Friday, March 05, 2010

The mystery package, and a Sakura outing

I decided that today was the day to open the ‘mystery box’ I got from winning the Kodak picture competition (with Otto the plushie deciding to watch). But first, my beloved Canon Camera from our Trip to Japan had returned from being repaired. It kinda DIED, and Canon charges a set fee of $89. We sent it off as getting this Camera now would cost about $600 (for the fold away viewscreen and other features which are wheelchair friendly). It was back in a week and just in time for……a sunny day and us to see the Sakura Blossoms.

For those who are not obsessive Japanese culture and language types, Sakura means ‘Cherry Blossom’. And because in 800’s, the Emperor and nobility liked to go out and watch the cherry blossoms as they came into full bloom and fall from the tree, this has become a National Holiday in Japan. While in Japan,TV news reports the state of Sakura (the type of cherry tree blossoms) buds and blossoms and estimated dates of the festival for each city came before the weather. Each city declares its own Sakura Festival as the different tempatures cause the trees to blossom at different times. Hence ‘Sakura-Con’ here in Seattle in April also when a 2 day holiday has 16 million people come to Kyoto to view the Cherry Blossoms, or go to Nara to feed the deer.

In Sakura, everyone goes as quickly as possible (gigantic traffic jam) to where the main trees are. In Kanazawa, the ancient Japanese Capital, it is by the Castle and one of the ‘great’ gardens of Japan. So all roads leading there are packed with people looking to put a blanket on the ground near or under a cherry tree. Then, the blanket becomes a sort of ‘home’ and your friends come by (taking off their shoes before stepping on to the blanket) and they can bring food or buy it at the festival stalls. But there is a lot of drinking, and thus a lot of shouting, and bets and play ‘King’ games (you draw lots, and the ‘King’ gets to make the other numbers do thing like cross dress and sing the corporate anthem). Linda and I saw the Sakura Festival in Tokyo and in Kanazawa and the end of it in Kyoto.

Here in Victoria, in the 1930’s the emperor had his daughter stay here as the port of loading for the Empress of Japan transport Cruise liner. B.C., a seperate Colony had an embassy both in London but also in Japan in 1888. Canada had one several decades later, indeed the Emperor of Japan visited Canada in 2009 to celebrate 80 years of formal relations between the two countries, the first visit since 1953! This gave the Japanese who had moved to Canada a chance to do what they could not do in Japan: see or speak to the Emperor. As one Japanese immigrant said, “He represents 1,000 years of history.” The Empress of Japan built in 1930 sailed from 1930 to 1942, (when, due to war it was brought to Victoria and renamed, Empress of Scotland). Due to the hospitality, over 30 trees from Japan and the Emperor’s Garden were brought over and planted around the Empress Hotel (named after the series in the Canadian Pacific Cruise line, Empress of Australia, etc). Over the years many trees from Japan have been given to Vancouver (Stanley Park), Toronto (Hill Park) and the US in New York (Sakura Park in Manhattan, 3012 trees given in 1912 to celebrate friendship). Here are some of the trees on behind the empress, fronting a motel which, of course, is closed and being turned to condos!
Sakura is so important to Japan it is when the Calendar starts and ends, when both the fiscal and the school year starts, in April, also when coming of age ceremony occurs. So annually the first day of work or school is the start of the Sakura season – most schools have Sakura trees so that life events are all framed around the Cherry or Sakura blossom. It is also on the 100 yen coin (about $1). It was a sunny day yesterday so Linda pushed me out and about, into the van, and we went off to the library, after a stop to see the Sakura blossoms.

As you can see, I can now read print material, at about the same speed as before, however, as the day continues, my ability to read and what I can read decreases. Here is the advantage of having a wheelchair: a) being able to see the bottom row and b) being able to stack lots of books and manga on my lap!

I had not been to the library in a long time (a year, more?). One thing about memory problems is I only remember the ‘last memory’ regardless of whether I have visited or not, and if the ‘last memory’ is two years ago then people look kind of different and so did the library (there is now a free PC ‘gaming station’ with flatscreen monitors). But they seemed happy to see me again and I was off with all my booty back home.

Time to open the box, say I. ‘Not so fast’ says the bag it has been sent in. Arg, why are these always ‘puzzle boxes’ sent to defeat those with peripheral neuropathy! I am not sure if I should come back with ‘You are sly but so am I’ or just ‘HA! Try to stop me will you!” (I WILL use my teeth, I often do!)

I am not the most subtle when it comes to opening stuff, and if you think that your wrapping paper has been carefully folded out of sight, I am sorry to disappoint, or as people say, “Oh I see your cat got to the wrapping paper.”

My puzzled face, “No….er, I mean, yeah, that’s why it is all shredded like that.”

Ta da! I did it!
The prize was the RRP $169 Digital Picture Frame M820. It literally sings and dances. Or rather it has a touch screen for instructions, can store 1000 pictures without an external source (or use thumbdrives for more), can play movies and mp3’s. So with this handy Digital frame so you can have hundreds of pictures playing along with your favorite music. YES, do that and YOU CAN become the most annoying person at work. SCORE! I will use it in the bedroom I think where I can watch some of the videos we made and listen to music.

It was nice, but where were the shiny baubles? I have the brain which likes…. the pretty, where are the goth earrings, or art doujinshi, manga, um, gift certificates or a nice set of motorcycle leathers with a motorcycle to go with them! Um you know..more. Was there more, was there more? Seriously, you never did this as a child?

There wasn’t more.

I did however, roll up to boxing 30 minutes later. There I did way, way, way too many sit-ups (over 200) and push ups. I even had Linda put my legs up on my wheelchair seat while I was down on the mat and used weights in my hands and did even more sit ups. (I was um, 'trying to sweat' not 'trying to show the new class that I was as tough as those sleek girls in the yoga outfits'). I also did ‘transfer’ push ups (where you push on your fists to raise your butt off the ground and fist walk over to a new place). Then I brought in blocks and did even more transfer push-ups. Oh, I sweated, a lot. I really sweated. I drank over 2 liters of water before the nap and 4 liters after – and then I could finally pee out some junk from the muscles that were rebuilding. So I am sore in places I feel, and sore where I DON’T feel (Linda just says they are very hot) which is kinda weird. How can I rebuild or strengthen muscles I can’t feel? Anyway, a productive day I think. And a new toy to play with.


yanub said...

What a neat prize! It's really perfect for you, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Exercise is good. You need to do more of it. I think that will help you feel better aobut yourself. It looks like you put on a lot of weight latley. Also what might help your bald spot in the front of your head is not wearing a ponytail. The pulling of your hair is causing it to go bald (fyi).

Take care.

rachelcreative said...

Love the blossom. Fab that you're reading and got to the library to choose your own books. Great prize. Well done on the sweating - you sure worked hard to get it!

wendryn said...

Cherry blossoms! Beautiful!

That's a really cool prize - another way to remember things!

I'm glad you got to go boxing and work out for a while again. That has to feel good, even when it leaves you sore.

Neil said...

Oh, lovely! You can frame Linda and Cheryl!

200 situps? I once did 185, and rolled on the floor in great pain for a few minutes afterwards.

You're my hero.

Love and zen hugs,

Dawn Allenbach said...

Those cherry trees look beautiful. Do the blossoms give off scent?

I've been spending A LOT of time at the library since I've been back in Kansas. In fact, I was just there yesterday and checked out five books: a fiction novel by Kathy Reichs, a book about octopuses and squids written by Jacques Cousteau, a book about animal intelligence, one about Plains Native American medicine men, and the complete Grimm's fairytales.

That is a very groovy prize. Maybe you can make it goth and groovier with some stickers?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Yanub: It is nice, I was glad I entered, I may be giving it away.

Anon: You really seem obsessed about my weight, and my self esteem. Thank you! But your daily anonymous comments telling me I am overweight regardless of content (like say...this post) are supposed to 'help (me) feel better about (myself)'? I go out, only recently, the bald spot is caused by lack of blood to the scalp, due to autonomic failure (ponytail hair loss creates a exaggerated widows peak), this I am countering by exercising hard enough to keep my heart rate and blood pressure in the red zone to force them into the capillaries of the entire body, including scalp. Sweat means blood flow.

fyi: loss of back muscles and the dump of a wheelchair create an exaggerated pot, if your hobby is to point out weight gain of every person in a wheelchair (or is it only females?) it might not be the best way to gain popularity.

If judging solely on looks is so important to you, please post pictures of yourself so readers can give you the same daily attention you give me.

Take care.

Rachelcreative: I went out again today and the blossoms were cool. I am enjoying opening up passages in the brain, connecting and restarting brain schema, in some ways it is like trying to speak a foreign language after a while, I am hoping the start and stops will accelerate as I read more. My verbal side however is still slowing and becoming less able to access words. It is irritating to constantly stop and start and 'know' a word but not be able to say it. Linda says that if the class does 55 minutes of hard core training that I don't actually have to work until I feel like vomiting, that I am different.

I said in a small voice, "But I don't WANT to be different." - but ow, ow, ow, ow - I think I am as I sit in front of an air conditioner now.

Wendryn: Thanks, I joined the boxing class so now there is an financial incentive to go to as many classes as possible. To be as fit as possible within my limitations. And the more I sweat, if I survive the two days on the edge (alternating between overheating, passing out and going into shock), I get more reserves and ability to overheat and survive for a time. And the more often I sweat, the faster I heal, and the easier to sweat next time.

Yeah, remembering things. Are the blossoms out where you are?

Neil: Linda says I am very foolish, but I am just glad that after last week of doing all the sit ups, I was able to do even more this week, as well as many push ups, including fist push ups. But yes, it does make sitting up in bed later like, floundering around and 'ow'

Dawn: I don't think they give a strong scent, just a faint one. I like your selection of books. Diversity is good for accessing different parts of the brain. As the last couple posts have shown, the 'research' part of my brain has woken up as the stuff about Cherry Blossoms took a couple hours to check or verify. I practiced editing last post, and it seems to work, so I am working toward doing short posts 3 or 4 times a week and papers, or fiction. Stage 1: get body fever free, Stage 2: get exercising, Stage 3: get outside weekly, Stage 4: increase the diversity of mental stimulation, Stage 5: build reserves and solve health/time problems like bowels, overheating. Stage 6: Go for interviews for GP's and go for medical help/apply for Job/start writing fiction/non-fiction papers again. I'm a gal with a plan, and working on Stage 4 and 5 now while maintaining 1-3.


Hey Beth, it's Bernadette,found your blog :)
what a great prize, and I love the photos and the suspense,the one of you looking in the bag for more is a classic :)
Love the history of the cherry blossom,I live in the cherry capital of Australia :)
anonymous is lucky to be anonymous me thinks......I must remember to have face only photos and tease up the hair in my thinning bit in the front also on my blog lol

Elizabeth McClung said...

Bernadette: I think you have a great picture, you are actually having your head atop a lioness? When did you get to do that - Linda really wants to do a Safari.

Anon has been sending me messages for a while always about my weight or something else. I thought I would print this one because they are the kind of people who actually think that saying 'You know, you really are (fat, ugly, odd, etc)' is somehow helpful. As one TV presenter I knew said, "I get the letters every day telling me what is wrong with my face - do they think I don't look in the mirror?" - I have a destructive autoimmune disease AND I am vain. 51 days of fever and bed will cause wasting in parts of my body while producing a pot - that is part of the journey. Being unable to exercise more than once or twice a day will cause the same problems, even though I was eating one meal a day. After the doctor told me it was water retention, I drank over 1 liter a day of water and lost quite a bit in about 5 days. Hair loss is just that - that is why I didn't 'touch up' that picture. At home all my careworkers know I have hair loss because......all the clients they work for (females) have the same kind of hair loss. On one hand I am pressured by inner (and outer) voices to look like the 'model' and be all beauty while the blog is supposed to be showing the truth of what limits there are to life with chronic and degerative illness. Ahhhhhhhh!

I am really glad you found the blog and commented. Thanks for the comment on me looking in the bag - I always do that because I think once $20 came out - now THAT is incentive.

e said...


I love the pictures and the prize. I hope you keep it, and as to unwrapping things, I do the same as you and then the moggies get to play with it and it ends up everywhere...

You can make your blog disallow anonymous commentary. I thought your reply to this anonymous set of remarks was particularly stellar.

A letter is on its way to you!

Hugs, E


I also do the same when finding an old wallet or bag I've shoved to the back of the wardrobe..I found $5 once :)
my RA drugs make my hair thin..I dye it darker,somehow it looks I don't look in the mirror much.. I forget to, I always get a scock when I do...who the hell is that??? ahahaha
re the wasnt really a safari,the truck is a prop. It was taken in Bali last Oct, at the Bali Safari and Marin Park.Awesome day out.the entry fee was something like $35 and For Aus $9 Les and I got to hug and pat the lioness and have our photos taken. I'm not sure If she was sedated or not but I was very brave lol .In Australia at the Canberra zoo,on top of the entry fee, it costs $200 for the same thing,guaranteed unsedated,so I guess the cost covers insurance?

tornwordo said...

I knew what Sakura meant! It is our dream to visit Japan like you did last year (or the year before?). Maybe one day. Have you tried Natto? You'd never forget it if you had.

Neil said...

A. Nonymous: If Beth were healthy, those MIGHT be valid concerns for her. But she's not in tip-top health, so please stop trying to ruin her day. On the other hand, if Beth were healthy, you wouldn't be reading her blog...

Beth, I love the photo of you in the library. Being able to see the bottom shelf is no problem, but you can reach it more easily than I can. :) On the other hand, NOT being able to reach the top shelf would drive me mad.

It occurs to me, as I type, that it looks like you were being punished. Figure of Authority: "Go stand in the corner, young lady."
Beth (pumps fist): "YES!!!"

Love and zen hugs,

deadrose said...

Sakura in Seattle:


Everything's wildly abloom!

Kate J said...

That's about the first time I heard of someone winning something really useful! Mind you, if it was a photographic comp then the prize would be... well, something appropriate for a photographer! Well done, anyway. And I really appreciate the explanation of Sakura... and all the old photos too.

And as for those Anons...and their comments... best ignored, I reckon. I thought the pic of you looked great!

Love & peace

Lene Andersen said...

I use my teeth all the time, too...

Cool prize! And beautiful cherry trees. They're blooming already? Sigh - we still have winter. Warm for a few days, but not a tinge of green to be found.

p.s. Love it when anonymous are not afraid to tell "the truth", but too afraid to sign their name. Good lord. Who says shit like that?

Raccoon said...

(The shiny baubles are what you put into the fancy new toy!)

I think perhaps Mr. Anonymous only looks at pictures? Yeah, and my belly looks like I'm pregnant, too.

I generally have other people open the envelopes. Opening the wrapping paper... teeth. That's the only way to do it, isn't it? And always ALWAYS check the packaging.

I love your history lessons, and the old pictures.

Sorry I'm late. Expect an e-mail this week.

Baba Yaga said...

The cheery trees near me are in leaf bud, at any rate. One has to get fairly close to perceive it, but it won't be long before they're in leaf. & I'll think of you when they do flower!

The library photo is a joy. Just avoid the cigarette-smoky books. Always saddening, when one opens a book and finds it unreadable. (Alas, it happened to me yesterday. I forget, in between times, that this is a hazard of public libraries. That, and inadvertently coming home with Mills and Boon, or biographies of footballers and/or murderers.)

Oh, all right, I can't resist: Leaving aside his grammar, what sort of loon, unless he's a predator!, even thinks to comment on the weight of - well, anyone!, unless he's in a position of some privilege, or at barest minimum of understanding, from which such a comment might be pertinent to something? And why the implicit assumption that weight gained must be a bad thing? (Thus my - mild - suspicion of predation, or at least malice.)

Does the world *need more insanity about weight, or the 'acceptable' distribution thereof? Or more normative balderdash of *any* variety?

(Ah, rhetorical questions. Such a splendid way to express dudgeon.)

Aviatrix said...

Awesome! I was expecting it to be a little wall plaque, not a real prize. You can put shiny pictures in it.

Rock on with your good exercising.

FridaWrites said...

Argh, not nice making us wait til the end of the post to see the surprise. :) Very nice frame--I haven't seen one that plays music/videos too--mine just displays photos only.

I just learned a lot about Sakura that I did not know.

That's a lot of exercise--I am proud of you for going strong after some difficult weeks. I could not get bathed this morning at all, even with help, because of extreme pain, but this afternoon went up and down the stairs twice (rare).

FridaWrites said...

Oh, and I open packages like that all the time too--not with teeth though since they're fragile, but it is not neat--drives everyone else crazy because the "self sealing" packages don't anymore.