Saturday, January 26, 2013

Edo Shigusa.... lessons from the Edo Period

I just got back from parents observation day at my son's school. The local elementary school has Saturday school about once a month, in one form or another. Sometimes it's Sports and Field Day. Sometimes it's just 4 hours of regular classes. Today was one of those days with one exception, the 2nd class period was open for parents to come and observe.

What better subject to watch our children learn than Ethics. The word for Ethics (Morality) in Japanese is 道徳, pronounced as DohToku. The first Chinese character, 道, means path. The second Chinese character, 徳, means virtue. So DohToku means "The Virtuous Way or the Path to Virtue." That's beautiful.

Today's lesson was absolutely fascinating to me. I learned a bit about the Edo Period in Japan and how teachings from that period deeply affect Japanese thinking and conduct even today.

Common Courtesy

Various societies have unique and sometimes opposing ideas on what is considered to be polite. Just think burping at the table after a meal or loudly slurping noodles and you get the idea. Most societies' ideals on manners are probably based on what they believe to be common sense and common courtesy towards other people: "Please," "Thank You," "You're Welcome." Lending a helping hand:  "Here, let me get that for you." Avoiding Conflict: "After you," "Excuse me," "Sorry about that."

かに歩き、Crab walk. A person should walk through a crowded space with great care in order to avoid bumping into others.

傘しげ、Umbrella tilting. People walking with umbrellas on a narrow path should tilt their own umbrella toward the outside - even if it means that they will get rained on - in order to avoid colliding with the oncoming person's umbrella or forcing the other person to get wet.

肩ひき、Turning shoulders. Two people approaching each other in tight quarters should turn their shoulders so they can pass without colliding.

こぶし腰浮かせ, Sliding Over. A person should slide to the middle of a row to make room for newcomers instead of making the newcomers walk over those people already seated.

Etc. For me, these simple courtesies are logical, reasonable, and go without saying. Common. (Okay, maybe I'd rather have someone climb over me to get to their seats instead of giving up my own seat.)

One of the main points of today's class was that courtesy is rooted in thinking about the other person over self. Japan is a small country with a relatively large population, concentrated in a few large cities. Most of the land is quite mountainous so living areas on the flatlands tend to be quite crowded. Streets are narrow and many do not have sidewalks for pedestrians. Walking paths are sometimes only wide enough for one person to walk on. Japanese courtesy is, in part, born out of these tight living quarters.

Uncommon Courtesy

If a person humbles self and honors others, discomfort and conflict can be diminished. When granting a favor to others, its common to do so quietly and without making self stand out. If either the giver or the receiver of the favor stands out, the person feels embarrassed. When accepting a favor, it's common to refuse the favor (or gift) initially. The recipient says something to the effect of, "Oh, you really shouldn't have. I can't accept this. You've gone to too much trouble on my behalf," apologizing for having needed assistance in the first place. Finally, when after the refusals to accept and the insistence on accepting are done on both sides, there are words of gratitude.

One example from today's class that stands out the most to me is that, traditionally, when one person accidentally stepped on another person's foot, the person who got stepped on would apologize for being in the way and obstructing the other person's path. (I'm not sure that it still works this way in modern Japan though.)

It was at this point that I realized - not for the first time - that Japan is unique in its way of thinking. Having lived here for so long, I have somewhat mastered the art of humbling self and exalting others. In some ways its like a game. But in order to have smooth relationships in this country, one must humble themselves at times. One must learn the art of bowing in respect to others, learn the art of apologizing, learn the distinct balance of how much to refuse a gift before receiving it. Learn how being humbled is actually to be honored. What you see is not what you see.

I am not comparing Japanese culture with American culture, or to any other part of the world. Humble, meek, respectful, sharing, placing others before self. These are excellent qualities to strive for in any society. Its hard to put it all into words, but today I fell in love with Japan a little more.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

ONE day at a time

I mentioned that in late November my family and I went to a nearby park to take our photos for our annual Christmas / New Year's card. I think I may have also noted how slightly uncooperative my daughter was. I guess its just not cool to take family pictures anymore.

Nonetheless, I will force the issue each year as long as I can because I believe that one day my babes will look back at them at be happy.

Here is a page that I made with pictures of my daughter and I on that day. These were a few photos that my husband took while setting up the camera and location. You can see how "teenagery" she was being. Hmmm.... now that I look at these again, I guess she wasn't *that* bad, she did actually smile a bit. Probably from annoyance at me. Kind of like those gas bubble smiles babies do.

 papers and most elements from Ness by ViVa Artistry
gold butterfly is from Fall Jubilee, blue butterfly is from Blue, both also by ViVa Artistry
font is I Feel Pretty by Darcy Baldwin {fontography}
alpha is by Gina Cabrerra
page template is by Fiddle-Dee-Dee Designs

So instead of forcing yet another photo session with my children so soon, for this next page I decided to go back in time once again and use pictures of when my children were actually happy to smile for the camera. I love my babes. Other than the Gift of God's own son, they are the most incredible blessing I have been granted.

 all papers and elements from L'hiver by ViVa Artistry
font is Glory Bea by Darcy Baldwin {fontography}
page template by Fiddle-Dee-Dee Designs

 I've chosen my new One Little Word for 2013. Have you? I was so happy how well I was able to focus on achieving goals last year using OLW that I definitely wanted to try it again this year. My word for this year is ONE. The reason I chose this is because I tend to get overwhelmed when I realize how much I have to do - work, home, kid's activities, etc. I'm sure we can all relate. But instead of going into overdrive, I tend to shut down completely and not accomplish anything. So I wanted to remind myself this year that I don't have to do it all. That I can just focus on ONE thing at a time and I'll be fine.

most papers and elements from Into the Great Unknown by The Digichick Designers
doily from Roots and Wings
pennant banner from Yearbook Class of TDC
hexagon stitches from Hexagon Stitches Vivid by Quirky Twerp
page template from Ring in the New by Rainy Dayz Designs
font is Traveling Typewriter

Finally, for my digi-scrapping friends this may be interesting. A friend of mine started making photo actions last year and one of them is this Resize for Web action. I've used several of these actions in the past but have never been fully satisfied. This one rocks! I rarely, if ever, have to do any final adjustments after running the action. Its the perfect amount of sharpness. I highly recommend it.

Thank you as always for stopping by my little corner of the web. Please come back again soon.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This should have been done in December, but...

These next few posts are late. Out of season. Very late. Its not that I wrote them weeks ago as drafts and forgot to upload them. I didn't write them then, I'm just now getting around to it now. Just like I'm just now getting around to printing and mailing my Christmas / New Year's cards. I'm adding a little heart to my cards so they can double as Valentines as well.

I played hooky in December. I shut down and froze up in December. It was a good month in some ways, bad in others. But for the most part I just did not want to feel stressed out.

I did enjoy scrapping Christmas pages (with photos from years gone by). I did enjoy trying some new photography techniques to get pictures of my tree lights. I did enjoy spending time with my family for a long winter break. I just didn't blog about it, sorry.

So I guess I'll just jump right in then and show the rest of my December pages. This first one is of my babes from Christmas 2003, nine years ago! I have to use these pictures because I just don't get many pictures anymore of my babes together, or of my babes at Christmastime.

 all papers and elements from Plum Pudding by ViVa Artistry
sparkly alphabet by Jen Wilson
page template is from Fa La La La by Amber Morrison
fonts are from The Holly Sessions by Darcy Baldwin {fontography}

This photo on this page is even older, my daughter from Christmas 2002. I just love the excitement in her eyes!

 all papers and elements from Snowkissed by Sherwood Studio

 In our December Challenges at The Digichick, we have an occassional photography challenge hosted by Charla, a staff member of TDC and a professional photographer. In December, she taught us a quick and simple technique for taking Christmas tree lights and trying to get the starburst effect. I enjoyed the challenge so much, I tried it twice.

for both of them I used a frame or an effect from Charmstagram Toolbox

In the last of my Christmassy pages, here is my 2012 family Christmas card.

all papers and elements from Winter Solstice by Kimeric Kreations
Christmas Sentiment stamps by Arty Pants
photo and cluster template by Busy Bee Designs

Thank you so much for stopping by my corner of the web. I wish you a very belated Happy Holiday season. I pray 2013 will be a healthy, happy and successful year for each of you.