Thursday, December 31, 2009

Look what I woke up to!!!!

It finally happened!!! I woke up to snow!!

Every morning when I get up, the first thing I do is peek out my curtains so see what the day looks like. Every time for the last few weeks, I've been dreaming of opening my curtains and finding snow falling... and this morning it finally happened!! I woke up, and it was snowing... a lot!!! First it started like this...

then it got better and better....

It hardly ever...(practically never) snows in Hirao but it snowed for at least an hour today!! (and perhaps more before I woke up!) It didn't stick to the ground or anything, but it was enough to make me giddy for the rest of the day! I absolutely loved it! At one point the snowflakes were so big and fluffy and it was what my Mom and I call "shakey-ball snow" :)

Anyway, just thought it was necessary to share my excitement this morning! Happy New Year!! :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas makes me smile :) *new addition at the end!

Obviously because this week was Christmas, I had lots to smile about! Although this Christmas was quite different from any other Christmas I've had, it was a really special one! I have to admit that it didn't quite feel like Christmas without snow :( I got a rainy Christmas, which is something I am not used to at all!

Christmas Eve was a really special night... the candle service was beautiful, and it was wonderful to see so many people come to church... especially the husband of one of the church ladies that said he was never going to come to church again (he stuck to his word for 5 years, but decided to come to the Christmas Eve service for some reason!) I also had a really nice late night walk on a crisp clear night, enjoying some Christmas music and soaking in the wonder of the reason why we celebrate Christmas.

Then Christmas day, I opened the two presents I had under my tree, had a wonderful quiet time, and then I got picked up to go to my teammates house to spend the day with them! We had a delicious brunch, opened some presents, and then played Blitz. Then we all sort of did our own thing mid afternoon (I got to have a nap!) and then we got ready for turkey dinner... which was delicious!! Then we cleaned up, and played another game that involved a lot of laughter (but I forget the name of it).

Today I helped with the two kids' Christmas parties we had and now I'm pretty tuckered out... actually I'll be honest and say I'm "peopled out"! I'm looking forward to a quiet evening at home tonight before another busy day tomorrow!

Anyway, here's my smile list for this week... enjoy!

-watching a 3 year old girl explain the nativity scene to her Dad

-a room filled with candles

-singing Christmas carols in another language

-pictures of Bobby's house in Maryland displaying the aftermath of a great big snow storm :)

-a picture of a message for me written in the snow :)

-snuggling down in my nest of blankets first thing in the morning

-the "Merry Christmas"stickers all over everything in the grocery store... and Christmas isn't even a holiday here!

-a thick layer of frost still on the ground at 8:45 in the morning... no wonder my nose was cold! (and I mean when I was in my house!)

-watching two old men getting ready to pounce on the reduced food as the grocery clerk was putting 1/2 price stickers out...but I will confess I was doing the same thing, just from a further distance! (reminded me of our Sunday Superstore trips, Mom and Dad!)

-my obsession with English muffins and the need I feel to stock up on them while I can!

-a celebratory dinner with Yumi after she finished all of her classes and parties :)

-keeping Yumi awake on the drive home from that dinner... she didn't like me very much! (I turned the music up and down, turned the temperature down as far as it could go, and kept her talking!!)

-singing silent night in Japanese by candle light

-discovering a calpis ice cream bar :)

-a late night Christmas Eve walk

-finding out that my radio station is extending their 24/7 christmas music until Sunday! (I was thinking it was going to be so sad to not have any more Christmas music after Christmas day!)

-playing dutch blitz with some tough competition!

-engagement stories :)

-being such good friends with someone that I can nap on their couch without feeling guilty!

-teddy bears and snuggly slippers :)

-watching a dad carry his sleeping baby to the car ever so carefully :)

-having another successful conversation with my "friend" at the bakery!

-this video I saw on someone's blog...

It made me laugh how she was laughing at herself... but she was pretty funny!

How was your Christmas?? Since you didn't tell me your plans for Christmas Eve, here's your chance to tell me what you did for Christmas!! ;)

Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My second favorite day of the year :)

Tomorrow is my second favorite day of the year (after Valentine's Day)... Christmas Eve! Call me crazy, but I think I like Christmas Eve better than Christmas Day! I guess I just love the anticipation of Christmas being the next day. I hate the Christmas is over way faster than most people would like it to be... and when it's over, it's over- life goes back to normal shortly after! :( (My decorations will stay up at least until New Year's though because I like them so much... snowmen and snowflakes can also double as 'winter decorations right?'

I also have a lot of special memories of going to my aunt's house on Christmas Eve with my Mom's side of the family. I don't really remember what we did, but my aunt Chris always had something fun for Lissa and I to do... usually a craft project :) and, she always had amazing food for us! (although sometimes we were her gineau pigs and it wan't always a positive thing!)

We've also always gone to church on Christmas Eve, which I've always loved too! In the years since we left Nova Scotia where all my family is, we've always made Christmas Eve a relaxing day (or evening I guess since usually some or all of us usually have to work) and after coming home from church we eat a ton of appetizers (instead of dinner) and just relax, stay up late, watch Christmas specials on TV and/or play games together :)

Anyway, I just wanted to give a little tribute to Christmas Eve since it's tomorrow!! I'm looking forward to it, although it'll be different than usual for me since I'm in Japan! Tomorrow morning/early afternoon I am hoping to get a few random things done, and then I'm going to help set up for our candle light service in Hikari... We will have a candle light service in the evening, then a potluck after it... then I think I'll probably come home, watch a Christmas movie and go to bed :)

On a side note, my teammates have so graciously opened up their home to me so that I have somewhere to spend Christmas day... we'll have brunch, chill and play games, then have turkey dinner together :)

Also, I've got a few skype dates in there too... obviously Mom and Dad, Bobby and his family, hopefully Lissa, and I'm hoping to catch Mom's side of the family at either their Christmas Eve gathering or their Christmas Day dinner.

I'm doing pretty good as far as not feeling homesick, which is a real blessing! Although I miss my family and Bobby, I think I'll be just fine :) I did afterall, ask God to provide for me to stay here over Christmas and He did just that so I have no right to complain! And besides, I'm thankful that I have a family to miss! Thank you for your prayers :)

I finally got around to making my Christmas card display yesterday... here's what I came up with:

(from a distance)
(the middle)
(the right)
(and the left)
I have to say thanks to Dayna K for the inspiration :) What do you think? and what do you do on Christmas Eve?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Christmas favorite...

The other day I heard this Casting Crowns song on the radio and I remembered how much I love it! (It came out last year I think, but I hadn't heard it again until last week) Again, I feel the need to share it with you! Turn it up really loud... I love the orchestra music- it's powerful and beautiful!

Enjoy! (and let me know what you think after!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Still smiling :)

Although this week started off with more tears than smiles, I'm doing much better now and my smile list is once again pretty long! I'm so thankful for the gift of joy! God has given me so much of it :)
Here's a glimpse of what made me smile this week...

-playing the "newlywed game" with my co-workers... Bobby and I had a slight disadvantage!!

-singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with everyone at our field Christmas party (each person sang one line)

-making special 'last minute memories' before saying goodbye

-opening a few early Christmas presents

-an old grey haired man with a mullet

-English class Christmas/farewell parties... and getting presents!

-new additions to my Christmas decor :)

-teammates who offer to pick up McDonald's for breakfast for you on the way to a 7:00 team meeting! :)

-teammates who patiently wait for me to get ready after having just woke up when the doorbell rang when they came to get me for this 7:00 prayer meeting! (my alarm was in between the on and the off setting so it didn't go off after I re-set it when it went off the first time!

-lively conversations around the table over an amazing potluck lunch with my students

-a very sweet homemade DVD a friend made for me :) and news that this friend has signed up for Bible study!!!

-divine Skype appointments!

-being in my pj's by 6:30 pm :)

-watching a 3 year old fight falling asleep in the car... and losing!

-seeing a few snowflakes falling :)

-making someones day by giving them cookies

-Dad spontaneously telling me I'm beautiful when he saw me on skype :) (when my hair was 'post-shower' and I had no make up on!)

-recalling Mom's 'self hair cutting story'... note to self Dad: Never leave Mom home alone with scissors!!

-"I didn't do it Paul!" (I know, that's only funny to me and my parents...definitely a family joke!)

-dropping one of my chopsticks on the floor and having the lady next to me tell me that it'll cost me 100yen for another pair! :P

-having the church ladies 'grill' me about how things got started between Bobby and I, asking all sorts of questions like what our first impressions of each other were and we call each other now! They said it was fun to ask me all these questions because their daughters don't talk to them about this kind of thing :)

-a sweet lady in the church paying for my lunch as my Christmas present :)

-finding a surprise present under my tree! (Guess I chose the right people to give my spare key to!)

-knowing that I'm being looked out for while Bobby's gone :) (thanks Aki!)

-unexpected skype dates with a handsome young man in Maryland :)

-faithful smile list bloggers :) (that didn't even need the friendly reminder I was planning to give!!)

-finding out that I made someone smile!

-being told I'm a fun e-mail writer :)

-helping Yumi with her Christmas parties... forcing 7 year olds to speak English is always so fun :P

-eating Pizza Hut pizza and raspberry chocolate chip ice cream for dinner

-helping a friend decorate her house for Christmas

-joking with teammates

and last but certainly not least...
-daily reminders that I'm loved and missed :)

As ususal, I'm sure I've forgotten things and there's also things that I've left out on purpose due to fear of embarrassing someone! Again, I'm thankful that God has given me so much to smile about! He is so good to me :)

What made you smile this week?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

27 years ago today...

God gave me my big sister :) (although I wasn't born yet!)
Happy Birthday Lissa!! I just wanted to let you (and the world!) know how much I love you and how thankful I am that you were born 27 years ago today!

Thanks for being such an amazing big sister! You are a wonderful example to me and I really appreciate how you're always there when I need advice! You are a good role model for me as you are an excellent Godly wife and you desire to please God in all areas of your life.

Even though we weren't the best of friends growing up, I have always had an admiration for you. One of my most vivid childhood memories is standing at the top of the hill that we lived on, watching you walk to school after lunch and waiting until I couldn't see you anymore... then I had to go in and have a nap! I was always sad to see you go because I loved having you around!

As we got older, and we got less and less "cool" for each other, I still admired you. I always wanted to hang out with your friends and I was so excited when you got your license... and your first boyfriend! I remember spying on you! (as I'm sure you do too since I think you caught me once or twice!)

I think that our relationship started changing when we were finally in High School together... you were in Grade 12 and I was in Grade 9. Usually, Grade 12's just looked down on Grade 9's and never associated with them, but you really made an effort to make me and my friends feel welcome in your school. I will always appreciate how you wrote me so many Care Cards just to wish me a good day, and how you let me sit with you and your friends in chapel... sometimes! :P I think we even went on a few "sister dates" didn't we? :)

After High School, I was both excited and really sad when I found out you were getting married and moving out. Even though you were just one block away, I really, really missed you when you moved out! I remember being so sad when I looked at our cup of 3 toothbrushes instead of the usual 4.

But, I think that again, this big change for you brought a change in our relationship... for the better! Not having you around every day made me appreciate you even more and it made us closer at heart. Over the last 7 years we've been through many ups and downs but thankfully, we're still on good terms, and we still love each other like crazy! We've been physically far apart for a good chunk of those 7 years, but you've always been so good at reminding me how much you love me and our visits together have been extra special.

I think we're at the most "fun" stage of our relationship... we have so much to relate to each other about, and it's been a real blessing to have you share the joys (and sorrows) of the last couple of years with me. I feel so blessed to have gotten something that so many people never get... a big sister! There's something special about the relationship between sisters and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

I love you so much Lissa and I'm so proud to be your little sister! I hope your day is extra special... just like you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

cultural differences... and delightful Christmas presents!

let's face it. some cultural differences are just plain hard to deal with!

Today, I was told by one of my students that he thought I "ate like a horse". hmm what does one say to that?!

We were having a potluck lunch at our farewell/Christmas party today and when everyone was trying to offer me seconds, this kind man offered me a plate of something and was surprised when I turned it down and said I was full... that's when he said he thought I ate like a horse. I'll also mention that in a previous class, he's compared me to a sumo wrestler!

I think this man has a few things to learn about the sensitivity of women and their size!! I'm already really insecure about my size so I have to confess that although this was probably an innocent 'cultural mistake', it really hurt... and it's hard to brush off. I had to deal with this a lot when I was in Africa too, but for some reason it just hurt a little more today. Perhaps lack of sleep is once again effecting my emotions! :P

Anyway, on a happier note... I want to proudly display part of my Christmas present from Bobby because I love it so much! It makes me smile every time I see it!

Isn't it the cutest advent calendar ever?! I love it :) And guess where it's from... the dollar store!! (although it was a little more than a dollar!)

Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of my day! :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

a little lonely...

Today was a rough day... it's the day I've been wishing would never come since September (or maybe sooner).
Bobby left for his furlough this morning. Now we've got 2 months apart. (He's coming to visit me in Winnipeg in February!) We did have some 'down time' this morning before he left (thanks to our amazing teammates!), but it went so fast and before I knew it, we were waving goodbye at the train station.

I had to 'put on a happy face' almost right after we said goodbye because I had an English Christmas/Farewell party to get ready for. I have to say it wasn't easy to pretend to be all fine and dandy, but the party still went well I think. I've been super busy the last 2 weeks (and I'm in the middle of another busy week) and I'm running on very little sleep so that's not really helping the emotions!!

I feel silly for the little pity party I'm having right now because it is only 2 months... in fact I'd probably roll my eyes at someone else who wrote a post like this! But... this is my first serious relationship and now I know what it feels like to be so attached to someone it just hurts to be apart! (like family!) I've gotten so used to having Bobby just 5 minutes away, and now he'll be a whole ocean away. I'm really thankful that we've got skype and e-mail... but this is still hard... harder than I was expecting I think. I know this furlough is necessary, and since his family is going through some rough times right now, I'm really glad that he can be there with them.

I do need to be thankful... I need to be thankful that we're both still alive, and that even though we're reeeeally far apart physically, we'll be thinking about each other often and we'll still be able to let each other know how/what we're doing every day. I'm so blessed to be Bobby's girlfriend and he is so wonderful to me... it's going to take some getting used to things without him here.
After Bobby's visit to Winnipeg, I'll be going to Maryland to see him and meet his family probably at the beginning of April, just before he goes back to Japan... that's when it'll get really hard because we've got such an unknown future after that! I'll be going to Bible school somewhere from September to April...
But... we'll make it just fine! God has brought us together, and He'll continue to guide our paths!

Anyway, sorry for this little pity party... anyone with any long distance relationship experience, please comment and give me some advice! :)
Thankfully I've got special memories like this one to hold on to... Thanks for this fun little picnic, Bobby :) I miss you!

I'm off to make a cup of peppermint tea and snuggle up in my new super soft purple blanket (thanks for feeding my blanket addiction Bobby!)... and maybe study for my Japanese class tomorrow! :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

hello again! Sorry I'm a little late with my smile list this week... I went to Kobe yesterday and didn't get back until 3 am! But, here's what made me smile last week:

-people who talk to me in complete Japanese, thinking that I can understand them... I'm looking forward to the day when I can!

-bowling... and losing terribly!

-discovering another difference between my American teammates and I... they've never heard of 5 pin bowling!

-Masuyuki san's hilarious antics... never a dull moment around! (one example was when he played a bird noise on his iphone and hid it and then looked around the restaurant pretending to look for a bird... what a goof!)

-other peoples' smile lists... and knowing that I was part of what made them smile!

-Josh Groban's Christmas carols :)

-wondering why my flowers were starting to droop and then realizing that I forgot to put water in the vase! DUH! (yes, I actually laughed out loud at myself!)

-warm, cozy sweaters... and getting them for free!!

-new warm fleece pyjamas from Yumi :)

-inheriting a kotatsu from Bobby... I had no idea what I was missing out on!! It is the best invention for winter ever!!

-understanding more and more Japanese!

-grown men drinking out of dainty little tea cups!

-getting dressed up for the Christmas luncheon

-breakfast dates

-attempting to make a little boy smile only to make him cry and cling very tightly to his Mom for the next hour!

-a sweet little baby girl dancing along to Christmas carols :)

-getting an Il Divo Christmas CD from one of my students!

-realizing that I no longer have to lesson plan because I'm done teaching!! (except for my kids' class on Saturdays)

-getting a calendar from my gas company

-getting a letter and Christmas card from my Grammie in the mail :)

-getting a Christmas card from one of my students that was not written in (he wrote his message on a separate paper!)
...hmm I "got" a lot of things this week!

-hearing one of Amy Grant's Christmas songs playing in the grocery store :)

-finally finishing my triple batch of candy cane cookies for my students!! (Remind me never to do that again!!)

-"Friday Night" fun and games :)

-going to Kobe with 2 of my students on a bus tour

-the way that each passenger says "good morning" and "thank you" to everyone else on the bus as they get on and off (at the beginning and end of the trip)

-a lady saying "cake! cake! cake!" while chasing after the hotel staff who was bringing out a tray of cake to add to the buffet

-the way my mouth just automatically gapes open when I sleep!

There ya have it! I'm pretty sure there was lots more from my trip that made me smile, but I didn't write them down :( I have to say that my creativity is running low at the moment since I'm running on very little sleep! It's been a very busy week... with another one coming up too, but I'm still thankful for the many things I've got to smile about.

Just 6 weeks from today, I'll be going to church at Elim again! (if I can get out of bed that morning since I get home the night before!) It's exciting, but also pretty sad all at once. I'm of course looking forward to seeing friends and family again, but there's a lot of unknown's ahead and that's not so enjoyable for me! But, I'm thankful that I have someone to trust to lead my paths. I know He'll make things known to me as necessary so I've got nothing to fear!

I should get going since I've got quite a few little projects to work on tonight! Have a great week!

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's my lucky day!

Today I went shopping at a store called Uniqlo with Yumi and I have to say I was pretty excited because it's so much like my favorite store... Old Navy! I found a few sweaters and cozy shirts (I didn't realize how few 'winter clothes' I had until it started getting cold again!) When we got to the check-out, I was given a 'lottery ticket' and guess what... I won!!

I was a little confused about the whole thing... Yumi was SO excited and all the clerks were all telling me congratulations. Yumi said something about winning 'ichi man en' (10,000 yen) but I guess I was a little North American in my thinking because I was expecting to get some kind of coupon for next time... but I actually ended up getting an envelope handed to me with 10,000 yen in it right there on the spot! (10,000 yen is close to $100)

As I was paying, I sort of justified my spending as a Christmas present to myself since I hardly ever go shopping, but in the end, it was Uniqlo's Christmas present to me!! I was pretty excited about getting a free shopping trip... and even some money left over! Now I don't have to feel guilty for spending money! :)

Anyway, here's a picture Yumi felt the need to take of me because she was so excited! I think she was a little jealous because she said she goes there a lot and she has never won or seen anyone else win (to the extent that she thought the contest wasn't "real"!) but she was really excited for me :)

I love shopping :) The end!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

a picture says a thousand words...

Today I got the CD of pictures from my trip to Miyajima with my friends Norkio, Tomoko and Megumi! I'm really excited to post all of them, but there are many, many other things I need to be doing right now so I'll just give you one as a teaser...

(Clicking on it to make it bigger makes it even better!)

I think this is my favorite picture ever!! We had set up the self timer and all of the sudden this dear decided it wanted to be in the picture too! Tomoko was terrified of the deer, Megumi was worried about her camera, I couldn't stop laughing about the timing of this deer walking in front of us, and Noriko just looks as fabulous as she always does!! Nothing like natural pictures! :)

The rest of the pictures are really good and I can't wait to post them... but it'll have to wait!

Have a good week! :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Always time to smile...

Well this week I've got a clever little intro... are you ready for it??

It's been a busy week, but there's always time to smile!! :) (hehehe pretty good, aren't I?)
Seriously though, in the midst of another busy week, I am really thankful that I've had plenty to make me smile! Here's my "Smile list" this week...

-getting the surprise privilege of lighting the first advent candle... and getting applause after!

-little babies with fuzzy hair :)

-Grandma Okamoto telling us she's wearing 5 layers... and then proceeding to show us each one... more than once!

-spraying snow on Yumi's windows and putting "snow" on her tree :) I got the title of "snow girl"... I laughed and said it was quite appropriate for me since I'm from Canada!

-Bob singing an opera version of a Christmas carol while at the top of a ladder!

-finding "bule" lights at the dollar store... and laughing about the spelling mistake with Yumi!

-borrowing a string of Christmas lights from a teammate to make my apartment even more "Christmas-y" :)

-a fancy new toothbrush

-an older couple in my English class telling me they want their 36 year old daughter and 33 year old son to "get out" of their house!

-getting peppermint extract from a teammate so that I can make my favorite Christmas drink... "candy cane hot chocolate" (minus the candy canes!)

-making Bobby's candy cane hot chocolate with so much hot chocolate that he had 'caffeine jitters' after! (hmm what can I say? I like my hot chocolate a little strong!)

-a 'spoken version' of "Joy to the World" (I guess it was funnier because of the tone of voice it was said in so maybe ya had to be there!)

-an 'elf-yourself' video of Bobby and I :)

-still getting excited reactions when people find out Bobby and I are dating!

-meeting a chatty Canadian guy on the train

-getting a cute e-card from my Momma :)

-the lady at the bakery timidly saying "thank you" in English as I left the bakery

-my Thursday night class... During the tea time, we were looking at a map and talking about how North American maps have North America on the left/centre and Asian maps have Asia on the left/centre. One of my students then told us that Australian maps had Australia in the middle and the other continents on the bottom. We all believed him and said "Really??" then he said... "Maybe." We got a good laugh out of that one!

-one of my students showing us all the features of his iphone... including a piano and a drum set that you can play with your fingers. Bobby was trying to tell him about our Christmas party in two weeks and this student proceeded to randomly beat the drums while he was listening to Bobby! I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes... but it's probably another 'you had to be there' moments, isn't it?

-someone in Nunavit incorporating my "smile list" idea on their blog... my list is just as contagious as real smiles! :)

-getting flowers and little presents "just because" :)

-skype dates with my parents... they always make me smile!

-looking at Christmas lights :)

-planning surprises... that actually work out!

-enjoying a cozy house full of Christmas decorations and getting a cute Christmas story read to me :)

-a 7 year old girl playing the 'guessing game' while I quizzed her on the alphabet! (she knows the alphabet... as long as it's in order!) one time she answered "6" when I asked her "What letter is this?"

-making my little students giggle when I put my little pictures of household items in the "wrong room"... I asked them questions like "where's the fridge?" and they would giggle as they answered "It's in the bathroom!"

-making a flower out of mandarin oranges on top of a cake :)

-not having to play the handbells because all the kids came today!

-biking home in the wind... I'm sure I was quite an entertaining sight!

Even though the day's only half over, that's it for this list! I'm going bowling and out for yakiniku with some good friends tonight so I'm sure I'll have lots of additions for next week's list!

Hope you've had a week full of smiles too! Remember how much I love comments and hearing about what makes you smile! Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A favorite Christmas song...

In case you didn't know... I love Downhere!
They have a song that I really like called "How Many Kings" that is on one of their regular albums, but I actually forgot how much I liked it until I started hearing it on the radio station that I listen to that's currently playing all Christmas music now.
I like it so much, I have to share it! Enjoy!