A Stroll Through Fukushuen Park

This weekend, we explored Fukushuen, a Chinese style walled garden, located in Naha.  It is comprised of open spaces, seasonal landscapes, ponds, springs, and “eight majestic sights.”  One may feed the fish, turtles and pigeons by purchasing fish food at vending machines, which we opted not to do.  Regardless of our being empty handed, the fish, turtles and birds gathered near us in hopes we had hidden treats stashed away.

It took us a little over an hour to make our way through Fukushuen.  For me, the highlight of the trip was the view from the top of the waterfall in the middle of the garden.  The down side?  Being massively bit by insects.  (Fukushuen provides free insect repellent at the gate; we used our own.)

Enjoy the views.

Get Out the Vote.

Yesterday, I received several e-mails regarding voting absentee.  Our office ensured access to envelopes and instructions to servicemembers on how to print online absentee ballots.  The on-base post office has placed notices on all mailboxes that free tracking on absentee ballots is available at the counter.  The efforts to ensure that all who are eligible to vote, do vote, are significant.  Given the history of our country and the struggle to secure voting rights for all, voting is more than a privilege, it is a civic duty.



5.7 Earthquake: Felt and Not Quickly Forgotten

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s southern Okinawa island and a chain of neighboring islands were shaken on Monday by an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

On March 11, 2011, the northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami. Those events triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

Southern Japan jolted by 5.7 magnitude quake, Reuters, September 26, 2016.

We were eating lunch at the food court in the large high-end mall across the street from our home when it hit.  On the fourth floor of the building, we sat near the doors to the terrace, with a distant view of the sea.  The day was grey and wet.  As the building began to sway, I looked at two men seated across from us.  One of the men used his arms to show a swaying motion, as if seeking confirmation that we were continuing to move back and forth.  I nodded.  The man smiled and continued eating.  I glanced outside and caught the glimpse of another male diner, who made a similar gesture.  Again, I nodded.

Then, I turned to Russell and asked if the swaying had stopped.  “Yes,” he said.  “No, wait, it started again.”  Indeed, it had.  But moments later, everyone was back to attending to the business at hand, as if nothing had happened.

That is the third earthquake I’ve experienced within the past five years.  Regardless, I haven’t become accustomed to feeling the earth beneath me move.

Press Here

TGIF.  It is an acronym I despite.  The fact that a there’s a restaurant with the same moniker only makes it worse.  Regardless, it is with a deep sigh of relief that I welcomed Friday evening.  What did we do today?  Nothing.  Russell woke at 3:45 this morning to attend a meeting being held in the U.S.  Five minutes before he awoke in earnest, [S] awoke.  From that time on, no one in our home has had peace.  That is, until [S] begrudgingly took a nap this afternoon.

Overall, this week was a good one.  [S] was admitted to an on-base Child Development Center, which required the completion of paperwork and hunting down a prescription label and EpiPen box.  (Don’t ask.)  Everything in her classroom is toddler size, including children, sinks, desks, tables, and toilets.  Did she like it?  Oh, yes, according to one of the teachers.  But, in her excitement, she didn’t nap on either of her care days.  As a result, this week has been filled with late afternoon exhaustion-induced temper tantrums and far too many tears.

To thin the patience a bit more, my work has been filled with complex matters and high-maintenance clients.  That is to be expected, yes.  But this week’s pace of the e-mail communications, phone calls, and meetings reminded me of days long gone, when I was compensated to provide counsel.

To my surprise, I found a small padded envelope, addressed to [S] from her Grandmother, in our post office box yesterday.  After opening the envelope with scissors, I let [S] take out the gift.  The hardcover book had a handwritten note taped to it, reading, “Here is a new book for you.  I hope you like it.  I would like to read it to you, using FaceTime, when you get it.  I love you, Nana.”

Press Here, by French author Herve Tullet, is an interactive book.  No, it does not feature pop-up pictures or various textures.  To the contrary, the entire book features only dots, words, and five colors (if one includes white and black, which I am).  The pages are smooth and luxurious to the touch.  What the book requires is that the reader follow the directions on each page so that the next page makes sense.  Should one be instructed to press here, you might just find that the single yellow dot has become two yellow dots.

The book is simple.  It is aesthetically pleasing.  And it is really quite clever, no matter the age of the reader.  Truly, it is brilliant.  I like to think it would be the kind of children’s book I would create, were I creative.



The Necessity of Back-Up Child Care

With the U.S. presidential election around the corner, candidates are showcasing how their policies will benefit working parents.  Child care is at the center of most discussions, with proposals for paid parental leave also heavily analyzed.

Today, I received a text from [S]’s child care provider.  I had to read it twice before I could trust myself to process her brief message.  Her brother had been in an accident this morning and had passed away; she would be taking emergency leave for a month, leaving tomorrow.  In the midst of her grief, she needlessly apologized profusely for the short notice, but had spoken with the powers-that-be who informed her that [S] should be able to be cared for by Child Development Centers (CDC) on-base.

Immediately, I responded, writing all of the things that one says during those times when words seem wholly inadequate.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  You and your family are in our prayers.  Let me know if we can do anything for you.  To be certain, I mean–and meant–each word written.  But I understand that my words likely will do little, if anything at all, to lessen today’s grief and tomorrow’s sorrow.

After I considered the fragility of life and the immense amount of work in front of her to leave for the United States in less than 24-hours, I turned to thinking about myself.  She cares for [S] on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week.  I have a standing attorney meeting on Tuesdays, which, while useful to attend, is not imperative that I do so.  But what to do about Wednesday?  On Wednesdays, I drop off [S] and head to work for the day.  This Wednesday, in addition to regular work, I have clients–and witnesses–scheduled to execute estate planning documents.  It is not something that can be easily rescheduled given the time, space, and bodies needed.  And it was then I understood the dilemma facing working parents on a regular basis.

What does one do when their child isn’t feeling well or the regular child care provider is ill?  I nearly began to panic.  I work one day a week at the office and to miss that day is, well, undesirable.  I called the CDC.  I called the Child, Youth, Teen Program office.  And then I called again, with little movement.

Of course, dropping off your child at day care is one thing.  Wondering what kind of care he or she will receive is another.  While questions as to whether [S] will adjust, be confused, be well-cared for, etc., are to be expected from a parent, they also are thoughtful and have merit given such an abrupt change of circumstances.

I’m thankful that my current circumstances allow great flexibility with respect to when and where I work.  But I also realize that, unfortunately, such flexibility remains a privilege, out of reach for many.

A Sweet Treat

img_5859Be it in the States or abroad, our family is dedicated to contributing to the local economy.  Accordingly, when we are out and about we patronize local businesses as we are able.  While we are far from big spenders, an occasional sweet treat or meal is not uncommon.  Yesterday, after leaving the beach, we headed north to a place we call the Honeyshop.

Foolishly, I thought the store only sold ice cream topped with honey.  To the contrary, the shop sells several varieties of honey and just happens to sell ice cream.  That is, ice cream topped with sweet honey and toothsome honeycomb.  The menu is limited to vanilla ice cream with honey, vanilla ice cream with blueberry honey, and vanilla ice cream with chocolate honey.

Honey-topped ice cream and a container of blueberry honey tea.

The shop is small with only one table inside and two tables outside.  But it offers several varieties of honey, including sesame, wildflower, blueberry, and lychee.  It also provides a tasting station, allowing customers to sample prior to purchasing.


img_5860We departed the small shop with three bottles of honey and three smiles.

Toguchi Beach, Yomitan.

Some people believe that one beach is as good as the next; I’m not one of them.  To the contrary, I am a beach snob.  Blame it walking Grand Cayman’s famed Seven-Mile Beach nearly every day for 24 months.  Blame it on trips to Bermuda growing up.  Blame it on vacations to St. John.  Truly, it doesn’t matter why.  Rather it matters what.  What kind of beach (natural or man-made)?  What kind of experience is one seeking (restorative, adventure seeking)?  What kind of sand (soft, fine, coarse)?

Today, we headed to a public playground.  (More on Okinawan playgrounds to come.)  The playground is next to Toguchi Beach in Yomitan, Okinawa.  When we arrived, we saw one man clamming and a couple frolicking in the water.  When we left the waters were dotted with children and adults alike.  Did we swim?  No.  We didn’t bring suits, only [S]’s pail, a towel, and beach shoes.

The beach was clean.  The water was clear.  And the area was filled with places to explore and things to see.  We watched hermit crabs, starfish, sand crabs, and a variety of fish.  We were able to explore caves and tide pools.  And we even collected sea glass and sea shells.  Russell said, it just might be his favorite beach yet.


fullsizerender284 fullsizerender283 fullsizerender286 fullsizerender285

Japan’s Main Opposition Party Elects First Female Leader

Renho Murata, center, at a debate in Tokyo with her political opponents Yuichiro Tamaki, left, and Seiji Maehara. Ms. Murata is vying to become the first woman to lead the Democratic Party. Credit Kazuhiro Nogi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

TOKYO — Among democracies in the developed world, Japan has one of the worst records of putting women in positions of political power.

Yet if, as widely predicted, Renho Murata, a member of the upper house of Parliament, prevails in a leadership contest on Thursday and becomes the first woman to lead the opposition Democratic Party, she will be the third woman to assume a high-profile political post in Japan in less than two months.

—  Opposition Figure’s Rise Could Pave Way for Female Leaders in Japan, The New York Times (September 14, 2016).