Yesterday was sunny and warm.

We were all outside enjoying the weather which seemed to have stayed autumn-like deep into December. They predicted snow and freezing temperatures for next day and although everyone was saying winter is coming we could hardly believe it.

Before bedtime the cold front started moving in slowly. It still seemed warmer then it should be so perhaps the weatherman was wrong. But come midnight everything started freezing. Ice covered the land. It looked pretty with its shiny surface but we all knew the dangers it brings. The ice formed thick and fast and it was relentless.

By early morning little snowflakes appeared. Each one more beautiful then the next, unique and pure, traveling down on it’s path quietly without ever interrupting others. As they landed on the ground they united. First few wouldn’t stick, they simply couldn’t. But they persevered, slowly layering bit by bit until everything was covered in white.

It took hours before they covered the ice enough for it to not be visible and even longer before snow was so significant that ice didn’t matter anymore. We knew it was there and we remained vigilant but we were protected by the snowflakes who laid down in numbers and made ice and all it’s dangers go away. Those tiny little snowflakes who once were alone now covered the ice despite it having the advantage of being there first and created stronger and tougher. Mighty snowflakes that could.

My wish to you all is to find your inner snowflake in the New year to come. To celebrate your uniqueness, to be yourself and to find a way to land in a group that will make you stronger and work together to make this world a better place for us all. And when sun comes out and melts us all may we take the ice with us so we can soak the soil which in turn will sustain and provide for us all, equally.

Leaving Japan

After nearly two years in Japan the time has come for us to return back to the States. I have not written anything on the blog because living abroad has stripped me of my northwestmomminess. So in order to not sound anti-American I have avoided sounding anything at all. Let me explain.

Living in Japan has reminded me of how it feels to be part of your society, how it feels to fit in, to be included. Most of us bloggers found our voice because we didn’t fit the norm. Moms speaking up on motherhood, people moving abroad, women defying standards, men choosing to stay home, photographers embracing the new era of picture taking, families traveling on a budget, homeschooling, adopting, marrying same sex partners… You name it. Most blogs are born out of the need to explain how we are negotiating change or challenging times. For me I started writing when we moved to USA. Although I relocated to Washington state as a US citizen and I lived abroad most of my adult life I was an outsider. Perhaps growing up watching sitcoms Americans seemed to us Europeans just like us except more free spirited, opinionated and with bigger cars but once I made America my home I realized the main difference is not how we act but how we think.

In Europe, much like Japan we celebrate togetherness and achievements as a society. We strive to work and contribute to society first and in the process find personal success and fortune. If we do not achieve these we don’t stand out tremendously because when it comes to basic human needs they are met and not having more then your neighbor is not viewed as a failure but more as a personal choice. I’m sure this could be disputed, it’s just how I was brought up and how I see my friends still living back home and it is how I perceive Japanese who quietly commute on the train, politely greet each other on hiking trails and go out of their way to not inconvenience others.

In America we are taught you can be anything you set your mind to because you are fortunate to live in the land of opportunity. In order to do that you must work hard on yourself and by yourself yet the measure of how successful you end up being is set by society. And that measure lets be honest is to end up being a rich, white guy…

So after we moved to Japan I became European again. I went around every day fitting in. No longer did I have funny stories of me trying to negotiate through daily life because everything fell in place. I might look different, don’t speak the language and perhaps struggle remembering with all the etiquette differences but when I look around I see my people. They act like me and think like me and that is why I am sad to leave for sure.

On the bright side I will no doubt find our new city challenging so stay tuned 🙂

Judging Judy

Not much in this world bothers me.

I tend to be one of those people that walk away from things that pump my pressure high. And if something does bug me I try to not dwell on it. It’s just not very productive right?

But last week, while on vacation with Little J something happened that bothered me a little when it happened and now it bothers me a lot. I have been trying to let it go and in all honesty I cannot leave it behind me. So I figured I could ask you for your opinion and maybe you can give me a new perspective on it.

Here is the story:

My five year old watches documentaries obsessively. His favorite by far are about how the Earth was made, specifically about the volcanos. He has been hoping to climb one for over a year and when I planned our road trip I made sure we go to Mount St. Helens as a grand finale. There is no way we could climb to the crater but they offer helicopter flights over it. They are expensive. I mean break your piggy bank and cry for a week as you are paying for it expensive. This year I have saved all the tips from my photo sessions and took that cash with me in hope that I can treat Little J to a flyover of the volcano.

I took him up to the mountain on Saturday and he hiked patiently miles long Boundary trail in hope that clouds lift and he sees his mountain. No luck. Driving down to our camp site I stopped at the Hoffstadt bluffs to see if we can get a spot on a helicopter tour. We were greeted by the pilot who quickly offered Little J to sit in the chopper which he was so very happy about he never even realized I was actually planning on buying us a tour! Pilot said it is worth checking at the reception if there are any available flights and he explained to us that due to low clouds they will only be flying the short tour that afternoon, definitely not into the crater. Still, it would be rather amazing.

We walked into the reception to enquire and there was an older couple already negotiating with the cashier. They were going back and forth and another shop assistant asked me if she can help. I told her we were hoping to take a tour either now or the next day. She quickly realized she might make the other customers happy and suggested we join the couple to do the tour together. Turns out they got stood up by whoever they were sharing the tour with that morning and have been hoping to go up ASAP. As you can imagine the price per person is nearly half if there are four vs two passengers. I said we don’t mind going up with them so we all paid for our tickets and went back to the helipad to attend safety briefing before our flight.

Little J was so excited. I think it all happened so fast he could hardly believe his lucky stars. In a matter of minutes he will be flying in a helicopter over his volcano. He was so very happy. We sat down to fill out the paperwork and pilot told us there are 4 seats in the helicopter, 1 next to him and 3 at the back. He asked who would like to sit next to him. After a tiny pause Little J lifted his hand and said “MAY I?”

I was fine with it if it was OK with the pilot. But Judy was quick to say: “Actually I would. I have been waiting here since 10 AM and I want to sit in the front.”

As I relive it writing this I am getting mad with myself all over again. Maybe it was my upbringing, being told to always respect the elder or just my politeness but I told my son we should let the lady have the first choice. I told him he can sit at the window which will be even cooler cause we get to sit together. He was absolutely fine with it and we had a lovely helicopter ride. He never once dwelled on not sitting in the front and he still says it was the best thing ever.

But I am so disappointed with myself. I should have stood up for my son. I know I was younger then Judy but I am also a grown up, a mother and was a full paying customer. In fact if it wasn’t for us agreeing to join them her husband was not going to pay double the price for them to go solo. I keep telling myself my boy is young and there are many helicopter rides in his life. This might have been her only. I keep giving excuses for her behavior. But if I am honest with you I find it appalling that an older woman, possibly a mother and grandmother herself would take it away from a child to sit in the front of the helicopter. Specially since he claimed it fair and square. How selfish is that? It’s like going to a store and snatching the last chocolate that a kid is queuing to pay for cause you have had the munchies all day.

Am I being unreasonable and emotional? What would you have done?

Let Judy sit in the front?