Snow in Houston, Texas (and t-rex Christmas cards)

Last night, it snowed here.  In Houston, Texas.  It happened yet again.  What miracles lie before us?  It began after I went to sleep, and didn’t begin to stick until after I woke up for a bathroom break in the middle of the night.  So, I woke up to snow covering everything that wasn’t concrete this morning.  Which, when you think about it, is kind of the best kind of snow – you don’t have to shovel or worry about tire chains or anything, but you get to have beautiful snow everywhere around you.

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The hit of the morning was arriving to school.  My mom drove me in, because we were going to a Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas market) together after school, and the market was too far away for me to drive home first and then go, and it didn’t make sense for us to drive two cars out there.  She was staying for a bit, because we had Mass at school for the Immaculate Conception, and this was a chance for her to see the school a little bit.  Pulling into the parking lot (vacant of teachers, because we were so early), we discovered a sort of snowball fight happening in the picnic table area next to the lot.  We didn’t have much snow on the ground, but the kids were making some snowballs out of it, and throwing them around at one another.  It was adorable.

Naturally, my mom declared that I had to make a snowball, as we were leaving the car.  I grabbed an already-made snowball from the ground, which had lost only a bit after originally falling there, and showed it to her.  As she eyed me up while she finished off her own snowball, I realized that she intended to throw hers at me.

And so the fight began.

My mom and I, shuffling around a parking lot and a small grassy area with snow about it, picking up and throwing odd snowballs at one another, practically screeching with delight.  When I was turned away, a snowball hit her square in the back of the head.  No one was too near us, though, so it had come a long way.  And these were a little tough for regular snowballs, so it definitely hurt her a bit in the moment (stung, perhaps, is the appropriate word here).  It didn’t ruin out fun, of course, but merely added to the silliness of the whole affair – one of my students had attacked my mother with a snowball*.  No part of that declaration makes sense for living here, in Houston, Texas.  😛

In class, before Mass, kids lined up at the windows to stare at the snow in the courtyard below and on the roofs within view.  This was only the second time in their lives that it has snowed here, so their fascination with it was completely understandable, and utterly adorable.

Today had some magic, that’s for sure.

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*I found out later that the student who hit my mom actually was a student of mine.  He asked me ‘who that teacher was, walking with me earlier,’ and, when I asked for clarification, he described the morning snowball affair.  “That was my mom.”  In shock, he declared that he thought it was a teacher and asked me to tell my mom that he was sorry for what he did to her.  (My mom and I laughed at the thought that he apologized for having hit my mom, but that is seems to be the case that he willingly would hit a teacher in the head with a hard snowball, without question.)

P.S.  My task today was to “[d]raw a Christmas card”.  So, I drew one on the roof of my mom’s car tonight as we were leaving the Christkindlmarkt.  Frost had begun to reappear all over the place.

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Post-a-day 2017

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Time for Multilingual Christmas Stuff

My task for today (from my tea advent calendar) was to listen to a Christmas song in every language I speak.  Seeing as how it was likely to be difficult to find a song other than “Jingle Bells” (which is definitely not one of my favorites on repeat) in a bunch of different languages, and taking into account that it could get quite boring, listening to the same song over and over again, I chose to interpret the assignment as being any Christmas song for any of the languages (i.e. different songs for each language, as opposed to the same one in each language).  These are the songs I picked.

 

German:  Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht
(It was originally written in German.  I love the version by John Denver and the Muppets on their joint Christmas album.)

French: Minuit Chrétiens
(One of my favorite Christmas songs, and it was originally in French.  This isn’t my favorite version, but it’s still nice.)

Japanese: All I Want for Christmas is You Japanese cover 
(Clearly not originally Japanese, but I like it anyway, so I listened to it.  I loved the ridiculous Christmas music I would hear in the shops while living in Japan, but I can’t remember any of it.  This one does justice to some of the better covers I heard, though.)  😀

English: Mary, did you know? 
I first remember hearing this song at Mass at my aunt’s Church in a small town in Texas. A boy around my age sang the song during Mass, I believe during the meditation time following Communion (when everyone goes up to the front and takes some bread and wine).  I thought it was magical, hearing this twangy-accented high schooler sing his heart out with these words and notes.  This version reminds me of a grown-up version of that first one I remember hearing.

Italian: Tu Scendi Dalle Stele
(Originally written in Italian.  I love this guy.)

Spanish: Los Peces en el Rio
(I’d never heard this one, but I love it.  It is originally in Spanish, and also quite popular as a Christmas song in Spanish-speaking cultures.)*

 

Seeing as I don’t speak any others fluently or conversationally, I didn’t do them – this took some time and consideration as it was!  But it was totally good.  Just made me want to listen to loads more in each of the languages, really.  Also, I totally forgot about English and Spanish songs until after I thought I was already finished with this task.  Whoops.  😛

 

*If you want some awesome, quality, unoffensive music in Spanish, check out this song.  Be prepared to be a little shocked when you see the artists performing, and how strongly it contrasts to the sound of the music.  It rocks.  Try listening to it without seeing the video for a minute or two.  Enjoy!

Post-a-day 2017

Writing, math in life…

I’ve been on the phone with my college flatmate tonight, talking about writing.  Apparently, I actually do have some fun and crazy ideas that would be really interesting for people to read – she didn’t even understand how I got to the sorts of ideas that regularly come to mind, simply as the normal order of thinking in my head.  So, I guess that’s not so normal as I’d thought it to be, having such ideas so casually and regularly.

The thing is, I haven’t set up sitting down to do it.  Not yet, anyway, and not for long enough.  I’ve noticed that writing at night is not the way to go for me.  For other things, sure – I can do loads of physical movement at night.  For writing, however, I’m next to hopeless, it feels.  I don’t feel much like writing anything in the first place at night, and so I struggle to find something to write, and then I make loads of errors in what I do finally write.  It just isn’t a good combination.

Speaking of combinations, I was talking with students in my geometry class today about how math can be useful in life in cool ways.  One example was from a show my stepdad watches about the TV show “The Walking Dead”.  It’s sort of a behind-the-scenes sort of show, and this particular bit that I saw was talking about everything they had to do in order to set up a car crash.  It was really cool, seeing everything broken down, all of the things they had to organize to make it work.  The best part, perhaps, was seeing how it was pure geometry and physics that made the crash work flawlessly.

The other example was in a little photo shoot I was witnessing (and had to abandon for distress), in which the photographer said that they were supposed to be sitting in a Christmas tree formation.  But she didn’t do anything to make this happen.  She didn’t even seem to know what needed to be done for this shape to happen.  (The people in charge definitely seemed to be lacking in general crowd control and effective instructions arenas, too.)  It occurred to me that she never considered just getting the number of people – I’d have done it ahead of time, but on the sport would have worked just finely, too – expected in the photo, and dividing them up into the necessary number of people per row, based on the exact shape desired and the number of rows available.  I was about to begin the calculations as I watched, but then realized that no one was going to listen to me anyway, so it was better if I just left the stressful situation, since that was the only thing I actually could do in the situation.  So, I left.  But it proved to be a good example to the kids in class at how math is present in life in ways that people don’t even consider.  Had the photographer thought about math, – and it is likely that she didn’t, because she wasn’t very confident in or in love with math while in school – the whole photo shoot could have gone loads better than it did.  And they could have had the Christmas tree, and even decorated with “lights” or an outline, using the different shirt and jacket colors present and available.  But she didn’t, so none of that happened.

 

Post-a-day 2017

Free/Me Time…?

My cousin wants me to start work on this work-out plan, with a very unique tie into a specialty of mine.  The idea itself sounds like something totally awesome not only to create, but also to use once it is created.  The task, though, feels almost daunting right now, in the midst of my minimal free/me time.  I hardly get enough sleep to function decently right now, I have so little time to accomplish anything that has me feel accomplished, satisfied with my day, I have to do it all late at night before I pass out.  I hardly have the time to exercise the way I want (Actually, I don’t have the time and energy to do it the way I actually want to do it, but I am finally getting in some exercise (at last!), though it has me getting to bed even later, which doesn’t help on the muscle restore front after the exercise).

I love the work I am doing right now, and I am dearly grateful for it – it is a blessing in and of itself.  I am very much looking forward to what comes next, when this current job is finished.  I will miss this, and I will be grateful to have moved to the next thing.  It will be time.  (I think that is really the main thought behind all of this right now.)

Anyway, goodnight…

 

Post-a-day 2017

Moms and being young at heart

My mom came home late tonight, and walked into my room with a surprise for me.  Bop It Extreme (R) with newly replaced batteries.  I asked if she was teasing me, because it was actually just going to make some absurd sound after sitting for over a decade, but she declared that she had found it today and had put in new batteries specifically because she recalled that I had liked the game.

I showed her how I always held it, told her about the sounds for scoring, and convinced her to play the group version with me, passing it back and forth together.  We were both laughing like little kids.  It was fabulous.

Afterward, we began discussing family activities for our family open house the Saturday before Christmas, while we have family all in town.  The main topic of this discussion was cooked decorating.  As my mom listed off the number of dog houses, campers, trains, houses, sweaters, and ninjas she had, we couldn’t contain our growing smiles.  She ended with, “and a partridge in a pear tree,” and we both laughed while she figured out what she actually had not yet listed (there is no partridge and no pear tree).  I said that it sounded more like a “The dog, in the camper, with the nunchucks,” kind of scenario.  She argued that the dog goes in the doghouse, though, but then declared that that is why the dog is in the doghouse – because he was the one in the camper with the nunchucks…

Can you tell we are young at heart?  I sure love it.  😀

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Post-a-day 2017

The Lingering Effects of Culture?

I have noticed two behaviors of mine that linger still (and consistently), despite my having been in the USA and out of Japan for almost four months.  They are 1) constantly looking right first before crossing the road, naturally walking to the left, and casually beginning on the left side of the road when riding my bike; and 2) silence.

The first has been improving significantly, and is almost never present when I am driving a car (though those two-lane, small town style, empty roads do make me think twice before I pull out onto them).  It is mostly just my bicycle riding and walking that is still in the habit of Japan’s side.  Seeing as how I am aware of the road-crossing issue every time I approach a road, I feel confident that things will be fine there – even if I must continue constantly checking both directions over and over again, because I don’t trust myself as to from which way the cars actually will be coming on which side.  The second is a bit different.

I wonder if the silence is something about which I need to worry.  I feel like it is no big deal, however, when I look at it from an outside, USA perspective, I seem almost oppressed in the action.  The silence comes in the regular everyday passing of people at work.  I often only smile and nod when we make eye contact, and I regularly say little-to-nothing in group conversations.  Partly, I have no interest in discussing the present topic with the present company most of the time.  However, I wonder if part of that is because I am not accustomed to discussing things with people like I once was.

My distress tied to living in Japan significantly affected my desire and will to learn Japanese.  Therefore, I really didn’t put forth almost any effort in the language beyond the absolute necessary, until I was on the rise from all of the depression, only a few months before my departure.  This means that I was not able to participate in most conversation around me.  Yes, I could understand a good amount of it, and often all of it (though, occasionally almost nothing), but I usually was unable to respond.  It was my first experience with what I previously had only heard other people say they did, and the development of which I couldn’t understand: understanding a language, but not speaking it.

So, I grew incredibly accustomed to speaking very little and to listening a lot.  And this was not a conscious decision, necessarily, though I had intended to observe for the sake of learning all about the culture and language.  My goal was to learn, not to separate and somewhat exclude myself.  Transferring the same behavior over here to the USA, my native country, has the behavior occur quite differently.  As mentioned, I seem somewhat oppressed, like something is preventing me from speaking.  All I notice is a lack of desire to say anything most of the time.  But I also don’t even consider whether I want to speak or not – I just don’t speak…  So, I am wondering about this, whether there is something more there, something in the way for me, preventing me from full self-expression.

 

Post-a-day 2017

Christmas Music and Photos at the Beach

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This afternoon, I headed down to Galveston to visit my cousin.  We had discussed meeting at Dickens on the Strand, but I didn’t have a costume, and I was too far behind schedule for that really to work.  However, we could still hang out when she finished at the little festival.  Plus, I felt that I could really use some time in Galveston, and preferably some time on the beach.

I arrived about two hours before sunset, and as much time before my cousin would be finishing, so I headed straight for the beach.  We made these advent calendars for one another, with a tea for each day, as well as a quote/bible verse and a sort of task for the day.  My tea yesterday was spectacular, but today’s flavor was not to my liking.  However, the task for today was fabulous.  It read, “Learn a Christmas song on a string instrument”.  And so, seeing as I had a phone for the research and a ukulele in my trunk, instead of reading my book, I headed down to the sunny sand to play some ukulele.

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While playing, people passed by, going about their business.  Some just walking in light jackets, others exercising with the dog, and one family had three little boys sprinting into the edge of the water, playing.  After a while, it started getting quite cool, thanks to the wind and the setting sun.  My fingers began to struggle against stiffness.  As I paused to warm them (I think that’s what it was, anyway), I glanced out to my left.  The rising moon was spectacular.  I had noticed it big and sneaky a while before, hiding behind the haze so close to Earth’s surface, but now it was beginning to glow.

And what was just under the now-glowing moon, but the three frolicking boys, looking quite adorable.  The scene was set, and I had to take a photo.

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Unfortunately, they were just far enough away that I needed to zoom, if I wanted to have the photo focus on what I was naturally focusing…, and the zoom is not so great on a phone.

So, I made another essay, and went for a different perspective.  To get it to be perfectly straight, I would have had to get down on my belly and align it, and that just felt a little too conspicuous.

Nonetheless, after I took the photos, I really enjoyed them.  I knew that I would have loved for someone to take an awesome shot of me and then actually give it to me.  So, I checked out the parents to see if they seemed at all of similar minds to mine.

And they did.  They looked young and open to things.  They even were taking photos of the kids and of themselves on their own phones, so they were likely to understand the value of a good photo.  Or, a neat one, anyway.

I figured I might as well go for it, so I set my stuff carefully to the side, and stood on up.  I approached them comfortably and confidently and in my best ‘I am a sane person, please don’t freak out,’ manner.  They gave me odd looks when I mentioned how this might be a bit odd, – wouldn’t you, if a stranger walked up and started saying something like that? – but their brows cleared and they were all about it, when I showed them the photos I’d taken.  The mom asked me if I could send them to her, if she gave me her number.*  Of course, of course… And so, I sent them to her, and she was incredibly grateful.  They had been seeing about doing a Christmas card, using their beach photos they were taking then, so they completely understood fun and neat photos, and they were not at all weirded out.  phew

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And so, I went back to my ukulele for a little bit longer, until the sun was almost hidden, and the wind was too chilly, and I headed back to the car and over to my cousin’s house to wait for her there.

As I ast on the beach, and then again after I was back in my car, I contemplated the experience of being on a beach.  I hadn’t gone into the water, and I hadn’t even touched the sand, really – just to wipe off the bottom of my bag afterward.  What was beautiful and almost magical about it, though, was the wind and the air and salt, the feeling of it all on my skin, and the view.  I love the feeling of my hair after time at the beach (not to touch, but the feeling from within), that salty, windblown feeling.  I had that today, and it was truly refreshing.  And it had me wonder, if I didn’t want to give a brief time living there.  I at least need to go down there, just to hang around the wind and the ocean more often than I have done lately.  At least once a month, if not once a week or every two weeks… that would be brilliant…

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got to share for now.  Sweet dreams, world (and good afternoon and evening to the other side of it)!

 

*I chuckled inside at this when she asked.  Let’s be real, why else would I have been showing her the photos?  ‘No, you can’t have them.  I just wanted to show you these awesome photos I took of your children, and then leave you to wonder if there’s something wrong with me.’

 

Post-a-day 2017