13 December, 2017

My coffee story

I encountered a coffee story yesterday and it set me to wondering about other people's coffee stories.

How did you start drinking coffee? Who introduced you? Can you remember your first coffee?

I've got a fun story.

I made it through uni without coffee. My first job was out in a country hospital where I was the only public Occupational Therapist for a whole region. It meant a huge variety of tasks, something that I loved. One of those was doing home visits occasionally, especially for patients who had some kind of disability or accident and needed modifications to their house or lifestyle or advice about how to make changes so that they could live more independently.

This one home visit I did was a long country drive. It must have been a couple of hours from my home base. This was a visit for someone who was in hospital in the city (I hadn't seen the patient, just been referred them by a city-based OT). So I met with the patient's family at this isolated house. It was a shocking place to walk into. A hoarder! There was only a narrow path between piles of junk in much of the house. And it was filthy. The light switches had one small place of white on them: where you put your finger to turn it on or off. The rest was long-term caked-on grime.

I did my rounds: checking the bathroom and toilet and various access points. Taking measurements and making notes as I went.

When I was done they had a cup of coffee and a biscuit ready for me—good old country hospitality. No one asked if I drank coffee and they didn't offer anything else. I hadn't seen the mug before it was filled with instant coffee, but I'm sure it probably wasn't the cleanest.

I drank it. What else could I do?

I didn't get ill, but I also wasn't instantly converted to coffee. However, from that point on, I began to drink coffee—instant coffee mostly. Actually most of the coffee I had back then was hospital-grade International House coffee that was provided at work. Makes me shudder now! Drip coffee was the stuff of coffee shops only back then in the 90s. I didn't own a coffee maker for some time after that. In fact I have only owned one coffee maker and seldom used it, because I married a non-coffee drinker and the coffee maker mostly got passed around other people in Australia while we've been in Japan. 

I use a 100 yen plastic drip-brew maker that sits on top of my mug. But I love to go to coffee shops and my favourite is a cafe latte. Even better is a cosy cafe with a view. And top of the list is a cosy cafe with a friend who has time to chat.

So that's my story. How about you? Are you a coffee drinker? How did you start?

12 December, 2017

These last few days...

Yesterday I rode on some very uncrowded trains.
It's been days and days since I wrote here. Let me quickly fill you in on what's been happening. 
I ran around shopping for Saturday (tell you about that in a minute), then had a phone meeting with my OMF boss and spent the rest of my "office" time (about two hours) trying to get on top of computer work before the weekend arrived.

Then I met my language exchange friends and we talked in Japanese and English for two hours.

I raced home and made two meals: one for us and one for Saturday (tell you about that in a minute).

Friday night I was about done in. I'd had a horrible headache the night before and, well, it was Friday night, wasn't it? We enjoyed an NCIS episode after dinner, as we often do of an evening.


CAJ hosted nine schools for a wrestling tournament. I helped out with catering for the coaches and refs and helped a bit with the admin for the event. It is amazing how much writing is involved. I won't bore you, but some of the wrestler's names were probably written at least a dozen times!

I had a really enjoyable day. I spent a lot of time talking with people (as usual). I caught up with parents of three of our son's former opponents from other schools, one couple I met for the first time, another couple I met in Korea for the first time in February. All three boys are still at school and so were wrestling. It was great talking with all of them. To one mum I got to explain that we are Christian missionaries.

It was a little odd not to have any wrestlers at this meet, but it did mean I
could relax more and enjoy meeting people and helping out.

I also hung out with parents from our team, a couple of new parents too, who had some questions that I could help with. Cheering a good friend's son as he won the final, his first wrestling gold medal, was a highlight. But I was holding my friend's iPhone recording the match at the same time, so we've also got a souvenir with our own unique commentary ;-)

It was a long day: about 12 hours from start (7am) to finish. Thankfully we live close. But hosting an event like this includes sweeping the gym afterwards and removing the wrestling mats to their appropriate places, so that the gym can be used for basketball and PE again on Monday. It was fun to "party" with the team afterwards as we helped clean up the hospitality room. We all ate dinner before packaging up the left-overs to be taken home by those in the team and support team who wanted them.


We went to church as usual then afterwards did our annual 100 yen Christmas shopping. This is where we all go to a big 100 yen shop and buy presents for one another. It's fun and low stress, and also now a long-standing tradition!

After lunch I rested, then made fudge to give the boys' teachers, as well as to keep in our fridge for various random occasions (not to mention just nibbling on ourselves).


I did a "field trip" out to the Christian printers that print our magazine. I've also had some dealings with them for OMF. It was good to get an overall impression of their operation. Not to mention gain a great deal of admiration for the challenges of turning the electronic files we send them into something beautiful on paper. Their biggest machine is two storeys high and many metres long. Huge. One of their main things is printing Bibles, especially for countries where its hard to get Christian material. They also print Bible-manga, and have them in many different languages now (I forget how many, but their website says 33 languages).
Christmas decorations at the party (yes, I finished the post after
I got home)

That trip was out into more rural parts of the Kanto plain and took an hour to get there on three trains (including a 500m walk between train stations). After I got back early afternoon, I made a menu for the rest of the week and did my grocery shopping. Then I had a couple of hours to catch up on email etc. before dinner was needing attention.


Today I've been at my desk all day. I had an magazine Skype meeting at 9 that I was ill-prepared for and hence it went longer than necessary, then a video call with a friend over lunch. But other than that I've been pecking away at these keys all day.

However, I'm about to go down the road to the annual CAJ Staff Christmas party, which is something I always look forward to. A nice ending to the day!

I really didn't expect that my schedule would be quite so full as that over the last week. I'm an eternal optimist, which works against me often: I usually think I can fit more into my day/week/month than is actually feasible.

07 December, 2017

Third reprint

This 35-page booklet was a project I worked on in 2013 and 2014. It was published three years ago and has sold 6,000 copies round the world since then.

It's also been translated into German and will soon be in Chinese too.

We've sold out the English version again, so we've done a third print and they've arrived in the office. 

I've done my head in this week in trying to figure out how do-able it is to get a Kindle version of this book available. It's been unreasonably complicated.

However, let me know if you'd like a print copy for your own library. (See this post from our second reprint a bit longer than a year after it was published).

06 December, 2017

Kids newsletter for December

I sent this Kids Newsletter out this week to those on our email list. Feel free to use it. If you'd like a better copy or even to be on the mailing list, drop me a line.

I'm also looking for suggestions for a theme for 2018.

05 December, 2017

Becoming obsolete

The other day I stumbled upon this blog post I wrote in 2011. It's about how a big goal in parenting (or my parenting) is to make yourself obsolete (at least in most things). Or, another way to say it: raising young people who become independent adults.

I'm surprised to find six years later that what I was longing for back then is actually coming true. I'm becoming obsolete!
Those days when we needed to watch over them so closely have
faded into the past. This boy is now 12 ½ and took himself to a
restaurant with a friend the other day!

I realised the other day that most days I do no household tasks in the mornings before school/work. This is how most school mornings run in our house:

6am  David and I wake up to read the Bible and pray together (in bed), David puts the washing on
6.50  David leaves me to finish up our prayer list while he makes lunches and prepares breakfast
7.20  Breakfast (all are expected to be present if possible)
Between the end of breakfast and 8.30 these things happen (without any prompting or supervision from me):
  • everyone puts their own plates etc. on the sink
  • table is cleared and dishes washed by one boy (same boy every weekday morning)
  • washing is hung up outside by another boy
  • everyone does their own personal preparation for school/work including hygiene issues without any reminders or helps (sometimes I'm needed, but very rarely)
  • David and the boys leave for school (walking as we live so close to school)
I don't lift a finger, generally (today I put bread in the breadmaker, wrote shopping lists, and put washing on, but that is unusual). 

To my 2011 self, a morning like that would have seemed fantastical! But it's true. Most mornings I have time, not only to do my own self-care, but I read my Bible (using a reading-through-the-Bible-in-one-year plan) and check FB. The main thing I'm asked at this time is "Is it going to rain?" I.e. should I take an umbrella or put the washing inside or out.

So I'm celebrating. I'm no longer micromanaging my boys in the mornings, they're making steps towards being independent adults. In fact they're both doing a good job of staying on top of school work too, so I'm very happy. The main thing they still need telling to do is take a shower...but it's slowly getting better.

This afternoon/evening I'm taking time off parenting/household management. I'm going to support the high school wrestling team competing at a rival school. Our eldest son is in charge of dinner, his brothers have been asked to help out with table setting and washing up. So we'll see how it all goes. I'm hoping there won't be too much damage control needed when we get back after 9pm. But to my 2011 self, that would have been an absurd notion.

But for those who are still in the trenches of micromanagement. Do not despair. They do get there!

02 December, 2017

December newsletter

This evening I finally sent out our December prayer letter (with the wrong month on the header—a rookie mistake!). 

I don't usually put our prayer/newsletter up here, mostly because it has information about our kids that I don't want to share publicly. But I've taken that out of the bits that I'm sharing today. If we know you and you would like to get the full version, please let me know.

30 November, 2017

Autumn in Tokyo yesterday

This week is a bit of a slower week and yesterday was an extraordinarily warm, sunny day for late November (high teens), so I took the time to go out on my bike. I rode through my usual park south of us, went a bit further south (discovering some nice back streets) to a coffee shop and a little bit of Christmas shopping. 

I picked up an onigiri (Japanese rice ball) for lunch and picnicked on my way back home in a little park I discovered just south of the bigger park. Though surrounded by suburbia, it was very quite most of the time.

Just like in spring, this time of year you find unexpected surprises around many corners. Instead of flowers, it is coloured leaves.

This was sandwiched between buildings.

This was in the park (I didn't have my big camera with me. Apologies for the blurriness.)

And the twin seats I've often sat on and photographed before (below is what they look like in June).

This was across the road from the big park. Just gorgeous.

This was a portion of the small garden at the end of the little park I sat in to eat my lunch. A curious little place.

I discovered one of the white-gloved men at work rearranging bikes! Most of them are beyond retirement age, I don't know how they manage, lifting these bikes all day.

It was great to get out for some exercise and explore our local area a bit more. I enjoyed getting away from my computer and the warm autumn air. I soaked it in before the grimness of a Tokyo winter (my least favourite season here). Today is cold, grey, and drizzly. I'm glad I had the time and opportunity to go out yesterday.