Unexpected body work

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Yesterday in Yoyogi Park I was hula hooping while waiting for a friend when an older man holding some attractive red tasselled ropes walked over to watch. He looked interested, so I stopped and offered him a hoop, "Wanna try?"  

He shook his head and pointed at his back. "Oh, but it can be very healthy for your back, actually," I said. At which point he shook his head again and indicated my lower back. Did a little dance with his hands. He didn't really speak much, but I got the idea.

Funny that he noticed. I put my lower back out in November and it's still recovering. I haven't been hooping much as a result and it is awkward when I do. I feel lopsided.

He nodded at me, indicating that I should turn around. I did. He proceeded to lay hands on me and FIX MY BACK. 

Thank you, sir. The gentle poking and bzzzt noises you made worked a miracle. When you did it, there was no special sensation and I figured it was harmless but pointless. It hurt like hell a few hours later as I was going to bed, but today I have full range of motion for the first time in months. I have no idea what you did, but I hope you walk by next time I'm broken.

Tokyo is a funny place. You've got to be open and trusting. Good things just happen.

49 becomes 50

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Today's my birthday; I'm 49. 

Forty nine's a square, one of my favorite squares because 7x7 was the first part of the multiplication table that I memorised and always felt confident about. I loved that two pointy-angled numbers combined into two digits with the same shape - one pointed and one rounded. I don't think I thought about math like the other kids. Ask me about 9x9 sometime. :-)

As much as I love 49 as a number, I am not enamoured of it as an age. Too anticipatory, too much looking back on the past decade. Not a problem! Since yesterday actually ended my 49th year and today begins my 50th on this marvellous planet, and because math allows you to round up (I learned that shortly after times tables) I declare that I am a HALF-CENTURY old.

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Half a century is a milestone I am excited to claim. Who knew I'd last this long? Be this happy? I will be 50 in 2016, too, as expected. And in 2017 I will turn 51 because you can have too much of a good thing and I'd like to make it to 100, maybe.

So hello, fifty! I feel a tenth my age. I look nine-tenths my age. It all adds together nicely. Gotta love math.

Scorching Orange and Mint Salad

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We had a strange assortment of leftovers from a party, including a bag of oranges, a bunch of mint and and a whole jar of black olives. A friend recently returned from a trip to South America gifted us some unidentified dried chiles. This must be a salad! The addition of cilantro and salt rounded it out. We considered adding red onion or feta - maybe next time - but the salad stood well without them.

Tod says, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Each ingredient contributes its own unique character and the salad wouldn't be the same without any of them. The chiles contribute a shocking level of capsaicin but the mouth quickly grows used to it and, in fact, craves more. Just the level of spiciness that addicts seek out. The oranges are all sweetness, the olives provide a roundness, the cilantro is a high note and the mint a cool relief."

There's no particular recipe, but we used two oranges, a big handful each of mint and cilantro, a tablespoon of sliced black olives and a 10 cm soaked dried chile snipped into shreds.


The 2015 Equinox Storybook

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At our annual equinox bbq yesterday, we collaborated on a short story. Each of us wrote a sentence then passed the book to someone else. The results are odd and probably say quite a bit about the mind of each writer. I did the illustrations this morning and photographed the pages.

stories-0.jpg stories-1.jpg

Things did a sinister retake at the end there! After we completed this one, we tried out hand a 6 word stories and I jotted them down as we shared them. 


We also had an ichi-en hunt with prizes, and Samm led us in a song with musical squeaking pigs.

Here are some of the coins that stayed hidden!

1993: Sisters in Song

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Cleaning out some of my photos and memorabilia, I came across this treasure. Me, Louise Zbozny, Shirley Mounts, and Jen Zbozny after our first place triumph in the Fiberfest Talent show.

We performed a ten minute musical. Country girl (Louise) versus her city-loving sister (me) with Jen as our neighbor and Shirley as the Narrator. Louise and Jen rewrote lyrics to famous musical songs. Tod recorded background tracks for us. We practiced in the car on the way to Kalamazoo, MI, and worked on our dance number between the bed and the dresser in the hotel room. It was so much fun to create and prepare that the prize was only the icing on the cake.
I was pretty happy to find the lyrics to the songs and I want to share them so that I can sing them again some day or in case you need a musical about sisters or country life. The narration is lost, so you'll have to figure out how to thread the story together. The order of songs was Wouldn't it be Loverly (Louise), Sheep Shit in the Shadows (me), Favorite Things (duet), It's a Fine Life (Jen), Sisters (duet).


Juggling in Yangon

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I spent the past week in Yangon, Myanmar, for a juggling festival & social circus project organised by Serious Fun in Yangon. Me and two dozen other international jugglers flew in to do shows and teach workshops all over the city. We worked with disabled kids, a monastery school, rescued child soldiers, and the general public.

There were so many great people. I reconnected with Andrea, the head of Spark Circus, and we'll be working together on some stuff in the coming year or so. I got my first volunteer for Spin Matsuri India, Elad, an Isreali juggler who will be in India later this year when I'm there, too. I watched in awe as veteran performers did their stuff: Haggis, Ben Zuddist, Maike, & Captain Finhead are the sort of performers I want to emulate - skilled, able to play to all ages in any condition with aplomb and good humour. I made connections with circus people, tech people, and new friends from all over the world. I also met a juggler, Mike Twist, who lives two stations away from me in Tokyo. We have very little overlap in our circles, which is rare for long-term foreigners here. I'm sure we will meet up and do more together in the coming months.

I learned to juggle two balls in one hand. Seems like it would be easy, but it has eluded me forever. Roo, a 15 year old, stared at me the way only teens can until I got it. I simply could not let myself fail and I didn't stop until I could do columns in both hands and inside and outside cascades, too. I also managed to juggle (1 whole juggle) clubs, another long-standing goal. Alberto taught me the tricks: throw to the outside, not forward; sing circus music while doing so. The music made it work. And I also learned to bend balloons - I can make a balloon sword. Slowly and carefully...but I can do it and it will only get better from here. Practice, practice, practice!

The highlight of my week was the praise I got from my fellow jugglers regarding my skill at stage management. Yep, I am not the best juggler (in this group, I was the the worst by far) and my performances are less polished than they could be, but I am fearless backstage and it was a treat to know that performers I respect recognised that.

Reasonably Tidy

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The living room circa 1978

"What sort of home did you grow up in?" a #minsgame friend asked me after describing her mother's hoarding tendencies and the clutter she lived with as a child.

A phrase popped into my head immediately. Mom described our house as "reasonably tidy" and I remember her making sure that it wasn't cluttered or too messy. The living room got a once-over every day to straighten it up, and we were expected to to take our things (toys, books, sweaters) up to our rooms at bedtime. The dining table was never piled high with stuff like in some of my friends' homes. We cleaned weekly, but tidied daily. 

Mom set a good example that I have failed to follow. Not to say that I'm a complete slob, but I'm not as consistent as I could be about patrolling the house. After recalling the right phrase, I've been making an effort to put the house to rights every day because I value a "reasonably tidy" room.

Thanks, Mom, for being a role model in this and so many other ways. Happy 75th birthday!

We won the #minsgame

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Tod & I both played through the Minimalism Game this month with great success. 1576 items left our apartment in 31 days. What?!

I started the game thinking I didn't really have that much clutter and that reaching the goal - 496 items - was going to clear out my spaces very well. As it turns out, I lapped the game with 1080 items of my own removed. Tod did 496 on the dot. I have a lot more clutter in my life than I thought.



  • Gathering together a group of people (the Minimalism & Decluttering Games group I started on Facebook) has made the process a delight. Everyone shared their daily decluttering stories and there was accountability to not skip days. I am pretty sure it would have been a drudge and I would have quit otherwise.
  • I can't remember 99% of the things I decluttered. Things that come to mind: the orange phone & a stack of party plates...and that is all I recall without looking at the photos I took.
  • The more clutter I removed, the more I realised there was to still get rid of. Even now, I could easily play the game again and will in March.
  • We've accumulated and saved things from a lifestyle that has changed quite a bit over the 13 years we've lived in this apartment.
  • Guilt plays a big role in hanging on to things too long - it was hard to dispose of gifts or things we "paid good money for" but rarely use. 
  • Having fewer things around gives me more energy and motivation for maintaining what's here
  • Minimalism doesn't mean austerity; it means not having excess.
  • There are lots of people who are happy to have the strangest things you might want to give away.
  • Donating items in Japan isn't easy, but the we gave clothing to a Syrian refuge charity drive, and the Salvation Army has a donations center that was happy to take my random assortment of stuff at the end of the game.
  • I think moving things out of my life has given me mental room to invite friends and ideas back in.

Hisashiburi, Kimie!

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Me, Kimie Yanagi, and Hanako Murakami.

A few summers ago, or maybe more than a few, I was part of Hanako Murakami's exhibition at the Echigo Tsumari Trienniale in Niigata. It was a great summer of making art and helping out with the festival in the tiny village of Matsudai. One of the residents, Kimie Yanagi, adopted Hanako and her entire crew. Kimie cooked for us and at rice harvest time, we went up to help out. 

Since then, Hanako has moved to Europe to pursue her art there. Kimie and I have kept in touch a bit, but we've not managed a visit until Hanako came back to Tokyo last week and organised a dinner for the old festival crew. It was a delight to catch up with people and to see Kimie again in person. At 80, she is as genki as ever. What a sweetheart!


Tod & I have promised to go visit and a handwritten letter received from Kimie yesterday means she isn't going to forget. Looking forward to a relaxing weekend in Niigata this spring.

In Front of the Camera

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Me & Tod "on set" in our living room

For a change, I am in front of the camera in character and in costume. I have a small part in a film project being done by Jesse & Will at Ice Block Films. Their shooting schedule spans a full year and mine are the first scenes to be captured.

We spent the weekend running around the city shooting my character larking around doing her things while I ad-libbed all of her lines. I am grateful to Jesse for being cool with my spontaneous rewriting of his script. I am a horrible memoriser. 

I'm not going to spoil the surprise and tell you anything about the film or my character, but the weekend culminated in an accordion concert in our living room. After we wrapped, Tod made us all dinner.

Jesse and Will are usually too busy with their creative work to socialise much, so to have them to myself for an entire weekend was delightful. We chatted up a storm on the trains, over a surprisingly wonderful lunch in Shimomaruko, and of course during dinner at home. It's likely I won't catch up with them again until I help them out behind the scenes on a shoot later this year and I can hardly wait.

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