Monthly Archives: December 2015

50 Years on Planet Earth


by  Lillian Csernica on December 31, 2015

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At 7:49 p.m. on December 29, 1965, I landed on this planet.

That means that as I go forth into this New Year, I do so having reaching the half-century mark.  I believe it’s traditional when one reaches such a milestone to ponder the wisdom one has accumulated.  The older I get, the more I agree with the lyrics from that Bob Seger song “Against the Wind”:

“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

(Yes, people probably know that line from the Toby Keith song, but Seger wrote it first.)

Given that I’m old-fashioned and fond of tradition, I hereby present the lessons that life has taught me over and over again.

 

1204571-cartoon-of-a-gravity-causing-an-apple-to-fall-from-a-tree-and-bounce-off-of-sir-isaac-newtons-head-royalty-free-vector-clipartGravity is not our friend.

437877-royalty-free-rf-clip-art-illustration-of-time-flying-byIt’s always later than  you think.

437604-royalty-free-rf-clip-art-illustration-of-a-cartoon-woman-missing-the-target-while-throwing-dartsIf you want to be good at something, you have to practice.  If you want to stay good at something, you have to keep on practicing.  In other words, if you try to rest on your laurels, they will wither and die.

i-dont-have-time-to-hate-people-who-hate-me-because-im-too-busy-loving-people-who-love-me-200x110Hatred is a waste of time and energy.

karma-quotesLiving well really is the best revenge.  For one thing, you’ll probably have a pretty tight alibi.  For another, it’s so much better to leave it up to God/karma/the Tao/et al.  They have infinite resources and a much better knowledge of exactly where to hit the offender.

canstock14569636When it comes to True Love, your mileage may vary.  There is no single trophy, no glittering crystal heart on a 24k pillar.  What is True Love in my eyes might be a total joke in yours.  I write romance novels for a living, so I know about how many ways True Love can show up in your life.  Stop aiming for some Hollywood daydream.  Stop torturing yourself when you think you’ve failed to achieve it.  Just breathe, and pay attention.  True Love might be sitting right next to you.

k17938633When given a choice between mercy and justice, I will choose mercy every time.  Why?  Because I know I don’t know all the details, and I probably never will.  Also, if the day comes when it’s me standing there waiting for the decision to be made by other people, I’ll be begging God to have mercy on me.

k18827602It’s OK for a grown-up to own stuffed toys.

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We Three Cats


by Lillian Csernica on December 25, 2015

It is very, very early on Christmas morning.  I sit here in the pleasant exhaustion of knowing the gifts are all wrapped and tagged, the stockings are stuffed, Chris and I ate the cookies John put out for Santa Claus, and we are as ready as we are going to get.  Chris has begun preparations for Christmas dinner.  The smells wafting up the stairway from the kitchen promise quite a feast.

Allow me to introduce you to three members of our household you’ve heard about but thus far haven’t seen.  These are my cats.

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Rayas, my torby, is around 10 years old.  She’s John’s cat, but I am her human.  That means I’m expected to provide pets, love, and a warm lap on demand.  She’s small, but she’s feisty.  Hunter has a bigger frame and outweighs her, but she routinely cleans his clock when it comes to the late night Bushwhack Wars.

The gray fellow with the impressive whiskers is Hunter.  We got him from a shelter about 5 years ago.  When he’s lonely he’ll wander around the house with his catnip mousie in his mouth, making those yowling sounds.  Whoever he presents his trophy to had better respond with much praise and petting.  Hunter is everybody’s cat, but my sister is his human.  When she comes home, he gets all excited and goes galloping outside to jump up on the hood of her truck and try to climb in the driver’s side window.

Coco is the fluffy black longhair.  She is my cat, acquired as a kitten for my 43rd birthday present, so she’s 7 years old as of the 29th.  She is my big furry baby, but my husband is her absolute slave.  She will demand “brushies” as we call them, and he cannot help but obey.  She has commandeered the penthouse sleep berth of our multi-level cat tree, where the convection currents bring her the best heat in the house.

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After dinner the cats will come sit on my bed while I’m working.  Combinations vary depending on who gets in here first and seizes the best spot on the inevitable pile of clothing that occupies the foot of my bed.  Rayas will sleep on my pillow.  Neither Coco nor Hunter are brave enough to usurp that spot.

Why do I mention my beasties on this, the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ?  Pious legend says that on this night you can hear the animals speak just as they did in the manger on that holy night so long ago.  At this point, Hunter has been snoring, Coco demanded more brushies, and Rayas is off somewhere curled into a tight little stripey ball.  My cats are not all that religious.

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In the morning there will be happiness and laughter and the usual joyful craziness that accompanies tearing into all that gift wrap and trying to keep track of who gave who what so I can keep the thank-you notes straight.  The cats will take part, chasing each other around the tree, diving into the piles of gift wrap, and trying to run off with the spiraling bundles of curling ribbon.

I love my cats.  The holidays are often a hard time of year for those of us with intense family issues.  Cats are pretty straightforward.  They are the supreme beings, and I’m just cat furniture.  Given how complicated my life can get, I find the simplicity of our relationship downright refreshing.

Wherever you are, whatever particular feast you’re celebrating, I wish you a New Year full of all good things.

 

 

 

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Counting Down to Christmas


by Lillian Csernica on December 20th, 2015

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If I didn’t keep a running To Do list, I don’t know how I’d get anything done.  When I’m stressed out I tend to lose my long range focus and the ability to structure my time effectively.  I’ve done a lot of my shopping online this year.  The rain coming down in buckets outside my window makes me very happy for that option.

This year has been such an ordeal for our family.  I decided back in November to pay attention to all those articles on managing holiday stress and choose the activities most important and meaningful for both me and the boys.

Here’s what got checked off the To Do list this weekend:

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On Saturday night I took John to “The Nutcracker.”  He’s been asking to go tothe ballet for a month or two now.  We know he enjoys seeing and hearing a live orchestra perform.  I think the main attraction of the ballet was A) the costumes for this particular show and B) the emphasis on all those pretty girls with their long legs.

The Santa Cruz Ballet Theater put on a marvelous performance.  Hearing Tchaikovsky played live was a treat in itself.  The production values and the special effects left both me and John wide-eyed with wonder.  As for the dancing….  Wow.  The Snow Queen and her Cavalier made it seem like gravity had no power over them at all.  This was the first of John’s Christmas presents.  He kept saying it was “Amazing!”

John and I had dinner on Pacific Avenue after the show, talking about our favorite parts of the show.  Despite the 40+ degree weather, we stopped in at Cold Stone Creamery for some dark chocolate peppermint ice cream.   Oh my stars and garters.  That was heaven on a spoon!

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Today Chris and John got our Christmas tree.  It’s become a tradition for the two of them to go to a tree farm and cut down a fresh tree.  I had to admire their determination.  Soon after they left, the skies darkened and it started raining.  They did return victorious, if a little damp.

John has graduated to stringing the lights on the tree himself.  He loves the colored lights that blink on and off and change colors in varying patterns.  Out came all the boxes from the garage with our wide variety of Christmas ornaments, table linens, and John’s personal treasure, his Peanuts cuckoo clock.  On the hour, Snoopy comes out where the cuckoo would be and the Peanuts theme song plays.  We put this up only during the holiday season.

Once the lights and gold tinsel garlands were in place, Michael sat in his wheelchair to help choose ornaments and where they should go.  As each of us pulled the tissue off an ornament, we’d hold it up for Michael to see and ask him if that one should hang on the tree.  Once he gave us his yes or no, then he’d pick the right spot on the tree.  After spending two months watching Michael lying there in his ICU bed, I cannot tell you the joy I felt seeing him sitting there happy and smiling, reaching out to touch an ornament or grab John’s shirt and make him laugh.  Michael’s R.N., a wonderful lady named Joan, had a good time helping with the ornaments.  They were all new to her, so I shared some of the stories attached to them.

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Here it is, courtesy of Michael and John!

As for me, I put on a Christmas jazz CD and drank eggnog.  All of a sudden, there it was.  Our family gathered around the Christmas tree, breathing in the fresh pine scent, joking about hanging the good ornaments up where our three cats can’t get at them.  My mother is visiting my brother right now, but she’ll be back for Christmas Eve.  My sister is down in Southern California, but she’ll be back for New Year’s.  It’s good to have time with just us and the boys.

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In my family we party a lot during the holidays.  My birthday is December 29.  My sister’s is on January 1st, and my mother’s on January 3rd.  I keep careful track of who gave who this or that Christmas present, along with who gave who that birthday gift.  Lists!  More lists!  One of the traditions I consider most important is writing thank-you notes.  Michael likes to create his own stationery, and John will add little drawings to his cards.

We have so much to be grateful for, and so many people to whom we owe our thanks.

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A Special Needs Christmas Carol


by Lillian Csernica on December 15th, 2015

The holiday season has come round again.  It’s a stressful time for any family.  In a household where we already have all the demands of the special needs lifestyle, the additional claims on our time and sanity increase exponentially.

To show my support for all the caregivers who come under the heading of Family, I’ve rewritten The Twelve Days of Christmas to reflect the holiday season from our point of view.

The 12 Days of Christmas

as sung in an ASD household.

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On the first day of Christmas,

the spectrum gave to me

My child having a hissy.

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On the second day of Christmas,

the spectrum gave to me

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the third day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the fourth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the fifth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

mark_your_calendar

On the sixth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the seventh day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

And my child having a hissy.

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On the eighth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the ninth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the tenth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Ten goldfish crackers

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the eleventh day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Eleven wants repeated

Ten goldfish crackers

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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On the twelfth day of Christmas

the spectrum gave to me

Twelve migraines drumming

Eleven wants repeated

Ten goldfish crackers

Nine classmates fussing

Eight aides a-coughing

Seven calls a-waiting

Six different meetings

Five bus breakdowns

Four IEPs

Three lost toys

Two late refills

and my child having a hissy.

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Where To Find Holiday Gifts for Your Special Needs Teenager


by Lillian Csernica on December 12, 2015

The holiday season is here and we’re all out there in the stores or at home shopping online.  The grandparents, aunts, and uncles all want to know what they should get for that special needs child.

The key word there is child.

 

I’ve been browsing through various holiday shopping guides for special needs children.  Most of them address the needs of children in preschool through elementary.  I spent considerable time rephrasing my search keywords until I started to find guides that are useful for teenagers and the kids who are on the edge of becoming adults.

As the mother of two teenage boys with very different sets of special needs, one of the toughest questions I have to answer is, “What should we get for him?”  Our extended family looks to me to know what subjects the boys are interested in, which specific items the boys want, and of those which ones the boys will really get some use out of.

 

Michael’s physical limitations are a key factor.  Fortunately, he’s become fond of fashionable clothing and keeping his hair in a good cut.  He also likes classic rock and roll along with some country and western music.  Audiobooks are now a good option for him.  He’s always up for new art supplies.

Some people think it’s strange when I say it’s so much harder to shop for John.  He’s verbal, he has the same physical skills other teenage boys have, and he loves electronics.  No problem, right?  John has a closet full of toys he never plays with.  He’ll get fixated on a particular subject for a month or two, then abandon it and move on to something else.  Then, a year or two later, he’ll come back to that first subject and get fixated on it again, but at a different level of cognition and application.

I know how hard this can be.  I know the frustration of seeing what your child can’t have because of what he or she can’t do.

Here’s a list of links that will take you to the holiday guides where I’ve been looking for gifts for my boys.  I hope this information helps you make your kids’ holiday wishes come true!

Special Needs Toys

8 Great Gift Ideas

Special Needs Gift Giving Guide

National Autism Resources Gift Guide

Therapy Shoppe gift ideas

T shirts, jewelry, tote bags, etc. with special needs-related themes

5 Ways to Get a Free iPad for Your Special Needs Child

 

EDIT:  I’m very happy to say I just found two excellent gifts for Michael at Fat Brain Toys.  The site is well-organized, the prices are reasonable, and the shipping is a bargain!

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Moments (Kyoto Roundup)


by Lillian Csernica on December 9, 2015

There were a few moments during the trip that stand out as particularly memorable.

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Turning on the lights in our hotel room.  There was no main switch just inside the door.  We did find the switch for the bathroom (located on the wall outside the bathroom, which is just asking for pranks and accidents).  There were small reading lights at the head of each bed, along with a table lamp and a floor lamp.  How did we turn them on?  There was a slot on the wall in the entryway similar to a credit card reader, only this was vertical.  I put my room key in the slot, then pulled it out again.  Voila!  Light!

Two minutes later the lights went out.

We went through this twice more, trying to figure this out with brains that had long since turned to cottage cheese.  I called down to the desk for help and told them the lights wouldn’t stay on.  They sent a man from Maintenance, who had me show him what I’d been doing.  I had the process half-right.  To keep the lights on, one leaves the key in the slot.  So every time Pat and I left the room on an outing, we’d check to see who had a key in hand and who had put hers in the light “switch.”  This resulted in dialogue that would have done Abbot and Costello proud!

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Norimono, 19th C.

The taxi drivers.  I love Japanese taxis.  The lace antimacassars on the seats, the white gloves, the automatic passenger door….  Sometimes the drivers were quite formal, and that’s fine.  Other times we’d get a driver who was happy to have a chance to practice his English, or maybe he just thought Pat and I were entertaining.  (Can’t imagine why anybody would think that!

One driver said, “English is just three words.  I love you.  I miss you.”  My cynical sense of humor kicked in and I told him, “You’re missing one. ‘I want money.'”  Fortunately, we were at a stoplight right then.  The driver burst out laughing.  He mimed writing something down, saying, “I must take notes.”  That made us all start laughing again.

On our way back to the hotel from Kiyomizu-dera, we had a driver who wanted to be friendly, but as is often the case, he was nervous about speaking English.  He had the radio on, playing classic rock.  That was a welcome glimpse of home.  Once I said, “American rock ‘n’ roll!” that broke the ice.  By then Pat was speaking enough Japanese to get into the conversation as well.  The driver revealed his secret stash of chocolates and gave each of us one.  Music and chocolate are the perfect ways to go from strangers to friends.

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At the smaller gift shop inside the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Pat and I got into conversation with Yuki, the lady behind the counter.  She was surprised by how much polite Japanese we could both manage.  When we explained our purpose in Kyoto as doing research for our writing, she thought that was quite exciting.  Before we left, she brought out two little packets of those sugar star candies like the ones Chihiro feeds to the dust sprites in Spirited Away.  She insisted on giving them to us.  That was a lovely surprise!

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www.aliexpress.com

The weather was so mild at the start of our stay I didn’t need my jacket day or night.  As the end of October closed in, the nights got colder.  In Kyoto Station one night, everybody else had begun to bundle up and there I was.  As I came up to the escalator going down, I made way for the older lady ahead of me with a polite, “Dozo.”  It was a long escalator.  The lady turned around and said, “Are you cold?”  Her tone of voice was like my mother’s just before she’d tell me to put on a sweater.  This came out of the blue, so I was glad to be able to answer in English.  “Outside, yes.  Inside, no.”  The lady nodded and faced front again.  As we neared the bottom, she turned and wished me a good trip.  The whole thing was rather endearing.

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www.oxihotels.com

The ladies at the front desk.  Thanks to my endless questions, Miss Nakanishi and Miss Kinjo knew our daily itinerary almost as well as we did.  When Pat and I came back from that day’s adventures, they’d greet us and ask specific questions about that day’s activities.  I think my boundless enthusiasm for all things Japanese plus my grasp of Japanese history and culture resulted in answers different from the ones a more typical American tourist might give.  Over and over again, Japanese people would ask me, “How do you know about that?”

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www.online-instagram.com

Miss Kinjo is from Okinawa.  That gave me a perfect opportunity to ask her about the kijimuna, the “little people” of Okinawa.  They’re on the large side for little people, being about as tall as a seven year old child.  Flaming red hair makes them unique among Japanese folkloric creatures.  All they wear is a garment like a fundoshi made out of leaves.  Kijimuna are tricksters.  They can be helpful when they want to be, and you’d better not offend them.  Miss Kinjo said her grandmother had told her stories about what the kijimuna had done when her grandmother was a little girl.

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With Halloween right around the corner, I was curious to see how Japan handled that holiday.  I saw decorations and party goods and some costume supplies.  The Japanese kids don’t go trick-or-treating the way we do in America.  The idea of dressing up as monsters to go door to door demanding candy under threat of “tricks” might strike the Shinto mind as the basis for a Takashi Miike movie!

This is what Halloween looks like in Kyoto:

HalloweenGirls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Imperial Palace (Kyoto Day Five)


by Lillian Csernica on December 6, 2015

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www.dreamdestinations.ro

A train ride and a short hike brought us to the Imperial Gardens that are part of the Palace Grounds.  We had made a reservation for one of the tours given in English.  The Imperial Household Agency runs these tours.  We were directed to arrive twenty minutes ahead of time at a specific outer gate.  There we found something of a staging area in the form of a gift shop with tables outside and the usual array of vending machines offering a variety of drinks.

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nippaku.wordpress.com

Pat took the opportunity to sit for a while.  The tour is a walking tour that takes close to an hour.  I had a look inside the gift shop.  In Japan it’s traditional to wrap up gifts in furoshiki, large squares of fabric that come in many beautiful designs.  Much to my delight, this gift shop had a whole case devoted to furoshiki.  The young man behind the counter was very kind in helping me look through the variety of colors and patterns until I found two that would suit the gifts for my mother and my sister.

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This is where I got down to business in terms of serious research.  Most of the story in the third novel in the Flower Maiden Saga takes place at the Imperial Palace.  Tendo and Yuriko will be a long way from their allies in Satsuma, surrounded by the politics and prejudices that fill the Emperor’s Court.

kyoto-imperial-palace

www.tripadvisor.com

In an earlier post I mentioned not seeing many Caucasian people while I was in Kyoto.  As people began to assemble for the tour given in English, I heard French, German, Italian, and Russian.  At the appointed time, our passports were checked again as we passed through one of the huge gates and into the outer courtyard.  We assembled in a waiting room full of padded benches.  There were lockers available free of charge, which was quite considerate.  People with backpacks or heavy purses (like mine) could park them in a locker, the better to enjoy the tour.

Our guide was a wonderful lady named Yoshiko.  She introduced herself, then the tour began with a short audiovisual presentation that gave us more detailed information on the Palace.  Whoever wrote the tour guides’ script did a good job of providing more than just names, dates, and places.  I suspect Yoshiko brought her own personal flair to the tour.  As much Japanese history as I already know, there’s still so much more waiting for me.  Yoshiko and I had a nice chat about the writings of Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon.

KenreimonGate

I am standing in front of the Kenreimon, the gate through which foreign dignitaries would be admitted to the outer courtyard of the Palace grounds.  George W. Bush entered through this gate during one of his official visits to Japan.

Shishinden

The Jomeimon is the inner gate leading to the inner courtyard.  Notice that blazing orange color, vermillion.  It was at this point when our tour guide mentioned it that we learned the true purpose of this color.  A fixed form of sunlight or fire, the color serves to drive away evil spirits.  The structure visible through the pillars is the Shishinden, the building where the enthronement ceremonies of Emperor Taisho and Emperor Showa took place.

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In the Shodaibunoma, there are three waiting rooms. Officials who had business with the Emperor were sorted into one of these three rooms according to rank and priority.

The first has screens painted with sakura, or cherry blossoms.  I hope the people in the sakura room had packed a lunch, because they were probably sitting there for quite a while.

The middle room features tigers:

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Cranes decorate the third room waiting room, where the most important people sat drinking tea until their turn came.

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www.japantour.co

 This is the room where the Emperor sat at his writing desk, receiving messengers, officials, and conducting the business of the empire.  Inside the striped canopy is what amounts to the Emperor’s recliner where he could retire when he needed a break.

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Notice the fu dogs seated outside the canopy.  Fu dogs are the guardians of the sacred, which is why you see them at the gates of temples.  The Emperor, being divine, deserved the same kind of veneration, respect, and protection.

 

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See the heron?

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No koi in this part of the garden at that time.

 

To be there, looking at the rooms once occupied by the man believed to be descended from Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess herself, left me in a state of overwhelming awe.  A thousand years of history had happened, all those lives, all those hopes and dreams, on the grounds where I stood.  For a writer of historical fiction, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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The Meiji Emperor and the Royal Family in 1900.

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Emperor Akihito and the Royal Family, 2014.

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Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto Day Four)


by Lillian Csernica on Dec. 2, 2015

In Kyoto you will find 400 shrines and 1600 temples.  Of the many larger and more famous temples, Kiyomizu-dera is truly one of a kind.  If I had to name just one single reason for going to Kyoto, I would say I had to visit Kiyomizu-dera.  This was the number one item on my bucket list.  Thanks to my husband’s kindness and generosity, this dream came true.

I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve seen a lot of things, and I’ve written about many of them.  This is the first time I have deliberately gone to visit a location where I have already set four short stories.  My steampunk short fiction, which appears in 12 Hours Later and the forthcoming 30 Days After, centers around Kiyomizu-dera.  If there’s such a thing as a literary pilgrimage, I made one, and it stands out as one of the highlights of my strange and adventuresome life.

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kyoto.asanoxn.com

 The Pure Water Temple stands halfway up Mt. Otowa, near the Otowa Falls.  Primarily a shrine to Kannon (aka Kwan Yin), the Goddess of Mercy, the main hall is home to the Eleven-Headed and Thousand-Armed Kannon Boddhisatva.  There’s a lot to know about Kiyomizu-dera.  Please follow the links to discover fascinating facts about this temple and Kyoto itself, both ancient and modern.

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http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp

There must have been hundreds of people visiting the temple the day Pat and I were there.  People were dressed in traditional kimono or yukata, modern street wear, or school uniforms.  When a tour group of high school boys passed by, a dozen manga sprang to mind.

Kiyomizudera

The best times of the year to visit Kiyomizu-dera are springtime for the cherry blossoms and autumn for the maple leaves.  Few things are more beautiful to me than the sight of late afternoon sunshine seen through the red leaves of a Japanese maple.

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Here I stand on the veranda overlooking a thirteen meter drop.  Known as the Stage, the veranda is built from over four hundred cypress boards.  The Stage contains not a single nail.  Wooden pegs were used instead.

In “A Demon in the Noonday Sun,” this is the spot where Dr. Harrington must protect the Abbot against the anger of Amatsu Mikaboshi, the Japanese god of chaos.  The Abbot is sitting in a steampunk wheelchair at the time.  Amatsu Mikaboshi keeps blasting it with black fire.  Poor Dr. Harrington, a scientist to the bone, has to make a rather sudden adjustment to the reality of Japanese gods and monsters!

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This is the view of the Stage from the opposite direction.  I stood at the corner on the center left.

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There are several shrines on the temple grounds.  This is an excellent example of a shrine to Inari, god of rice/wealth.  I love those fox figurines.  Strangely enough, I could not find a shop that sold them.

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Kiyomizu-dera is known for its shrine to Okuninushi, the god of romance and matchmaking.  The statue of him makes him look like a tough samurai.  Standing beside him is a rabbit that could give the one in “Donnie Darko” a run for its money.  The rabbit holds a haraegushi, a “lightning staff” decorated with those paper zigzags called shide.

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Now for the rather chilling part of this expedition.  The sign below explains the history of the god whose name is never spoken, the one who will punish playboys and heartbreakers.  A wronged woman can take a straw figure that represents the man who hurt her and nail it to the cypress tree behind this particular shrine.  The god-with-no-name will then bring down some hard karma on the man responsible.

Note, please, that the second thing to scare me in the Haunted House at Toei Kyoto Studio Park was a falling tree.  Pat told me later she noticed it was a cypress with a straw figure nailed to it.  We didn’t understand that at the time.  Now we do!

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The ema plaques below give one insight into the hopes and dreams of many people.  I was surprised to discover some of them had English writing on them, not just kanji.  Pilgrims come to Kiyomizu-dera from all over the world.  Most of the plaques we saw had a sheep on them.  Still not sure what that was all about.

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Here are the three waterfalls that grant particular blessings.  On the far right, wisdom.  In the center, long life.  On the left, success in scholarship.  I meant to drink from the water of longevity.  Turns out I drank the water for wisdom instead.  I suspect that’s probably what I really need!

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Soon it was time to head back down the mountain.  This took us back along the Sannen-zaka, a narrow lane lined with shops selling maneki neko, fans, mochi, dango, all sorts of postcards and cell phone charms and the items pilgrims might need such as prayer beads.

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I bought a hat embroidered with a battle between the God of Wind and the God of Lightning.  Pat found a number of items on her souvenir wish list.    If you love shopping, you simply must visit the Sannen-zaka.  We also enjoyed a singular snack: pickled cucumber on a stick.  Legend has it that cucumbers are the favorite food of Japan’s most famous monster from folklore, the kappa.  I have to say the giant pickle on a stick was crunchy and refreshing, right up until the moment when I bit into the stick.

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When someone says, “It’s only autism”


Miriam Gwynne is a woman I admire very much. I had to reblog her post here. She has captured the essence of every day life for parents of ASD children. Please, help me boost the signal here. So many people need to read this.

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imageTwice now I have heard the paediatrician confirm ‘Your child has autism’.

Have you any idea what that feels like?

Hundreds of times I have found myself telling someone else that one or both my children have autism.

The responses are interesting. They range from shock to sympathy, from confusion to comfort, from understanding to utter ignorance.

A few times people have told me it isn’t that bad, it is ‘only autism’.

Before I go any further I need to tell you I am so grateful for my children. I adore them. My son attends a school for children with severe and complex needs and he mixes every day with children who have life limiting and severe medical and developmental needs. I am involved with a charity that supports children with Neurofibromatosis and know personally of children with brain tumours, undergoing intensive chemotherapy and struggling with pain. Every time I…

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