November 24, 2011


Every year since I was very small, I remember having Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I always thought we had a large family. Larger than anyone I was friends with. Being young, it always seemed that I had an endless supply of aunts and uncles, and cousins. Every year my mother, father, brother and I would make the 1-2 hour drive to the Milwaukee area to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family.

Each dinner had certain traditions, staples, which made the celebration special. My grandma’s pies, or her special recipe for gravy. Or the relish tray that always included my favorites. Black olives. Each year we would gather at my Aunt Sandra’s house. I don’t remember much in the way of conversation. My memories are of togetherness. Of love. Of family. I remember my Grandma Alice smiling. Laughing. Delighting in the family that she, the matriarch had created. We all were there because of her. I remember her pies. Always Lemon Meringue, and Pumpkin. And they were, to this day, the BEST pies I have ever tasted.

Every year since I was born, my I have been lucky enough that my Thanksgivings have always been spent with family. Until this year. This year, we are on an island in the middle of the ocean, and it literally costs our family $2,000 a person to fly over here, or for us to fly home.

So this year we had to make a new tradition. In lieu of my family, a friend and I made our Thanksgiving meal for the men, and their families. This year, instead of spending my favorite holiday with my own family, I spent it with another family. A family that is infinitely as important to me as my own flesh and blood. For they are as entwined with my livelihood as my own cousins, aunts, and uncles. Each one of these men means something to my husband, and something to me. We are a family. Those who serve share a bond that no one else could ever know or understand. As a wife, I will never know the bonds that are shared between those men just as my husband will never know the bonds shared between wives while our husbands are gone.

This year we cooked a feast fit for a king. We had more leftovers than we knew what to do with. So we sent them on 4 giant platters to Staff Duty. For a moment in time, a moment in this life we all choose to lead, we gathered together in this strange land, where they don’t celebrate this wonderful holiday. Thanksgiving in my new home was everything I wanted it to be. It was everything of the aura of my Thanksgiving’s past. We ate, we laughed, and were as much of a family as any.

This Thanksgiving ranks among the best of them. For a while we all forgot that we were not among our families. For a moment we forgot that we were miles from our homes. For a while, along with good food, and good friends, we celebrated, we laughed, we enjoyed, we ate, and we were happy. For a while we forgot the reality of why we all were here on Okinawa. We forgot why we all were together. We made a new tradition with my Grandma’s pies, my husband’s turkey, my friend’s cream corn, and all of our new friends. Happy Thanksgiving, from Okinawa Japan.

November 18, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Emotions

This week my husband emailed me a picture of himself and the men he works with. Pictures like these are precious. Not only to the families of the men, but pictures like these are a part of our nation's history. Our  soldiers are making history. So often we see in history books, photographs of men who've served in wars long gone. We look into the eyes of these historical people in old, blurry, black and white photographs and we wonder about their lives. Did they have wives? Children? And I wonder, 40, 60,100 years from now, will there be teachers and children looking at photographs of my husband and his men while studying this war?

The receipt of this particular photograph induced a picture finding frenzy on my behalf. I searched for hours for old photographs of me, of my husband, of our friends from units past. I found pictures of men we knew. Men we know. Their families. Men who've since died. Men who've since been injured. Lost limbs, lost their families, lost their minds. . .

So many emotions came from reviewing old photographs of the last decade of our lives. I was not only reviewing our personal history, but the history of our country. A history that has been repeated every generation since our founding fathers. And then looking at the picture my husband sent of himself, of his men, I couldn't help but let the wave of emotions wash over me.

First there is pride. I am so proud of my husband and life I lead along side him. I am so proud of all he's accomplished, I'm proud of his men. I'm proud of their families. The life of a combat soldier and his family is not an easy one by any means. The second is fear. I can't help but worry that not all of these men will come home to their families the next time it's their turn to serve in combat. The third is sadness. I am so very, very sad, anguished in fact, because I know how bad it feels to lose someone you love so dearly before they are old and have lived the long life they deserved. After all, that's how it is supposed to be. I look at the photograph, into the faces of these smart, brave, and accomplished men, and my heart aches with worry and fear. And there is so, so much more. But I don't have the capacity. I can't. I just can't. . .

Yet I know that despite what the future holds I will cherish this picture always. Not only is it a part of our nation's history, it is a part of my husband's life. A part of my life. A part of my children's lives. What is going to happen will happen and I have no control over that. So all I can do now is look at that photograph and pray.

November 15, 2011

Taken For Granted

This morning began like any other morning. I woke up with the kids, made breakfast, packed my son's lunch, got ready, dropped him at school, and went for a run with my friend. It's when I came home that "something" happened. I put the baby down for a nap and sat down to eat my post-workout apple and yogurt. I turned on the news (I won't say which station) for a few minutes to see what is going on the world. When my husband is gone it's easy to become very disconnected from current events. Self preservation I suppose.

I was watching the reports of the New York City police evacuating Zuccotti Park of the "Occupy" protesters. Now, this post is not political, and I'm not going to go into a rant on what I believe, the message of the protesters, or any of that business. But as I was watching, a group of men and women were chanting,

"Show me a police state!"
"This is a police state!"
"Show me a police state!"
"This is a police state!"

I put down my food, having lost my appetite and had to turn off the tv. I got up and started pacing around my living room growing angrier and angrier. This kind of stuff gets me all worked up which is part of the reason I prefer to read my news. But it touches a special nerve especially when my husband is gone. My utter disgust has nothing to do with why these people are protesting, or their message, and everything to do with what I had just witnessed.

First of all, these people clearly have no idea of what a "police state" really is or what it entails. If this were a police state, lets face it, most of the protesters would be arrested or dead by this point. Look at Iran or North Korea for examples. Look at Germany under the Nazi regime. These are examples of a police state. No one is allowed to protest or rise up, and those who do are usually "arrested" or killed. These protesters chanting about a police state have no clear realization of the freedoms they are taking for granted. None.

Living here in Japan, I've experienced a small but definite culture shock. Not so much from the environment since Japan is a developed country and has most all of the modern conveniences we enjoy in the United States. The culture shock comes from local customs, language, and just how things are done, and run here. It's very clearly not my home. It's not my country. Once you've been here a few months, you really begin to notice and appreciate, love, and pine for your homeland. I, like the other Americans living here as guests of the Japanese, do not have the luxury of taking our freedoms for granted. I don't have the luxury of taking much for granted at all. For military families, we are in a constant state of training or readiness. We ALL wonder if tomorrow will the the day our husbands are called to fight. And when they go, we ALL wonder if tomorrow will the day he never comes home. I take nothing in my life for granted, because it can ALL change for me in the blink of an eye. My happiness, my family as I knew it is gone because we chose to fight for them.

So while my husband IS gone fighting or training to fight for these rights, watching people claim to have the desire to exercise their 1st amendment rights, yet have no desire to follow the laws and municipal codes of a city makes me angry. I have my issues with our country and how it's run, but for these people to have the audacity to disrespect the city that has hosted their protest, and the nation my family gives so much for. . . For them to take the 1st amendment and twist it. . . for them to essentially spit on the freedoms and rights they've had since birth, because a judge didn't give them their way, enrages me. Especially while I spend my nights alone, praying for my husband's safety. Especially while I shed tears of fear and loneliness. Especially while my children grow up with out their father. Especially while I live 3,000 miles from friends and family, and everything I have ever known. Especially while I support other wives like me.

I completely agree with the right to protest and peacefully assemble. If no one ever stood up for what they believe, then nothing would ever change. Nothing would ever get better. But to stand there screaming about a police state at the very same time they are engaging in a protest is ignorant. The rights of our country's citizens are maintained as long as they are not infringing upon the rights of others. Has anyone considered how the people who live around that park are being impacted by the "shanty town" that has been Zuccotti Park? What about their rights? It's taken for granted. All of it. And I'm tired of it. To live in the United States, to be a citizen of the country is a privilege. It's a privilege many people were born to and don't recognize. It's time they educate themselves and start acting like it.

November 3, 2011

Just a Little Homesick.

We exit the gate and turn onto one of the main roads. I'm on my way to drop my son off at his school. We take generally the same route every day since there really aren't any back roads between our home, and school. I'm familiar with the route now so instead of things being unfamiliar, I know my way by landmarks.

"I wonder what that is?" I say out loud.

"What Mommy?" my son asks me.

"I just wonder what all these buildings are, all the stores too. I can't read Japanese so I don't know what they are." I say back.

This has been an unexpected frustration. At first I found the fact that everything was written in Japanese endearing. Now I find it more than a little irritating. I can't read it. Unless there is English on the sign too, I have absolutely no idea what it is aside from the obvious car dealership or restaurant. This is not handy when I am looking for a jar of Garam Masala to season my cooking, or a few flea market chairs to refinish for my photography. Google is not helpful since it doesn't really identify "indian grocery" here on Oki unless I google it in Japanese, which isn't happening.

Essentially, unless it's by word of mouth or my handy dandy Oki reference website,, I'm not exactly sure of where to go sometimes. So my daughter and I went back to the fabric store the other day to purchase more fabric for a project I've been wanting to do. Since I know my way, there were no issues. However the lovely, perky sales girl that was working the last time I was there wasn't there on this particular visit. In her place were two cranky "we-never-smile" men. I chose my fabrics and set them aside. One of the men came up to me and asked if he could cut my fabric for me.

"Hai." I responded. Then I realized I had no idea how to say something as simple as "One yard please." in Japanese. (And yes this place cuts in yards for us Americans) I felt utterly ridiculous and rude as I sputtered in English. Usually the cuteness factor of my baby, a few smiles, bows, and a small attempt to speak in their language cuts through the awkwardness and almost all of my interactions with the Okinawan people have been lovely. This time was different. This man was NOT charmed by my cute baby or my pathetic attempt to speak Japanese. He stared at me blankly while I ineffectively tried to articulate what I needed. Neither of us was rude to the other, and I quickly busied myself while he cut my yards in order to avoid any more uncomfortableness. <---is that even a word?

I have a desperate desire to engage in small talk with these people in order to learn more about this island. Or just to be able to tell the staff how much I enjoy their store. I am frustrated because I don't know how to ask a local where I can go to get the best produce, or find the spices I need. I miss being able to just drive by a place and say, "Oh, THAT'S where that is!" and just being able to pull in because I know that I can find what I need there. I miss being able to pick up the phone and call my mom to tell her about the day. She's sleeping while I'm awake.

Living here is an adventure, and I love it. I love exploring, and the views of the sea from the tops of the hills simply take my breath away. But aside from being on base or conversing with other English speakers off base, I've been feeling a little lost.