The Importance of a Strong Finish.

Over the past few weeks, I have written numerous posts for FirstCameBlue.  I’ve typed words of high praise for Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior and Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time.  I’ve written about finding comfort in the chaos of moving, yet, again.  I’ve written about my deep appreciation for–and admiration of–the Okinawan culture and people.  I’ve written about the process of selling our vehicles.  And I’ve written about my apprehension and joy of transitioning from a family of three to a family of four. 

No, you haven’t missed the posts.  Indeed, dear Dedicated Readers will know that there has been little, if anything, to miss in this space.  To my chagrin, recent posts have been sporatic, short, and, dare I say, even a bit superficial, barely scratching the surface.

Each time I sit down to finish a half-written post, I stop.  As our days left on the Island have dwindled down to a couple of weeks, give or take, I’ve taken the time I should have taken during the past two years.  As with much in life, time is most precious when it is most fleeting.  I’ve been spending time at the beach staring at the blue-green water and marveling at its clarity.  I’ve been cherishing every moment with our now only-child, including lunch dates at the food court.  I’ve been reading for pleasure.  I’ve been finding new restaurants to try and revisiting tried and true favorites.  I’ve been stopping to talk with neighbors.  I’ve been studying Korean.  I’ve been cooking through our pantry.  I’ve been enjoying long lunches with friends, new and old.  I’ve been learning about on-post housing in Seoul.  I’ve been organizing and giving away.  I’ve been meeting with housing inspectors and moving company representatives.  I’ve been showing vehicles.  And I’ve been soaking in the richness Okinawa offers.

This is a special place.  Many of its waterfalls, mountains, and beaches remain pristine, as if untouched by man.  Its people are warm, kind, generous and thoughtful.  It was here, we watched [S] grow from a small toddler to a little girl.  And it is from here we leave knowing that our family is complete, even if not yet together. 


A Lesson: Washi Eggs.

Last month, I received an invitation to learn how to make washi eggs, eggs covered in washi paper.  Our neighbor, has been doing so for years and wanted to share her craft with a handful of women before Easter.  Washi is traditional Japanese paper made from various plants and trees, resulting in a durable product boasting brilliant and lasting colors.  When damp, colors do not run and the paper gently stretches, rather than rips, extremely useful for crafts.

Washi eggs are popular in Okinawa, with local stores selling various sized eggs year round, covered in seasonal paper.  I cheated and used origami paper, rather than washi paper for some of my eggs, allowing me to save the gorgeous sheets of washi paper for future projects.  Yes, one may cover almost anything in washi paper. 

While my egg papering technique will improve with practice, I’m delighted with the results.  It’s a detailed process, requiring focus and patience.  I used my precious alone time to cover the eggs in silence.  It was time well spent. 

My favorite part?  Covering the eggs.  My least favorite part?  Blowing out the eggs.


Small Things

I remember the moment I first saw it as if it were yesterday.  Days after our arrival to Okinawa, I sat across from a woman processing our paperwork to purchase a vehicle.  The need arose for her to unstaple several documents.

After reaching for a pen-shaped tool, she began unstapling document after document.  Her actions were undertaken with ease and efficiency, words typically not associated with such an act. 

Having worked with legal documents requiring heavy-duty staples since I was in high school, I like to think I know a thing or two about both stapling and unstapling.  Neither act is as simple as one may think.  Indeed, while standard, heavy duty, and automatic staplers each have their purpose, they each also have many, many limitations. 

The easiest way to rid a thick document of a heavy-duty staple?  Slowly pull the document apart while holding onto one-half of the document in each hand.  Once the back half of the document has opened the staple, use a standard staple remover to remove the staple from the front of the document.  Done properly, one will not be able to discern the document was unfastened. 

Here, the staple remover had two enviable features:  (1) the metal part removing the staple was short and sturdy, allowing the remover to get under the staple with certainty; and, (2) upon a quick gesture, the staple is deposited into an enclosed space, to be discarded over a bin later.  Of course, it’s the second feature that impressed me as I watched her remove staple after staple without the need to discard the thin metal fasteners. 

My fascination with stationary, pens, and related gadgets, makes me at home with the large spaces dedicated to writing instruments, paper, pen holders, and desk accessories throughout Japan.  Regardless, I have spent the better part of two years scouring shops for this elusive tool, without success.  That was, until I popped into a large bookstore with a stationary section on the bottom floor.  That’s right–an entire bottom floor dedicated to pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, tape, stickers, cards, and other such items, designed to simplify one’s life while providing the user a quality aesthetic experience. 

As I rounded one corner, I stood before a wide selection of staple removers.  Short.  Long.  Fat.  Thin.  Colored.  Clear.  As I quickly cataloged my options, I locked onto the ever elusive staple remover I had seen so many months ago. 

It is, I dare say, perfectly designed.  It has removed staples from documents easily and with swift efficiency.  Days of fighting with stubborn staples are gone.  Also gone are piles of staples on my desk and errant staples on the floor.  Oddly, the once unpleasant task of staple removing has become a joy to undertake. 


My Finisher.

Yesterday, Russell ran the 25th 2017 Okinawa Marathon.  He signed up for the race months ago.  Then, he didn’t know he would battle a nasty bug five weeks before the race.  He didn’t know about a two-week visit by relatives three weeks before the race.  He hadn’t anticipated a business trip taking him away from Japan one week before the race. 

Despite the interrupted training schedule, he picked-up his race packet Saturday afternoon and perused the vendors’ wares.  Oddly, packet pick-up is one of my favorite pre-race rituals.  One can feel the anticipation of the runners.  The mood is festive with a hint of apprehension as to the task ahead.  One can see the immense amount of preparation and organization required of staging such an event.  And one can imagine the organized chaos that will ensue the next morning.  My favorite aspect of packet pick-up?  That I’m not running. 

Unlike other races, [S] and I dropped Russell off at the start venue and returned home.  The race was a single one-way loop.  Given the traffic restrictions, we would be able to see him once during the race–right outside of the gate.  [S] brought her upgraded sign and her eisa drum to cheer on the runners and we sat on the median strip, joining a handful of other Americans, and did just that.  Despite the fact that more than 10,000 people started the race, I spotted Russell cresting the hill easily, his height giving him away.  Once we spotted him, [S] started yelling, “Go Daddy, Go.” 

He stopped for a photo op and continued on, finishing the race, and joining more than 8,000 others who completed the marathon that day. 

Mile 21ish.

The race featured participants from around the world, including characters such as Im So Young from Korea.  Runners donned a variety of costumes, wigs, and hats.  And the nutrition stations were unlike any in the States.  But why try to describe what I heard second-hand when an actual race participant could paint a more colorful and accurate picture of the event?  No, I’ll leave that tale for another day, to be covered by another writer.


The Goal: 42.195 km

Before meeting my husband, my knowledge of endurance racing was minimal.  I cheered on marathon runners from Second Avenue annually while living in New York and that was the extent of my participation.  Since we’ve been married, I have watched Russell compete in one full IRONMAN triathlon (distance:  140.6 miles), two half IRONMAN triathlons (distance:  70.3 miles), and several shorter distance races (sprint and Olympic triathlons).  All of those races, save one, were registered for prior to our marriage.

Since that time, endurance events have taken a back seat to our relationship, our daughter, and his work.  It has been difficult to keep an endurance athlete from registering for races and with good reason.  They are personally challenging and physically addictive (think of that massive endorphin release).  Races also provide a training goal for athletes.  Need motivation for getting to the gym?  Register for a date-certain race.

So, he did.  On Sunday, February 19, 2017, Russell is registered to run the 25th Annual Okinawa Marathon.  In turn, he has been putting miles on his trainers, hitting the road (and treadmill) to prepare for one hilly race.

Course Map and Traffic Control

Curiously, Russell’s dedicated training schedule has had an unexpected knock-on effect.  His waking at 4:30 a.m. to get to the gym before work has motivated me to get to the gym as often as possible–a pre-[S] long lost habit and one that cannot be accomplished without him.  Yesterday, instead of going to the gym, I decided to make the most out of the cooler temperatures and ran up a long steep hill near the Officer’s Club 12 times, earning the respect of three men.  One man who also was running hills breathlessly commented what a good workout it was; another was walking his dog and commented I was “working the hill over”; and, the last was my husband who noted that it was a better workout than hopping on the elliptical machine.  The workout paid off.  Today, it hurts to walk, sit or stand.

I am proud of my husband for taking on another challenge given his tight schedule and current commitments.  I am also in awe of the fact that he continues to push me to achieve–and do–more.  I can only hope I do the same for him.