Mar 31, 2011

Preparing to be Prepared

On 3-11-11, the first thing I did when the shaking stopped was go to my upstairs walk-in hall closet.  For some reason, a few days earlier, I had randomly noticed and made a mental note that we had one of our (five) 72-hour kits on a shelf by the luggage.

I walked into the dark (no power) closet, and without needing to search, grabbed the boxed kit, and took it downstairs to be placed by the front door.  (Where it stayed for the next two weeks.)

My next task (after talking to the boys and assessing damage) was to look for the "Can Safe".

Ever seen one of these?

This is where we keep our emergency cash: dollars AND yen.*  (No pearls or ugly watches, unfortunately.)  This isn't cash for an emergency pizza craving.  We NE-VER take money out of it.  This is cash to have on-hand in case something happens like--say--an earthquake that knocks out the power in an entire city rendering all ATM's useless and making it so stores only accept cash because credit card machines don't work.  

We were at the beginning of just such an emergency and I wanted my Can Safe handy.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find it.  I started pulling out cans, and then more cans, and then even more cans. (By now I had a flashlight to help me.  (Still no power.  Dark pantry.)  I still hadn't found it when Doug came home and was quite frantic.  I started worrying I'd given it or somehow thrown it away.  I was NOT a happy camper.  But I went back, looked again, and FINALLY found it.  I pulled it out and put it by the door.   

In addition to the "box" 72-hour kit, (gift from parents?) we have two backpacks which make up 72-hour kits for 4 people.  We had these in our locked, backyard storage closet.  Not handy, but I did know right where they were.  (Now they're in the front closet by the door.)  
We bought these while we were still in Dental School in San Francisco in case of--ya know--an earthquake.  We got them from Emergency Essentials and when we dug through them the other day, we realized they have some pretty good stuff in them but really unappealing "food".  (Energy bar chunks of some boys would probably starve first.)  We'll be fixing that by adding some better food and a few additional things like kid-medicine, clothing, and diapers.

SO, my point here is this:  We were (are) in pretty good shape when it comes to disaster preparedness.  We have 72 hour kits for 5 people.  We have plenty of stored food and water, batteries and flashlights.  (and now diapers.) However, there were a few things we could have used and things we could have done better.

And that's the case for most of us up here.  With that in mind, I'm going to start publishing a guest post from someone in Misawa every Monday.  So you can hear what some other people experienced and wished they had, etc.

In the mean time, this is what I ordered from Amazon today...
Two of these:

(Max and Sam can hang them from their necks and they don't have a concentrated beam to SHINE DIRECTLY IN PEOPLE'S EYES!  Have I mentioned that kids are still annoying during disasters?  THEY ARE!)

And two of these:  
They do require batteries, but according to the Amazon reviews, they work well and the bulbs last forever.  No propane required.  (I can save it to use with my cook stove.)  Also, I wont have to worry about candles tipping over!  (But I do have lots of candles now just in case!)

Next disaster, I'll be that much more prepared.

*FYI:  In case you want to rob me and empty my can safe:  Good luck!  Mormon's believe in having food storage.  I have a whole PANTRY filled with cans!  You'd have to use the money you steal to pay for your carpal tunnel therapy after opening 1,563 cans of beans, peaches, and sweet corn!

Mar 29, 2011

A Few Little Things

*  We said good-bye to the H family at the airport yesterday!  We've been spending as much time as possible with them the last few days (weeks, and months) and it was NOT easy to say good-bye!  A *few* tears may or may not have been shed by me over the last three days.The good news is, we'll be able to meet up with them in a few short months in California.  Then, when they head to Argentina, we'll visit them there too!  (They'll never be rid of us!  Buwahahahaa!)

Doug, Wes, Dave, and Merrill
When two dentists and one doctor showed up to see him off, Wes said:  "This confirms my suspicions about the Med Group.  (i.e. that they're all a bunch of slackers.) Next time I'm going to learn more about teeth and less about flying planes."

My Gabey with the three awesome H kids
Gabe didn't want to give Madeleine a hug goodbye.  When we came home he said "I didn't want Madeleine to go to California!"  Later Max said "Just don't think about them leaving Mom.  When I think about it I get tears in my eyes!"
Janelle, Me, Tami, Rose, Janeen

*While we were eating Farewell Brownie Sundaes with the H's Monday night, the prego lady (pictured below) was having her baby via emergency c-section.  :(  No bueno!  :(

Not ideal circumstances for his arrival, but he's here, he's perfectly healthy, and he's BEAUTIFUL!!!  Wish Liz a speedy and easy recovery!

*My blog friend Carina asked me to write something for  Read it HERE.  (It's surprisingly short for me.)

*Please spread the word about "Operation Backpack" on YOUR blog!  The Misawa Girl Scout blog post with details is HERE.  You've only got about a month to get your stuff over here, so CHOP CHOP!!!  The address to mail things from the states is:
Misawa Girl Scouts
attn: Jessica Payne
Unit 5027
APO, AP  96319
Mail your donated items through the USPS (no UPS or FedEx) and fill out a customs form at the post office.  This is the complete address and is same as a P.O. Box.

Thanks in advance!  :)

Mar 27, 2011

A Little Good News! (And a lot of links...)

Last night we were looking at a map of the coast and wondering about some of the spots we've visited and how they fared during the tsunami.  We worried that Matsushima Bay (start here and click "newer post" to see more pics of the beautiful area) may have been wiped out.  But after a little googling this morning, I found this article and felt better.  Matsushima Bay sustained some (relatively) minor damage but was mostly spared!  Hooray!
In other news, I keep hearing from people in the states who are frustrated by being so far away and desperately wanting to do something tangible to help.

So far, all I've been able to tell you to do is donate money to LDS Philantropies or the Red Cross.  But today my friend Cami told me about Operation Backpack.  You can put together a backpack of goodies for a Japanese child and send it to the Misawa Girl Scouts for distribution.  I believe this idea originated at a different American base in Japan but was adopted by our Girl Scout Troop here.
I'm excited to put some of these together with my boys!  This is a great project for kids to help with.  Here is some of the information:

We will be collecting packs and items until 15 May 2011.Example of items for a backpack could include:

  • paper, pen, crayons
  • coloring books
  • flashlights w/ batteries
  • stuffed animals
  • playing cards
  • comics
  • tissue
  • non-perishable snacks
  • new or gently used backpacks
  • games
  • hats
  • small blankets
  • stuff animal
  • toothpaste/brush
  • lotion
  • chapstick
  • hairbrush/comb
Please no clothes and provide extra batteries for electronic items.Please indicate whether your backpack is for a girl, boy, or either sex.  
Also indicate the general age.
The backpacks can be a clean, used backpack or a new one.
Items can be mailed to:
Misawa Girl Scouts

Unit 5027 
APO, AP  96319

Questions can be sent to:

Click here for the COMPLETE details!  :)

If this idea doesn't appeal to you, consider holding an auction or fund raiser and donating the money.  I know it's not the same as giving a coat or blanket directly to someone in need, but it amounts to the same thing!

Thanks everyone for your prayers, good wishes, kindness and generosity!!!

Another Aftershock

I was still in bed cuddling with Sammy this morning when the aftershock hit.  It wasn't big, (here) but it was looong.  I kept waiting for it to end and when it didn't I wondered if I should get up and grab Gray out of bed...again.  But he didn't wake up and nothing fell over, so we stayed put.

When the boys were at school, I came down here and looked at  Watched the movie above.  Too depressing.

Later I turned on the T.V. in the kitchen and heard more about it.  Evidently this "aftershock" was big enough to start a new round of tsunami warnings.  Fortunately, none materialized.

Just another day in Japan.

Yesterday we had all 3 hours of church for the first time since the quake.  The heat is working in the Chapel, but not the rest of the building so we all brought our blankets again.  I was happy the kids could go to Primary again but dismayed how small our Branch is now!  Only about ten women were in Relief Society. LOTS of people took advantage of the "Voluntary Departure" and I don't blame them a bit.
We also held a special fast as a branch yesterday that our fears surrounding the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown would be calmed.  Not that the problems would cease, but that peace would come to us.

The good news of the morning is that it's a sunny day today!  Between Saturday and Sunday we got six-eight inches of snow.  (I would say three feet, but Doug says six inches.)

It's still on the ground, and still cold, but at least the sun is out.  For the sake of all those displaced/homeless/without heat, I hope spring comes SOON.

Mar 26, 2011

Cleaning Up The Mess

Nothing like a little good, clean (extremely dirty) volunteer work to get you out of your funk when you're (me) sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.  (myself)

Yesterday morning I shoved Max and Sam out the door for school (about 10 minutes too early), and grabbed half-awake, half-dressed Gabe and Gray, threw a bunch of stuff in a back pack, piled on a bunch of snow clothes, and rushed up to "Miss Janeen's" house.   A very kind lady from church, Sister (Natalie) S. and friend Debbie, had offered to watch my two little ones, Janeen's two little ones, and Lyana's one little one so we could volunteer for the Red Cross doing clean-up for the day.  

We left the kiddies at Janeen's and went to "The Mokuteki" on base.  (Casual dining/auditorium/game room and current Red Cross base of operations.)   

First we got briefed on what to do and what to expect:

"Be careful.  Don't wander off alone.  Be respectful of the Japanese.  Don't step on rusty nails.  Don't saw your hand off. Stay hydrated, but be aware there are no toilets to use..." 

Stuff like that.

I call him Tyler.  YOU can call him Captain H.
We were told we would be going to two locations.  First the beach, then a pig farm.  The pig farm was in desperate need of our help, but was covered in snow.  They wanted to give it a few hours to melt before we went there.

Walking down the path to the beach.
So we went to the Misawa beach first.
Dropping of our backpacks at the Sea Wall.
We were told that our main job was to dis-entangle the fishing nets from the trees.  We were told that the nets were worth tens of thousands of dollars and the fishermen wanted us to salvage all they could.
Doesn't look so bad from afar...
When we got there though, it turned out to be a little harder than expected.  The nets were super heavy and completely tangled in the trees.  We ended up trying to find smaller debris to drag into piles.

Rose, Janeen, Lyana, and I

This thing was most effective at pulling the nets out.
Whatever this thing is, it would grab the net, and then start backing up.  Sometimes the nets were so tangled the tires would spin.  Sometimes it would uproot a whole tree.

Getting ready to reverse.
The first line of trees was flattened.  The next few rows were just stripped of branches and greenery up to almost their tops.  We found this boat surrounded by twisted metal quite a way in from the shore.

Making progress!

Heather, Rose, Janeen, Anna, Lyana
Next stop:  The pig farm!  (I wasn't excited about this one, but that's not exactly the point, is it?!)
Arriving at the Pig Farm
Whatever was sitting on this site was leveled.  I don't know what kind of shape it was in before, but the tsunami definitely finished it off.  It also drown a whole barn full of pigs. (thousands.)  (The building below left in the picture.)
We were told all the pig carcasses had already been cleared out the previous few days, but they pulled out at least three while we were there.  It wasn't pretty.
What used to be a barn.
The goal on our particular day was to wade through the muck to try to pull out the metal.  Most of which was in the form of re-bar or tin-roofing.  It was hard, dirty, and overwhelming work.  (And a little frightening because you didn't know what you were about to uncover or if you were about to fall into a hole in the muck.)
Believe it or not, this is serious progress!
It was pretty daunting.  And as I mentioned, overwhelming.  But I worked along side friends and we told ourselves that it was making a difference.  Even if it was just a tiny one.

We only worked until about two but I was completely spent by the time I got home.

That night we had the H family for dinner as usual.  Their days here are numbered so we've had them over every night for the past...week?  Two weeks?  I can't keep track of time any more.  The last ?16? days have been the longest of my life.  But we want to see them as much as possible before they head state-side.

When they left, I fell asleep on the couch.  (I can't really remember much of the evening...maybe I fell asleep before they left?  I hope not.)  I do know that all night I had nightmares that I was back at the farm and we uncovered a buried cistern or cavern, opened it, and let out some horrible disease.  And we were all standing around wondering if we'd already been exposed and if it was too late...yuck.

BUT, that wasn't so bad.

The worst part of the whole experience, was looking at the mess and knowing there are whole towns and cities down south that look like this.  Not very far from where we are.  And that what we do here is just a drop in the bucket.  

This is all still so unbelievable to me.

The BEST part was feeling like I was doing something to help.  Even if it was just a TINY something.  (And believe me when I say I didn't have a self-centered thought or self-pitiying feeling all day.   Nothing like seeing what people have lost to remind you of what you still have.)

SO!  I will go again.  

And I will add another drop to the bucket.


Now it's 2a.m. Sunday morning.  
Time to say goodnight!

Mar 23, 2011

Earthquake "Aftershocks"

Please forgive me if I vent/rant/rave today!  I started writing in the morning in a good mood but by afternoon it was snowing and I wasn't feeling so peppy.

Dear Boys,
I know I said we needed to try to wear things twice and not dirty so many clothes because of the laundry situation, but you still need to a) wear underwear and/or b) change your underwear everyday.  Same goes for socks.  Also, how long has the upstairs bathroom been out of toilet paper?
Nevermind.  Don't tell me.

Dear Neighbors,
Anyone want to have a bonfire with me to burn all of our paper recyclables that aren't being picked up?  Should I be concerned that I'm really in the mood to burn things?  Yes?

Dear Friends and Family in the States,
MANY (possibly every person I've talked to?) of my friends and neighbors have expressed disbelief at what they're hearing from back in the states.

With the sort of suspended state of reality we're living in, it's hard to believe that life in America just keeps going on.  Unfortunately, It's hard to get excited about trivial, normal, happy things.

More unfortunate, it's even hard to feel normal sympathy for anything outside of Japan when a friend lost half of her extended family to the tsunami.
And our neighbors had their whole town washed away.
And thousands of people have died and there aren't enough body bags in Japan for the bodies washing up on the beaches.
And there are 300+ Japanese workers who will die painfully from radiation poisoning because they're trying to prevent an even worse nuclear disaster.  --sigh--  So sorry if we're a little checked-out right now.


Speaking of heightened/blunted/irrational/hyper-sensitive/repressed/extreme emotions, we've been warned to watch for signs of PTSD in ourselves and our children.  Here's a quote from our Branch President (from about a week and a half ago) who is also one of the docs here on base:
"...[N]ow that the adrenaline has passed and we trying to get back to normalcy, please know that we have all experienced a natural disaster beyond comprehension. Our view of the world we live in has changed. We will never take for granted a bottle of water or a nice warm house ever again. We all have various ways to deal with the affects of what we have been through. Here come's the doctor in me-- but know that possible reactions might include upset stomach, headaches, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, fatigue, fear, nightmares, guilt and sadness etc... These are completely normal. Please don't close up, but go and talk to your neighbors and friends. We all need someone to talk/vent to, even a shoulder to cry on. Those who are active duty, I understand the demands being placed on you, but please ensure time to talk to your spouse and children, both for you and them (and if you're single, talk to one of the other singles). Home and Visiting teachers- now is the time to shine!"

One of the Military Family Life Consultants told us not to be surprised if our children start to regress; have accidents, start sucking thumbs again, etc.  (Roxanna's toddler isn't sleeping through the night anymore because the aftershocks wake her up.)

Someone else mentioned another symptom might be lack of recall or short term memory loss.  I can personally attest to having experienced this.  I can't remember anyone's name to save my life.  All of my conversations sound like this:  "So you know that...girl...lady...with the husband...and the kids......who have the hair...?"  
Response:  Blank stare.
(Tami keeps saying:  "Liz has the...the...the...the HowYaDoin' so she'll bring that." :)

So far, the parents and grown-ups seem a lot more shaken up than the kids.  The kids are still somewhat removed from things.  The parents know exactly what is going on.

Although, come to think of it; Max is checking out of reality by reading non-stop, Sammy's teacher left with the Voluntary Departure--contributing to his now constantly unstable (and unhappy) mood, and Gabey still asks every.single.morning if he has pre-school today...(Answer: No. Only Day-care for kids of essential personnel.)  So I guess they're not as oblivious as I'd like to believe.

Okay, I'm done for today.  I'm being Debbie Downer.  (Wha-wahhh!)

Tomorrow will surely be better.  A group of us Moms are volunteering for a work detail with the Red Cross.  We'll be going to Hach for half a day to do clean up while some other kind ladies watch our kids.  I doubt it will be "fun" but it will definitely be an adventure.  And hopefully helpful!

We're having another aftershock.

I'm done.

Mar 22, 2011

Yesterday (& Post Edit)

Yesterday we heard that the Commander was going to make an announcement at 10:05.  The thought was that the "voluntary departure" might be changed to a "mandatory evac" because the warm zone has increased to 200 miles and iodine is being distributed.  (Not to take, just to have on-hand.)  I stood in the midst of my messy kitchen, sink full of dishes, table covered in un-folded clothes, and my hands shook.  I was not ready!  I started frantically trying to load the dishwasher but I could hardly concentrate on what I was doing.  I was wondering if I should run upstairs and pack a suitcase.

Janeen came over.  We had previously scheduled a "cleaning date" so she could help me get my house in order.  She told me to CALM DOWN (again) and we started subduing the wild beast of a kitchen.

10:05 came and Col. Rothstein said nothing (for us) has changed.  We are still outside the warm zone  (237 miles away) and we have Iodine on base already, though we do NOT need to be taking it.

[He did, however mention that we are still (as a base) using way too much energy and about to start rolling blackouts.  He reminded us to unplug all appliances, keep the heat at 18c, and turn all the lights off.  So we sat shivering in the dark all day.]

And life carried on.

We cleaned the kitchen.  Tami came by to use the Internet and helped us fold clothes.  Then Janeen helped me clean out and organize the toy closet (under the stairs) and the family room.  And I'm that much more prepared if we do have to leave.

I keep thinking of Mosiah 4:27.  "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order..."
I don't want to rush out of here in a panic leaving things undone.  I want to put my house in order, say goodbye to my friends, and leave Japan on a high note.  (Hopefully in July--when we're supposed to leave!)

As I was pondering our decision the other day, wondering if we were doing the right thing to stay here, I got out my Book of Mormon study guide, opened it at random and read the following:  "It is clear from the record that Lehi's departure from Jerusalem was not a journey prompted by panic, but one that was well planned and prepared for."  Study guide Chapter 3 Page 9  (This is in reference to the following:  1Nephi 8:1 "And it came to pass that we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind.")

This was an answer to prayer and told me two things.  1)  I don't need to leave in a panic.  2)  I need to prepare in case we do need to leave suddenly.
(Which is why I enlisted my organized neighbor to help me put my house in order.)

So today, even as the earth continues to shake and quake, we'll just "Keep Calm and Carry On" over here.  (Wishing I had a big print of that saying for my wall.)

Wish me luck!!!
(And a magically clean house!)

In other, more normal, news: Baby Gray has taken his first steps.  He's getting better balance every day and standing up every chance he gets.  He also has two new teeth, he's still pretty bald, and he's cuter than ever.

Post Edit:  Just want to clarify:  I don't at ALL judge or begrudge ANY of those who are leaving.  After what we've been going through around here, anyone who wants to leave is totally, completely, thoroughly justified.  If we weren't so close to leaving permanently, we might have made a different decision.

Mar 21, 2011

Feeding the French (Rescue Workers)

Anna had some extra spaghetti she wanted to get rid of.  
Overnight, it turned into this:
All home-made, donated food.
Anna, Liz, Tami, Me, Roxanna
Wes welcomes the first wave.
A few more men trickle in...
Then more...
Then lots more.
Anna is awesome.  Her good deed made LOTS of hungry men happy.
There were three or four women in the group too.
The men were extremely gracious...
And incredibly flirtatious. 
The Commander translated our thanks through Tami.
Tami and Wes just happen to be fluent in French.  (Though Tami wont admit it.)  Although Wes is a pilot, he's been helping coordinate relief efforts.  And working really long hours to do it.  (Poor Tami and kids!) 

These men visiting are mostly firefighters back home in southern France.  But they're here to do some serious, sometimes sad, work.  They went to Sendai and tried to help but were sent away.  (A lot of relief efforts are hampered or thwarted by red-tape.)  So they're helping with the clean-up locally in Misawa and Hachinohe.  

Although the reason for their visit to Japan is a tragic one, they are happy to be here helping.  

And they cheered us right up too by flirting with a bunch of tired, (some un-showered to conserve water) food-splattered moms.  (We have 18 kids between us!!)  ;)  Ahh, the fun-loving French! 

Thank you France!  We appreciate you!!!

Mar 20, 2011

Sunday Service

We met for church today at 1700 and only had one "block".  (Just sacrament meeting=70 minutes)
It was held late because almost all of the service men and women had to work today (and yesterday.)  Doug included.

The lights were on, but the heat still isn't working so once again, many of the women wore pants and bundled up.  Blankets were encouraged.  One of only maybe three times I've attended church in jeans.

I found it interesting that last week we sang "I Need Thee Every Hour" but this week we sang "Sweet is the Work" and "Let Us All Press On".  Last week we were all in survival mode.  Today we looked forward at what to do next.

B.Pres. B. said that the L.D.S. church has 15,000 blankets and hundreds of cook stoves on the way here from China.  And that the church will be working with McDonalds, using their trucks, to get them where they need to go.  That was neat to hear.  And hopefully it makes you feel better if you donated money but wished you could have given something tangible.  You've given 15,000 blankets!  Amazing!

We also found out that more lunches are needed for more relief workers.  This time, they're for a group from France. So I made yet another batch of "No-Bakes" today and scrounged in the cupboard for additional snacks to donate.  Tomorrow Tami is going to come over and we'll make a bunch of pumpkin and banana bread.  Good thing I've been stocking up on Ghirardelli chocolate chips lately!  (Can you say "Stress Eating"?)

Also tomorrow: the boys go back to school!  YAY!!!!!!!  Aside from the cooking, I hope to get a little cleaning and organizing done.  My mind set has definitely shifted over the last nine days.  My attachment to my family is much stronger and my need for "things" is much weaker.  I can't wait to purge my house of junk and lighten my load.  That said, I'll need my strength.  I'm going to bed.

Here's to looking forward!

:)  So glad you're home Melanie!!!  :)  :)  :)

Service With a Smile

One of the absolutely most frustrating things I've experience over the last week has been feeling helpless and useless.  My husband goes to work every day and does absolutely nothing.  While some departments are being stretched to their limit (or beyond), others are being under utilized.
(I understand.  I know we're in a state of emergency and not everything is going to work perfectly, but it's still extremely frustrating.)

While he is at work twiddling his thumbs, "on-call", waiting to be useful, I'm stuck at home with four kids going crazy.  (My only chance to help so far has been to donate some food and clothing, and then hugging the girls and making a salad for their dinner that night!  Which was awesome.  Not trying to diminish that at all.)

So I was thrilled to hear there was something I (and lots of other similarly frustrated moms) could do yesterday.

Right now there are many large groups coming through our base helping with relief efforts.  Roxanna was  asked if she could round up some people to put together sack lunches for 200 Rescue Workers.  She said "consider it done" and called the Relief Society president.

Rescue or Relief Workers in Misawa
Together they organized a bunch of ladies to make "no-bake" cookies.
(We're not supposed to be using our ovens.  They use too much energy.)

Over $600 dollars of snack foods and apples were graciously donated.

Then, a separate group of ladies got together to assemble the bags of food while some teenagers helped out by watching the 237 kids over at Roxanna's house.  (Okay, maybe not quite that many.  But Mormon's have big families...there were lots of kids.)

Liz is about 39 weeks pregnant.  Cami's husband is deployed.

About half of the helpers
(I made cookies.  I'm only in here because I was dropping them off.)
After I dropped off my last batch of cookies, I went over to the P's to check on the kids.  The teenagers helping were totally on top of things.  All the kids were playing happily or eating snacks with a few babies napping upstairs.
The bags were assembled quickly and the packages were delivered to very grateful recipients yesterday afternoon.

It was great to be able to do something useful.  And I know all the other ladies felt the same way.

Mar 19, 2011


I'm not even remotely brave.  I'm not stoic or stalwart or hardy or tough.  (Just ask Doug.)  Hand me a thesauras and I'll tell you a few more things that I'm not. I'm a big, huge, pain-averse wimp.  I used to think I had a good sense of humor, but even that disappeared in the days following the quake.  I felt like I was walking around in a catatonic state and the only emotions I had were fear and anger and numbness.  But the only time I showed any emotion was when I irrationally barked at my kids for some minor indiscretion.  I have NOT been the face of calm.  (Inside my head=$#@!*&!!!!!!!!!!)

And yet, the nuclear threat doesn't scare me at this point.  I've heard both arguments--both sides of the coin.  (I really really have.  Trust me.)  And I'm NOT saying we're immune from danger up here.  I don't think that.  And I'm not saying we still wont leave if things get sketchy.  We will.

But for now, I have a plan.  I'm keeping my eye on the big wigs.  The base commander is keeping his family here.  He's got three little boys (and a super hot wife).  The head of legal is Roxanna's husband.  He's in "the know" if you know what I mean.  He's still here.  (And plus, they're super crazy vegetarian health nuts, so you know he worries about the health of his FIVE kids.)  Also, we know the wife of the head guy who does all the radiation testing.  He's a super brainy bio-scientist-whatsit of some sort.  His wife, family, baby--are staying.

So for now, even though it is EXTREMELY tempting to get the heck out of dodge and run home to both Mommies, (mine and Doug's)  we're staying put.  But trust me when I tell you:  If ANY of the three above mentioned families start making plans for departure, I will be right in line behind them getting on the plane.


More Later...

Mar 18, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

When I was an emotional little (and not-so-little) girl, sobbing to my mother about the unfairness of life and the cruelty of the human race, (probably because she wouldn't buy me GUESS jeans) she used to say "Emily, you need to go to bed.  Everything looks brighter in the morning!"

I must have heard that a million times as a kid.

And truer words were never spoken.  Last night I was a mess.  But this morning I woke up to sunshine.  

It has now been one week since the earthquake.  Easily the longest week of my life.  And while things didn't seem quite so grim today, there is definitely a huge question mark floating over every head in Misawa.  "Should I stay here or go back to the states?"   And for those who've already decided, the question becomes "Am I doing the right thing?"

The hopeful news of the day today was that school will start up again on Monday.  That definitely tipped the scales for Doug and I into the "Okay, the boys and I will stay and stick it out" camp.

See, if I went home with the boys, I don't know if we'd make it back.  We are at the end of our time here in Japan.  Our PCS (Permanent Change of Station) date is mid July.  I'd probably just want to enroll Max and Sam in school somewhere in California and stay put until Doug could join us.
(Our trip home would have to be 30 days minimum, possibly longer.)

That would mean my little change-averse boys would have to leave Japan, their home, abruptly and under extremely stressful circumstances, and go to a new place/home/school, temporarily, without Daddy.  Yes, we would go stay with family, but it would still be a major shock to their little psyches.  (And in case you haven't read the posts immediately prior to the earthquake posts, I'll just tell you that we're already a little shaky in the psyche department.)

BUT, that still leaves us wondering:  How bad will it be here?  Will school open for a few days and then close again?  How limited will resources become?  Will we be a burden to the base and community by staying?

My phone has been ringing off the hook all day.  It's not an easy decision for anyone to make.  Especially when we have fairly limited information.  But we're going with what we know and having faith it'll work out.  


In other news, a friend reminded us yesterday that it was St. Patricks Day!  Hope you had a good one!
My attempt at normalcy in the midst of chaos


Dear Family and Friends of the Sendai Teachers,
This guy worked really hard to help your kids!
Also, when Melanie and Kelsey are safely home, will someone let me know?  Thanks!  I'm pretty bummed I didn't get to say goodbye.  :(

Mar 17, 2011

American Refugees from Sendai

I finally have the bandwidth to publish this!
Sorry the video quality is so poor. I was recording on my little Cyber-shot. But it's something!

To the family and friends of Kelsey and Melanie,
I hope they're back with you soon! Thanks for all the great comments!!!

A Few Little (earthquake related) Things

*Thank you for all the nice comments!  They cheered me up and brought tears to my eyes this morning!!  Thank you so much for your means a lot!!!

*I went to a playgroup/meeting for mom's with kids today.  They had a Military Family Life Consultant and a "key spouse" on hand to answer questions.  It was a great way to get some information in a kid friendly setting.

*One thing brought up in the meeting:  Have a typed or written list of phone numbers of family and friends back in the states.   Good point.  Never a good idea to have to rely on your electronics for critical information in an emergency.   Would be a good thing to laminate and stick in your 72 hour kit.  (I'd also like to type up a list of what is IN our kits, laminate it, and put that in there too.  So I would know what we do and don't have, and where to look for things.)

*Note to self:  Add Uno, Skipbo, and Phase 10 to 72 hour kits.  And coloring books and crayons.  Okay, so maybe we should have a whole back pack dedicated to battery/electricity-free kid entertainment.  With some chocolate in there for Mom the kids too.

*I heard about the girls today (Melanie and Kelsey)  They're headed to host families for tonight and hopefully to their own homes in the states soon after!  Evidently they asked if they could stay with me.  My neighbor said..."Uh...she has four little boys.  Maybe you'd be more comfortable with xyz who only has one little baby!"  For the record, I would have LOVED to have them.  But yes...they would have had to share a bathroom with a bunch of aim-deficient man-children.

*Here is one stranger (down south) talking about his experience:

*Doug said when he doesn't have patients on Monday afternoon, he'll get to go out and do some volunteer work.

*I was wishing I could get out and do beach clean up.  Until I heard that they've had some bodies washing up on the beach.  That made me cry.  I will not be going to the beach.

I just got kind of a huge shock.  Tonight at 5:05 p.m. we were told to turn on AFN (the radio station) or Channel 8 for an important announcement from Col. Rothstein.  He addressed the nuclear threat by reassuring us that there is no threat.  We are 250 miles away.  We are up wind.  The radiation levels in the atmosphere of Misawa are being monitored 24/7 and they haven't changed.
And then he said...
that due to the OTHER factors affecting us here (ie gas/power/electricity shortages and continued aftershocks daily) that the U.S. government is offering to bring home dependents.  That means me.  And my kids.  We're being offered a round trip ticket to our home of record in the states.

We have no idea what will happen or what we will do!
My mind is reeling!!!
What do I do?????????

*Post Edit:  Healthy Friend Janeen just called me and told me to STAY CALM!  We're not going anywhere!  I feel better already.*

Mar 16, 2011


It's been a long day.  I had nightmares all night last night and didn't sleep well.  But then things were looking up.  The day started out great--getting to meet Melanie and Kelsey!!!  But after posting the pictures, trying to post the video multiple times (to no avail--the Internet is moving veeeerrryyyy sloooooowly)...the day just got...blah.  Depressing.

The boys are restless.  They're fighting a lot.  They're watching too much t.v., always asking for snacks, and absolutely trashing the house at every opportunity.

I feel useless.  I want to be out doing things to help Japan, but I can't even seem to find the energy to clean up my own house.   Last night I wrote an angry e-mail.  Really angry.  This morning I woke up wondering how I could feel so sad and angry at the same time.

*School is cancelled again for tomorrow.  It requires too much power.
*Scouts was cancelled for Max today.
*Our Japanese piano teacher cancelled the boys lessons for tomorrow.  Said he couldn't leave the house because of the gas shortage.  He lives in Hach. so I was just glad to hear from him.
*The Relief Society birthday that was supposed to be next week has been postponed indefinitely.  The theme is (was going to be) "Happiness-Women are that they might have joy."  I was supposed to make the smiley face cakes for dessert.  (I was thinking of a lemon cake with lemon curd filling and a lemon butter cream frosting.  Too lemony you think?)
*I was planning a quick over-night trip to Korea on Monday.  Not happening.
*Everything, EVERYTHING is cancelled.  Or delayed.  Or postponed indefinitely.
Resources are just too limited!

Tonight my neighbor and I went for a drive.  We needed a few minutes to decompress and vent and yell and laugh.  Of course, we shouldn't be driving anywhere.  The gas supply is getting lower and lower.  But it helped to get out of our houses and process a little.

Tomorrow will be a new day.
And life will go on.

Even while it is standing still in Japan.

Mar 15, 2011

American Refugees from Sendai

After my shower and breakfast this morning, I sat down to see if there were any comments on yesterdays post and saw these two:

Hi! My name is Beth Fullerton and I live in a suburb of Dallas, TX. A friend of my oldest daughter sent your blog link to us. My middle daughter has been living in Sendai for the last year and was a teacher at the Meysen Academy in Sendai when the eathquake occurred. Her school brought them to Misawa Air Force Base a couple of days ago. She is one of the refugees you mentioned in your blog who is housed at the fitness center! Her name is Melanie Fullerton. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it if you had a chance to go and see her and tell her that we love her and are praying for her and her friends. We have had some contact with her since she has been at Misawa. But you know some is not enough for a mom at a time like this. My email is Thanks for any help that you may be able to offer. We are praying for all of you there in Japan!

Hi, my name is Deb Heinrich. I am another mother of one of the refugees that Beth Fullerton has mentioned. My daughter is Kelsey Heinrich and if possible could you please find her and give her a HUGE HUG from her momma!!!
Thank you so much and know that prayers are being lifted up from Carlsbad NM, and all over the US for all of you in Japan.

I called Roxanna to find out if I could just waltz myself over there.  I read her these comments and she said she'd go with me to track down these two girls and that I could take the boys to her house for Janelle to watch.

I scribbled down the two names, shoved the kids out the door, and Roxanna and I headed over stopping at the commissary for chocolates and what my college roommate used to call "party favors".  (feminine products--we'd heard they were needed.)

Americans who've been teaching English in Sendai.

A prayer circle to lift spirits
Dear Ms. Heinrich and Fullerton;  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to DO something tangible to help. When I told your daughters I was coming to deliver hugs from their moms, they both burst into tears.  (As did I.)  Your daughters have now been hugged. It was a pleasure to meet them and I hope I'll be able to do something further to help them out.  Everyone seemed stressed and upset, but they're in good hands.  Hopefully they'll be home soon!

I took some video of the girls for you too.  I'll post it here as soon as I can!