Why I Love Okinawa

We've been in Oki for 29 months, we have 7 months left!

The prospect of me leaving this island oasis is terrifying and sad.  I don't want to leave, I love this place.  I could stay here forever - no, I'm not kidding.  Yeah, Okinawa is F.A.R. from family and friends but it's lifechanging.  Every time I see someone post that they can't wait to get off Okitraz, I cringe.  I also cringe when people put down Minot.  A part of me has been left in every place we've ever lived.  We've made each place a home, had memories and milestones in each one of those places and I truly cannot say that I have hated anywhere.  I know when we got orders to Minot, I was devastated.  When we got orders to Kadena, I was ecstatic.  But I'm not looking forward to our next adventure quite as much.  I've gotten pretty frustrated with how things work around here, Superman isn't so keen on the rigmarole either.  Did I mention that I really love this place.  Japan was never on my list of places to visit, Asia in general scares me a little bit.  Now that we are here, I don't ever want to leave.

So here it is, Why I Love Okinawa:

  • Sunrises, Sunsets and the sun bouncing off the ocean.  On my way home every day, I get to see the ocean and the sun bounces off the ocean in the most magical way.
  • Noodles, everywhere. Ramen, Soba, Yakisoba, whatever.  You can always find a noodle dish.
  • Vending Machines. Eggs, tea, soda, juice, food, you name it.  I have a new hatred for American vending machines.  Why is everything carbonated, why can't I just get a plain cold tea or a nice Georgia coffee.  Guys, we're doing it ALL wrong.
  • Fresh, seasonal food. I shop at the Japanese grocery stores all the time and let me tell you just how much I purchase from their center aisles - very little. 
  • Japanese Politeness - Everyone says thank you, everyone nods their head frequently.  Everyone is polite.  People who work for minimum wage, still respectful and polite.
  • Curiosity
  • Climate
  • Weird neighborhoods with weird houses
  • Yakiniku & Sushi-go-Rounds - There is nothing better in the world than Korean-styled grilled beef and roast beef sashimi - nothing.
  • Coffee & Tea 
  • Blue Seal Ice Cream - and their weird flavors like Okinawa Salt Cookie, American Cherry, and Beni-Imo.  Even Baskin Robbins has interesting flavors here (and don't get me started on the doughnuts).
  • Little Japanese Cars - less is more.
  • Shopping Malls - THIS.  They're open, they're airy and people don't steal from them as often as it happens in America.  Our mall has an aquarium in it.  It has like 5 floors and 2 floors of restaurants including a steak place.  You don't feel like you're going to get run over by people.  You have space to breathe.  The stores don't even have metal doors (or doors at all mostly), they close shop with curtains.
  • Japanese/American Preschools - everyone should be able to send their 2 year old to school part time for about $200/month.
  • Konbinis - pay your bills, get a bite to eat, shop a little, get an American Dog (corndog) and coffee, pick up your Amazon packages!
  • Stationery Stores.  There are UNREAL.
  • Pancakes and doughnuts everywhere.
  • Last but not least - BEACHES, BEACHES, BEACHES (and ice cream vending machines).
Have you been to Okinawa?  What's your favorite thing?


When the world changes, again.

Wow.  Ok, it's been a while, I'm sorry, life has been complicated.  Let's get started.

Our OCONUS DEROS is 2/16.  We are prepping for our upcoming PCS.  While Superman was TDY'd to Goodfellow for a class, the overseas list dropped with the worst possible choices, ever.  Hondo, Azores, Korea, Korea, blah blah blah.  All short tours, all unaccompanied.  We said hard pass and updated our list with our personal preferences and said to hell with them and their stupid list.  Well, the Friday came and we didn't receive notification of an assignment and were planning on just reapplying in August when the stateside list dropped again (hopefully with better choices).

Monday rolls around and he gets notification that he was selected for a Recruiter slot and has to go through the interview/packet process for the final notification.

No Hawaii
No Alaska
No Germany
No England
No Overseas

Looks like we are going back to the United States.  I am so not looking forward to returning to the states but I am looking forward to a change of pace and lifestyle.  The prospect of not being surrounded by all the branches of the military, all the time.  The rules and regulations, the curfews and drinking rules (not that they really apply to us or affect us) won't be the same.  We may not even have a base nearby.  I'll have to remember to not lose my ID since I won't be using it every day.  I probably won't be called Ma'am as often either.

So as of now, he's completed a dental clearance, medical clearance and a mental health clearance, and commander's approval - again.  He's had to send his photos in, in his blues (profile and headshot).  I've had to sign documentation agreeing that it won't create an undue burden on our family, that I recognize that things will be different, etc.  I also have to do a joint interview (at midnight our time - thanks time change) with the interview selection board with Superman.  After that we receive notification that we are indeed accepted (I truly think this is just a game to make sure nothing drastic has changed from the original recommendations) we will get a list of available locations to choose from.  If we get our choice, we get our orders.  Otherwise, we get orders to somewhere, hopefully, in the same region and figure out what's next.

Where will we go next?!  It's always an adventure.

Any other AF Recruiter Spouses out there?  Is there a forum, facebook page, whatever?  I found the handbook.  Yes, there's a handbook - it's hilarious.  I sometimes feel like I'm too old for this hand-holding but then I have to remind myself that these policies are in place for a reason and because of someone.


And the beat goes on.

I almost feel like I should backdate this entry because I'm writing it so much later.  Things have been a complete whirlwind since I returned to Okinawa and I've got a lot going on.  

Four days after I wrote my last blog entry, my Papa died.

Apparently we weren't within weeks at all.  Right after Christmas, Grandma took him to the ER and he sat in a bed for 24 hours because they didn't have any ICU rooms open.  I assume the VNA nurse had something to do with this and a huge thank you to her, seriously.  I caught small details about it, Grandma had fallen (she was fine) but realized she couldn't do this herself and Papa wasn't drinking anything or eating. 

He was admitted with Stage 4 lung cancer, pneumonia, a kidney infection, anorexia, etc. etc. etc.  He spent 2 days in the hospital (maybe 3).  I didn't go visit him because everyone kept saying he was being transferred to hospice and then maybe a nursing home after that, plus, I had no one to watch my toddler.  I went and saw him when he got settled into hospice, December 30, 2014.  I walked in the room, sat Baby Danger down and bribed him with french fries.  His cousins were in the room and about to leave, they held a prayer circle and then left.  Within 5-10 minutes the nurse came in to check vitals and immediately told us to say good bye.  I backed up just a minute and let my grandma say good-bye to the love of her entire life and just watched him slip away as I held her hand.

He snuck out the door without any fanfare or to-do.  Somehow I made it literally with minutes to spare.  Grandma lost it for a brief moment, she's the strongest person I know.  She immediately started trying to make phone calls and I told her I would do it.  I've never initiated that type of phone tree before and I'll tell you that I never want to do it again.  I called my Dad who had been there all day and just went home a few hours prior.  I called my brother and they started calling my aunt and cousins.  

It was a really crappy day.  We sat there for a few hours, no one wanting to leave.  When we finally did, my brother and I were the last ones out the door - he left right before me.  I told my Papa good-bye and that I loved him and gave him a kiss.  Baby Danger waved good-bye.  He was there for the entire thing and I don't really know what I'm going to tell him when he grows up, do you tell your child they were there when someone died in front of them?

The funeral was the next week and it was the coldest day so far, right around -20 or so with the windchill.  I swear, that was his final joke.  My Papa was a jokester, I learned all my dirty jokes from him and I repeated them often in elementary school.  

Grandma told me later that he planned his entire funeral, down to the services.  That's what he did in life, planned everything out so that everyone was taken care of and there was no burden.

He was a hell of a man and I miss him more than I can even describe.


Raindrops keep falling on my head.

For the last few months I've been spoon fed a bunch of BS.  So Papa has lung cancer, "he's fine."
Don't worry, he's fine."  "He's lucid."

My ass.

So last Friday while I was in Virginia, I got an email from my cousin that says, "Grandpa wants to know when  you'll be home."  I knew that something was off right there.

First off, I shared my itinerary with everyone relevant.  Everyone knew i would be flying in Saturday night.  If everyone knew, why would they ask?  Ugh.

I went and saw my Papa on the 23rd, we were still pretty jet-lagged and overall just a hot, cruddy medicated mess.  I knew I couldn't go see him until I was sure I wasn't contagious.  So I finally made it over there and my heart literally shattered into a zillion pieces.  I had seen a picture of him recently and he looked like crap, absolute crap.  What I walked into was exponentially worse than crap.  He's home-bound, he can't walk, he is barely drinking, he isn't eating much, he's barely awake.  For the first hour or so of our visit he was with me, we joked about his shaking hands, I made a joke about Parkinson's (yes, I'm aware it's not funny - back off) and he said one thing at a time Sprout.  I'm Sprout and he's lucid enough to know it's me.  The day goes on, he sleeps a bunch, I use the printer, and I spot a list on Grandma's desk.  It's like a timeline of death, just hanging out on the desk.  This is the woman who said something about remission.  One of my Papa's idiot doctors mentioned the word remission.  He was supposed to start chemo MONTHS ago - nothing but there is no remission so I have no idea what they are talking about.  According to the Timeline of Death, we are within a few weeks.

I've cried every single day for 2 weeks.  I've cried more than three times a day for the last few days.  I told my Grandma that he needs to go back to the hospital.  She cannot pick him up to use a toilet 24 times a day (every hour).  She's not sleeping, there is no overnight nurse care, or any for that matter.  She's not eating much because he's not eating.  She's literally devoting her entire day to him, physically, mentally and emotionally.  My grandmother is a Saint, with a capital S.  This will be the third person she has cared for until they died.  She's selfless, protective and fiercely loyal.  She's the woman I want to be but watching all of this breaks my heart.  I know it is killing her, they've been married for 60 years or so - almost her entire life and his as well.  They were high school sweethearts, she got pregnant at 15 and they got married.  Along came their 2 kids and they struggled to make it work.  She taught herself how to drive, he became a steelworker.  They took us in when our lives fell apart, she raised me when my mom didn't know how.  She is the rock of the family.  I haven't seen her shed a tear, she looks defeated.  There is nothing she can do for him and she knows it but the doctor keeps giving her false hope.  The doctor is an asshole and my Papa yelled at him and he deserved it.

I can't imagine you'll see anything positive from me for the next few weeks, probably radio silence until I unbury myself from my self pity and grief.  We don't have a timeline, but it won't be long.  I don't know if I'll be in the states for it or if I'll have gone back to Japan.  I don't want to be here for it, I don't want to go to the funeral, I don't want to deal with it.  I won't get closure from seeing him in a casket in a suit (the man never wears a suit).  I can't take the funeral and the crying that will ensue and I can't watch my dad break down.  I don't have an outfit for this.  I don't want to take my 2 year old to a funeral.  I don't want him to know this type of pain.  This man raised me when my dad was incapable of being sober, he taught me how to mow the lawn, made me use my manners, inspired me to want to fix things.  He went out of his way to take care of me.  I'm his sprout and I am the only one authorized to call him papa.

I just can't.


Happy Birthday to Baby Danger

He's not a baby anymore and that's okay.

My Duder is 2 years old today, technically we still have a few hours before it's official but whatever.  I sang him Happy Birthday this morning when he woke up and he told me "cake".  Yeah, thanks Nana.

We are officially CONUS.  We arrived via C-17 two Saturday's ago.  We got to stay with cousins for a few days and then trekked our way to Virginia to see Nana for a few more days.  Now we are in Indiana finishing up Christmas shopping and avoiding the inevitable (more about that later).

We've had 2 birthday parties so far, a third tonight, a fourth later and a fifth upon return to our island.  This kid is going to know the meaning of a birthday, even if his is 3 days before Christmas.

He's charming, determined, stubborn, impish, brave, and curious.  His wheels turn on his face, his heart wears on his sleeve, his determination shows through his eyes.  He is the best thing that ever happened to me.  He's taught me joy and to appreciate the little things in life.  He's still teaching me to slow down and enjoy myself.  He's taught me to let go and throw my predetermined parental ideas out the window.  He's taught me that one size does not fit all and he is his own person and we are our own family.

Halloween 2014

Hawaii 2014

He loves with his entire being, he revels in play time.  He loves his Da, Mama, and Ba equally.  He likes long walks by the beach and a good ice cream cone.  

He's mine and I wouldn't change that for the world - even though we started the terrible two's months ago.

Happy Birthday Duder.  We love you to the moon and back.