Monday, December 28, 2009

Home, and an open letter of apology

There are so many things about being home that I love that I can't even begin to list them all. I couldn't stop grinning as my flight came in yesterday afternoon. Paul was at the airport to pick me up, as has become custom for my trips home. I think it started when I was dating Zac long-distance and Paul decided he needed to hear how the trip went before anyone else did. (Since it's all Paul's fault that I ended up with Zac in the first place.) Now I just assume that each time I arrive home at MSP it will be Paul, alone, picking me up from the airport and driving me to my parents' house. It's a nice chance to talk to him for an uninterrupted 20 minutes.

I got to my parents' house, took a quick shower and got ready for Christmas 2009 vol. 2. My cousin and her husband are also in town for the holiday, they moved to New York City at the same time that Zac and I moved to Hawaii, and so everyone was together once again. The house was packed, I couldn't talk to everyone as much as I wanted, and the kids (Lincoln, and my other cousin's two daughters, Maddie and Hazel) made an enormous amount of noise. I basically just laughed, amused and pleased, through the whole evening.

So this is where the apology needs to placed:

To all of my Minnesota friends, whom I love dearly, I will probably not be able to see you on this trip. As much as I would love to spend a day (or two or three) with each of you, catching up and enjoying each others company, my time here is short and I've found that I want to devote most of this trip to family. We're planning an old-school Ayers/Erickson trip to the cabin (a.k.a. the Dome) to celebrate New Year's, there are a few birthdays that need to be observed, and I simply need a family re-charge. I've missed Megan. A lot. And I know she's missed me. A lot. And we need some sisterly bonding time. And that's what it takes - time. And on this trip in particular (only seven days) I don't have a lot of it.

Next time I'm in MN I plan on making it a friend-friendly trip, with time for socializing, wining and dining. Next time I'll be calling people ahead of time, booking hanging-out timeslots. You have been warned. Also, consider that I live in a tropical paradise and have a spare bedroom plus a fairly flexible work schedule. I would only need a few days' notice to provide shelter for you if you were to, say, find a cheap plane ticket to Honolulu.

I've been desperate for some tradition this year and tradition is hard to come by in a fairly young marriage, living in a fairly new location. I was so content last night at Christmas. Supper, presents, dessert, laughter. And the promise of a few days at the Dome with the fireplace roaring, playing in the snow, lighting sparklers and then playing cards while we thaw out is just what I need to experience some family traditions. It's not that I don't want to see you all - I truly do - I just have a crowded priority list this time. I promise that it won't be long til you hear from me or see me again.

You know that feeling you get when you're being pulled in a hundred different directions and it stresses you out so much that you're just miserable about everything? I didn't want that to be me on this trip, wanting to spend time with everyone and not being able to do it, thus feeling overwhelmed on the whole trip. So I decided on the plane ride here that I needed to make a tough decision and that decision meant limiting my goals for this round.

You guys know I love you. My world is better because you are in it. Much, much better. A phone call, a blog entry, a Facebook status, an e-mail - you guys make me laugh, cry, and feel cared about. I hope you all can understand and forgive me for making you wait (however many months) until I get to see you again. My friends are never far from my thoughts and always near the top of my list of things I am grateful for.

With love,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vancouver? Maybe not. But bunny hill? Yes.

So I'm not an Olympic-caliber skier (yet) but I did survive my first runs down some greens (and accidental blues) out here in Tahoe. Success.

Yes, Zac and I are back on the Mainland. Oh, how I have missed you, my sweet, sweet Mainland. We arrived at the San Francisco airport late on the 17th and we headed up to South Lake Tahoe Friday morning. I am not a skier by trade. At least downhill/Alpine. I've done a little bit of cross-country/Nordic skiing before, but I've never thrown myself down a hill on skis. Zac has been skiing a few times out in Colorado with his brother and he loves it. When we decided that we would be visiting Zac's sister outside of Oakland for Christmas this year he decided we needed a few days of skiing up in the Lake Tahoe region. He planned the whole excursion, and I am proud to say he's done a helluva job putting together a vacation for us. (Well, except the losing money at roulette table part, but that was really beyond his control. Evil wheel of doom.)

We stayed in a casino on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe. Apparently there are numerous ski resorts scattered around the Lake. Maybe 15 or so? Most of them are up toward the Northwest corner of the lake and we were on the south shore so we usually had to drive anywhere from 20-40 minutes to get somewhere. The drive wasn't bad except for the super-scary switchbacks that dictate 10 mph and kind of make you want to poop the first time you drive on them. (After the first time you kind of cruise through them. And that was with me, Miss Defensive Driver operating the car.) We lucked out and had great weather and didn't have to use the snow chains for our tires - until today, but we're not to today yet.

On Friday we left Zac's sister's house and drove up I80 to Travis Air Force Base to rent ski gear. Once we loaded up the car we made our way to our hotel/casino/home base of Montbleu. Saturday morning we got up and headed to a place called Homewood. We picked our ski locations based on the discounts they provide to active duty military (and sometimes family members). Homewood has the most generous policy by far. I highly recommend it for anyone active duty who wants to take the family skiing. We signed me up for an all-day ski lesson so I could learn what to do while Zac spent the day reacquainting himself with skiis. (This also was suggested to us to save our marriage - one spouse trying to teach the other spouse how to ski apparently has almost ended marriages.)

I was nervous for a few reasons. Falling down isn't high on my list of things I like to do. Also, I was afraid that my teacher would be some teenage, X-Games-wannabe who was only interested in looking attractive to the opposite sex in their uber-trendy winter gear, noshing on chili fries in the chalet and who only worked there so they could snowboard for free. Luckily, I was very wrong. Because Homewood is a smaller resort, it has less people traffic which means I was in a class of two students taught by an exemplary teacher named Laura. (Who was not a teenager, but more of a snow-loving/live-to-teach/women's-power type - loved her!) I started the day not being able to do much, but by the end of the day I did two runs on my first (very short) green. Zac was pleased beyond words that I had conquered my fear and kicked a tiny bit of tail. Laura was so cool that she said that if we came back to Homewood on Monday, she'd come over (her day off) and spend another hour or two with me to refine my skills for free. Loved, loved her.

Sunday we headed to another resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe. The tops of my feet and the lower fronts of my shins were destroyed from the ski boots of the day before and I could hardly walk, more or less attempt skiing. So I sat in the chalet with my book and some coffee while Zac spent the morning hitting the slopes. We were both happy. Monday we decided to head back to Homewood, but I decided not to call Laura because Zac said he was willing to tackle the longer greens with me. The ones that start at the top of the mountain! Ack! While I have much to learn about the art of getting off the damn ski lift, 0-3 in my attempts, I had a blast. After the first run that is.

My first run down the hill scared the bejeezus out of me. It looked sooooo steep and I couldn't believe that the runs were green. (Green=easy, blue=moderate, black=hard, double black=we'll meet you at the bottom with a neck brace and snowmobile.) But Zac was my trusty navigator and we eventually made it down the mountain after more than a little freaking out by me.

Now, to set the scene, whenever we drive anywhere and we don't know where we're going I navigate. Apparently there is a reason for this. Maybe because Zac is a terrible navigator. I did not realize how terrible until Monday. Because when we got to the end of the run and up to the chalet, where I was sucking down a hot chocolate in an attempt to calm my nerves, we looked at the map and we realized that Zac had led me down two blue runs and totally missed the green run we wanted. On one hand I wanted to beat him about the head with a ski pole, on the other I was grateful that I knew I could make it down a blue run without dying a terrible death and was keen on taking on a green. But I would navigate this time.

We went back up the mountain, wind blowing, snow pelting, lips chapping, and headed down a green. We went about halfway down and then took another lift up to an even higher point and headed all the way down. It was awesome! Yes, my form is not great. Yes, I wiped out spectacularly a couple (many) times, but we did it. Zac was patient and gracious and a great sport about hanging out on the greens with me. We finished the day sopping wet from the snow/sleet and headed back to the casino and the hot tub for a victory soak. And then, to top off an already amazing day, it snowed. Beautiful, big, wet snowflakes fell for hours. I have never been to happy to see the while stuff fall.

Today, as I type this, I am sitting in an Irish pub in Squaw Valley. I'm sore from yesterday and my feet/ankles are burning again. No skiing for me. But I am enjoying a Smithwick's while Zac takes in a few more runs before we head back to the Bay Area this afternoon. (They have free wi-fi here. Score!) We had 4-8 inches of snow last night in the area and we had to put the snow chains on the tires in order to get here. That worried me a little, as I have no experience with chains and assumed that meant that the roads were practicably impassible. Wrong. As we were driving along the winding roads through the snow-covered pines I thought to myself, "This must be what Heaven looks like." Breathtaking.

Once Zac finds me in the pub we'll head back to Travis, drop off the gear, head back to his sister's, change clothes and then head down to visit a couple of family friends for supper. Tomorrow Zac's folks arrive and then Christmas has officially begun. And it continues (for me) til until at least the 27th. I'm anticipating that this is going to be one of the best holiday seasons ever. I got to spend a fantastic time in Lake Tahoe with my husband and we get to celebrate with both families. (I do, at least.) I couldn't be happier right now.

Did I mention I'm surrounded by snow?

SNOW! (Go on. Visit the link. It will make you smile.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

In the eye of the beholder

Just a quick note. Zac and I went out to finish up the Christmas shopping this evening and we decided to swing by a yogurt place on the way home. (These yogurt shops are the hottest thing going out here on Oahu - they're popping up everywhere. You put as much soft yogurt as you want - as many flavors as you want! - into a cup and add copious amounts of toppings. Then you pay by the ounce for your sins. It's delicious.) We both got a bowl of goodness and then went outside to sit like we usually do.

When I was about half-way through my bowl I realized that I was freezing. Although I was wearing a tank-top and jeans I still had goose bumps all over my arms. I shivered and looked around at the other people that were walking around the strip mall and more than a few of them had the arms-crossed-tightly-because-I'm-cold-walk going. After we finished our dessert and got back in the car I looked at the temperature on the dashboard and it said 74. Brrrrrr.

Once I got home I put on a sweatshirt, hopped on my laptop and pulled up Looks like it's 0 degrees in MN with -20 to -30 windchills. That's 16 months in Hawaii for you - my concept of 'brrrrrr' is way off. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ok, ok. I'm slacking.

I've had a couple of people inform me that I haven't posted in awhile. Your protests are answered! Sometimes I forget there are people out there in the world that actually take a few minutes out of their day to read these entries. . .

I've been busy lately. Not with any one, major, thing, but with an assortment of medium-sized things that seem to eat up my days. Some of them are so mundane that I can't even recall what they are. Some are more notable. I started a new assignment at work which means I am back on the up-slope of the learning curve. The new project is loosely related to the previous project so it's not a total jar to the system. As I go through sets of rules of civil procedure for (at least) the second time I am again reminded that the world would be a much better place if I was in charge. (At the very least if I was in charge of the rules of civil procedure. I would be willing to expand my sphere of influence as I go.) Honestly, I'm just happy to be working and earning a paycheck. I don't take employment for granted, especially since the company I contract with has eliminated a number of jobs at least twice in the last 12 months.

Christmas season is upon us. Zac and I are heading to the mainland next week - California for a spell and then I continue on to Minnesota while Zac returns to Oahu. This meant I had to complete our Christmas shopping by this weekend: 1.) to ensure everything gets in the mail in time, and, 2.) to ensure we can enjoy our time off instead of running around in a unknown city trying to finish up. Zac and I put up a tree for the first time this year. We took out all of our ornaments and hung them up. I was a bit of a sentimental fool, but even Zac enjoyed telling me about his ornaments - who they came from, how old he was when he made them, how his family decorated the tree. Fact about me: Christmas lights make me obnoxiously happy. I love them. And while they are the prettiest when they adorn houses covered in show, they still look lovely on houses with palm trees in the front yard.

We've had a lot of guests over lately. Wait a sec. Have I even blogged about Thanksgiving? [rummaging through past posts] Oh dear. I haven't even talked about Thanksgiving. I guess you readers were right to get on my case about not posting . . .

Abbreviated version of Thanksgiving: We hosted. We roasted the turkey. It was delicious. No "I Love Lucy"-style mishaps in the kitchen. My first attempt at a pecan pie was successful. The guests brought yummy things to share. Boccie playing, darts throwing, cocktail drinking, enjoyable evening followed.

Last weekend a group of us went to go see "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" at a local theater. Zac is slowly starting to warm up to my love of musicals. We watched the movie version of "White Christmas" a couple weeks ago. Yes, I still want to be Rosemary Clooney when I grow up. I noticed that in a couple of months the same theater will be performing "Guys and Dolls" so some time in January I'm going to have to convince Zac to watch that one with me. Zac might not be all about the drama/comedy and the costuming and Technicolor, but he does appreciate people who can sing and dance. I appreciate that he appreciates people who can sing and dance.

Last night was ATG's Christmas party. I was a good time. Most of the people from Zac's office were sitting at one table which left Zac and I and another couple sitting at the table next to them. It just so happens that where the Captain and his wife, plus the XO and his wife, were sitting. I've met the Captain and his wife a couple of times and they've always been very pleasant to me. Of course much of the officer/enlisted dynamic is foreign to me so I still regard the Captain as Zac's boss more that the supreme overlord who needs to be feared. I hope people don't think we were trying to kiss up to the Captain by sitting at his table - honestly that's just how it turned out. My purse was on that table and I had no idea whose red purse was on the opposite side of it (Captain's wife's). Upside to the seating arrangement? Captain's table got to line up at the buffet first. Any awkwardness evaporated when I got to start loading my plate with food. Yeah, I'm easily mollified by food.

So the remainder of today will be watching the Texas/Nebraska volleyball match and then Hawaii/Michigan. (We're women's college volleyball fans around here.) Minnesota has already advanced to the Final Four. If Nebraska wins against Texas they will be playing Minnesota. Things could get tense around our household if that happens. Despite that, I'm rooting for the Huskers tonight. Now if they win? Sorry Zac. Go Gophers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

South High Pride

I got an e-mail from the South High Foundation tonight that brought the following story to my attention. The Minneapolis South High Nordic Ski Team won a national sportsmanship award for helping an opposing team member participate in sectionals. This is yet another reason why I am proud to say I'm a South High Alumna. You can find this story and a list of other winners at this site. As a former coach, I always tried to emphasize sportsmanship to my players. Too often it is the showboats and cheaters that garner the attention. I'm glad to see there is an organization that rewards what is right about sports.

One last thing - note they were skiing in -4 degree weather. That's Minnesota for you. We play outside when others dare not. Rock on, Ski Team.

Minneapolis South High School
Nordic Ski Team

The Nordic ski team from Southwest High School in Minneapolis was preparing for a sectional in February when the coaching staff recognized a serious problem. Libby Ellis, the team's best and the state's second-ranked skier, had not competed in enough races to qualify for sectionals. To compound the issue further, Ellis was in Norway. Tony Aspholm, the coach at South High School – Southwest’s arch rival – learned about Ellis' dilemma and wanted to help. Aspholm organized his team quickly for an impromptu meet with Southwest. This was significant because Aspholm's South High team had competed earlier that same day. The last-minute competition would give Ellis the necessary number of races to compete in sectionals. There was still the problem of getting Ellis home from Norway. Ellis arrived in Newark at 2 p.m. only to find out her connection to Minneapolis had been cancelled. She finally landed in Minneapolis at 9:30 p.m. and immediately headed to Theodore Wirth Park. There, her Southwest High teammates and her opponents from South High stood ready. The competition began at 10:30 p.m. with a temperature of minus 4 degrees. The two teams completed the meet less than 12 hours prior to the start of sectionals. Ellis went on to win at sectionals and qualified for the state meet. Sacrifice is giving up something for something greater. In this case, the South and Southwest teams saw something great in Libby Ellis. Their sacrifice validated her victory; proving that even individual achievements require a team effort.

The Minneapolis South High School Nordic Ski Team is being recognized by the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance and the St. Louis Sports Commission.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Bernadette, Ken, Zac and I went diving this morning out at Electric Beach. I was pretty nervous about it, seeing as the last time I tried diving at this spot I had a bad experience. (I'm not sure I wrote about that one - suffice it to say it was not a good day.) Granted that was more than four months ago now. Face the fear and do it anyway, right? So after a little bit of over-reacting on my part we made it out past the shore break and followed the reef out towards the exhaust tube. Electric Beach (also known as Kahe Point) is across the highway from, you guessed it, a power plant. There's a pipe that runs under the highway into the ocean that expels warm water attracting lots of sea life. It's a shallow dive, only 20-25 feet around the pipe, but it's always interesting.

I hadn't been diving since our manta ray dive on the Big Island in July. Time flies. I forgot how much I like it down there. We saw a turtle cruise by. I tried to remain motionless as the turtle came a little closer to check me out. It was the closest I've ever been to one. They really are amazingly graceful. Zac and I watched him get tossed around by the current of warm water being forced out of the pipe. The turtle seemed to enjoy it. A little later during the dive Zac got a little too close to the current as well and was jetted up to the surface. It was pretty comical watching him get shot to the surface. (It was shallow enough that we didn't need to worry about decompression sickness.) I laughed about as well as one can laugh while diving.

We also saw what I believe to be a great barracuda. The fish was not one that Zac or I had ever seen before. It looked much different than the other fish for two main reasons - 1.) Its size. It was about three feet long, but not skinny like a cornet fish. It was a more substantial. 2.) It's teeth. Yes. Teeth. They were kind of scary. Doing some research in our critter books once we got home, I concluded with a certain amount of confidence that we saw a great barracuda. Apparently they're like sharks in that they don't usually cause people trouble. Now if I was a little silver fish, I would have much to worry about from a barracuda. Some of the websites I consulted said that barracuda's are attracted to the sparkle of the silver fish so divers might want to consider leaving the sparkly stuff at home when diving. Also, they tend to get more confused about who to bite when the water is murky. The water was quite clear today. Phew.

On a more solemn note . . .

As we were driving home we heard this story on PRI's The World, brought to us locally by Hawaii Public Radio. It's the story of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry and how they rescued the "Lost Battalion" of Texas National Guardsmen in WWII. The story is less than 10 minutes long, but it is worth your time. The members of the 442nd were Japanese-American. Many of them had family members in internment camps, yet they were fighting for us, working to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. What kind of extraordinary men do that? What kind of men say, "You took my family's home, you sent my family to live in a camp in the American West, you deprived my family of their rights, but I will fight for you, America. I will fight for you because of what you stand for. I believe in your dreams and ideals. And though you sometimes fail terribly at living up to those goals, I'm willing to fight and die for them."

Sacrifice. It's what Veterans Day is really about. Sacrificing their time, their physical and mental health, their lives. Many of our veterans are volunteers. Some were drafted. But all of them deserve a big thank you for doing what most of us can't or don't.

Happy Veterans Day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Softball, football and laundry

I'm stuck on an island without a single batting cage. They can play baseball year-round out here, but heaven forbid you go practice your swing somewhere! More on that later.

The Huskers are playing right now, but we can't see them. Apparently because we're in Hawaii and almost as far west as possible we get Pac-10 games most of the time. Now why anyone would want to watch Pac-10 football is beyond me. I have little to no love for that conference. USC, the Oregons, the Arizonas, Washington, etc. They all kind of irritate me. I'd much rather be watching Big Ten or Big 12 football. Heck, I'd take an SEC or ACC match up in place of a Pac-10 game. But here we are, watching USC play at Arizona State, when we could be watching Oklahoma playing at Nebraska, like a large swath of the middle of the county. (Including my peeps in Minnesota who seem to have taken an interest in the Huskers, trying to understand the man who is my husband.)

Zac gets cranky at the amount of tv time my Gophers get, whether it be football or hockey. Between the Big Ten Network and some of the Fox Sports channels I think I've been able to see all but one Gopher football game and most of the Gopher hockey games. At least the NCAA Women's Volleyball tourney is coming up soon, so hopefully we'll be able to catch some Husker action in that sport. Maybe I could petition ESPN to air some more Huskers games, in the name of marital harmony.

Zac played softball this afternoon. It's a slow-pitch league comprised of teams from different Navy commands. Zac didn't grow up playing baseball or softball, so much of this is new for him. I admire his desire to learn and to contribute. Not many people are confident enough as adults to try and learn a sport with as many convoluted rules as softball. Zac's team has had a rough season. They're not win-less, but they don't have a lot of wins. Today was another tough loss. I like to go and be supportive, but everyone gets pretty cranky about the outcomes. Zac is not a gracious loser, especially when he feels like he performed poorly. I can't understand how he can get down on himself when the team doesn't ever practice and the only time he ever gets to bat is twice a week where he sees maybe four pitches.

This brings me back to the lack of batting cages. I'd love to go with him to a batting cage so he can get 30-40 swings in. So we can work on form in a nice, controlled environment. (I'd offer to go throw batting practice to him, but I don't have 20-30 softballs sitting around the house to make it time-effective.) What I don't get is that baseball is pretty big out here. Some major league players have come from Hawaii. I can't imagine that there aren't a fair number of kids on Oahu that wouldn't mind taking batting practice. Maybe the schools have their own facilities. Regardless, it's still frustrating.

Well, the dryer stopped so I guess I'll get the clothes and fold them while I look at my laptop updating the Husker game ever couple seconds. Nothing says "excitement" like Gamecast.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Once upon a time there were two little girls, sisters, who were the best of friends. They had a lot of adventures together. One day they conquered a massive pile of snow in their front yard. Victory was sweet.

I can't wait to go home to visit.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Relaxing at home

It's quiet around the house tonight. Zac is off doing some Navy stuff so Toivo and I are spending some quality time sitting on the couch watching tv. The only reason I'd consider leaving the house is because I've got great hair right now. I went to the salon and got my hair trimmed this afternoon. It looks like Toivo will be the only one who gets to enjoy my freshly washed, cut and styled hair. At some point in my life I'll get smart and get my haircut before doing something more worthy, like going out to dinner. Usually I get my haircut and go grocery shopping or something equally un-glamorous. If I'm shelling out a nice chunk of change for a haircut I might as well get some use from it. But not tonight. I'm relishing my evening of nothing.

It's been crummy here, weather-wise, the last few days. The trade winds have stopped, the humidity is in the high 60%s and the vog is fierce. (Volcanic ash + fog = vog) A couple days ago I though I was coming down with a cold. I was feeling kind of phlegmy and my throat was a little scratchy. I realized after my symptoms didn't change that it was probably due to all the crud in the air right now. Today I could hardly make out the mountains out the back window. That's a lot of particulate matter in the air. On top of the vog, it was really cloudy today. Kind of like those dreary, November days where it rain steadily and you want to curl up with a book. Except that here it's 87 degrees and the rain stubbornly remains collected at the top of the two mountain ranges. (If there's no wind the rain doesn't move - it just stays around the higher altitudes.)

Ha ha ha! Too funny. I'm watching the evening news and the weather man just said we're going to get our first Hawaiian "Arctic Blast" of the winter season next week: High of 82, low of 71. Life here is surreal. They even have a shivering "cooler" written over the forecast for that day. I love it. Although I'll probably be rocking jeans and a long-sleeved shirt whining about the temps . . .

Speaking of temperatures, I'll be testing my Minnesotan-ness in a couple of months when I return to the motherland at the end of December. I am a bit worried that I have become soft in my time in Hawaii. (See the previous paragraph.) Not only am I thrilled to be able to see my family and friends again, I am also ecstatic at the thought of sweaters, mittens, heavy jackets, and hot chocolate. Zac and I are going to be spending some time in California with his parents and sister and then I'll be heading on to Minnesota while Zac returns back to Oahu. I was in Minnesota just this last May, but I had a hard time thinking about being back on the mainland (California) and not heading home. So I get to frolic in the snow in a couple of months - I can't wait!

Speaking of Minnesota, Zac and I went out to dinner last night. Sitting at a table behind Zac, in my line of sight, was a guy who looked almost exactly like Nick Punto of the Minnesota Twins. I kept staring at him and I think he started to get a little alarmed. I knew it wasn't him, but I'm telling you this guy looked sooooooooooo similar. I whispered to Zac, "There's a guy who looks like Little Nicky Punto behind you." Zac tried to get a look but it would have required him to be a more than a little obvious, so he waited until we stood up to leave. Then he glanced over at the guy I was talking about. Zac chuckled - he knew the guy. Apparently the guy is a Lt. on one of the ships. Like I said, I knew the guy wasn't LNP, but I was still kind of hoping . . .

You know, some hot chocolate sounds kind of good right now. I think I'm going to go make some, just to practice getting back into the swing of winter things.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainbow Wahine Volleyball

Before we came out to Hawaii, Zac was stationed in El Salvador for 13 months. Towards the end of his time there I went down to visit him for a little less than a week. (I have a few posts about the trip - browse through the July 2008 stuff.) On one of the days, Zac drove me up to the top of the (long dormant) volcano just outside of San Salvador. We parked the car and started milling about the paths that ran around the rim of the crater. It was very green and very beautiful. It was difficult to get a picture that adequately showed how deep the crater was. My abilities of showing depth of field on my camera are lacking. After we had taken in the scenery we headed back down towards the car. On the way up the path was a group of people speaking English. We stopped to say hi, as it seems like the thing to do when you're in a foreign country and encounter people speaking the same language as you.

As we talked to the fellow Americans, another man approached their group. He joined the conversation just as Zac was telling them about why he was in El Sal (the military) and where we were going next (Hawaii). The recently arrived man's eyebrows popped up and he smiled. "I'm the coach of the women's volleyball team for Hawaii," he said. Just to confirm that he wasn't pulling our leg, he reached into his wallet and handed us his business card - Dave Shoji, Women's Volleyball Coach. It looked official - it had the University of Hawaii logo on it and everything, but seriously? What are the odds of running into a person from Hawaii at the top of a volcano in El Salvador?

Coach Shoji told us that if we needed anything when we got to Hawaii to give him a call. Zac and I were still a little stunned to have run into someone who knew Hawaii intimately on our walk. We thanked him and our two groups parted ways. As we walked back to the car Zac and I laughed at the thought that one of few contact people we had in Hawaii was the coach of the women's volleyball team. I should note that both Zac and I love women's volleyball, especially at the college level. Nebraska is routinely a national contender and Minnesota's team is pretty good so we were excited that we had met the volleyball coach. The water polo coach - while I'm sure he is a pretty cool person too - would not have garnered the same reaction from us.

When we got back to Zac's apartment I looked up and sure enough, Dave Shoji is the coach of the perennial contender Hawaii Rainbow Wahine. When we got to Hawaii we made a point to go see some of the volleyball matches. As the NCAA tournament started I asked Zac, "Should I send the coach a 'good luck' e-mail? Do you even think he'll remember who we are?" Zac was confident that we were probably the only Navy people moving to Hawaii that Coach Shoji had met on his trip to El Sal, so the odds of him remembering us were decent. So I sent Coach Shoji this e-mail:

Coach Shoji,

My husband and I met you this past July in El Salvador. We were at the top of a volcano just outside of San Salvador. You gave us your business card when we mentioned that we were moving to Hawaii this fall, due to my husband's new Navy orders. We arrived in Hawaii in September and have enjoyed watching your team play on television. Today we finally made it to campus to see a game in person. We cheered loudly and were thrilled to see you win the WAC championship. We will certainly be following the team as it goes through the NCAA tournament.

Wishing you and your team continued success,

Kate and Zac Kotschwar

He sent back:

kate and zac, thanks so much for coming to the game. we hope your time here has been good. keep in touch and let me know if you need anything, aloha, dave

First off, I was flattered that he used his name, not title, to sign the note. How very familiar of him! And the fact that he again offered his assistance just confirmed to me that he wasn't just being polite at the top of the volcano.

Flash forward one year - tonight the Rainbow Wahine take on New Mexico State. Coach Shoji has 999 career wins as the Wahine coach. He has been the head coach of this team for 35 years. Tonight's win would make 1,000. Only one other coach in D-I women's volleyball has that many wins. (The coach at UCLA.) That, folks, is what we call impressive.

I am confident that the Rainbow Wahine will win tonight, and I am confident that after the win I will send Coach Shoji, er, 'Dave', an e-mail congratulating him.

For a interesting article about Coach Shoji and the Rainbow Wahine program, check out this article from the Honolulu Advertiser.

We're not going to the game tonight, but we'll be watching it on TV. And we'll be cheering: Let's go Bows!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goodbye to Fred

Fred had to go. It's not that I didn't like Fred. He's cute as a button, but he was spending too much time in the kitchen and he needed to leave. I tried to persuade him but finally I told Zac this evening that Fred needed to be removed. By force, if necessary.

Fred is the gecko that had taken up residence in our kitchen about a week ago. I discovered our housemate about a week ago when I walked into the kitchen one night, turned on the light, and discovered a gecko paralyzed with fear on my counter top. I was startled, jumped and then giggled at my reaction. Zac, from the living room, wanted to know what was so funny. I told him we had a gecko in the kitchen. Zac asked, "Is he missing a tail?" I replied "yes" as the gecko took off for refuge under the microwave. "Oh, he's been around for a couple of days," Zac informed me. I was feeling generous and decided to let the gecko try to sneak back out of the house. "Maybe we should name him," I suggested. "Let's call him 'Fred'" Zac answered. (That's usually Zac's answer. Everything is either 'Turbo' or 'Fred' to Zac.)

Fred popped up every now and again over the last week or so. His tail started to grow back. Who knows where his tail fell off in the first place. Actually I don't want to know where his tail fell off. I've convinced myself that it happened outside the house, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I'd walk into the kitchen and Fred would run his usual route across the counter to his hiding place under the microwave. Today as I was cooking, however, I decided that Fred's time here was coming to an end. I was concerned about leaving my pumpkin bread out on the counter if I had a gecko climbing all over it during the nighttime.

Tonight as I walked into the kitchen Fred was on the counter. This was it. It was time. Time to go. Of course this posed a challenge as I am too much of a chicken to try and pick up Fred myself. I spent a few minutes arguing my case to Zac as to why Fred had to go. Zac argued very strongly on Fred's behalf, but in the end Zac agreed to reunite Fred with the great outdoors. Zac moved the microwave which shocked the heck out of Fred. I think Fred was under the impression that the microwave provided an impenetrable fortress of refuge. Luckily his stunned reaction gave Zac the opportunity to scoop him up with Fred's cute little gecko face poking out of Zac's gently closed fist.

Zac took the opportunity to torment me like a little boy in a school yard trying to creep out a female classmate. He chased me around the kitchen a bit threatening that Fred was going to, "get me." I was not amused. Well, maybe a little amused. But not very amused. After Zac was satisfied with my displays of wimpiness, Zac took Fred to the back door and let him out. Fred is now back outside, where he belongs, with exciting stories to tell to the other critters that lurk in the backyard..

Friday, October 9, 2009

The power of water

This is footage from a security camera at the FBI office in Samoa. It captured some of the power of the tsunami that hit on Sept. 29. The first minute is a couple of guys walking across the parking lot. You can see one of them look back over his shoulder at something. Then another guy starts walking across the lot. Something catches his attention in the same direction and he starts running back towards the building. Then the cars are tossed around like bumper cars. Really eerie.

See it on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Understatement of the year

Joe Mauer, being interviewed by ESPN after the win.

"How 'bout that game today?"

Indeed, Joe. Indeed.

Go Twins!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fool me once . . .

shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

There's a Thai restaurant near our house that Zac and I love. Love, love, LOVE. We go every three or four weeks. At this point we've had about half the items on the menu and we've yet to find something that isn't utterly delicious. Almost every time we go we end up ordering a side of chicken pad Thai. I'm salivating just thinking of it.

Zac and I decided that we should try our hand at cooking some tasty Thai treats at home. We spent a good deal of time in the cookbook section of a local bookstore and finally decided on a Thai cookbook which contained photos at each step of preparation. It seemed easy enough so we purchased it. We looked up a few dishes we wanted to make, pad Thai included, and assembled a list of ingredients that we needed to get. (Up until then fish sauce hadn't been a staple in our pantry.)

A couple months ago Zac and I tried making pad Thai for the first time. It turned out poorly. If the Thai restaurant by our house makes a "10", this was about a 2.25. The flavors were flat, and most importantly, the noodles were undercooked. I can't figure out how to describe what it's like eating undercooked rice noodles, but it's unpleasant. Zac and I took stock of what went wrong, what went right and decided to try again at some point.

Tonight was our second attempt. Because the texture of the noodles was the main culprit last time I resolved to (at the very least) get the noodles right this time around. I soaked them in cold water overnight, per the instructions, tossed them into the hot pan, per the instructions, heated them until they were translucent, again - instructions, and then added the sauce and let it cook. Now the instructions claim that once the sauce is in the noodles should be very close to being done. Well, I continued to cook my noodles for more than 15 minutes after adding the sauce, sampling noodles every couple of minutes or so waiting for them to soften up. No go.

Finally as I approached 20 minutes I thought, "These have to be done by now." I turned them off and dished up supper. The sauce looked better this time, though there wasn't enough for my liking. It smelled alright. I scooped up a bite and tried it.

Dang it.

If last time's batch was a 2.25, this attempt was a 3.0. (And that's only because the sauce seemed to come together a little bit better.) I'm royally ticked off. I pride myself on my cooking - or at the very least for being able to follow a recipe. Usually if I foul up a dish on the first go around I can fix it on the second attempt. That didn't happen this time around. I'm flummoxed and befuddled. And downright crabby.

I'm reluctant to give this dish a third try because at some point I'm just wasting ingredients. I looked online and some people have suggested boiling noodles before trying to add them. But I'm sure it will take me a few attempts to get the boiled noodles to the right texture. For the frustration and stress this is causing me I had might as well just order some take-out from the restaurant.

So while Zac was a trooper and ate some for supper, you'll have to excuse me, but I have to go make a bowl of corn flakes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Too old to stay out

The Khaki Ball was last Friday. It was a lot of fun, but I required the rest of the weekend to recover. While I did throw back a few cocktails, that wasn't the source of the suffering. It was staying out til 4am. Ugh. Definitely too old for that. The Ball was held at the Hale Koa and after supper a group of us headed down the beach to the Shore Bird so some people could sing karaoke. (I'm a supporter, not a singer.) After karaoke wrapped up a little after 1:00, a subset of the group headed into Waikiki to hit up a few bars. (Some bars stay open til 4 in Waikiki.) I was done drinking for the night, along with the other girls in our group, but our male counterparts had a good time polishing off the night with a few more drinks. Zac and I danced like crazy people, as we do. Put me in a place with the music bumping and I'm a happy girl. Just wanna dance!

Finally around 3:30 or so we all decided that it was time to start walking back to the hotel. The night was a blast. Everyone had a great time. Zac and I collapsed into bed once we got to our room and we were asleep quickly. Unfortunately 2.5 hours later the sun came flooding into our room through a small gap in the drapes. I stumbled out of bed and closed them fully, but it was to no avail. I was awake. I tried to go back to sleep but, even though I was exhausted, I couldn't. As I laid there in bed I thought, "I can't imagine who would be capable of staying out that late on a regular basis. One night a year is plenty."

Luckily that wild weekend gave way to a nice, normal week so far. I've been able to focus more on work due to fewer distractions and have actually made some progress on my latest work assignment. I'm still concerned that my employment will evaporate after this assignment, but I can't complain. I was originally promised maybe only a couple months worth of work. It's been more like nine, so you'll hear no whining from me.

I've got a list of people I need to call. It's weird planning to call people, but when you talk to people infrequently phone calls tend to get pretty long. It's one thing to call someone for 15-20 minutes. That you don't really have to 'plan'. But if you're anticipating a phone call that could run for an hour you need to make sure you have that much time on your hands. (A comfortable place to sit helps too.)

My Grandma is the only one I know whose phone calls are predictably brief. I never knew this before I moved away. (I didn't have reason to call her when I lived in Mpls. I saw her pretty regularly.) Now that I call her every now and again I've discovered that her calls last 8-12 minutes. She asks how I am, I tell her, I ask how she is, she tells me, a couple minutes of small talk and then she suddenly announces, "Well, it's been good talking to you! I love you!" I tell her I love her too and we both say goodbye. It startled the heck out of me the first time it happened, but now it makes me giggle. So many phone calls devolve into neither party wanting to be the one to end the conversation, though nobody has anything significant left to say. I find my Grandma's approach refreshing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hawaii Year One, in the books

A year of Navy life, come and gone. The induction season for the chief selectees wrapped up on Wednesday with their pinning ceremony. Hopefully this means we'll have our Saturday mornings back to ourselves (and college football!) and our weekdays will return to normal. Zac was pretty busy these last 10 days especially. I went to the pinning ceremony to be supportive. I had it easy - I got to sit down; Zac had to stand there looking stern for more than an hour. I have a weird relationship with the pomp and circumstance of Navy ceremonies. Part of me loves the pageantry and the band (well, especially the band - SOUSA RULES!) but the other part of me is easily irritated with the self-importance of it and finds myself rolling my eyes a lot. At least I had sunglasses on to cover up my occasional lapses of tact.

Because the longest night leads into the pinning ceremony they have the pinning ceremony around noon. Last year that was no big deal because the ceremony was inside. This year they decided to have it on a concrete slab outside on Ford Island.

In 90 degree sun.

After many of the attendees had gotten only a few hours of sleep and questionable nutritional intake in the last 36 hours.

And then they all stand at attention.

For more than an hour.

I actually saw one chief's knees buckle and thankfully they caught him before he fell totally to the ground. Here's a hint - we're in Hawaii. It's &$%@!!*$ hot here. Especially, say, at midday. Even with the tents providing shade, the weather was uncomfortable. Next year I hope they return to the indoor, air conditioned, auditorium to conduct the pinnings. I mean, there were two new chiefs that were pregnant. One of the women was due THAT VERY DAY. On the one hand she looked like she had never been more proud of a career achievement. On the other she looked like she wanted to die. So, again, maybe next year a/c?

This also means that Khaki Ball #3 happens tomorrow night. Last year didn't go well. I was too overwhelmed at the time to enjoy myself. I felt like a fish out of water and was in a generally foul mood the whole time. It's funny how last year at this time I genuinely felt like I was never going to fit in here. Now it's 12 months later and I still don't "fit" what the propaganda says a good Navy wife should be, but I've found a way of coping with it. I've found a fair number of positives that I've gotten better at dwelling on than the multitudes of negatives.

Weird. I've been on this rock in the middle of the Pacific for 12 months now. (I was going to say "damn rock" but I find myself editing for content know that I know family members back home read this for updates.) I guess I can start checking off things that I will miss for the second year in a row now. Good God! It just dawned on me -- I haven't been around snow in a year! The top of Mauna Kea was cold, but no snow. Ugh! I think I'm going to change my desktop background to the snow falling in my Grandpa Clare's backyard and wear my Gopher's hockey jersey during the game on Saturday, no matter how much I sweat in it.

Did I mention that I was not engineered for heat? *sigh* I hope our next duty station in in Alaska.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grandma Carol's sewing kit

I've got an assortment of projects around the house that are on my "to do" list, but they have a very low priority. Things like the dishes, laundry and the daily/weekly chores always take top billing. But then there are those projects that fall to the bottom of the list either because they're so daunting (organizing my old photos) or because they're just not pressing. I've been trying to make a point to do some of these non-pressing things over the last couple of weeks and I finally did one of them last week. I went through my Grandma Carol's sewing kit.

This is it. Grandma Carol's sewing kit. It's about two feet high and two feet wide. The label on the inside of the lid says it's from Norway. My mom has one exactly like it. I don't know the story behind how she and Grandma got them. I'll have to ask her.

This is where my Grandma Carol kept a lot of her sewing and crocheting materials. Here's what's cool about it:

It unfolds into multiple tiers. It's great at organizing lots of little things, which is exactly what sewing and crocheting has. Needles, thread, scissors, string, buttons, snaps. All those little things fit perfectly into this kit. For example, on the top left is an organization tray for thread.

This thread is older than I am, I bet. I don't know if you can tell, but almost all of the spools in there are made of wood. Yes, real wood. I kid you not - once upon a time people made things out of wood. Nowadays spools are made of plastic, which I'm pretty sure isn't as renewable as wood. I don't have any desire to use any of the thread in the kit. Honestly, I'm content just leaving it as is. The color of it makes me smile. I can't really explain why I find comfort in letting 20-30 year old string just sit there, but as long as I have the kit the string will stay as it is.

The main task was to go through and throw away things that were my Grandma's that I wasn't going to need/use (besides the string) and incorporate my sewing and crocheting materials. It made me rather nostalgic as I went through the items in the kit. My Grandma Carol died when I was 13. She's the one who taught me to crochet. She taught my sister and I how to do needlework on dish towels. We did all sorts of craft things at her house. She's the reason that I am a throw-back, old-school Domestic Goddess, enjoying things like needle crafts. It might not be the coolest hobby to have, but by golly I enjoy it and I'll fight any one who knocks it. *Note: my mom and my Grandma Darlene are also Domestic Goddesses. I was lucky to learn from all three*.

I have a terribly paralyzing sentimental streak. It was going to be hard to discard anything of my Grandma's - like somehow I was dishonoring her by tossing elastic that had lost its elasticity. But I steeled myself and started going through her things. I found a bag of buttons with this receipt.

I don't know if you can see it, but the date is 03-27-90. She died in December of 1991. She started having heart problems before that, but I don't know when. Something about the receipt made me smile. Probably because I love the fact that it is so unsophisticated. Think about it - even in the early 1990's you could go into a store and buy something where they rang you up on on an adding machine. No super-computers with software logging the coming and going of merchandise. Just a lady named Florence punching your numbers into an adding machine, the sound of the machine printing the numbers as you add. Nothing fancy. Just math.

The receipt also made me sad as she didn't know at the time that she'd be gone in 21 months. She was just my Grandma, buying buttons, as she did.

Buttons, buttons. Why so many? Because she and my mother make hand towels. They would crochet the top of the towel and affix one large button on it so the towel could be secured on the oven handle, the refrigerator door handle, a drawer handle: I tell you, they're handy. This meant that they needed large buttons that wouldn't pull through the yarn. Periodically my Grandma or mom would go to a fabric store and browse the button bin for big buttons. Megan and I loved going with. We'd rummage through the pile of buttons, pulling out one card after another asking, "How about this one?" We took a good amount of pride if the buttons we found were purchased.

My Grandma Carol also had a tin of buttons at her house. Megan and I would run our hands through them, letting them fall through our fingers like sand. Occasionally we'd go through the tin, seeing if we could find any matches. We'd look at each one, examining it, sometimes organizing the buttons by color, bu number of holes, by size. If you think it takes an Xbox to entertain children, you are wrong.

Here are some of Grandma's items that I decided to keep. Snaps, hooks, safety pins, needles, scissors, thimbles and so on.

I did throw out a fair amount of stuff. Rusty safety pins, the aforementioned elastic, some bits and pieces of velcro, eye-hooks that were missing their other half. I even got rid of this, though I felt compelled to take a picture of it for posterity:

My Grandma Carol had a couple of these in the kit. I giggled happily when I found them. Not only were they 15 cents (note that I don't even have a cents symbol on my keyboard in 2009), but they would in no way fit any of the bras that I have now. I'm not even sure how or why this would be added to a bra. When my bras wear out, it has nothing to do with the clasp in the back. I also love the stylized illustration - if I could wear a ribbon in lovely, wavy hair, I would.

After I took out the stuff that needed to go, I added in a few of my item. My pinking shears, some thread (on plastic spools - ick), more crochet string, some patterns and iron-on transfers, a couple additional pairs of scissors. Then I added 'my' crochet hooks. These are my prized possession.

They were hers. When my Grandma Carol crocheted with yarn, these were the hooks she used. (You use silver-colored steel hooks when you're crocheting with string for doilies or snowflakes.) I loved watching her crochet. She was a machine. I have to have my crochet patterns sitting right next to me for reference when I crochet. I don't remember her ever having patterns about. Maybe she did, but on my pedestal she doesn't. Again here is my fascination with color. I love the way her hooks looked in their case. Vibrant. It's just such a handsome set.

When I moved in with my Grandpa Clare (widower of Grandma Carol) a few years ago I found more time to crochet. I hadn't crocheted much while I was in college and law school. Once I moved in with Grandpa I started crocheting in earnest, as many of our nights together were him and I watching a Twins game on tv, or some tv show that I had only mild interest in. It was a perfect opportunity to spend a couple of hours whipping together a baby blanket. I started using my Grandma Carol's crochet hooks, because they were there. Much of her stuff had been distributed when she passed, but some of it remained in their house. Pretty soon I came to regard the hooks as mine which, I'm assuming, in time I will Grandma's sewing kit as well.

But last week while I was going through it, I was all to aware that the kit was hers. And even though I haven't seen her in almost 18 years it was she was right there with me. Sometimes its hard to remember people in the abstract. Sometimes you need something tangible or a frame of reference to remember them. It's like that scene in "Saving Private Ryan" where Private Ryan is telling Captain Miller that he's having a hard time picturing his brothers, and Captain Miller tells him he has to think of a story that involves them. That's what it was like. If I just sit here and think of her I have a tough time visualizing her. But as I went through her kit, I could see her, plain as day, sitting in the living room, crocheting away.

Three of my four grandparent got to see me graduate from college and law school. Two of them got to see me married. For that I am grateful. But I do wish my Grandma Carol could have seen me succeed in school, find my prince charming, and go off on the adventure of a lifetime. All the while crocheting like she taught me. I know she'd be happy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

32, the Cavalry and a cold

For my birthday the universe decided to give me a cold. Gee. Thanks. It's not a complete, full-blown, snot-filled, phlegm-spewing illness (at least, not yet) but I'm still tired and hacking an icky, dry cough. Tea, tea and then some more tea. I'm not sure if the body aches are from the virus or the butt-kicking workout that Bernadette put me through a couple of days ago. Either way, I'm achy. Isn't it troublesome that the effects of exercise are very similar to being ill?

I turned 32 on Tuesday. We went out Saturday night to celebrate. There was a group of about 10 of us, including Ken and Bernadette. We had supper and then headed over to a nearby Irish bar to toss a few back. I was in good spirits. Yes, I did have a few cocktails, but the periodic glasses of water combined with an early night made the night enjoyable rather than hazy.

While we were at the restaurant we noticed a group where the guys were dressed up like General Custer and their gals were dressed up like 1940s pin-ups. Our Navy guys recognized the uniforms as Cavalry. I thought it a little odd that guys who ride horses into the Wild West were on Oahu (an awfully difficult thing to ride a horse across the ocean it would seem) but I didn't spend much time thinking about it. After our group made our way to the pub across the street it wasn't too long after that the Cavalry arrived with their dates.

At this point my curiosity got the better of me so as one of the soldiers and his date stood in front of me I tapped them both on the shoulder, begged their pardon, and asked about the uniform and dresses. They both seemed pleased to answer. The soldier answered, "We're Cavalry. We're deploying soon. We thought we'd all go out and celebrate before we left." Of course even though he didn't use the pronoun "the," I still like to think he said "THE Cavalry" which makes me grin even now thinking about it. Have you ever met "the Cavalry"? I mean, all those old movies where things are looking dire but then the music changes and someone yells out, "Look!! Just there - at the top of the ridge! Oh thank God! It's the Cavalry!"

I asked what seemed to be the obvious follow-up, "Do you guys still ride horses?" The cavalryman laughed and said no, that they're helicopter guys now. This group of Cavalry is based up at Wheeler Army Airfield which is located in Central Oahu. I can't remember their specific division number otherwise I'd gladly relate it here, just to give them credit.

I turned my attention to the lovely young woman he was with. I asked about the dresses and hair. She gave credit to another one of the gals about the 1940s idea. The ladies looked fantastic. Pin curls, some with little hats, ruby-red lipstick, perfectly tailored dresses that were equally sexy and classy. I thought I looked good for the evening, but when I looked at my shirt and jeans and compared them to a well-tailored dress . . . well, I was envious. Maybe our girls will have to try something like that some time. I let her know that she, and her friends, looked fantastic and that I thought it was a great idea. Both she and her cavalryman smiled in appreciation and we went back to our nights.

I'm not sure how long this group of Cavalry will be deployed. But all you readers know this - there are helicopter guys out there fighting for us that, when in dress uniform, are dressed like soldiers from the 1870s. I am comforted by this, as you should be. And I'm sure there will be at least once during their deployment that one of our soldiers or Marines will grin when they see those helicopters and think to themselves, "Thank goodness! It's the Cavalry!" And they'll truly mean it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A couple random things

This is what my husband does on some days. He makes people worry about the sounds of gunshots coming from Pearl Harbor.

Toivo just recently started curling up in Zac's beanbag. I guess he needed a break from the strain of sleeping on his giant pillow. His life is not hard.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Absurd moments

Tonight I found myself at a sushi bar, stuffing my face with eel, sitting across from my husband who two hours earlier had been at the airport awaiting a dead body, still wearing sweaty clothes from playing 45 minutes of racquetball in an oven, wondering about the remnants of a former category 4 hurricane that's supposed to arrive in my backyard tomorrow. It's was one of those absurd moments that pop up every now and again.

Rewind two days to Saturday: Zac and I watched the movie, "Taking Chance". It's a great movie. Very moving. It is the true story of a Marine officer that escorts the body of a PFC home for burial. The movie is a quick hour and 15 minutes long, but it is packed with lots of raw emotion and great acting. Kevin Bacon plays the older Marine Lieutenant Colonel who is dealing with issues of guilt for not being on the ground. He's concerned that his desk job isn't being true to what he was trained to do - fight. He feels guilt, and even shame, that he has chosen the safety of a desk job so he could be with his family. When the name of a young Marine from his hometown appears on the list of fallen soldiers, the officer volunteers to escort the body home.

Never mind. I just decided that I'm terrible at movie reviews. Just trust me when I say that it is most definitely worth an evening of your time.

This morning Zac was asked to be a pall bearer for the body of a Navy Chief that was arriving back in Hawaii today. Zac agreed to help out so this afternoon he put on his summer whites and headed to the airport with three other Chiefs. After the body had been unloaded from the plane, they met the body and its (his?) escort in a cargo area. They saluted the body and loaded the body into the hearse. Afterwards Zac told me that the process was almost exactly like it had been depicted in the movie. He even noticed that, indeed, the bodies are always pointed feet first towards their destination.

It seems odd to me that we randomly watched a movie on this topic and then 48 hours later, for the first time in his naval career, Zac was allowed to see part of the process in person and honor the final arrival home of one of our Navy's sailors.

Go watch the movie. It will explain things better than I can.