up on me, and I guess it was bound to happen. I'm starting to feel like my old self again─lost, unfocused, afraid, discontented, unmotivated, discouraged, and distracting myself with stupid stuff. I felt it coming on yesterday... but I refuse to submit! New Year's fervor can only last so long, and then you've got to find other reasons to look up and keep pushing. So that's what I'm going to do, keep pushing! I mean, I've been working hard and doing pretty well so far, so why not? My high seems to be coming down but that doesn't mean I have to go down with it.

Same goes for y'all. We're almost one week down, and still have 51 more to make magic happen this year. It's possible! Let's believe that something good, no, better than good, can happen.

Monday, January 5, 2015

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 6

As promised, though quite overdue, here's a review of the Japanese dramas I watched between when I returned from Paris and now (end of summer to beginning of winter). This is part one of two, and these shows are in the order in which I finished them:

LIFE (ライフ) - Fuji TV/2007

After falling out with her best friend and experiencing said friend's suicide attempt after failing to get into her dream school, Ayumu hopes that entering high school will be a new start. Being the new kid, at first she is welcomed by the group of popular girls in her class, but one poor decision and quite a few unfair misunderstandings earn lead her to be the odd woman out, ostracized by her classmates and bullied by the popular girls who used to be her friends. Her two main enemies are the evil, popular, and rich boyfriend-girlfriend pair Manami and Katsumi, both of which are sadistic control freaks who are hiding some pretty sordid secret lives.

This drama is based on the manga of the same name, and it's like the movie Mean Girls on acid. It's not as raunchy but the mind games are definitely more severe, and the she-said-he-said-she-said is more complicated. My friend recommended this drama to me about 3 years ago because I told her I liked dark anime/drama that has a social message, but I wasn't prepared for what 'LIFE' gave me. Placement exam/ranking system pressure, teen suicide, bullying and harassment, gang violence, rape/sexual assault, teen mental illness, sadism, self-harm, blackmailing, child abuse, inappropriate teacher-student relationships, cover-ups and corruption, revenge, even attempted murder. It's all in there. And you just get sucked into all the drama and sick stuff that's going on; I watched the whole show in just 2 or 3 days! And all the while you're wondering, why doesn't anyone speak up or fight back? Lesson learned: hurt people do in fact, hurt other people. I would totally recommend this drama, but don't expect any typical teenage fluff, 'cause this is definitely not it.

昼顔 (Hirugao) - Fuji TV/2014

Hirugao or "beauty of the day", is a word that refers to married women (particularly housewives) who have affairs during the afternoon when their husbands are at work and/or their kids at school. Such women include our leads, neighbors Sawa and Rikako. Sawa is a docile young woman who's excruciatingly bored with her life as a housewife. Rikako is a seasoned vet at lying and cheating and has fooled herself into thinking that doing so makes her a happier woman and a better wife and mother. The two meet by chance, and before long Rikako goads Sawa into taking up the same pasttime with her new crush, a high school biology teacher named Yuichiro. While you're kind of happy that sweet little taken-for-granted Sawa has finally found love and is becoming more of her own person, you know that this can't end well. Secret affairs, even if based on friendship and true love, are still secret affairs. And at some point no matter what dirt people are doing, they always get caught. Eventually both Sawa and Rikako's liaisons lead to dangerous consequences; when they are found out they must decide what kind of women they want to be and how they will move forward. This drama is practically perfect, in my opinion. It broaches a taboo subject, it's sexy but avoids glorifying bad behavior or making it "cool", and it asks some pretty challenging questions about femininity and what love makes people do.

 深夜食堂2 (Shinya Shokudō 2) - TBS/MBS/2011

I forgot to mention something when summing up season 1 previously. In addition to being open all night and serving as a haven for misfits and lonely people, there's another important particularity about this restaurant. It has a very limited menu, but customers hardly order from it because Master actually makes just about whatever dish that they request anyhow. Thus the title of each episode is the name of a particular dish, and the dish varies with each episode . That being said, this season has the same exact format as the last season, but with new stories and more culinary dishes. However, this season differs slightly in that rather than focusing on people who are obviously outcasts or connected to the so-called underworld of Japanese society, this season focuses more on people who seem normal. They seem like regular everyday people, until the episode reveals something hidden hat you wouldn't expect. Perhaps that's why I wasn't wowed so much by this season, since the feature characters were a little bland. BUT! I highly recommend episode 6 ("Cream Stew"), which is my favorite of the season. Not only was it the episode that was used as part of my coursework in Japan last year, but the dish in this episode (cream stew) is also the dish that Master is seen making in the title of every single episode (of both seasons 1 and 2), which kind of makes it a staple of the series.

Honorable Mention: Dousousei: Hito wa, Sando, Koi wo Suru - TBS/2014

I enjoy watching this drama because rather than a typical group of pretty young people with the world presumably at their finger tips, here we have a group of 40-somethings who've lived life a little and still have their own drama and complicated love lives. In other words, in addition to the "Where are they now?" intrigue that high school reunion dramas have, Dousousei also shows us that *gasp* people are still plenty lively and interesting even after they've passed their 20s! This drama is an Honorable Mention because I haven't been able to finish it yet; the series ended in Japan months ago, but there are no English subs to be found online beyond episode 3. I'll write a proper review whenever the rest of the series is subbed.

With Dousousei out of the running, and all the other dramas being their own special kind of splendid, it's hard for me to choose a favorite this time around... but I'd go with 'LIFE' on this one. 'Shinya Shokudō 2' was solid but a bit tame, and I actually have no complaints about 'Hirugao', but 'LIFE' was just so wickedly beyond anything that I'd imagined when I first sat down to watch it. It's an adrenaline rush that wins out over the others. Although, again, I highly recommend all three!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Lookin' like Your Goldfish Died"

This morning I attended my so-called "home church" for the first time in months. I'd been going to church, just not this one, for reasons that won't be discussed here. Ma and I arrived shortly before the  handshaking/hugging portion (you know in recent years, instead of simply instructing you to greet your neighbor, they now specifically encourage you to walk around and hug or shake hands with people). I stood up but didn't walk around; mostly just glancing around at the various familiar and unfamiliar countenances around me, obliging when someone would approach with a greeting. Then they called the congregation to the altar for prayer but I held my position on the pew like I always do. Some not-quite-elderly man wearing sunglasses (he and his sunglasses have been at the church during all the past 13 years that I've been going; can't remember if he's a deacon or not though) was about to pass by me but then he stopped. He bent over to shake my hand, then stared at me for a second and said,

"What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry?"
"What's wrong with you?"
"You sittin' there lookin' like your goldfish died. I was about to give you 75 cents so you could go buy yourself a new one and not look like that no more."
(busting out laughing) "Haha, no..."
"I'm just messin' with you. Happy New Year. "
"Happy New Year to you too."

I've always been very careful about my composure when sitting by myself, or when I'm around a group of people and don't have the courage to insert myself amongst them and engage with them. When not scanning the crowd just to see what there is to see and look preoccupied, my eyes are focused straight ahead while I  try to look self-assured and contemplative rather than awkward and lonely. And from time to time I'm told my straight face makes me look sad or concerned or angry. But mourning a dead goldfish? Ha! Definitely a new one. That was probably the most random yet oddly comforting welcome that I ever could've expected.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thoughtful Gift


My stepmom surprised me and sent me a Starbucks gift card for Christmas, knowing that I'm neither a coffee nor a Starbucks person. Why? 

She figured that if I was given a gift card I would have a reason to go (true), and she wanted me to go somewhere and take breaks since I never relax when I'm at school (also true).

Isn't that so thoughtful?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Gratitude is All You've Got (Twothousand15)

2015 is going to be the biggest year of my life. I'm graduating from college, hopefully finding my first job, starting my life as a real adult, and hopefully transforming my body. I don't want to put undue pressure on myself by using the word "resolution", but this year I'm aiming for four things. This is my vision for the year, you could say:

-To intentionally practice gratitude everyday. I have a couple ideas on how I'll do this, but I'll share them later.

-To be nice to myself. Not be so hard. Stop trying to keep score and hold things against myself or other people. Because no one who matters is keeping count. Life is not about comparisons and it certainly is not a competition.

-To not be ashamed of what I don't yet know or what it seems that I can't yet do. Making mistakes is progress and a step toward all that's good! And disappointment's not the end of the world! It's okay to not have all the answers, to have feelings, to come up short. You can't be prepared for absolutely everything that comes your way; you can't life-proof yourself. It's okay to be afraid, but whatever it is, just do it anyway.

-To not be so apprehensive of people and how they might treat me or respond to me. Interact with them enthusiastically and on purpose. Love them, share with them. Reach out and be the initiator sometimes, not ways the loner or the flake. Be willing to believe the notion that people are good, and that there might actually be people out there who like you a lot. Conversely, everyone doesn't have to like you for you to shine your light and treat them with warmth.

The title of this post is my theme for this year: "Gratitude is All You've Got." Additionally, below is the verse that I'm choosing to etch into my heart this year:

"Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to all people" -Zechariah 10: 1 (NIV)

This verse means two things to me. 1) Though I might try, I cannot make it in this world relying solely on myself, which means I have to ASK for what I need and want. I have to communicate. The answer may not always be "yes", but I'll never know if I don't say anything. 2) There is room at the table for everyone, including me. Somewhere out there, there is a place in this world for me. All the good seats in life have not already been taken.

Here's to wishing you all a phenomenal year, and not waiting for life to happen out of fear and doubt.  2-0-1-5.  Wow. We're living in that far-away Future that so many people before us only dreamed about. So let's do our best together!  Be Happy and God Bless.