Setting the Narrative on Matters of Life and Death

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 As a nation, we are continuing to mourn the deaths of four Marines and a sailor, who were shot by Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week.  Seven days later, another lone gunman, John Russell Houser, opened fire in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater, killing two women and injuring nine others, before taking his life.

If one reads or watches the news, one is familiar with news of various types of shootings throughout the United States.  There are accidental shootings (sometimes self-inflicted a la Jose Canseco; sometimes ending the lives of family members or close friends tragically), gang-related shootings (think Chicago, D.C., Baltimore, L.A.), domestic violence shootings, workplace shootings, targeted shootings (motivated by personal grudge, political stance, etc.), road-rage shootings, hate-crime shootings, terrorist shootings, and school shootings, just to name a few.  With the exception of an accidental shooting, any one of those shootings may be termed a mass shooting depending upon the number of victims injured or killed.

As the number of untimely and unnecessary shooting deaths increase, I find remorse fleeting and outrage over the circumstances wasted, as the expected script is followed.  You know what I’m referring to–immediately after news of the shooting, the pro-gun lobby expresses condolences to victim families; POTUS does the same and expresses the need for responsible gun ownership; the pro-gun lobby chastises POTUS as this is a time of mourning, praying and healing, not a time to discuss gun control legislation.  Let’s call a spade a spade–for members of the pro-gun lobby, there will never be a good time to discuss gun control measures.

Last week, in the wake of the shooting of our servicemembers, I was taken aback by a Facebook post decrying those urging responsible gun ownership legislation.  You know–the basics–background checks, waiting periods, safety classes.  Rather, the post encouraged others to embrace their second amendment right and carry a firearm.  The ugly truth is that no matter how many shooting deaths occur in the United States, the pro-gun lobby will fight any measure that seeks to control gun ownership.  Indeed, to them, to do otherwise would be to cede a constitutional right.  (Let’s put aside the fact that the original intent of the second amendment was not to arm Joe and Josie Citizen, but was to ensure that those who were part of a militia could be armed.  Indeed, the presence of the amendment itself indicates that the founders’ contemplated government had the ability–and authority–to restrict the citizenry’s right to bear arms.)

According to the pro-gun lobby, they are without responsibility for deaths caused by guns.  We hear the oft quoted mantra, “Guns don’t kill, people do.”  To gun enthusiasts, it is wholly irrelevant that the person who pulled the trigger was a toddler, was ignorant regarding gun safety, had a criminal history or was known to have a mental illness.  Indeed, if it were deemed relevant they would be supporting legislation requiring mandatory background checks and required safety courses as a condition of gun ownership.  Instead, they argue that the information could be used as a gun registry and that any restriction on gun ownership violates their rights. (Yes, the pro-gun lobby effectively uses fearmongering to leverage its position.  Indeed, gun enthusiasts appear to be quite a fearful group despite all the fire power they wield–their fears include gun registries, running out of ammunition, being banned from purchasing assault rifles, and restrictions on the number of firearms owned.)

In high-profile shooting cases, oftentimes, once the killer has been identified and his (or her, but most often his) motive has been disclosed, the pro-gun lobby seeks to distinguish their ilk from the Killer.  He was mentally ill.  He was radicalized.  He had a criminal history.  He was a lone wolf.  In doing so, they spin the story to ensure that the Killer was not like you and me; he was irretrievably broken before he managed to get a hold of a gun.  Distinguishing the Killer from Joe and Josie Citizen is an attempt to lessen the citizenry’s fear of guns.  The theory is that the Killer would have found a gun even if the law required him to undergo a background check or mandated a safety course, because he was a criminal, mentally ill or really, really motivated.  (Yes, this is where the drug analogy gets used–drugs are illegal, but people still use them.  While the statement is accurate, those who use drugs are aware that the purchasing, sale and/or use of certain drugs are illegal and know that if they are caught using, buying or selling illicit drugs, they will face the consequences.  That fact alone deters many from trying and/or using drugs.  Think about your kids; think about your friend’s children; think about your children’s friends.)

So what’s the point?  The point is that the pro-gun lobby is not sorry about the spate of shooting deaths.  How could they be?  They push an agenda that allows the sale of firearms to be without meaningful restrictions or basic safety requirements.  They don’t support restricting the nature, type or number of firearms sold or purchased by Joe and Josie Citizen.  Want 100 assault rifles?  Fine.  Want to purchase extended ammunition clips?  Fine.  They don’t ask why.  And they don’t want to know why.  That way, a Dylann Roof, a James Holmes, or a Seung-Hui Cho easily is able to obtain a firearm (or several) and plenty of ammunition in order to execute his carefully crafted deadly plan.

To me, it seems wholly unreasonable.  Firearms are inherently dangerous. A firearm’s sole purpose is to injure or kill.  But guns aren’t regulated as such.  Indeed, they aren’t even regulated like drivers of vehicles are–tested and licensed. Yes, there is a state registry of drivers, yet most of us still drive.  And vehicles aren’t even designed to kill.  Perhaps it is time to acknowledge the unfortunate fact that shooting deaths will continue in large part because the pro-gun lobby continues to fight for the free flow of firearms.  Ironically, while the circumstances (and the Killer) of the next tragic shooting may be distinguished from all prior shootings (and killers), each shooting–be it a mass shooting, a copycat shooting, an accidental shooting, a school shooting, or any other type of shooting–shares one simple undeniable truth:  the shooting would not have occurred without a firearm.

Clearly, guns kill.

Let’s reclaim our country.

#ReframeTheGunControlNarrative

Much Ado About Nothing.

Just a little wind.
Just a little wind.

No storm.  No rain.  No typhoon.  Just a TCCOR Storm Watch this evening.  Thanks to Russell, we were prepared for an evening in–a surprise movie, mini-pizzas, a beverage of choice, and ice cream.  Who wouldn’t want a reason to stay in?

Our day of waiting was productive–unpacking is nearly completed, furniture has been rearranged, and cleaning has been completed.  We are well underway to making this our home.

RE:PRINT (ACCUWEATHER.COM): Typhoon Halola Targets Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, South Korea

As of 5 a.m. today, we’ve been in TCCOR 2 awaiting Typhoon Halola.  When I lived in Cayman, it was difficult to find weather updates regarding forecasted hurricanes except through local media.  Indeed, the Weather Channel focused on the larger surrounding islands of Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, regularly excluding the Cayman Islands in its reporting.

Here, the Air Force keeps us up to date regarding expected weather.  And we also have the world news reporting agencies.  Curious about Halola, I searched and easily found several weather updates and forecasts for this area, including the one reprinted below.

(Okinawa Prefecture, comprising 160 islands, is part of the Ryukyu Islands and includes the island of Okinawa. The rich history of the Ryukyu Kingdom can be evidenced today while visiting the island of Okinawa and its several UNESCO World Heritage sites.)

#GratefulForConcreteWalls

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By , Senior Meteorologist
July 23, 2015; 6:16 PM ET

Typhoon Halola remains on track to whip through Japan’s Ryukyu Islands before taking aim at South Korea, albeit as a much weaker tropical system.

Halola continues its long journey across the Pacific Ocean since developing southwest of Hawaii on July 10. That journey will end by early next week in the Sea of Japan, but not before Halola impacts Japan and southeastern South Korea this weekend.

Halola could become the first tropical cyclone to originate in the central Pacific Ocean and track through the Ryukyu Islands since Super Typhoon Oliwa in September 1997. Oliwa did so with its strength equal to that of a Category 1 hurricane, then continued on to make landfall in mainland Japan.

Halola will be a minimal typhoon or will be weakening to a tropical storm when it passes through the Ryukyu Islands to start this weekend. Halola prolonging its westward track before taking a turn to the north has shifted the danger of a direct landfall from Shikoku and Honshu to the Ryukyu Islands.

A track in between or over the islands of Amami and Okinawa is expected on Saturday, local time, with conditions deteriorating Friday night.

Damaging wind gusts of around 130 kph (80 mph) will howl near the center of Halola, while 100 to 200 mm (4 to 8 inches) of rain severely heightens the concern for flash flooding. The heaviest rain will actually be displaced to the south of Halola’s center, targeting Okinawa.

Dangerous surf will build throughout the Ryukyu Islands leading up to this weekend. The threat of an inundating storm surge also exists, especially near and northeast of the typhoon’s center.

After lashing the Ryukyu Islands, Halola will turn to the north and track toward the Sea of Japan. The good news is that disruptive winds aloft, known as wind shear, and cooler waters will force Halola to weaken dramatically before reaching South Korea.

Overview of the Weather Across Asia

Halola will be a minimal tropical storm when it tracks into southeastern South Korea to end the weekend, reducing the dangers of damaging winds and flooding rain to a localized level.

Wind gusts in southeastern South Korea will average 65 to 95 kph (40 to 60 mph) with the strongest winds at the coast. Similar winds will graze the far western islands and northwestern coast of Japan’s Kyushu Island. These winds will be capable of causing tree damage and sporadic power outages.

A total of 50 to 100 mm (2 to 4 inches) of rain will accompany Halola into southeastern South Korea.

The eastern East China Sea will also become very rough and dangerous for those with boating interests. Coastal flooding may occur east of where Halola tracks.

“The impacts [from Halola later this weekend] will equate to a strong non-tropical system,” stated AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Richards.

Halola is expected to weaken further and lose its tropical characteristics by early next week in the Sea of Japan. It may then combine with another system to spread downpours into northern Honshu.

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You Get What You Pay For . . .

When creating personal space, I embrace aesthetic beauty.  Yes, as claimed, beauty is subjective, but when it comes to my home, I want clean lines, natural light, high ceilings, and open spaces.  I’m no interior designer, but give me a neutral palate, a complementary splash (or two) of bold color, original hardwood floors, warming rugs, and furniture that is at once functional, comfortable and interesting, and I’ll be pleased. Perhaps because of my intensity in so many other aspects of life, at home I want an organic contemporary feel that inspires relaxation, calm and thought.

Early yesterday morning, Russell and I packed up our belongings, loaded our Premacy, placed [S] in her car seat, and checked-out of the WestPac.  It was a bittersweet moment.  We were leaving our first Island home and a place where the staff doted on [S], our bed was made for us, and clean towels were provided on a daily basis.  Not bad.  But it was a room (albeit called a suite) and was far too confining for our family of three.

WestPac
WestPac Suite, living space.

At 8 a.m., we arrived at our new on-base home.  Before getting out of the car, I cringed.  I knew what was waiting for us inside.  The day before–after we collected our keys–we dropped off the first load of our personal belongings at the house.  I had asked Russell to check whether our government-issued furniture had been delivered before we started unloading the car.  (If personal belongings are inside the home, the movers will not deliver the furniture.)  As [S] and I sat in the air conditioning, I watched Russell exit our new home.  He opened the driver’s side door, sat down, and turned to me with concern in his eyes.  “I don’t think you’re going to like the furniture,” he said.  A bit alarmed by the seriousness of his tone, I said, “Of course, not.  But we already knew that.”

Prior to our move, a good friend of mind asked about our housing in Okinawa.  When I told her that it likely would be on-base, she asked if we were bringing furniture.  I explained, we would bring a small amount of furniture, relying heavily on government-issued furniture.  “Kimberly, you will be fine, but keep your expectations low.  It’s government housing and government furniture.  Just don’t expect much.”  Throughout this process, I’ve heard her words again and again.  And I’ve kept her counsel.  So I was prepared–or so I thought.

China hutch, dining room table and chairs.
China hutch, dining room table and chairs.
Couch and armchairs.
Couch, armchairs and smallest desk ever.
Full-sized bed and dresser
Full-sized bed and dresser.

The bed is small, even for me.  And the dresser–with its mirror–stands shorter than me.  (I’m 61 inches.)  With the exception of the sofa and armchairs, the furniture is a dreary brown from a different era.  Our red sofa and chairs, accented with a green and white design resembling bolts, reminds me of Christmas.

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We planned well.  We shipped our pull-out sleeper sofa and an arm chair.  We shipped our queen-sized bed.  And we shipped lamps.  (Most lighting is florescent.)   Needless to say we will be returning the hutch–and some other choice pieces of furniture–shortly.

Generally, one gets what one pays for.  Obviously, we are not paying for this furniture.  But it is also true that the best things in life are free.

View out of the front of the house.
View from the front of the house.

There is a beautiful old tree, sitting on a hill, in front of our home.  Not only is it gorgeous and Zen-inspiring, it provides us privacy.  And around the corner, our view of the Sea is, well, priceless.

View from around the corner.
View from around the corner.

RE:PRINT (NYT): The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give

For some couples, being married comes easily–bickering is kept to a minimum, there is no such thing as a petty annoyance, and voices are rarely raised in anger.  For others, the story book ending is pure fantasy, arguments occur more often than not and tempers flare frequently.  For me, marriage has been a journey of two individuals–with separate wants and desires–finding a path to travel together.  That journey has been filled with beautiful moments and trying times. Indeed, our life together has been filled with high-stress life events, such as moving four times in four years, welcoming a child, and suffering the loss of an income.

Like the author, I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to return to my single, childless life.  But when I do, I quickly come to the realization that I prefer being married to my Husband than being single (yes, even in Fantasyland).  He is my best friend and a person who understands my wants and needs.  And I wouldn’t give [S] up for the world.  I believe this article to be important enough to share because it discloses the big secret of staying married–not getting divorced.  For many, modern relationships are as disposable as razors or diapers.  But the vows of marriage are clear–you stay together regardless of rough patches, momentary discontent and temporary unhappiness, for those periods will pass.

I read this article to Russell in bed last night.  It was befitting that we could laugh and acknowledge the truth of the author’s written words.  We’ve been sharing small spaces for more than a month, while moving overseas.  We’ve had our share of annoyances with one another, but we’ve also had one another to hold, comfort and laugh with, as we travel our path together.  No, our marriage isn’t perfect, but that’s okay.  We’re married.  And we plan on staying married, for better or worse.

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Photo

Credit Brian Rea

While away at a conference in Minneapolis, I was awakened at dawn by a call from my husband in our New York apartment. Our 8-year-old son had just roused him with the suspicion that they might not make their 7:30 a.m. flight to join me because it was now 7:40 and they were still at home.

The original plan had us all traveling to Minneapolis together. I would attend my conference, my musician husband would do a show at this cool club, and our son would get hotel pool time: a triple win.

Then my husband was offered a great gig in New York for the same day we were set to leave, so he called to change his and our son’s tickets. Changing them, he learned, was going to cost more than buying a new pair of one-way tickets out. So he did that instead, planning to use their original return tickets, not realizing that if you don’t use the first leg, they cancel the second. That meant buying new return tickets at a cost somewhere between “Ugh” and “What have you done?”

Now, after all that, my family had missed the first leg of the new itinerary. On hold with the airline yet again, my husband was texting me sexy emojis.

“Focus,” I replied, with an emoji of an airplane.

He sent me an emoji of a flan.

He and I married young for our urban friend group — in our late 20s — and now, in our late 30s, we find ourselves attending the weddings of peers. My husband of 11 years and I sit at these weddings listening to our in-thrall friends describe all the ways in which they will excel at being married.

“I will always be your best friend,” they say, reading from wrinkled pieces of paper held in shaking hands. “I will never let you down.”

I clap along with everyone else; I love weddings. Still, there is so much I want to say.

I want to say that one day you and your husband will fight about missed flights, and you’ll find yourself wistful for the days when you had to pay for only your own mistakes. I want to say that at various points in your marriage, may it last forever, you will look at this person and feel only rage. You will gaze at this man you once adored and think, “It sure would be nice to have this whole place to myself.”

In Zen Buddhism, meditation helps practitioners detach from the cycle of desire and suffering. In my brief stint as a religious studies major, I preferred Pure Land Buddhism, an alternate path to enlightenment for people who (as one professor told us) may find it difficult to abandon worldly pain and passion because those things can also yield such beauty and comfort. He summed it up as: “Life is suffering — and yet.”

I think about that all the time: “And yet.” Such hedging, to me, is good religion and also the key to a successful marriage. In the course of being together forever, you come across so many “and yets,” only some of them involving domestic air travel.

I love this person, and yet she’s such a mess. And yet when I’m sick, he’s not very nurturing. And yet we don’t want the same number of children. And yet I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be single again.

The longer you are with someone, the more big and little “and yets” rack up. You love this person. Of course you plan to be with him or her forever. And yet forever can begin to seem like a long time. Breaking up and starting fresh, which everyone around you seems to be doing, can begin to look like a wonderful and altogether logical proposition.

But “and yet” works the other way, too. Even during the darkest moments of my own marriage, I have had these nagging exceptions. And yet, we still make each other laugh. And yet, he is still my person. And yet, I still love him.

And so you don’t break up, and you outlast some more of your friends’ marriages.

“The way to stay married,” my mother says, “is not to get divorced.”

“My parents were too poor to get divorced,” a friend told me that very day in Minneapolis as we walked through the book fair. “And so they stayed married and then it seemed too late, and now they’re glad.”

Those are the things I think about when yet another person I used to think of as being part of a happily married couple messages a friend of mine on Tinder.

Later that morning, while waiting to hear from my husband about the flights, I decided to kill time looking at houses on Trulia’s “Near Me.” When I used to travel alone as a teenager, I would stare at houses wherever I was and imagine what it would be like to live there. Now I still do that, but I can also call up Trulia on my phone and see how much they cost.

Comparing houses in Minneapolis, I found I actually preferred the cheaper, more ramshackle, family-friendly ones, like a two-bedroom that had “classic old world charm.” Hardwood floors! A built-in buffet! So much better, really, than the pricier one-bedroom I would live in as a single person on the other side of Powderhorn Park, with its new ceiling fans, three cedar closets and breakfast nook.

What would I even do with three cedar closets?

Meanwhile, still no word from my husband about the flights.

One thing I love about marriage (and I love a lot of things about marriage) is that you can have a bad day or even a bad few years, full of doubt and fights and confusion and storming out of the house. But as long as you don’t get divorced, you are no less married than couples who never have a hint of trouble (I am told such people exist).

You can be bad at a religion and still be 100 percent that religion. Just because you take the Lord’s name in vain doesn’t make you suddenly a non-Christian. You can be a sinner. In fact, I think it’s good theology that no matter how hard you try, you are sure to be a sinner, just as you are sure to be lousy, at least sometimes, at being married. There is perfection only in death.

It is easy for people who have never tried to do anything as strange and difficult as being married to say marriage doesn’t matter, or to condemn those who fail at it, or to mock those who even try. But there is so much beauty in the trying, and in the failing, and in the trying again. Peter renounced Jesus three times before the cock crowed. And yet, he was the rock upon whom Christ built his church.

At weddings, I do not contradict my beaming newlywed friends when they talk about how they will gracefully succeed where nearly everyone in human history has floundered. I only wish I could tell them they will suffer occasionally in this marriage — and not only sitcom-grade squabbles, but possibly even dark-night-of-the-soul despair.

That doesn’t mean they are doomed to divorce, just that it’s unlikely they will be each other’s best friend every single minute forever. And that while it’s good to aim high, it’s quite probable they will let each other down many times in ways both petty and profound that in this blissful moment they can’t even fathom.

But I would go on to say (had I not by that point been thrown out of the banquet hall): Epic failure is part of being human, and it’s definitely part of being married. It’s part of what being alive means, occasionally screwing up in expensive ways. And that’s part of what marriage means, sometimes hating this other person but staying together because you promised you would. And then, days or weeks later, waking up and loving him again, loving him still.

Finally, nearly two hours after my husband’s original flight left, I texted him to ask if he was still on hold.

“We just got in a cab,” he replied. “Flying Air Wisconsin, baby!”

“Did you have to pay for the tickets again?” I texted.

The phone was silent. In that quiet moment, sitting in my hotel room, I found myself daydreaming about the one-bedroom apartment looking out onto Powderhorn Park. After waking up alone, I would brew some coffee, switch on one of my many ceiling fans, grab a robe from my largest cedar closet and head for my breakfast nook.

“Nope,” he wrote back.

And suddenly I was back in the bigger place on the cheaper side of the park. My family was coming to join me. And I was glad.

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The Highs and Lows of Eating Out

Thai red coconut curry and veg pizza.
Spicy Thai red coconut curry and veg pizza.

As of this Wednesday, the day we are scheduled to move into our new home, we will have eaten out for nearly 50 days.  No, not every meal.  But typically lunch or dinner, boxing leftovers to be consumed for a subsequent meal.  For some, such a seeming extravagance would be a fantasy turned reality–no grocery shopping, no meal planning or preparation, no cooking and no cleaning up.  For others, such a course of action would be difficult to swallow (and stomach)–not knowing how the food was prepared or the ingredients used, consuming foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and spending money on a meal easily (and inexpensively) made at home.

I love food.  Yes, I’m one of those people who could spend an entire morning exploring a farmers’ market, taking in the rich reds of strawberries, feeling the firmness of avocados and the heft of juicy lemons, and sniffing out the perfect melon.  I take comfort–and pride–in preparing a home cooked meal for my friends and family.  But, as with anyone who truly appreciates food, eating out is essential.  It allows one to try different flavors and unique pairings.  It also allows one to indulge in bites that are too difficult, too costly or too time-consuming for the home cook to prepare.  And the convenience of grabbing a bite provides a respite for the harried cook, spouse, and caretaker.

In San Diego eating healthy while eating out was simple.  Low cost restaurants serving hearty salads–with your choice of kale, baby greens, spinach, or arugula as a base–are as pervasive as Starbucks.  Want a steaming bowl of veggies spiced with an Indian or Thai curry and topped with tofu or tempeh?  Dine at the fast-food alternatives of Native Foods or Veggie Grill.  Kid-friendly options?  Almost every SoCal restaurant can produce a colorful plate of tasty avocado, grilled chicken, and fresh melon for a dollar or two.  Easy on the wallet.  Easy on the waistline.  And extremely convenient.

But things changed upon our arrival to Okinawa.  The WestPac’s “grab n’ go” breakfast consists of well preserved and individually packaged bagels, muffins, and granola bars.  Nothing hot, nothing cold.  Just carbohydrate dense and nutritionally deficient pickings.  After 20 days of eating a bagel for breakfast, Burger King’s egg and cheese croissant sandwich can–and did–satisfy a deep craving for something warm and comforting in the morning.  Before we secured our vehicle and out of dining boredom, we ventured into Captain D’s (think Long John Silver’s) and Popeye’s–also known as the land of all things fried.  I ate a salad (iceberg lettuce, a few shreds of cheese, and three slices of tomato) at the the former and a mini-blackened chicken wrap with iceberg lettuce and few shreds of cheese and tomato at the later.  Eating at both venues was a sharp reminder why we don’t–and won’t–eat at such restaurants.  That such restaurants are endorsed by the U.S. government for servicemembers is distressing.  Aside from failing to offer servicemembers nutritious dining options, such restaurants do nothing to curtail the obesity epidemic or lower the growing TRICARE costs for members and their dependents.  Clearly, eating on base has been a dining low.

Fortunately, it appears our food highs are just beginning.  Japanese eateries are hospitable to children, providing streamlined, functional, elegant and lightweight highchairs made from wood.  While in town, we asked for avocado and rice for [S] and this is what we received.  Not only was the presentation stunning, but they provided a children’s bowl and utensils as well.  Indeed, another restaurant  provided [S] with a right-sized water cup and straw.

Avocado & Rice
Avocado & rice.
FullSizeRender(56)
Functional highchair.
Perfect-sized cup.
Right-sized cup & straw.

The local bakeries prepare fresh breads and pastries and many donut shops exist.  But these are not your American sized fried treats.  The donuts are thinner and smaller and boast an array of different flavors (think creme brulee and green tea).

Green Tea Donut
Green tea donut.

And, of course, I couldn’t conclude this post without mentioning fish.  The sashimi is beautifully presented and fresh; the sushi and vegetable tempura is pleasing to the palate.  The portion sizes are are large enough to satisfy an appetite, but noticeably smaller than what one finds in the States.

Salmon Sashimi
Salmon Sashimi
Vegetable Tempura
Vegetable Tempura
Fusion Rolls
Fusion Rolls

But even with the healthier dining options available, 50 days of eating out is long enough.  I welcome returning to the kitchen where I can prepare vegetable-rich meals to satisfy our family and create new culinary concoctions using local flavors as inspiration.  Perhaps most of all, I’m looking forward to no longer eating out of containers with plastic utensils at the WestPac and avoiding dining out at restaurants–at least for now.

Kanpai!

Hello, Sea.

IMG_0367Torii Beach, Okinawa, Japan

Our days are beginning to run together.  With little to distinguish day from day, I suppose it was inevitable that my recollection of dates and times would become a bit fuzzy.  As Russell frames our current living situation, “It’s a little like the movie ‘The Terminal.'”  I find the experience frightening.  This hazy period of my life is similar to the way I felt during those sleep-deprived  months after [S] was born.  My eating habits are out of sync with traditional meal times; hours alternate between passing far too quickly or much too slowly; and, I am wholly unaware of the day or date.  A former client once told me, “Kimberly, you have a strong mind.”  If he could only see me now.

This weekend stood apart from the previous two weekends we’ve been on Island for two reasons:  (1) we had a vehicle; and, (2) we got up close and personal with the East China Sea.  Finally.  Those who know me best are well aware of my love of the water–and of islands.  Indeed, I am seduced by the ease and beauty of island living.  Be it Hornby Island, where we spent our days spotting Eagles overhead, walking on the beach or staring at the surrounding smooth-as-glass waters, or half way around the world at Jeju-do, where I watched bright turquoise waters gently kiss its white sand beaches, the island lifestyle calls you to shed your worries–if only for a fortnight–and give into nature’s lullaby of gentle waves lapping the shoreline.  To say I was disappointed not to have seen the Sea immediately upon arrival to Okinawa is an understatement. Of course, I understood.  It was late.  It had been a long day.  It was dark.  We had a lot of luggage.

What I don’t–and can’t–understand is why it took us 18 days to see the Sea in person.  It is an Island, so, yes, technically we saw the Sea from high points on base.  And we glimpsed it from our Sponsor’s vehicle as we were ferried from Point A to Point B.  But we were never close enough to dip our toes in–or take a snap of–the Sea’s pale blue waters.  That was, until yesterday.

Sunabe Sea Wall
Sunabe Sea Wall

Yesterday, we explored Mihama American Village–its hallmark a dominating red Ferris wheel.  It was described to us as a large outdoor strip mall.  If that weren’t telling enough, the Village boasted a larger than life Red Lobster restaurant, a Sbarro’s pizza, and a Tony Roma’s, beckoning customers through an array of neon signs.  Most people walking around American Village–listening to tunes from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s–were not Americans, but Japanese or Chinese.  As we walked away from the looming Ferris wheel, we walked towards the Sunabe Sea Wall and were greeted by the heat of high noon and our first proper view of the Sea.  The scene greeting us was from a postcard.  The waters boasted complementary hues of blue.  And the clouds, puffy and white, sat low against a pristine blue sky, giving the setting an illusory feeling of closeness.

We were the only people foolish to be walking on the sea wall in the heat and spent only a few minutes gazing on the refreshing water before ducking into an air conditioned store specializing in intricate and creative music boxes.  After walking through the shops we hopped into our Premacy and drove north on Route 58 in hopes of finding a proper and secluded beach–a plan recommended by a tour book.  (Road signs are in Japanese, but tourist destinations oftentimes are also marked in English)

Although our journey did not take us to the beach we intended to find, we found Torii Beach at Torii Station, a United States Army base.  There we had our first encounter–albeit it brief–with the Sea.  The water was lukewarm, but refreshing under the scalding sun.   And it was clear as can be.  We saw small fish swimming underfoot and I ran into one of my (many) arch nemesis–the sideways walking sand crab.  If this beach is any indication, aqua socks for the family will be a necessity given the presence of coral and glass mixed in the sand.

Torii Beach, Okinawa
Torii Beach, Okinawa

Ours was a tepid start to beach hunting, to be certain.  While the beach we visited fails to rival Horseshoe Bay or Seven Mile, fortune favors the bold and we are looking forward to searching the Island for the perfect family beach.

Let the adventures continue.

T-4 and Counting

Yesterday’s visit with [N], our housing counselor, was [S]’s second time at the housing office.  It was a long, but worthwhile, meeting.  We signed paperwork for our new home on Camp Foster, Plaza Housing, including a radon level disclosure, housing agreement, and furniture allotment form.  (Yes, we are allotted a specific amount of government furniture for our use in our home, based upon the number of dependents.  We are given a one-time free pick-up of any furniture we do not need (or want) within 90 days of delivery. Hedging our bets, we elected to accept the entire allotment and sort it out after our goods have been delivered.)

We collect our keys Tuesday afternoon and will leave the WestPac on Wednesday.  I understand that many members and their dependents have a tenuous relationship with the housing office–and I can appreciate the various reasons why–but we are thankful for [N].  I mentioned that the lawn needed mowing and questioned whether that was our responsibility, she made a call to ensure it was mowed before we moved in.  (After the initial cut, it is our task.)  I asked about our expedited goods shipment, currently in storage on base, and she walked us through calling the company to ensure delivery next week.  And when Russell and I were trying to read and sign documents, while tending to [S] squirming about on my lap, she said, “Here, I’ll watch her.”

[N], Our Housing Counselor, with [S]
[N], our housing counselor, with [S].
With outreached arms, [S] welcomed [N].  [N] sat on her exercise-ball-turned-office-chair and bounced with her, walked with her through the maze of offices, and showed [S] her son’s artwork.  [N] was understanding and kind to our family.  And we are grateful.  But we are even more thankful that we will be saying sayonara to the WestPac shortly.

Here’s to having a home.