Saturday, March 21, 2020

Ways to Enjoy the Staycation!

Many of us have or will need to be mostly isolated for a few weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are we to do with ourselves? Fortunately, oh, so fortunately, we have the Internet, giving us virtually (see what I did there?) unlimited resources. There are so many, many things to do!

Start with attitude. It would be all too easy to obsess on news sources, to get depressed, to indulge in ever so many not very productive behaviors.  Can't we do better than that?  I'm thinking of it as an Involuntary Staycation.  You have all this time, uncommitted wonderful time, something we so very rarely have. Why not use it in useful ways that will make you happy?

Make a schedule. Don't just sleep until whenever. Get up! Do your chores! Plan your day. Pretty soon, you'll have so much to do, you won't have time to do it all.

Clean something. Yeah, yeah, but you know you have THAT cupboard, garage, attic or room that weighs on your mind that you know you should do something about someday.  You know you have THAT chore -- washing the windows, painting the trim, cleaning the screens -- the you've been putting off forever.  Someday is here. Do it. You'll feel better for it.

Exercise. Go outside if you can, even if it's just onto your balcony or into your yard, and stretch. Dance! Go for a walk or a bike ride if possible. Look on YouTube for some videos. Look like an idiot. Laugh.

Garden. It's that time of year. Spend an hour or two a day making your outdoor space better and getting all of those outside chores done. Wash and clean out your vehicles. Get your bike in shape. Plan your garden, lay it out, get it ready. If you don't have your seeds or starts yet, add them to you list.

Make lists. Checking things off lists gives one a sense of accomplishment. List things to get done every day. List things to get on your shopping trips. We're avoiding people and staying home as much as possible so plan a trip every week or ten days, and combine errands into a single trip. Whenever you think of something, add it to your list.

Turn on music! We don't really have much radio here in Japan, so I sucked it up and got Apple Music. For ten bucks a month, I get fantastic channels. I have the all Bach channel on right now. YOU probably have radio. YOU probably have a music collection. Take an hour or two a day and make sure you have music on while you're cleaning, exercising, reading or gardening.

What's for dinner?  Take an inventory of your kitchen/pantry. What do you have? What do you need? What can you make with what you have? Check out our friend the Internet for recipes, add what you need to your lists, and make a plan for at least a week, preferably two, so you don't have to shop as much.

Feed your head. There are fantastic classes being offered for free on line right now.  Spend a little time to find something you've always wanted to take, and sign up!  There's one on Ancient Egyptian that sounds like fun!

Resources for kids abound. There's no excuse for boredom, for anybody. I have listed many, many, many resources on The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's Facebook Page, for kids as well as adults. There are so many great things to do that it's almost overwhelming!  This is a great place to start when looking for everything from crafts to museums to operas to recipes.

Feed your soul. You know there are art supplies, even if it's just a pencil and paper, around your place that you haven't used. There's a craft project that you haven't even started, let alone completed. There are six buttons to replace, five things to hem. Learn to darn socks! Write a poem. Look up haiku and tanka.  They're short, they're simple and they are surprisingly hard. Find out about sonnets -- also short and simple, and surprisingly hard. Play that instrument that's just lying around. Sing! Dance! Do something creative every single day.

Start a chain poem. In Nichiren DaiShonin's day, one of the things people did for entertainment was chain poems.  Somebody would write a haiku (by syllables, 5-7-5; this is all you need to know to start, though there are more rules) and send it to somebody else, who would add two lines (7-7). That person would send it on, and the next person would add a haiku and send it on.  When it got to the end of the group, and back to the first person, she or he would wrap it up, send the completed poem to everybody on the list, and everyone would read it and get a good laugh.  We have email!  This makes it easy!  It's also a good way to stay in touch with people.

Take a world tour. Pick a country, find some nature videos about that country. Find a cultural performance from that county, or a museum, safari or zoo. Find a recipe or two from that country. It's easy to have a lot of fun with this!

Great performances are all over the Internet as performing artists of all stripes make their art available to the world for free.  Whatever you like -- opera to country -- it's all there.  Pick one every day.

Don't just binge-watch: do it a day at a time. You can figure out the advantages to this! Something to look forward to, family time, set up a watch party. Don't just do it -- USE it.

Make a list of every museum you want to visit or every performance you want to attend, or every location you want to see. Then FIND THEM on line and go!

Tend your friends and neighbors. From all over the world to all over your neighborhood, you have relatives, friends and neighbors. Reach out to them. Include them in your chain poem. Ask your neighbors, especially the elderly or normally housebound, if you can do anything like: cut their grass; take out their trash; pick up things for them at the store when you're out. Their normal helpers might not be able to get there. It might be unsafe for them to go out. Make a batch of cookies, package them up, and drop them off. You can wear a mask and gloves for cooking and delivery. You don't have to violate social distances -- stand on the porch and talk through the door.  Do something helpful. Do something kind.

Help the healthcare workers. Groups of people are organizing to make masks. Even if you don't have a sewing machine, even if you don't know how to sew, there are directions. You can learn. Get in there and try.

Game night. Whether on-line or on-table, games provide something to look forward to and a way to interact with people. If you like games, go for it. There are board games gathering dust in your house somewhere. There are chess, Go and card groups on line you can join. Make it a regular thing!

Read a book. Take an hour or so a day, maybe between doing chores and making dinner, to listen to music and read a book. Smashwords has a huge Authors Give Back sale going on, and my books are in it.  The New York Public Library is loaning from its vast collection for free. The Gutenberg Project has thousands of classic books right there for your entertainment. Something you've always meant to read? It's probably in one of those places. If you don't have an e-reader, you can get the Kindle App free from Amazon, and, just like magic, there's your e-reader on your phone or computer.

You and your family and friends can do this. You can come out of this with chores done, homes improved, connections made, fun and adventure had. We have this time. Why NOT enjoy it?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Authors Give Back -- a very special sale

All over the world, people are getting hit with involuntary staycations.

So why not read some books?

Why not read some of MINE?

Some of you have signed up for FLY ON, the periodic newsletter, and have received The Sparrows of Pusan or Coming Home (Book 1) or both, and are now aware of some other goodies coming your way for your reading pleasure.  Access these through The Toki-Girl and the The Sparrow-Boy or via Prolific Works and search for Claire Youmans or The Toki-Girl and The Sparrow-Boy.  Sign up for FLY ON, if you haven't, and expect early news about The Eagle and the Sparrow, coming in June.

BUT IF YOU WANT MORE RIGHT NOW, there is a huge and lovely sale going on at Smashwords.

It's called Authors Give Back.

Find my books at Smashwords on sale at a VERY deep discount until April 20.

Would I leave you hanging with nothing to read?  C'mon. You know me better than that.

I'll be finishing book 7, The Eagle and the Sparrow, and starting book 8.  I get an involuntary staycation, too!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Women's Writing and Tickling my Fancy

This fascinating article is about the origin of a separate script that was used by women in Japan for centuries.  Have a look!

Kana Shodo

You know you want to know about COVID-19 in Japan, so here goes.

We seem to be coping with the novel corona virus very well.  Containment measures are working to flatten the curve. For such a large country with several very large and crowded cities, the number of cases (about 750 outside of the cruise ship, less than 1500 total as of this writing) is very small.  People anticipate the suggestions of the public health authorities, and when they don't, they seem to think, "Oh, yeah, good idea. Let's do it." And they do. There's the usual gang of idiots who think they can't be affected and who are in major denial, but it's a fairly small group. "How to wash your hands" signs are everywhere, and there are hand sanitizer stations everywhere, too. Schools are closed at least until after the long spring vacation. Many districts have on-line resources available. Those who can are working from home. Those who can't are being offered flexible hours to reduce congestion on the trains. Many "attractions" like museums and entertainment venues are simply closed. People are walking and riding bikes. The cherry blossoms are starting, but the big parties are cancelled. Not to worry: people will go see them anyway, just maybe not in the usual exhibition venues, and will probably have small, private parties rather than city-wide blowouts.

A few peculiarly Japanese things tickled my fancy:

Perhaps inspired by tales of vanishing toilet paper in other parts of the world, my local Tokyu store had a loss-leader sale on toilet paper and tissue.  278 yen for 12 rolls?  How could I pass that up?  I now have toilet paper until June. I didn't get tissue because I have lots and couldn't carry more.

I attended the Gokaihi ceremony at Nichiren Shoshu's Head Temple Taisekiji Saturday, March 14.  On weekends, this ceremony is usually close to capacity, and is only open to members. It wasn't crowded. Since regular temples have cancelled or postponed all group activities (morning and evening practice services (Gongyo) are taking place) this wasn't a surprise. Even Taisekiji has postponed a huge general meeting (IIRC, 20,000 people came last year) from all over Japan, filling it to capacity and more.
What was a wonderful surprise was how people, without direction, were carefully placing empty seats between them and others, in a nice, tidy sort of way.  The priests who serve as ushers were letting people sit where they wanted, although usually they try to herd us into nice, tidy, cohesive groups.

Afterwards, I went to dinner with a friend at a restaurant in Shinagawa station. There were plenty of people, though it wasn't packed. The hand sanitizer station located outside the restrooms was, rather pointedly, right outside the men's room. The ladies' and the baby room (baby rooms are increasingly located between the women's and the men's to be easily accessible to all parents) were not so gifted.  Women are washing their hands according to directions and there is often a line for ladies' room sinks. But having the sanitizer station in front of the men's rather than in the middle made me laugh.

Since masks and hand sanitizer in personal quantities are sold out almost the instant they are stocked in stores, despite one per customer restrictions and huge fines for scalping (reselling at inflated prices) we now have recipes to make our own.  Many involved drinkable distilled spirits!

And MASKS!  Japan, and Asia generally, simply doesn't care what anybody says. We're going to wear masks, especially since allergy season is coming on.  While they may not stop viruses, they DO stop pollen, and it couldn't hurt.  But masks are in short supply!  What to do?  Well, the disposable ones CAN be reused if washed -- and there are directions for this, too.  But even better: people are making their own reusable, washable ones made of very nice fabrics, which often match or coordinate with their outerwear, just as their shoes, scarfs and bags do.

Japan, as it always seems to do, is using common sense, science, and coping.

Cherry blossoms are just starting.  There are several varieties, so if you plant carefully, the season can go on for about 6 weeks.  Here are some at Myorenji, an historic temple near Taisekiji.