Monday, August 31, 2009

TCCOR Shmeakore

We are in "TCCOR 1 Caution" mode here. What does that mean? I wondered the same thing, the way I have sometimes wondered which Tornado W (watch or warning) should send me racing to the SW corner of the basement or which military base flag condition (red or black) means I ought to call an ambulance or which terrorist threat color might want to make me think twice about getting on that airplane. So I did a little research.

Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Awareness (TCCOR) is a system prepared by and for American military personnel stationed in Japan. Apparently whatever system the native Japanese have developed over the past several centuries does not suit our purpose (surviving a cyclone, I assume) although it's possible some junior officer with a Japanese wife simply asked her to translate the local version a few decades ago and was subsequently promoted to senior officer status on the basis of his hard work. But I digress. Those cars speeding up and down weather hill are very distracting.

TCCOR levels start at 4 and end at 1. The levels denote wind intensity and the time remaining before those wind conditions are expected to arrive where I happen to be standing. From July to November here, we are always in TCCOR 4 mode. This means we are always within three days of possible "destructive winds of 50 kts or greater".

Let's just assume (a) "kts" denotes knots and not karats in this instance, and (b) Matt, Emma, and Mary already know to never use an abbreviation in a paper until they have first spelled out the complete word. So, what is a knot other than a possible title for Dave Eggers next book? Seriously, are we talking knots per hour and, if so, how does a knot per hour compare with a mile per hour? This is your shot at some of those burger cookies, people.

TCCOR 3 is declared when those 50 kts winds are within 2 days of me, TCCOR 2 means "within 24 hours," and TCCOR 1 is "within 12 hours."

Which brings us to TCCOR 1 Caution: the winds are blowing at 34-49 knots and are expected to reach 50 knots or more within 12 hours. When/if the winds reach 50 knots or greater on this installation, TCCOR 1 Emergency will be declared.

According to the directives issued to all military personnel upon arriving in Japan, schools are closed when TCCOR 1 is declared. When TCCOR 1 Caution is declared, "All outdoor activities should cease, except those in direct support of urgent military missions. All non-mission-essential personnel are released from work and should be off the streets and in their residences."

But, um, someone decided not to close the schools when TCCOR 1 was declared. They still did not close the schools when the caution was issued although they reserved the right to send the children home early. I imagine there are scores of kindergarteners here who will never forget their first day of school, assuming they survive being blown into Tokyo Bay when the winds top 50 knots and someone decides to send them home.

I'm wondering how we informed people about potential emergencies 50 years ago. Because, as I told that base emergency preparedness "expert" two years ago, it simply does not make any sense to me that we are putting all of our eggs in the electronic basket. They are communicating information to us via television, radio, and the base website. The people who live off-base don't receive that television channel and recent arrivals (me, for instance) don't have a television to receive any channel whatsoever. The base website has a questionable security certificate, presenting a hurdle to many. When I finally managed to get over that hurdle, I read what I already knew, "We are in TCCOR 1 Caution. Please watch Channel 15 and check this website for additional information."

The wind has been blowing the screen back and forth across my bedroom window all the time I've been writing. Normally I would spend about two hours editing this diatribe into a somewhat tidy little essay but I'm going to post this now just in case one of those scary Harry Potter trees crashes through my window. Because if I'm not around to say I told you so, I sure as heck hope one of you will either do so on my behalf or at the very least write a wildly popular song, "She Told Them So," that Sandy can sing at my funeral and then perform at the Grammy Awards, perhaps as a duet with Elton John. Maybe a little medley, even, but don't use any post-1975 pictures of me if I'll be sharing screen time with Princess Di.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

They'd Better Not Cancel the First Day of School

Today is the first time in six weeks I've missed our television. Maybe I should stand in the carport and flag down the next car that comes down from Weather Hill.

Something might happen if you click on the title.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dawn's Early Light

I'm no longer setting the alarm for 4:30 am. School starts the day after tomorrow and Matt's practices have been switched to after noon, a time more in synch with my circadian rhythm, but already I'm a bit nostalgic for those quiet morning hours when I sat on my back patio listening to the base slowly wake up around me.

Every summer the Navy announces the First Class Petty Officers who have been selected for promotion to the rank of Chief Petty Officer, commonly referred to as 'Chiefs.' For the entire month of August and the first half of September the Chiefs-select undergo a rigorous training regimen and a nearly-as-rigorous fundraising frenzy. Here in Yokosuka the Navy's best and brightest run along the side of my house at 5:30 every morning as they approach Weather Hill. Fifteen minutes later they pass again on the descent (walking this time so I guess they're following "The Galloway Method.") I can hear them approaching when they're still two blocks away. There are about 25 of them, chanting in unison to that tune we all learned watching boot camp scenes in old movies. Weather Hill is the toughest obstacle they face and they seem to appreciate the spectator standing on the side of the road in her pajamas, humming "They'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain."


The Red Devils took a beating at home tonight from archrival Yokota (aka Air Force Pukes). The final score was a disheartening 49-6. On the plus side, #88 was on the field for seven kick returns and the camera battery waited until half-time to sputter out.

Remember that new hobby I mentioned the other day? It's already done wonders for my popularity. The phone rang just as I was racing out the door to the game. "It's Mi-Mi. Do you have any ice? There's none on the base and the Oakleaf picnic is tomorrow!" The Navy Exchange has pulled all the ice from its shelves on account of some sort of infestation (I'm picturing lots of frozen cockroaches, yuck). It's so great to feel needed. Maybe I can parlay the ice into my passing dish . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Cookies

I went to Kamakura to catch up with Kyoko and Tsuneko, my Japanese book club ladies. From our house to the JR train station is a 30-minute hike in flip-flops, my footwear of choice now that I've worn through the soles of my brown flats.

Arriving at the station 10 minutes ahead of my train, I popped into the convenience store in search of a little towel to mop the sweat from my brow. These little towels are de rigeur in this part of the world. (Before he deployed Mike graciously posed with his One Piece towel to illustrate this point.)

I not only found a towel but, even better, spotted the tiny burger cookies Bridget let me sample two years ago. Although I had searched high and low for my own supply of these cookies, I had always come up empty-handed.

The teaspoon was Matt's idea to help you grasp the size of the cookies. The filling is bourbon-flavored caramel.

The faux sesame seeds are a nice touch.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Anpanman Museum Reprised

The USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier based in San Diego, arrived in Yokosuka the day before yesterday. This is the first time many of those young sailors have set foot in a foreign country. Three of them entered the train station just as Jen F, Amanda, and I were heading to the Anpanman Museum in Yokohama yesterday morning. The slightly baffled looks on their faces appealed to our maternal instincts, although in my case the instinct is probably just as much buttinski as maternal.

They were in search of Tokyo where they hoped to take pictures of the Imperial Palace. We got them as far as Yokohama, told them where to get off (that was fun to write), showed them how to check their progress on the route diagram above the door of the train car, and insisted they also visit Asakusa for a good temple experience. I hope they had a wonderful day. I certainly did.

Jen O (as opposed to Jen F, and you haven't even met Jen R yet) had alerted me to the availability of plastic popcorn containers like the one the tyke above is wearing around his neck. He's wearing the Baikenman model but I selected the Anpanman version for Matt and had it filled with caramel corn. Once Matt polishes off the contents, I'll re-appropriate the container, plant it next to my kitchen sink, and toss coffee grounds into it. Because when I'm not busy bagging ice cubes these days, I'm amassing coffee grounds for my garden. That would be the garden I plan to start when Mike is home long enough to ride shotgun to the plant store. I'm still not brave enough to drive solo out in town.

Coffee grounds can also be used in place of baking soda to rid your refrigerator of odors. I read it on the internet so it must be true.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This Week at the 100 Yen Store

Matt's busy with football, Mike's bobbing around in the water somewhere off the coast of Mumble Grumble Mumble, and there are actually limits to the number of lunch outings I can rationalize. I stupidly forgot to put my sewing machine in the Unaccompanied Baggage. I don't remember how to cast yarn on a knitting needle. There are 30 books loaded on my Kindle but I'm trying to pace my reading just in case a maritime mishap sends all my other books to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Since an idle mind is reportedly the devil's playground and mine can barely contain my thoughts let alone a slimy red creature, I've invented a new hobby. My dad would appreciate this one. I call it making ice.

It started when I had four minutes to kill waiting for the coffee in the French press to steep. I grabbed a ziploc bag, emptied four ice cube trays into it, then refilled the trays with water. With 10 more seconds to endure, I wandered over to the front refrigerator, opened the freezer door, and - Eureka! - found an automatic ice maker (Note to Chip: That scratchy noise in the middle of the night is not a rodent in the walls after all. Whew.) The automatic cubes went into the bag with their homespun cousins and the bag was stowed on a shelf in the empty freezer. Filling bags with ice soon became part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth and taking a St. Joseph's aspirin.

While wandering around Daiso, a 100 Yen store, with Margaret the other day, I spotted these nifty Ice Block Bags. They come in 2 liter and 3 liter sizes. I bought both.

Between bagging cubes and filling bags with water, I am now too busy to go out to lunch most days. I'm thinking of expanding into crushed ice as soon as the blender catches up with us. With three varieties of ice on offer, I'm sure to be swamped with invitations from just about every hostess in Japan.

I feel a contest coming on . . .

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crushing Defeat

Yokosuka 50 - Kinnick High 36
We need to work on defense.
Matt played in the 1st and 4th quarters!

An Encore for Piano Man

Matt snagged his old number, 88, when the jerseys were handed out yesterday. Practice this morning was a walkthrough - whatever the heck that is - and the season will kick off about 90 minutes from now when the Red Devils host Yokosuka Gakuin, a local school. It seems like they ought to practice another week or two before playing a game but you won't hear me complaining, especially if this means we can sleep in past 4:30 am tomorrow.

Mike, of course, is simply disconsolate about missing the season opener. "Step away from the railing, Sir!"

Fortunately he left the good camera in the closet when he deployed so I'll be looping about 75 pounds of Nikon stuff around my neck and masquerading as a Stars and Stripes photographer in hopes of landing a spot on the sidelines. Otherwise I might have to meet some of the other parents and sign up for a shift in the concession stand.

Matt informs me he does not wish to be called PDE. I think he prefers Chip after researching Clair Bee and Chip Hilton on Wikipedia. We both giggled when we read this line in the general plot synopsis: A slow start to the season is generally followed by Chip interceding with the coach on behalf of his mates, a coaching epiphany, and the coach deciding it is best to see things Chip's way while deriding himself as a fool for trying to change the team's style. "Now there's a technique you should try with Coach Wilson!" Not.

P.S. I finished Of Mice and Men last night. I suspect this comes as a relief to all of us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reading Steinbeck in Japan, Part II

She sets the alarm for 4:30 am but wakes a half hour early. It is the fourth day of 5:30 am football practice and her body has adjusted to the new schedule. She polishes off a chapter in a Denise Mina mystery waiting for the teakettle to whistle.

The sky lightens from dark grey to pearl over weather mountain as she sips her refreshingly bitter French-pressed coffee on the patio, pondering the new growth on the photinia hedge and wondering who decided to switch from cedars to photinia in mid-hedge. Perhaps the nursery ran out of cedars, or maybe the spot where the two shrub varieties meet marks the point where the yard ended years or decades ago. She tries in vain to shake off the cynical thought that a Master CFAY Landscaper - assuming the position ever existed - switched to maintenance-intense greenery to create jobs for his children and cousins.

The prospective defensive end pokes his head through the patio door at ten minutes past five. "Ready?" he questions in a remarkably pert and friendly tone of voice. In the week since Dad deployed and Mom took up the mantle of Responsible Parent, PDE has come to realize a friendly tone is essential if he wants a ride to the locker room. He is starting to develop the mom awareness his sister mastered at the age of five or six.

The football field is half a mile from the house at most but she doesn't mind giving him a lift. There are no other cars on the road at 5:15 am. Dawn is good for practicing driving on the left side of the road, flicking the turn signal instead of the windshield wiper to indicate a change in direction, and reversing into parking spaces (see right). When practice ends at 2:00 pm she'll have to play chicken and bumper cars with newcomers who unconsciously swing into the wrong lane when turning.

PDE has four, and maybe five, uncles who will roll their eyes when someone tells them she is driving him that short distance to football practice but she knows exactly what she is doing and why. PDE has required minimal transportation in his teenage years. His siblings were a captive audience for 8-10 hours a week at this age and had the good fortune to absorb all the random drops of wisdom she simultaneously free associates and spews when she's behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. The engine's power thrums up the drive shaft, the steering wheel vibrates slightly as the power transfers to her body, her mind goes from zero to 95mph faster than the Indy 500 pole car.

Have pedestrianism and mass transit caused him to miss out on some crucial information, perhaps the keys to a happy and productive life? Does he know to glance at his feet occasionally to avoid stepping in dog poop? Will he remember that the last movement in Tchaikovsky's War of 1812 Overture is the tune to the St. John's High School Alma Mater? Has she emphasized that his family will always be there for him and so will the Church and that more times than not they are both the same thing and that if he turns his back on either he will not be the first but he can always come back and he will not be the first to do that either? Or that he shouldn't worry too much if he doesn't like the writing style of a famous author since it's probably just genetic?

Reading Steinbeck in Japan, Part I

The late afternoon clouds drift lazily over weather hill as a family of hawks circle the summit, stretching majestic wings to catch a ride on an elusive breeze. Scrub trees and an occasional towering larch (author is guessing) obscure the patches of cement bolstering the west slope. The hawks' wingspan is easily five feet, probably closer to six. They continue to circle taunted by thousands of hiding cicadas raising a joyful chorus. Small black spiders spy the cicadas and flirt with them, step-hop, step-hop.

The clouds melt into twilight. A light appears in a rectangular window in a two-story concrete structure on the flat land 50 yards north of the hill. The hawks continue to circle and swoop as the silhouette of a woman appears in the window. One brave spider step-hops to the sill and watches the woman slice strawberries with an old wooden-handled knife. The blade of the knife is too long for pithing strawberries and too dull for cutting anything other than soft fruit but it belonged to her husband's father and the woman can't bear to part with it. There are shiny patches on the blade that make the woman think of knife-sharpeners pushing carts and dodging tumbleweed on Arizona streets in the middle of the previous century.

The woman slides a tray of biscuits into the oven then squints at the directions on an aerosol can of Cool Whip. A tall, slim boy leans into the window frame, nostrils twitching like a jackrabbit's. "Curry and shortcake," she announces with a thin-lipped smile. "You've cooked six suppers in seven days," the boy remarks in a tone bordering on amazement. "A personal best, at least since your grandfather passed away," she notes. The boy tucks into his supper.

The black spider sits patiently in a shadow on the left corner of the windowsill until the light is extinguished then creeps through a tiny crevice in the wall to nibble on crumbs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Athletic Interlude

This statue (left) marks the site of the first bowling alley in Japan which opened in 1864 at the foot of French Hill in Yokohama. I took this picture for my brother-in-law, a serious bowler in his youth (no kidding, the wedding reception took place in a bowling alley). I also took this picture because French Hill is really, really steep and loitering at this statue allowed me to postpone my ascent.

While verifying that this statue does, indeed, mark the site of the first bowling alley in Japan, I learned a couple of other interesting things. Bowling is pronounced "boring" in Japan but they've invented some derivative forms of the sport that are anything but boring. Head bowling, for instance. Or how about breast bowling? I will spare you the video links in case the kids are reading.

Speaking of kids, the football coaches decided to start practice at 5:30 am after the military police halted practice on account of black flag weather two days in a row last week. Friday was rough but Matt was in the groove by 4:30 am Saturday and borderline chipper at 4:30 am today. I don't think he's been up this early (unless he stayed up all night) since his infancy and the same can certainly be said about me.

I'm thinking, what with global warming and all, it might be time to think about pushing the football season back by 4-6 weeks. But I'll wait until Matt graduates before I start/join this crusade. There's no sense embarrassing him on purpose when I do it so well without trying, and sometimes without even opening my mouth.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kathy Takes Up Mountain Climbing

Donna was game for an adventure and neither of us had seen the Western-style houses in Yokohama's Yamate neighborhood, so I printed a map, verified train directions, and off we went. Between the sweltering heat and steep inclines, both of which approached 100 degrees, we were glad (a) we had remembered to tuck little towels in our purses and (b) we had not invited any of the under-50 mountain goats on this adventure to witness our wheezing, gasping, handrail-clutching ascension of the first 200 or so stone steps. Remind me to study a topographical map the next time I'm planning an adventure . . .

Yamate is situated on a high bluff overlooking Tokyo Bay. It was designated for foreign settlement in the mid-1850s when Japan opened its doors to the rest of the world. Most of the 19th Century houses were constructed of wood and all but one - currently the Yamate Museum - were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (gulp). The museum was worth the $2 (roughly) admission fee. We learned that the vases and ceramic doodads our grandmothers dusted daily (perhaps weekly in the case of my grandmothers) are considered quaint and historic by lots of Japanese people.

The eight houses on the self-guided tour (example above) were all built in the late 1920s, after the earthquake, one of my all-time favorite housing decades. There is no charge to tour the houses (assuming Donna and I did not commit a gross cultural faux pas and overlook a ticket booth while mopping sweat from our faces) and they are blessedly air-conditioned. The two we toured, including the former British Consulate, were not large by Biltmore or even contemporary McMansion standards, but the Japanese tourists wandering through the rooms seemed impressed. Or maybe they were simply smitten with the a/c like the two glistening American ladies.

Donna says we hiked about five miles along that bluff. I decided to reward her for all that effort by introducing her to Mr. Donut and she was so appreciative she let me eat half of her donut after I inhaled mine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On

Thank God none of you guessed the correct date and time the USS Blue Ridge left Yokosuka - yesterday at 2:45 pm - because I suspect we've all noticed the polling gadget I used has a major drawback. How was I supposed to determine a winner when the votes were anonymous?

As many of you know, I have now experienced my first earthquake. Yesterday morning I slept through one, just like I apparently snoozed through half a dozen plate rattlers between 2006 and 2008, but I definitely felt the earth move Sunday evening. We were at a sushi-go-round restaurant with the outgoing 7th Fleet Surgeon (Kathleen Sr's husband for those of you keen on details). The waitress was calculating our bill and I was aiming eye chastisements at the member of our party who had not bothered to stack his dozen or so plates in color order when suddenly the counter started shaking. Weird. A split second later vibrations shot from the soles of my feet to my brain and the concept of earthquake crossed my mind.

The tremors lasted for about 15 seconds but it was a long 15 seconds, the slow-motion, life-flashing-before-your-eyes, totally helpless kind of 15 seconds Michigan drivers experience when the car skids on a patch of ice and floats sideways toward a large stationary object, usually a tree, telephone pole, or Winnebago.

Speaking of driving, so far today I have backed the car into the carport in one (semi)fluid motion three consecutive times. Before too long I'll be able to take this show on the road. Oh, wait, no I won't. Because none of the dozen or so Navy spouses who make a pretty good living running back and forth to the License and Title Office in Yokohama are answering their phones this week and my temporary permit expires tomorrow.

P.S. If you come to see us, make sure I take you to a Mr. Donut so you can try a pon.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Exciting Version

We have wheels, a $400 1992 Toyota something-or-other. The "Exciting Version" no less, which I'm hoping doesn't have anything to do with the fact that there's only one key. "Um, honey, did you happen to take the car key with you on deployment?"

We bought the car from Jimmy Bradley. Since his promotion to Captain (an 06 in Navy rating parlance) occurred on August 1, I insisted on giving him a guided tour of all the 06 parking spots on base before taking possession of the paint-challenged jalopy. Then I let him take me to Starbucks because, much to my amazement, Jimmy has not set foot in Starbucks since arriving in Japan four years ago.

Perhaps I heard him wrong. It would not be the first time. He has a voice that reminds me of Isaac Hayes on the "Live at the Sahara Tahoe" album so sometimes my mind starts drifting back to my college days when he's talking.

He will fly to Virginia in the next 36 hours to re-connect with Melissa and the boys. We wish them "Fair Winds and Following Seas." That's Navy for "Good Luck, Best Wishes, and Have a Happy Life."

Now I'm going to mosey on over to the Autoport for a couple of those "new driver" decals. Mike says I should splurge on a butterfly decal while I'm there. Apparently the butterfly decal will inform other drivers that I can't hear a darn thing so don't bother honking at me. Nice concept.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I spotted a couple of gaijin gaping at the aquarium outside the Sony building at Sukiyabashi, a busy intersection in the Ginza, Tokyo's shopping district.
Inside the building, they continued to gawk. Rolly, the size and shape of an infant's football, was particularly noteworthy. This MP3 player rolls (hence the name), twirls, and wiggles its ears (speaker flaps) in time with the song that's playing while strips of light pulsate like a scene from Saturday Night Fever. I'm wondering how one might rationalize investing in one of these little devices. Perhaps a welcome home present for CC and Minerva when October rollies around? They would probably prefer the aquarium.

While many streets in Japan do not have names (or names that we can locate), major intersections in Tokyo carry unique identifiers. I am especially keen on remembering the name of this intersection (Sukiyabashi, Sukiyabashi, Sukiyabashi) because the Fuji-ya shop and restaurant is directly across the street from the Sony building. We exited the subway with our backs to that intersection and spent two hours wandering the Ginza in search of Peko-chan's flagship store. But I am not complaining still. We worked up healthy appetites by the time we tucked into our curry and pasta.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Honto Comical

Gundam is a Japanese anime (cartoon show) that premiered in 1979. This summer a life-size replica was erected on the Tokyo waterfront to celebrate Gundam's 30th anniversary. According to Matt, our resident expert on contemporary Japanese culture, the month long display was so successful plans are now in the works to replicate Gigantor.

Most of our American friends here have been underwhelmed with a giant robot that just stands there and belches smoke every half hour. We are easier to please. There wasn't an admission fee, the park was lined with booths hawking festival food (the Japanese equivalent of county fair food), and, since Matt wanted a rare photo of all three of us, Mike and I had the chance to see our kid bow politely and engage an older Japanese man in conversation. In Japanese no less. Their exchange distracted me from my mission to try a potatornado - a spiral-cut potato fried on a skewer and available with and without powdered sugar - so I'll be frequenting festivals until I track down that booth.

The company that created Gundam, Bandai Entertainment, is also responsible for Super Sentai, the concept behind Power Rangers. Matt and I, also known as Billy and Kimberly, both have fond memories of the Power Rangers. While "researching" this post, we learned that there is a Bandai Museum in Mibu, Tochigi, about three hours northwest of Yokosuka by train. This has all the earmarks of another great mother-son adventure.

But first things first. Our Unaccompanied Baggage shipment has reached Japan and will be delivered to our house next Monday. Just thinking about being reunited with my computer is making me giddy. Matt and Mike feel the same way about a guitar and bicycle.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Captain Pigpen

The little kid Billy in the Family Circus comic strip has never met the shortest distance between two points. Most of us have surely spent a few seconds on the occasional Sunday morning tracing that circuitous dotted line with our eyes.

Sailors posted on the USS Blue Ridge last Friday, Mike's first day at his new job, have no doubt dubbed the new Fleet Surgeon "Billy" since he left a conspicuous black trail as he roamed around the ship looking for the exit at day's end. The black rubber soles of the combat boots he hasn't worn in ten years apparently rotted in storage.

He was hoping to avoid investing in a lot of new uniforms and equipment with just a few years to go before retirement but those combat boots must be replaced. The "Government Issue" pair carry a $111 price tag. We think they would retail for around $30 in the free market.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sea Duty

Has it really been a decade since Mike last deployed? I'm going to have to brush up on those OPSEC regulations lest I inadvertently blurt something here that jeopardizes national security, lands me in the brig, and frees Matt to take off for Harajuku in a Luffy disguise. I'd surmise OPSEC is militaryspeak for Operational Security but that would defy the usual bureaucratic logic, wouldn't it?

If memory serves, I cannot mention that Mike will be floating away from Japan until after he's already floated away and I cannot mention where he's going until he's already there. By the time you know to feel appropriately concerned about Matt's plight with me as his sole source of parental guidance, we'll already have made a big dent in 10 years of Naruto reruns. And how in the world will you be able to snag Super Saver fares to meet Mike in any of those exotic ports if you cannot give American Airlines a specific destination until after your plane lifts off?

But I'm not complaining. Not a bit. The deployments over the next two years ought to be a breeze compared to the 1993 and 1997-98 versions. Living within three blocks of the high school means I won't have to endure that numbing routine of carting three kids back and forth to school and extracurricular activities for 3+ hours a day. And consider how the internet has transformed the speed in which sailors can communicate with their loved ones (as well as spouses of my ilk). Plus this time I will be literally surrounded by hundreds of women and men either in the same boat, so to speak, or with great empathy so I probably won't have to prostrate myself at the feet of grocery store clerks for my daily dose of quasi-adult conversation.

One thing I will miss - besides Mike of course - are those weekly telephone conversations with Mom, the ones where she'd interrupt my whining with an audible 'tsk' and then launch into a detailed report on the mating prospects and batting averages of my nieces and nephews, and never in that order. Instead, whenever I'm feeling a little blue I'm going to check my friend Diane's new blog, The Other Half (link at right), to see how she and the little angels are weathering Brian's first deployment. This will remind me to count my blessings.

Deployments aren't all that different from childbirth. Any painful memories are sure to fade before the balloons deflate and the flowers start wilting.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beyond Ikebana

We spotted these poodle and kitten carnation creations outside a Tokyo florist shop. I'm not fond of carnations but feel free to surround my casket with some fun arrangements like this when the bell tolls for me.


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