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Getting a dog was not a light decision for me. Though I tend to be an impulsive and spontaneous person, I willed myself to really think this through. This is a big responsibility, Melyssa. I knew that if I blew this, then I’d either be stuck with 15+ years of burden or the pain of knowing I had to give up a dog because I wasn’t ready to take care of it. I scoured the internet for information and tried to find a breed that would fit both my lifestyle and personality. On two occasions, I was just one e-mail away from signing contracts for other types of dogs, but something never really felt right. It may have been my subconscious reminding me to really think through my decision to get a dog in the first place, or it may have been some form of fate telling me that these dogs were just not meant for me. Somehow, I started looking at corgis and when I found a breeder I liked, I never looked back.
I ended up adopting Monja when he was 6 months old. He was already past the fluffy baby stage and veering on into his grown-up appearance. I could hardly sleep the day before he came home – I think what kept me up was both pure excitement and the sinking feeling that perhaps I’d made the wrong decision. Am I really ready for this? For our first week together, I pretended, both to the world and to myself, that this was the best decision ever. Though, at times, I was crumbling. Certainly, there were many moments during that week when I absolutely adored Monja, and seeing him slowly warm up to me was one of them. But sometimes I’d still wonder, will he always be this much work? He completely flipped my life upside down from the get-go. All of a sudden, I’d find puddles of pee on the floor, my socks were all relocated to his crate where he hoarded them, and he absolutely hated going for walks. What dog hates walks? Not to mention, I hadn’t slept past 5:30am since he arrived. That first week was trying, to say the least.
Things slowly improved. His indoor pee breaks became scarce as he learned to go outside, he mostly got over the sock habit and I mostly started to think it was cute, and he quickly grew to love walks, and so did I. After things moved from holy hell what have I done to I think I could get used to this, things really started picking up.
Now, I can say, without a doubt, getting Monja is the best decision I’ve made all year. As I write this post, Monja has already tried eating a piece of paper off the ground, barked at me to get off the computer, and tried going through my trash can. But I still hold to my words – he is the best decision, and then some. He has saved me without me ever realizing I even needed saving. Before Monja, my life was fine, good, maybe, and I was happy. But he reinvigorated a part of my life that I didn’t even realize needed reshaping. He still wakes me up around 5:30am every morning and my eyes are always barely open in tiny slits as we mosey downstairs so he can pee outside. Monja, on the other hand, is ready for the day. It doesn’t matter what time we went to sleep the night before – Monja decidedly wakes up with the sun and begins his day anew. He is always refreshed and excited to stretch his legs and move around. I, on the other hand, am still a drone who bumps into walls because I can’t bear to open my eyes enough to see. After his pee break, we come back home and often that is when I give him breakfast. He’s ecstatic. It’s like he has literally never seen food in his entire life and I am suddenly the holy kibble messenger. He inhales his cup of brown circles in about 20 seconds, though I’m sure he’d eat the entire bag if that’s how much I gave him. His vigor for life and positive attitude about starting each day with a big smile are things that I try to carry with me even when I leave him to go to work. His magic sits there in my mind, while he rests patiently in his crate.
Later, we go for several walks around my neighborhood. As an expat living in Tokyo, it can be very difficult to feel connected to the community here. But going for walks with Monja has completely changed how I feel about my place in Japan. Suddenly, everything has shifted. The previously serious faces of the people who passed me on the street have turned to smiles. It doesn’t matter their age, gender, or nationality, everyone is completely enchanted with Monja. Almost every day, people will stop to pet him, take pictures of him, and laugh when he tries to lick their face. I apologize when he does this, but their reactions to my apologies always remind me that they need some good face slobber just as much as I do. Even the people who don’t stop to say hello always end up walking by us with the corners of their mouth more upturned than before they laid eyes on him. He makes people happy. It’s a simple, but far-reaching concept. And the thing is, Monja forms these relationships himself. Almost every time someone walks by us on the sidewalk, Monja is pulling his leash in their direction. Look, a new person! I can’t wait to meet them! This always has the profound effect of making each of those people feel special, as if he chose them himself. Just yesterday, a group of middle-aged Japanese women were wooed into sitting in the middle of a sidewalk with me for 15 minutes as we went from talking about Monja to talking about ourselves. He is truly a connector.
Even at home, Monja never ceases to remind me what life is really all about. He is painstakingly loyal and will easily pry himself away from his favorite bone if it means I’m getting up to use the restroom. Wherever I go, no matter how dull or nearby the location, he decides to come, too. Sometimes this concept works in reverse, and I will follow him around like a shadow waiting to devour him in hugs. My favorite moments are when he’s sleeping on his side on the floor and I can go up and rest my head on his belly. During these times, he always lifts his head just barely, looks at me, and then drifts back to sleep. I feel a certain warmth during those moments, like I finally have a purpose in my life besides myself. Now, I am taking care of another being, and in turn, that little creature is taking care of me, too. Today, we went to the vet for a vaccine, and as I heard him cry in pain and fear, I had to stare at the ceiling to keep my tears from running down my face. Having a dog is like having a friend who walks around with part of your heart in theirs. The pain and joy they feel resonates so deeply inside you, too.
This past month and a half with Monja has been the beginning of an experience that will undoubtedly change the rest of my life. He has taught me what it means to feel rejuvenated each morning. He has shown me that to build community, sometimes all you have to do is smile and say hello. And he has revealed that only when we love another as ourself do we really understand what love is. Instead of waking up to my beeping alarm clock, now I wake up to a 20 pound ball of fur willing me to open my eyes. The sun is out, I’m sure he’s thinking. I didn’t want you to miss it.
Now that I’ve lived in Japan for awhile, some of the things that absolutely shocked or intrigued me when I first arrived now seem kind of normal (ok horse jerky will never seem that normal to me, but I digress). In an effort to get back in touch with my experience in Japan and remember all the things that peeled my eyes open in wonder, I’ve decided to start this series to introduce you to the great, the crap-tacular, and the strange things I’ve encountered in the land of kawaii. I was inspired by a totally interesting series Casey writes about the pros and cons of living in Germany, and thought “hey, self, I bet there’s a lot of stuff people would be surprised to hear about Japan, too.” So, starting today and until the end of time (more or less), I’m excited to share my Japanese experience with you! Let’s get started, shall we?
Coming from America, I’m pretty sure no one back home has ever hit me up to get lunch at a 7-11. Nope, the only times I’ve ever gone into a convenience store back in the states were to get a Slurpee and to feed my heinous energy drink addiction circa 2007. In Japan, however, I could probably live inside a convenience store forever and still carry out a meaningful life. Convenience stores in Japan, or “conbinis” as they are called, are more similar to space ports than the concession stands I’m used to. First of all, they are fully stocked with tons of different types of “bentos,” or boxed lunches. I’m not talking about greasy hot dogs that look like they’ve been sitting out for 3 days. I’m talking, fish, curry, pasta, katsu, an assortment of salads, and way too many other options to list that are made fresh and restocked every few hours. Besides the fact that conbinis function as small grocery stores, they are literally super duper convenient (who woulda thunk?). You can pay your bills, buy concert/movie/plane tickets, pick up and send packages and mail, make copies, and even just read manga from their many bookshelves. Not to mention, this is the mascot of one of the popular conbinis:
Need I say more?
Some people expect living in Japan to be like living in a space station on the moon, but to be honest it’s more like living on the set of Home Alone…1. Japan seems to be excellent at exporting an image that makes it appear really high-tech to the rest of the world. Certainly, I’ve watched Japanese TV shows about robots and have seen people fiddling with phones as big as their face, but by and large, Japan is not very high-tech. At all. The classroom image above looks exactly like all of the ones I’ve taught in here – old wooden desks and chairs, and a chalkboard. Besides that, lots of things just seem…old, for lack of a better explanation. Fax machines and big chunky home phones abound, while things like dryers and central heating are virtually much non-existent. In many apartments, like the one I lived in last year, you have to use a kerosene heater if you don’t want to freeze during Japan’s cold winters. This means, buying huge jugs of kerosene and lugging them to your apartment about once a week. You know how our parents got to tell the “I walked to school uphill in the snow” story? I will tell my children about kerosene heaters in Japan.
In case you’re worried about the crack down on downloading music from the Internet or you don’t want to shell out 99 cents for one song, Japan has another option: renting CDs. It only costs about one stinkin’ dollar to rent a CD and if you’ve ever used iTunes, then you know you can import all of the songs to your computer forevaaa. Tsutaya is the name of the fabulous store that hosts this genius offer, and it has a huge selection of artists to choose from (don’t worry, there’s way more than just J-Pop!…otherwise this would probably be a con…). Speaking of which, I need to go stock up on some new music!
I.love.leftovers. Sometimes, I think leftovers taste better than the real deal (cold pizza, anyone?). Maybe because I don’t have to do anything and this fantastic meal is just sitting in my fridge, waiting to be zapped by my microwave (oh the wonders of technology). However, Japan does not dig this zapping, nor does it really take to the idea of boxes for food you didn’t eat. In America, it is pretty standard that if you didn’t eat part of your meal, you can always take the rest home with you in a box. But in Japan, if you didn’t eat it, then it’s probably getting thrown in the trash. Luckily, Japan’s portion sizes are smaller anyways, but there have still been many times where I’ve asked for a box and been given a blank stare.
Here’s your fun fact for today: there are more pets in Japan than children under the age of 15. Literally. People in Japan love their pets. Today, I met a sweet Japanese woman and her dog and we added each other on Facebook. On her Facebook, the dog is listed as her “daughter,” and the thing is, I think people really kinda believe that their pets are their children here. It is not at all uncommon to see pooches strolling around in dresses, jeans, shoes, and pretty much anything you’d wear yourself. Yesterday, I saw a dog rocking sunglasses. I think the dogs in Tokyo have more swagger than I do.
Another interesting part of the pet culture is dog strollers. I see these everywhere in Tokyo. Often, they look like regular baby strollers and I really have to focus if I don’t want to mistake someone’s child for a pomeranian. People in Japan tend to treat their dogs as if they birthed them themselves. They are not pets, but children and accessories. It’s completely bizarre to me. I hope Monja doesn’t feel self conscious that he doesn’t own a tutu. I might have to get on that. On second thought….maybe not.
In addition to all this, there are two definitively popular dogs in Tokyo: Long-Haired Miniature Dachsunds and Toy Poodles. Coincidentally (or not), they are the two dogs in the pictures above. I see these two breeds so much that you might wonder if they are the only dogs in existence on the entire planet. Every single person in my apartment building with a dog besides me has a toy poodle. Monja is like a giant in Japan. I asked Keiji why toy poodles are so popular and he told me it’s because people think they look like teddy bears. Well then, who needs kids when you can have a stuffed animal that licks your face? Not Japan, that’s who.
See you next time for some more good, bad, and bizarre tidbits from my adventures in Japan! Sayonara!
I live in a nine story apartment complex in the middle of busy Tokyo. The moment I leave my building, I see people bustling around all over the place. It is hard to feel connected to the masses when you’re just one little person strolling around by your lonesome.
But guess what.
There’s something you can do. You can be a neighbor.
What is being a “neighbor,” you ask? I don’t think it necessarily means you have to share a wall with the person next to you. To me, it just means that you’re willing to treat the other people in your vicinity like decent, living human beings. Today, I would like to rant about people who suck at being neighbors, who forget that other people exist in the world, and who probably just need a big fat hug and then some face slobber from Monja. After that, I’ll be sharing some tips on what makes a good neighbor, so we can have good relationships with the people around us, and stuff.
(Also known as my rant about the meanies)
1. Let people hold the door open for you. Don’t acknowledge their existence. Can I just respond with a big double-you-tee-eff?! If someone holds the door open for you, their doing you a favor that they didn’t have to do. And then these bad neighbors just walk through the door, fiddling with their phone, or worse, looking straight ahead, as if their zombie master is summoning them away from your good deed. Can we change the context for a second? What if you weren’t opening a door for an unresponsive meanie. What if you did something nice for them at work? Like, “Hey Steve, I saw that you had a lot of tests to grade, so I went ahead and graded them for you.” Can you imagine if Steve heard you, but chose to just stare blankly into space like a drone without a soul? Steve. You need to say “thank you.” And anyone who gets a door opened for them by a stranger? So do they.
2. Actual neighbors who ignore your greetings. Like I said, I live in an apartment complex with nine stories and over 50 residents. There is only one small elevator that fits about three people. I always say hello to my neighbors, and often they will say hello back to me. This makes me happy. Verry happy. But sometimes the Steves come along. And they.don’t.say.anything. “Good morning!” “….” Wait, what? Maybe you didn’t hear me, but that’s hard to believe since we are both occupying an elevator as big as my dog’s house. Actually I’m going to go with, you totally heard me, but made a conscious decision to ignore me. What is that about, mister? Learn some neighborly skills, because yours are seriously questionable.
3. Perhaps the worst of neighbors – people who let the door slam in your face. I am getting heated just thinking about these people. Fine, you didn’t say good morning to me and you forgot to acknowledge that I’m alive when I held the door open for you yesterday, but this one is just inexcusable. Imagine, we are leaving our tiny Monja’s house-sized elevator and making our way to the door where we can exit our apartment building and breathe in the fresh air of the world. When I am walking behind evil neighbors, they pretend to have forgotten I am right behind them, even though we just exited the elevator approximately 4 seconds ago. They just push the door open enough for themselves to get out, and then let it swing back into my face. I.just.don’t.get.it. Not only is this just rude, but it’s also dangerous! I cannot for the life of me imagine knowing that someone is right behind me and then purposely opening the door for myself and letting it swing back and possibly kill the neighbor behind me. Yes, kill. This is serious, you guys.
Phew. Glad that’s over! Now, in case you’d like to be a decent person and want to be a good neighbor, here are some tips for making the people in your community feel like…well, people. Continue Reading
About a week ago, I got to attend a small Hello Sandwich workshop in Tokyo. Hello Sandwich is the cute and whimsical stage name of Ebony Bizys, crafter extraordinaire. Ebony is originally from Australia, but has been living in Tokyo for a few years and is currently collaborating with Martha Stewart and MT (the company that makes washi tape!). She is seriously legit and I adore her “anything goes,” cute, crafty style. She uses tons of colors, mixes patterns, adds textures and shapes where they otherwise wouldn’t belong, and overall turns typical things into something that looks like it was made with love. A whooole lotta love.
There were only five of us in the workshop, but tons of craft supplies to take advantage of! I mean, check out the picture below…I was in craft heaven.
In the workshop, we made decorated hanging envelopes, that you could use for storing mail, receipts, etc. Mine is currently hanging next to my desk! Below, Ms. Sandwich is demonstrating how to make the envelope using her templates. I got to sit next to her and take all these fancy creeper shots. Score!
Friends, I did something very bad.
I missed yesterday’s post.
This means I haven’t “blogged everyday in May.” Wahhh. But it was for good reason, I promise! I told Keiji to wait as I finished writing my article, and then I glanced over at him, just blankly watching TV, waiting patiently for me to be done, and suddenly I remembered that I actually don’t have to blog everyday. Wow, magic! Instead, we watched Ruby Sparks, which was a cute love story. In the beginning, the lead character was taking his dog for a walk and kept repeating, “go potty” over and over again. Keiji and I laughed because that’s exactly what I do with Monja. It was amusing watching someone else give the stupid, drone-like command I say so often. I felt like we had a connection, na mean?
Anyways, today I am to talk about something I’m struggling with. I have been banging my head against a wall for days trying to think of something I could really go into depth with on this topic (hey, maybe I could write about banging my head against a wall!?). It’s not that I haven’t had my share of struggles – trust me, my life has not been a walk in the park. But I am past most of the things that used to weigh me down and I am truly thankful for that. Instead of selecting one thing to talk about, I’m just going to talk about two smaller things I’ve been dealing with.
Ahh feels good. What are you struggling with? How do you deal with your struggles? Feel free to link up your posts for this prompt, too – I’d love to read them!
If you scroll down to the bottom of your Facebook profile, past each year, including the one you started your account, you will see one word at the very bottom: “born.” I remember feeling kind of shocked when I saw that for the first time. Why? Because Facebook was no longer an account of my daily life and connections. It wasn’t a photo scrapbook of the times I’d had in college or a collection of birthdays or acquaintances. Now, it was a database of my entire life, even the years of my life when “Face-book” might have conjured up images of someone with their nose in a novel rather than a social networking site. Currently, there are over 1 billion Facebook users, and social media in general has become an ingrained part of our existence. However, technology does not have to dictate the way we think about our lives, and in fact, technology can be tweaked to become a more positive and kind resource for our day-to-day. It can also be a wonderful way to share positivity with others. Today, I’m sharing all my tips and research on simple things you can do to spread positivity through social media, so the next time you stare at your computer screen, you feel inspired, rather than drained. Let’s get started!
Pinterest tends to be filled with lots of inspiration and pretty things to look at, but re-pinning pictures of caramel pancakes and off-the-shoulder dresses may not put that pep in your step that the website has the potential to. Try these:
Many more ideas after the break! Continue Reading
Guess what? Today I’m sharing a favorite photo of myself for the “Blog Everyday in May Challenge.” I took great care in selecting this photo and asked myself many questions before settling on the one above – do I decide to be narcissistic and post a selfie, awkward extended arm and all? Do I use an outdated photo from when I was blonde and about ten times sexier from college? Do I try to be sentimental and find one of me and my siblings? (Actually I tried that, but all the recent photos I found of us are when I had blonde hair…I blame this on being in Japan for so long!).
Well, while I was having this photo crisis, my dog, Monja, comes stammering up to me with his big, dumb smile, fluffy little butt, and sweet heart. There was no turning back – I knew just which photo I needed to use.
If you’re new to this blog, I recently got a dog about a month and a half ago (wow, time flies!). You can read about how my entire life has been one desperate plea for a puppy in this “letter to my new dog.” You can also read my dog’s latest post on this blog (yes, he fancies himself to be a writer, too) in his series, Musings by Monja. Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain this photo and why I chose it.
For various reasons, I decided to buy my pup from a breeder, but since I’m currently living in Tokyo, there aren’t really many good breeders nearby this urban wasteland. I ended up getting Monja from a breeder near Hiroshima, so he had to take a flight to Tokyo and I picked him up at the airport. I half expected that I’d go to a cute little puppy claim area (like baggage claim, but with balloons and chihuahuas wearing costumes), but ended up taking two shuttles and walking about the length of the Sahara Desert to finally find the distant cargo claim area (no tutu-clad chihuahuas here!). When we (Keiji and I) arrived, they told us to wait for 15 minutes because they were still organizing things. Every time someone in that waiting room would move or when a new box or bag was brought out, my ears and eyes would immediately perk up, much the way Monja’s do now when he hears any sounds outside our apartment. Eventually, it was my turn, and I felt like I was meeting my online lover for the first time – the event was both exciting and awkward. The picture above is right after we left the cargo area and started on the trek back to my apartment. I like looking at this picture now, because my big dorky smile is so hopeful and happy, but really has no idea what the heck is about to unfold. Now, Monja and I have only been roommates for a bit more than a month, but my life is absolutely better because he’s in it. I wholeheartedly love animals and have had all kinds of pets, but having a dog of my own is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. If I had to guess, it’s more like having a child than having a turtle. I plan to write a post all about how having a dog has positively affected my life, but for now, look again at that big, stupid smile on my face, and then imagine that it’s been like that for over a month. Yep, even when he peed on my bed. Even when he tears the fluff out of my rug and eats it. And even when he wakes me up consistently at 5:30 every morning to pee. I love this little furball and all the ways he’s improved my sense of community, purpose, and love. He also makes a pretty cute jaguar.
As an added bonus, here’s a video I just took of Monja frapping up and down the hallway. I’m sure our downstairs neighbor adores us!
Video after the breakContinue Reading
Hello everyone! Today I’m excited to share a special post with you that is up on Jules’ blog, The Life of a Cupcake. Her blog is all about spreading cuteness and positivity, so I decided to combine those two elements in this new DIY tutorial! If you fancy yourself something pretty, spring-related, and motivating, then check out my Positivity Garland DIY project here
Have a bright day, everyone!
I am really excited today because I get to share all about my lovely friend, Angel (how can you not be lovely with a name like that?). Let’s just say that Angel is a straight up wizard when it comes to doing her nails. I am one of those people who looks like a newborn giraffe trying to walk for the first time when I paint my left hand, while Angel is free-handing houndstooth patterns and dandelions on hers. I was so impressed by Angel’s nail art, that I asked her to write a special post just for The Nectar Collective. Today she is sharing a step-by-step tutorial (done specifically for TNC readers!), some of her favorite nails from the past, and even advice on how we can all get started with being creative in our own ways. Now, let’s get to the fabulousness of Los Angeles native, Angel, from “Angel Nailed It.”
Hello! I’m Angel. I’ve always been into doing arts and crafts and just creating things. Drawing, painting, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, jewelry making… I’ve done it all! One day around Christmas time, my friend showed me a picture of someone’s nail art, which was a series of Christmas lights going across her nails. My friend pointed out how it was done sloppily, telling me, “I bet you could do them better.” That got me thinking, “Hmm…sounds like a challenge! I’ll accept.” So that night, I went for it. I was surprised at how easy it actually turned out to be. From then on, I challenged myself to try and create something new on my nails every week. Since I started in December 2011, I’ve created a new look almost every single week. My nails became my canvas, and my nail art the creative outlet I’ve been searching for. My ideas for each creation come from anything, from upcoming holidays or events, to season changes or clothes I see in my wardrobe or in stores.
The amount of time it takes is different each time. From start to finish, including buffing, filing, and painting the base coat to the final top coat, can take anywhere from half-an-hour to two and a half hours. Two and a half hours might seem really long, but most of it is waiting for layers to dry. I also get really impatient sometimes and end up smudging some nails before they’re dry, so it’ll take me extra time to redo them. Also, I’m usually watching a movie or TV shows while doing my nails, so time just seems to fly by!
As for products, I use a lot of American Apparel Nail Lacquer. It wasn’t on purpose, but I just happen to have TONS of American Apparel because of their broad range of colors and highly pigmented formula. I also use Essie, OPI, Revlon, and other random polishes that I’ve accumulated over time – a collection of nearly 100 different bottles. I also use small brushes and dotting tools that I’ve bought on Amazon.
Attached is a picture of the nail art I did for Easter. I wanted to use lots of pastels for the holiday theme, so I created “Easter eggs” on my nails by using an ombre effect with a makeup sponge. And of course I couldn’t leave out the Easter bunny!
My Coachella nails! It was my second year attending the California music festival, and I wanted to do something that reflected the awesome scenery and experience of it, with a little added surprise! I used the Coachella 2013 poster as a reference for my left hand (Melyssa’s side note…HER LEFT HAND. MY GOD, THE TALENT!), with the famous Coachella Valley sunset and font. I went over the letters in a glow in the dark nail polish to really make it stand out. On my right hand, I took a picture I had taken at Coachella 2012 as a reference to show a “day” look, with the iconic ferris wheel and palm trees.