A Well-Deserved Congratulations.

JRLFullSizeRenderI’ve never been terribly fond of ice cream.  But since becoming married, ice cream has become a big deal.  There are weekend ice cream cones while out and about.  Ice cream appears on our weekly shopping list.  And, more often than not, milestones are celebrated with an ice cream cake purchased by my Husband.

This week I had reason to purchase the largest, most decadent ice cream cake on the market.  Sadly, Baskin-Robbins was ill prepared for my request.  The store did, however, personalize the smallish mint chocolate chip ice cream cake exactly as [S] requested.

Congratulations on being selected for promotion to Captain, Russell.

Bravo Zulu.

Golden Week 2016

Koinobori flying at a salt factory on Hamahiga Island, Okinawa.

Today starts Golden Week in Japan.  GW, as it is called, includes the following holidays:  Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day.

What does it mean?  GW is the longest vacation week of the year, rivaled in length only by New Year celebrations and Oban.  Many businesses are closed for the week, people travel domestically and internationally, there are festivals, and koinobori are flying high.

Today is Showa no Hi, memorializing the birth of Emperor Hirohito, who reigned from 1926 to 1989.  The day is not a day of celebration.  Rather, it is a day of reflection and remembrance of Hirohito’s 63-year reign.

[S] was given pint-sized koinobori by our thoughtful neighbors.
The final day of GW is Kodomo no Hi or Children’s Day.  (In the recent past, the holiday celebrated only boys and their fathers–Tango no Sekku–with the celebration of girls being relegated to a different day.  In 1948 the day was changed to celebrate the growth and happiness of all children and became a national holiday.)  Carp streamers (koinobori) can be found everywhere, symbolizing strength and success.  (According to a Chinese legend, a carp swam upstream to become a dragon.)

We are hopeful to experience a bit of GW this weekend by attending a festival at a dam up north.  There, koinobori fly freely, live music may be enjoyed, and children are able to play in the water downstream.

Here’s to GW.

Koinobori flying on-base at a construction site.


An Attitude Adjustment

During the past two weeks, my attitude has taken a turn for the worse.  I suppose it is no coincidence that this coincided with not feeling well physically.  Not being able to function at 100% takes its toll on anyone.  I was tired of not being able to hear well.  I was annoyed at the absence of my usual get-up-and-go.  And it hurt to breathe, let alone concentrate.  Who wouldn’t be annoyed?

I began to question what I was doing in life.  Was working as a legal assistance attorney worthwhile?  Was providing counseling regarding divorce and separation making a difference to servicemembers?  Was it assisting in mission readiness?  Next, I began to question America and Americans.  Who would, in good faith, vote for Donald Trump for anything?  Why are so many of my fellow citizens spreading messages of exclusion and hatred?  Why are people using physical force to respond to political (or ideological) differences?  What has happened to common sense?  Basic civility?  Reasoned discourse?

I then had occasion to attend a meeting where professionals were complaining about the work they were doing on behalf of their clients.  In my foggy-headed state, it sounded as if they were complaining about doing their jobs.  If these young professionals failed to value the work they were being paid to undertake, what of the people they were supposed to be helping?  As neither a bleeding heart nor a Pollyanna, I found myself perplexed.  Do I care too much?  Am I too invested in helping those who have difficulty helping themselves?  What does this portend for our country’s future?

Then I considered my life, again.  What difference can I make in the culture wars?  Especially when fear–rather than reason–dominates the conversation and so easily sways the un- and under-educated.  How can I change the topic of conversation from anger to understanding?  The answer yelled back at me:  one sentence at a time.

Today, I awoke with a chip on my shoulder, fitting of my black mood and dim view of the future.  As I was getting ready for work, the electricity turned off without notice.  Driving onto base, I remembered that I forgot a check for our daycare provider.  Not a great start to the day.  At 10 a.m., I had my first appointment with a client.  I counseled a young servicemember about the importance of credit and financial management.  Was it the reason for the appointment?  No.  Was it collateral to our discussion?  Yes.  “Do you understand how credit works?,” I asked.  “No,” came the response.  Armed with only a pen and legal pad, I drew a series of simple charts.  I explained.  I drew circles.  I used arrows.  “It’s not my life.  I can only give you the best advice I have,” I explained.  “Why start out in a hole, right?,” came the response.  Right.

It was then the tide began to turn and the clouds began to part.  I had made a difference, albeit small.  Substantively, it may not be lasting.  But in the bigger picture, I valued my client by taking the time to explain something no one else had.  I asked the right questions and listened to the answers.  I made an effort and, in return, my client gave me hope.

Good Eats

Today’s pie.

I’ve been told that each time a young child eats food it is as if they are eating it for the first time.  I don’t buy it.  [S] knows that she likes apples, avocados, blueberries, yogurt and broccoli.  But there are some foods that remain a hit or miss.  Rice.  Chicken.  Tofu.  Some days she will eat an entire bowl full of tofu over rice.  The next day she refuses to eat even a bite.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that the banana cream cheese birthday pie went from zero to hero in less than 24-hours.  Indeed, the pie she didn’t want to eat on her birthday has become her go-to snack.  Personally, I think it had to do with allowing the pie its full 24-hour chill time.  The pie stiffened up nicely, improving both its texture and visual appeal.

Given that the pie is super-simple to make, but tastes like it took ages, I thought I’d share the recipe.

* * *

Banana-Cream Cheese Pie (Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen)

2 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs. sesame seeds (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Press firmly into a 9 inch pie dish, building up thick sides with a nice edge.  Bake pie crust and extra topping (on a baking sheet) at 375 F for 10 minutes.  Let cool.

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbs. sugar
1/4 cup yogurt
2 Tbs. fresh lemon or lime juice
2 large ripe bananas, 1 mashed, 1 thinly sliced
1 tsp. vanilla extract; 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Beat together mashed bananas and all ingredients until well blended. Fold thinly sliced bananas into mixture.  Pour into crust. Top with extra topping.  Wrap tightly.  Chill 24-hours.

* * *

On Lavatories.

Call it what you will.  Toilet.  Loo.  John.  Water closet.  Washroom.  Restroom.  Bathroom.  Head.  I understand what you mean–a room, of varying size, space, comfort, and cleanliness, that provides, at a minimum, a toilet, toilet paper, sink and (hopefully) soap.

I like to think of myself as a public restroom expert.  I have no qualms regarding walking into a hotel, five-star or otherwise, to use the restroom.  In the States, I know where I can expect clean, spacious restrooms:  high-end hotels and restaurants.  And I know where to avoid using the restrooms:  nearly everywhere else.  That said, having traveled across country by vehicle several times, I can make do with whatever is available.  Fortunately, the toilets in Japan are an entirely different caliber than those anywhere else in the world.  The number of functions and buttons found on a public restroom toilet is dizzying.  (They also provide children’s toilet seats, which is fantastic while potty training.)  I digress.

Obviously, I’ve used single-sex restrooms.  I’ve used restrooms specifically designated for women (or ladies, as the case may be).  But I’ve also used restrooms designated for men when in a pinch.  What woman hasn’t?  I’ve used unisex restrooms.  You know, a single room with a lock on the door, which anyone may use.  But I’ve also used unisex bathrooms housing a series of stalls (with doors) to be used by men and women alike.  In that case, one only notices who’s who while entering, exiting, or using the vanity.  That is, of course, only if one cares to pay attention.  I don’t.

When I use a public bathroom, my goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible.  While I fancy myself pleasant, generally, while using the restroom typically I mind my own business.  I do not chat with strangers.  And I do not hang out in–or otherwise prolong my visit to–the loo.  Regardless of my W.C. usage, one thing has stayed consistent:  never once have I been afraid of who might be in the stall next to me.  Never.

I do not understand the need the legislate who uses what restroom.  Today, at the Naval hospital, I watched a male Marine take his three-year old daughter into the men’s toilet.  I didn’t think a thing of it, other than to note that the Marine didn’t seem worried, scared or otherwise concerned that his daughter was entering a men’s restroom.  The issue was his daughter needed to use the toilet.  And so she did.  In a stall.  In a men’s bathroom.  It’s all quite routine.  And quite boring, really.

If you want a smaller government with less regulation, you don’t want such legislation.  If you think calls to regulate the consumption of soda is ridiculous, you, too, should think that regulating who uses what toilet is beyond the pale.  If you have common sense, you likely will find such a law offensive.  At a minimum, you would have to find the legislature’s time, effort and energy a waste of taxpayer dollars, not to mention the costs associated with the enforcement and prosecution of such laws.

So, who would support such a law?  Those ignorant enough to confuse transgendered people with pedophiles, rapists or other sexual predators, a la Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.  Such people deserve to be called out on their uneducated fearmongering.  Indeed, if one wants to discuss safety in restrooms, let’s discuss the teenage girl who was killed in a girl’s high school bathroom, allegedly, by other girls.  Or we can discuss former Republican Senator Larry Craig’s (male) actions in a men’s bathroom.  At the time, Senator Craig was dressed as a male and he was–and remains–married to his wife, Suzanne Craig.

I stand with Donald Trump on this one.  People don’t have a difficult time deciding which restroom to use.  If you were anatomically born a male, but have since elected to dress as a woman, take hormones and/or undergo surgery to look like a woman, legally change your name to a woman’s name, and live each day as a woman, you use the woman’s restroom.  Period.  This isn’t a problem that needs a solution.

Happy Birthday, Ah-Choo!

Moosewood’s banana cream cheese cake, delicious, but a massive fail for our 2-year-old’s palate.

This weekend we celebrated [S]’s second birthday.  Saturday, we spent the better part of our afternoon laying on a beach, eating cut fruit, and enjoying the endless breeze.  It was a much needed day of relaxation.  At least for me.  Indeed, I slept in until 9 a.m.  Yes, I know, a miraculous feat for which I thank my Husband and NyQuil.

Today, I made a banana cream cheese pie to celebrate [S]’s birthday.  We walked around American Village, watched girl dancers perform, indulged in pre-meal ice cream, ate taco rice, and finished the day off with pie.  This was a birthday to be enjoyed.  At least for us as parents.  This year, unlike last year, [S] understood the concept of being feted.  Indeed, she relished opening packages and unwrapping gifts.  And she danced to no less than four renditions of the Happy Birthday song.  Her version is “Happy birthday ah-choo, happy birthday ah-choo!”  But she didn’t want anything.

[S] delighting in her gifts.

Russell was concerned that we were bad parents.  We weren’t throwing her a catered party.  We weren’t even inviting our friends over for cake and pie.  Worse yet, we didn’t have any gifts for her.  Well, that’s not completely true.  Russell purchased her a pair of Babiators, which we gave her earlier, unwrapped, with no pomp and circumstance.  I had no guilt over not having gifts for our dear daughter.  How could I?  She has so much.  But I also knew that her generous Grandparents–both sets–had sent gifts that would capture her imagination.

FullSizeRender(195)Be that as it may, today, we wandered by a store selling customized flip-flops.  One could have “Okinawa” emblazoned on one’s shoes or request pictures of shisas or butterflies.  One of [S]’s favorite pastimes is to walk around the house wearing my flip-flops.  She has also taken to trying to wear her ponytail holder on her wrist and typing on my computer.  But flip-flops are coveted.  And so it was that she tried on a pair and tried walking out of the store.  We picked out a design and were told to return in an hour.

This evening, [S] struggled with bedtime.  Typically, she looks forward to her bubbles and teeth brushing.  But tonight she wanted to run around the house in her pink flip-flops pushing her new baby stroller (and baby).  We changed her diaper with her flip-flops on.  We parked her baby stroller by her bedroom door–with her flip-flops underneath–so she could keep an eye on them.  And the Pixie Power wrist band given to her by Nana had to be pried out of her hand through tears.  Ah, the drama.

Ignore the bib. She’s 2!

Today, for various reasons, was a day of heightened emotions for me.  I’m still recovering from a knock-down-drag-out virus.  I’m tired.  I’m waiting for movement in at least three major areas of my life.  And our daughter is growing-up.  As she fought me tooth and nail to stay awake and keep playing with her new toys, I noted with a wry smile that she’s right on track for her age.  She is strong  She is testing.  She is stubborn.  She is her own person.

And then it hit me.  As her Mother, I’m right on track for her age as well.

It’s About Time: A Money Makeover

Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist who helped rescue slaves, in the late 1800s. Credit H. B. Lindsley, via Library of Congress
From left, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be featured on the back of the new $10 bill. Credit From left: Hulton Archive, via Getty Images; via Library of Congress: via Library of Congress; Hulton Archive, via Getty Images; Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew on Wednesday announced the most sweeping and historically symbolic makeover of American currency in a century, proposing to replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist, and to add women and civil rights leaders to the $5 and $10 notes.

—  Harriet Tubman Ousts Andrew Jackson in Change for a $20, The New York Times (Apr. 20, 2016).