Thursday, March 29, 2018

We made it!

The Okinawa chapter of our life is closed. After two grueling days of travel, we landed in Boston Sunday morning. When we came out of the clouds and saw the snow, the kids were so excited. It was just the perfect amount for people unaccustomed to actual winter, and it was exactly the welcome back to New England the kids were hoping for.

I was going to just start posting cute snow pictures, but then as I started clicking through all the pictures from the last few days, I realized that there were a lot more than I expected. That's mostly thanks to Tim. I laughed at a few of them, and decided this needed to be documented.
These first pictures were from the Japan leg of the trip, when the takeoffs and landings broke up the day pretty well. The kids were all so thrilled at takeoff that you'd have thought this was their first time flying. We took off at 9:45 Saturday morning, and when the beverage service started, I was taken aback to hear the couple behind us order two glasses of wine each. I guess everyone has to cope in their own way. An hour-and-a-half later we landed in Iwakuni, where we got off the plane and waited two-and-a-half hours until the next flight. That one was maybe an hour or so to Yokota. Again we got off the plane and sat around in some room for about an hour-and-a-half, then boarded and sat on the plane for another hour while they sorted out the situation and baggage of a family with a child too sick to fly anymore. Horrible for them.
Can you spot grumpy Rachael?
We took off from Yokota, and it was eight-and-a-half long hours in the air this time, to get to Seattle. During this flight we were served dinner, and it's a challenge finding room for everything on these tiny trays and making sure no one ends up wearing their dinner. It didn't help that the trays were not flat -- they slanted downward toward our laps and had no cutout to put a cup in. As long as you had a napkin under your cup it wouldn't slide off. I decided to ask for water for Joey and keep it on my tray, forgetting that it needed a napkin underneath. Ice water right in my crotch! Fortunately I had my sweatpants to change into. It felt like we were served breakfast a few short hours after dinner, as we crossed the international date line at some point, and started Saturday over. If I managed to sleep during all of this, it was in short dozes. I read books on my Kindle most of the time, and tried to keep Joey happy. 

Joey got so tired and uncomfortable as the hours wore on. He cried inconsolably and said, "Airplane done!" I said, "I want it to be all done too, Joey!"

We ran out of water and got so thirsty. We'd all gotten on with full water bottles and asked for water every chance we got, but those tiny cups were not enough. We were parched by the time we got to Seattle, which I believe was 10 a.m. We were barked at and herded through the Customs and baggage process fairly quickly, and went outside to wait for the hotel shuttle.

Our flight to Boston wasn't until midnight so Tim got us a room at a hotel close by, and got us early check-in so we could spend the day there resting and regrouping. Tim and I curled up on one of the queen beds and with the room bright and kids playing, went right to sleep. Tim told me I slept for three hours. He took the kids to Denny's for lunch or dinner, or something. I didn't go because it felt like we'd just eaten breakfast. Instead I enjoyed having the room to myself to shower and freshen up so I might not have to arrive in Boston looking like hell. Eventually everyone had showers, everyone changed, and we re-packed some things from our bulging carry-ons into luggage. The second hardest part of this trip, right behind the tedium and exhaustion, was keeping track of everybody's stuff: Kindles, chargers, sweatshirts, socks.. We tried so hard, but it seemed like things were being forgotten or misplaced all the time.
We headed back to the airport at the conservatively early time of seven, so although we'd had lots of time to rest at the hotel, the tiredness really kicked in while we were trying to kill time there. We took advantage of the USO, where the volunteers were very welcoming, the furniture was comfy, and there were plenty of free snacks and drinks. I took a nap in the little nursery area, along with Joey in his stroller. There was a mom there on her way to Okinawa with three kids and a dog, sans husband. My eyes were closed but I could hear her filling someone in on her journey on the phone, and I was in awe that she could be doing this by herself. 
At last it was time to board for the redeye to Boston. By now, taking off had lost its thrill.
We flew jetBlue this time, and the experience was not the best. As Tim was setting Joey's car seat up he asked the flight attendant for a pillow to put behind Joey's back so the buckle wouldn't dig into him. He was told that would be $5, so he was like 'no thanks'. We might not have liked the old AMC plane, but at least we didn't have to pay for blankets and pillows. Then, once we were all buckled up and ready to go, the same flight attendant Tim had already talked to, came up to me and told me we had to move Joey's car seat to the window seat. What? This was beyond annoying. She had already seen Tim putting that car seat in the middle seat and said nothing. And now Annie who had wanted a window seat so badly after traveling in middle rows the whole way to Seattle, had to give up her seat. So we grumbled and complied. I hate stupid airplane rules that make no sense. The same flight attendant gave us two pillows to try to smooth our ruffled feathers, and it maybe helped a little. However, it was too late for Joey's back, as he was already strapped in and we were not going to be messing with him. He never complained about the buckle.
We all took a good two-hour nap to start, and were not happy when we woke up and found out only two hours had passed. Annie asked me how much longer at least 20 times. We watched a gorgeous sunrise and failed to get a decent picture of it.

Our flight was five hours long, and once we got to the east coast we jumped ahead three hours, so it was about 8 a.m. eastern time when we landed. 

Up next: snow and cousin pictures. If Tim lets me, I might be able to steal time away from packing for the drive down to North Carolina on Saturday. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018


My carry-on from the trip here, contents nearly identical to what I'll be taking for the way back
We are one day from embarking on another few weeks of nomad living, as our whirlwind tour in Okinawa reaches its end. From the time we got our orders here last February, our entire life has been consumed with getting us all approved to come here, getting our stuff here, getting ourselves here, getting our stuff back (last shipment gets picked up Monday!), and seven months after our plane touched down here, getting ourselves back to the States. Here's what we're staring down the barrel of next weekend:

-Takeoff Saturday morning
- Two stops in mainland Japan, both taking an hour or two to get to and lasting one to two hours each
- 9 hours to Seattle, where we will get all our luggage and go through Customs
- 13 hours later..
- 6 hours to Boston (where I hear it's still winter, eek!)

Back in January, I clicked on some random word generator in one of the blogs I read, in order to get my "word of the year." It was escape. I dismissed it right away, thinking to myself, 'Ha! There's no escaping what's coming for me these next few months. Escape is not an option for me.'

While it may be true that I'm not sitting on a beach somewhere with a drink in my hand waiting for it all to be over, I have found that my escapes have come in many forms and have been invaluable to my mental and emotional health. 

A good book has always been one of my favorite ways to escape from reality, and I have been reading like a fool. I have three sources for borrowing books on my Kindle: The Navy Library, Prime Reading and As for Prime Reading, surprisingly* there have been some diamonds in that rough. Two of my recent favorites are The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I'm always checking back to see what's new. Formed is a source for mainly Catholic books and other media, but also has a collection of classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which I'd never read before but figured better late than never. The Navy Library is where I wait for months at a time to get my hands on popular books like Hillbilly Elegy (interesting stuff!) and Dark Matter (which did not live up to the hype).

If you're looking for books and like my taste in reading, you can follow me in Goodreads.

Recently I went for a pedicure with a friend -- one last time for that fun nail art at Cocok (pronounced Coco) that we all have to get in Okinawa. I also had an unprecedented two massages in two months. There's a place a short walking distance away that I was given a gift certificate for a while back. I came home raving about it because it had been heavenly and such a treat. A few weeks later when I was stressing out about something, Tim told me to call that place and schedule another massage ASAP. I did so without delay, and was so happy I did. Before this, I think the last massage I'd gotten was several years before, and probably many years after the last time. Getting pampered: a much-needed escape.
This pic is from the first time I went to Cocok, and took my girls with me.
Back in December I finally found the courage to try my hand at coloring my own hair because the grays, not surprisingly with all that's going on, had gotten out of control. I'm OK with going gray, but I need to be evenly gray throughout (preferably silver), in order to want to sport it. I was at a stage where I was heavily gray at the temples but not much anywhere else. It just wasn't pretty. To my relief, it worked! Now I was uniformly brunette, but almost a little too dark. About a week and a half later, it faded to the perfect shade, and I'm so much happier than I was with the color I was getting at the salon, which turned a tired rusty color within days (and cost about seven times as much!). This is what I use, and I'm thinking of going just a shade lighter next time. Coloring my own hair may not sound like much of an escape, but it gives me a real feeling of satisfaction. I'll still need the salon for haircuts.

Just getting out of from inside these walls is enough of an escape sometimes. We get so caught up in what needs to be done, cooking, cleaning, getting ready for the next day, etc., that sometimes we have to remind ourselves to get out and go somewhere -- out in the fresh air, on a family walk, down to the beach to look at the sunset. We're always glad we did. 
Tim and I have gone out to dinner just the two of us about once a month these past few months. That is not typical for us. We've always found hiring a babysitter and going off in search of a good place to eat more hassle than it's worth. But here, we've got to because it's never been this easy. We've got a babysitter who lives right down the street and a fun walk to restaurants and shopping on the water. Tomorrow we will pack our suitcases and move into a hotel. Tonight I wasted 20 minutes curling my hair just so it could rain as we were going out the door; and we went out to dinner to celebrate 11 years of wedded bliss. Date night with the hubby: a perfect escape.
All this to say, my life is good, and I am grateful for the little ways that I can step away from life and all its concerns, and take care of myself. 😊 I'll try to remember that next week when we're over the Pacific and Joey's fussing next to me in his carseat. Some prayers would be appreciated.

* I say surprisingly because it's free with Prime membership, and when I subscribed to a free trial of Kindle Unlimited (I think it would have cost $10 a month after the trial), I found it to be absolutely worthless, just a garbage heap of the worst books I'd ever seen. So I get the quality books for free, but I'd have to pay $10 a month for nothing but trash. Hmm..