End the year with a bang!

All I can say is busy, busy, busy! I just reread my last post filled with high hopes of a new job...guess what? I never left! Anticipating a new job, I had cleaned out my cubicle in September, but lo and behold, I just made 16 years at my current job. What can I say?

Was offered one job, but turned it down because I felt the second one would be better for me in the long run. Turns out I was one of top three candidates being considered for the second job, but not top on the list. Need I say more? I don't want to get depressed about it, but I feel things happen for a reason. So there.

Between then and now, I visited Japan with mom who really wanted to soak in the hot springs, or onsen. We were fortunate in that my uncle (mom's younger brother) and his wife likes to drive, so he picked us up in Tachikawa, then drove us about 4.5 hours to Kusatsu. This small mountain village and its surrounding area are known for its healing hot springs, and is popular with honeymooning couples, retired groups on bus tours and families. It's definitely a tourist destination.

We spent two days at a quiet, hospital-like resort named Spax, of all things, then two days at a resort that catered to families. I definitely enjoyed Spax more with its spacious tatami room with small living area and sofa and Japanese sitting area, plus Western-style twin beds. The window looked out on relaxing forest greenery that looked peaceful in the fog. Better yet, the downstairs onsen had an indoor and outdoor area. Believe me, I was self-conscious about undressing and walking into a large bathing area with just a small wash towel. But I felt even more self-conscious waiting for mom in the dressing room fully clothed! Women kept asking me if I was alright! So I thought, "Hey, I'll never see these people again," and just took the plunge and did it. So glad I did as I was able to fully enjoy a true onsen experience. Sitting in the outdoor onsen was the ultimate. The air was chilly, filled with a fog that touched the surrounding trees, and the water was oh, so hot! I just wished I could have photographed the moment, but well, that wasn't possible.

I took a walk around the main hub of the village with my aunt and uncle, and found it to be a tourist destination, but with the character of the samurai of old. Rows of streets boasted shops on both sides enticing passing visitors with goodies: apparel, cute bags, jewelry and lots and lots of local delicacies to eat! Handmade rice crackers, manju, hot spring eggs (eggs in baskets boiled in hot spring water), broiled fish right on the street, and so much more.

In the center of the village is the source of the hot springs that flow down a fall and eventually back underground. You can wash your hands in it and even roll up your pants to dangle your legs in it. So cool. It was definitely a village that has its roots in old Japan; a lot of the buildings attested to that.

The second place we stayed was a family resort similar to those on the mainland. Everything you need is on property so you need not wander far during the day. Restaurants, gift shops, activities that include hiking, golf, tennis, as well as bus tours that take you to nearby natural attractions. They have a small onsen for men and women (separate), but they also have an onsen that's more like a water park! I didn't venture there, but I'm sure "bathers" went in wearing swimwear since it's for all members of the family.

By the end of the trip, my fingers quickly turned into prunes at the touch of water, even from just washing my hands! Mom and I truly enjoyed our idyllic vacation and mom began to actually feel physically better from her visits to the onsen. But you can only do so much eating, bathing, resting, shopping, bathing, eating, resting, etc. in four days. On every vacation I've taken I've always lost a few pounds, but after this trip, I had gained some! Relaxation has its price. But it was thoroughly enjoyable, especially being in the mountains. And we certainly have to thank my uncle and aunt for being wonderful hosts.

Well, reality waited just around the corner upon my return home. I came back to an almost empty work cubicle (I still haven't put things back in anticipation...of something) and deadlines. The company has since hired another editor and she's as sweet as can be. How can I be anything but positive when she's all that AND greets me with a "Good morning, Sarah!" in her sing-song voice every morning! Thank goodness for her.

This has certainly been a year of overcoming obstacles and learning from them as well. But there has also most definitely been joyous moments and times for which to be grateful. For sure. Happy Holidays to everyone and wishes for good health and happiness in 2007!