Sunday, December 30, 2007
I woke at 0330. I got out of bed at 0400 and turned on the tv. I pulled out the book and map on Bangkok and worked on a plan of attack. Here is what I started with:
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Lumpini Park then Suan Lum Night Market
Get BK Magazine (free at restaurants)
Buy Metro magazine (at bookstore)
Chao Phraya Express Boat Tour to Bang Pa
Ask if anything will be open (holiday?)
Erawan Shrine/Temple (Thai dancing)
Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha)
As it turns out, it is nice to have plans, but it is even nicer to be flexible.
We went to the Grand Palace and visited the Emerald Buddha.
We went to the Chatuchak Market and we came back via the Skytrain.
At our hotel, we tested the swimming pool, but our thin Guam blood couldn't take the unheated water. So, we dressed and went to the Night Market. When we asked for taxi service, the concierge asked us if we wanted to eat at the Seafood Market restaurant. He would give us free transport if we ate our meal there. No, we said. We'll pass.
When we got to the Night Market, we decided we needed to shop on full bellies. Searching the signs for direction to the food court, a Thai dressed in a security uniform asked us if we needed help. When we explained our problem, he said he knew just the place and led us through a parking lot away from the Night Market to the Seafood Market restaurant! Accepting it as meant to be, we enjoyed a superb meal. We walked back to the Night Market but were only able to walk through a few stalls before Gregg said he couldn't carry a sleeping Drew for the rest of the market.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
A good substitute for shopping was a full-body Thai massage....this is done with clothes on.
We made it to Thailand safely and our hotel. Unfortunately, the room they assigned to us had two double beds pushed together and promised to bring in another bed. Sleeping with Anna and Drew would have been okay, but I wasn't looking forward to sleeping in the crack. We requested a move to another room.
We were so tired by this time and it was only 1930. We went ahead and ordered room service so we would all sleep well. We had to keep waking Drew to chew his food.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Drew was so proud of his medal---he wore it for the rest of the day and took it to school to show his teacher.
Here Drew poses with his fellow weight-class competitors:
Saturday, December 1, 2007
You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. ~Desmond Tutu
We chose to celebrate Thanksgiving with our extended Guam family---this meant a potluck on Calvo's Beach.
We discovered how scrumptious fresh coconut is and the deliciousness of fresh palm.
Now Gregg has an excuse to go to Home Depot and buy a machete...
We received an invitation to attend the Marianas Yacht Club 38th Annual Challenge Day on Sunday, November 11th.
We were able to experience kayak racing, wind-surfing, and small boat racing (Optimist, Laser, Hobie Cat) with experienced sailors by our sides.
Challenge Day also hosted the Trans-Pacific Six-Pack Race. The water craft are designed and built by the individual racing teams, composed of material of their choice so long as no parts are from actual boats. In this instance, the boats were made of empty plastic barrels. They were also propelled without the use of engines (but could use rowing, kicking, swimming or anything else).
In addition, we watched GI Joe take on Ken in a heated mini-raft race!
The MYC membership is composed of colorful characters: we met Peter Melyan, who told us he taught an accredited course on cockfighting at UOG. He regaled us with his Army stories. We could see he was in poor health; we never expected to see his obituary a short time later.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
I did my Physical Readiness Test on 1 November, so I couldn’t really stay out late. Despite going to bed early, I still woke up almost every hour (and sometimes more frequently). You would think by now I would have sufficient faith in myself to do fine on the PRT, but the day before, I had Dr J, my favorite DO, re-align my SI joint (it was like having a toothache in my hip) and rotate the T4-L1 vertebra that was causing me right bicep pain. I think I was afraid everything was going to fall apart. A little PMS didn’t help. In case you're wondering, I scored an Outstanding Medium. I maxed the sit-ups and the push-ups; I just need to do more interval training to get my run time down.
My next big project is trying to update my CV/resume so I can moonlight as a nurse practitioner at the local express care clinic. It’s not that I have that much extra time; it’s that I need the practical experience and the clinical hours if the Navy isn’t going to give it to me.
We just celebrated Drew’s 7th birthday (my, how time flies) which consisted of a birthday cake and juice boxes at school, a visit to Planet Hollywood with complimentary cake, candle, and song for dinner, and a trip to the NEX to spend his 7 birthday dollars. He sang, “It’s the best day ever…” from the SpongeBob Movie, so I guess we did okay.
Anna has been leaving notes around the house (and on the computer), “I want a pink laptop.” I suppose it’s a good thing to be focused. Dell sells them, by the way.
I’m the mom with the thankless task of being Cookie Chair this year. We started the Cookie Kick-off yesterday with a tasting session then a visit to the PIC waterpark. Anna is very excited. Drew and Gregg will do something manly, I think, or maybe they’ll just stay home and play video games. Wait, that’s manly. Well, they actually took Drew's best friend, Cole, with them to Tarza (note that the prices on the web link are for tourists). But they were still at home playing video games when Anna and I finally made it through the front door.
I skipped judo on Friday. I get stressed when I don't do my obligations because I feel as though it may become a slippery slope---I'll find more excuses the next time to avoid going somewhere or doing something. For the past few sessions, I’ve been the only student and I’ve had to wrestle the sensei’s 10 year old son. That’s not really all that bad; he is a blue belt, I do get one-on-one correction, and I learn highly individualized moves with lots of time for drilling. However, it’s a lot more fun to throw Dr Karen around because she’s a no-holds-barred-type person and I’ve gotten choked really good on a couple of occasions (not to mention some tremendous bruises on my knees and chin and rug burn on my elbows). It's just that I’ve had a low-grade headache that hasn't gone away since the PRT. I have to admit it’s nice to be unscheduled.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I started judo this summer because Drew really wanted me to go to the "Parents' Class." I wasn't sure I would like it and I really had to push myself to get past the ickiness of "touching-someone-who-isn't-a-family-member (-or-a-patient)" . I also feel less than graceful on the mat; dance moves have never come easily to me without a lot of practice.
But now...well, I feel as though everything is clicking. I am remembering the moves (I love muscle memory because I don't have to think). When we do randori I am able to get submissions as often as I have to submit ("Mata!"). I am really happy to have a regular hour of exercise and to do something that is just for me.
When I come home, I am still sweaty and I feel relaxed and joyful. Judo means "way of gentleness" and I thought this was interesting:
Principles and Goals of Judo
Judo, which is translated as the "gentle way", teaches the principle of flexibility in the application of technique. This is the flexible or efficient use of balance, leverage, and movement in the performance of Judo throws and other skills. Skill, technique and timing, rather than the use of brute strength, are the essential ingredients for success in Judo. For example, in Judo classes you may learn how to give way, rather than use force, to overcome a stronger opponent.
The principles of Judo, such as "Maximum Efficiency" and "Mutual Welfare and Benefit", can also be used in our dealings with others in life. The ultimate goal in Judo is to develop oneself to the maximum extent possible, always striving for perfection, so that you can contribute something of value to the world.
Maybe a little bit of the pleasure I derive from the practice of judo is related to the preparation for and completion of class. I no longer dread class. It's amazing what a little mastery can do.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Fortunately, while unpacking boxes from our recent move, I found my boots, still neatly stenciled with my maiden name and the tops folded down and laced, ready for inspection. Well, except for all the scuff marks on the toes. But, no worries. Field conditions mean no spit shine.
I spent the last night at home sewing on my name tapes and repairing the dry rot that ravaged the right rear pocket of one set of woodland poplins. I also repaired the shoulder seam of the blouse.
I started traveling at 1620 on 27 August, Guam time, and finally arrived at my destination at 0130 28 August, California time. I traveled from Guam to Narita, to Honolulu, to San Francisco and then to San Diego. My travel wasn't over until I caught the Cloud-9 shuttle to Camp Pendleton and then it wasn't just inside the front gate. Oh, no. It was the last gate before reaching Orange County. At that point, the Navy might have been better served to have had me land in LA and take a shuttle south to Camp Pendleton. I finally got to bed, which consisted of a cot and a sleeping bag, at 0200, then woke up to catch the government van to the chow hall at 0615.
You can read more about what I learned at TCCC here:
Naval Operational Medicine Institute
Thursday, August 16, 2007
So, what is this special project? It's called Body For Life. It is a comprehensive exercise and diet program targeted at those who have fallen out-of-shape, grown overweight, eaten too many fatty foods and added too much cholesterol to their diet, and otherwise let themselves go. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make a positive change in their appearance and their health. It has changed my life - and I mean that.
Don't believe me? Just take a look at the picture below (click on the picture for a larger photo).
The real change is in the statistics, though. In 12 weeks, I have taken 3 and 1/2 inches off my waistline (35.5 to 32), lost 11.5 lbs, lowered my body fat percentage from 22.2% to 14.0%, dropped my cholesterol from 296 to 253, triglycerides from 296 to 176, lowered my VLDLs from 58 to 35, and taken 2 minutes off my 1.5 mile run time (13:55 to 11:50).
I have just submitted my final picture and stats. I'll keep you posted on how I do in the competition.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Mary K was promoted in June to Lieutenant Commander (abbreviated LCDR).
She has worked long and hard in her military career and certainly deserves this recognition. Nearly 11 years as a US Marine, then another 11 as a Navy Nurse. She has never chosen the easy path, that much is certain.
As for me, a little pity please. Since she now outranks me, I have to call her "Ma'am" and salute her when in uniform. Ugh.
On the other hand, her new rank entitles us to a larger house on base. Not too bad.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
In my earlier post below, I talk about her appearance at the Guam Islandwide Science Fair. She took 1st Place in Chemistry in her age group. On May 30th, Guam held the awards ceremony and Anna received her trophy.
So, you would think all would now be settled in the Parker household, wouldn't you? No such luck. Drew is now upset because Anna's trophy is bigger than his.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I thought I would have accomplished more while they were gone, but after a week, I was ready for them to return. I felt aimless without them. I talked with Mike next door and we agreed that families give us a reason to come home.
"It's just like magic. When you live by yourself, all your annoying habits are gone!"
Of course, Thursday morning the power went out at 0423. My alarm was scheduled to go off at 0500. Nervous that I might oversleep, I set the duty cellphone to alarm as well as pray the back-up battery in the alarm clock would still go off. Needless to say, I did not sleep well those last 37 minutes. Then I had to make the decision whether I would go to work and shower or simply wash up at the sink because there was no power to run my blow dryer. I looked at my hair by flashlight and decided my unwashed hair would look better than air-dried clean hair. I vowed I would not look in any mirrors all day and I would tell anyone who made comments on my hair that it was due to a power outage and not a complete disregard for professionalism.
When I talked to Gregg that evening, he said the power still hadn't come on by lunch time. And no one said anything about my hair.
The only interesting and sad event on my watch was the death of an 18 year old local male who was brought in by ambulance (BIBA) with a pellet gunshot wound (GSW). In the Guam PDN, police were withholding the type of weapon used pending an investigation mainly because no one dies from a pellet gun... This particular pellet managed to transect the aorta and lung. When the ER crew inserted a chest tube, one liter of blood came out. This young man essentially died of cardiac tamponade.
Yesterday's NOD would have had an interesting duty as well because a 29-year old Japanese tourist nearly drowned at Fish Eye (I saw the ambulance and fire truck and saw them pulling the victim from the water on a gurney as I drove home yesterday) and a pedestrian was transported to Naval Hospital following a hit-and-run in Agat.
I much prefer the uneventful watch because any "excitement" for hospital personnel entails a very bad day---much worse than bad hair---for everyone else.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Today I got to taste a salad made with bitter melon, tiny peppers, and chopped shrimp. The bitter melon was simply too bitter for me. For the same reason, I cannot eat Brussel sprouts, even though I know they are very good for me (and despite going all gourmet on them). Pat told me bitter melon is good for lowering blood pressure. I told her my blood pressure would be elevated if I had to eat them.
I also tried a Chamorro casserole of taro leaves, coconut milk, spicy peppers, and mushrooms. The dish looked like cooked spinach. This was bitter too, but not unbearably so. I still wouldn't heap mounds of the stuff on my plate, but I could definitely eat it and be polite. Taro leaves are more typically noted for use in Hawaiian recipes, but they grow throughout the tropics.
Normally, someone makes Arroz Caldo, a Filippino chicken soup, redolent with ginger. Today we had a chicken broth with Chinese dumplings which was also very tasty.
I brought Rice Krispie treats and a bag of ripe bananas from our banana tree. Only half of the pan was eaten and I left the bananas there for others to take home. Pat promised me some lemongrass and I am looking forward to cooking some dishes with it. The mango season has been very good this year with optimal weather conditions. That means our freezer is full of sliced mango! It's also full of frozen bananas. We just ate the avocados and shared them friends until they were gone. I never thought I would tire of guacamole, but it's possible!
The fruits and vegetables selection may be limited but it's definitely a bounty to be shared with friends and family here on Guam.
Friday, July 20, 2007
This earthquake was not all that fun because I kept wondering when it was going to stop. I have no idea where the cats are---three black shadows disappeared and they won't come out from wherever they're hiding. Poor things.
I just filled out a report online at USGS Earthquakes Hazard Program and the intensity of the earthquake I felt was a VI---which means the shaking was strong and the damage was light.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I talked with my ensign and his wife and fussed over their new baby. Then I went and pestered the psychiatrist about his workload. Finally I got to do what I do best: crowd observation. That didn't last long because they started the party. Anna would have been so excited to see the Liberation Day Queen from San Diego's Guam Chapter and the Guam Liberation Day Queen and her court. She could even have gotten their autographs, that's how intimate it was.
And we had marvelous fiesta food. The cucumber salad had a nice bite to it from the boonie peppers and I wished I had gotten more tuna sashimi. I sat at a table with a CAPT, her husband and their teenager, a husband and wife CDR team, the CMC and her husband, and the new XO. How's that for strategic positioning? The only problem was my mouth was full when I shook the XO's hand so he never got my name.
The secret to making conversation when you're not very good at it? Make someone else do all the talking---especially if it's a topic that they're passionate about. I learned a lot about ukeleles and I'm pretty excited about it, too. I think I'll look at taking a lesson or two.
And then, my ultimate favorite: we sang the Marine Corps Hymn and the CAPT's husband and I finished up with the Marines guarding the streets of heaven. The last time I sang this song with that much gusto must have been at my very last Marine Corps Ball in 1993. Wow, how time flies. Now I've been in the Navy longer than I was a Marine.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Everyone will be going back to the real US (as opposed to the satellite US on which we currently reside) this Saturday. Well, everyone except me and the cats. Hobbs will go sometime next week when I've had a chance to get a health certificate for her.
Gregg will play golf with his dad, the family will grill on Grandpa's pontoon boat, and everyone will have a marvelous time. I think Anna intends to get a bowling ball. I don't know how they plan on getting it back here though. Wouldn't want to be on the airplane if they stow it in the overhead bins....
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
I found this while I was cleaning up the clutter around my computer. I thought that you might appreciate the wisdom in it as well.
1. Make little things bother you. Don't just let them, MAKE them.
2. Lose your perspective on things and keep it lost; don't put first things first.
3. Get yourself a good worry, one about which you cannot do anything.
4. Be a perfectionist, which means not that you work hard to do your best, but that you condemn yourself and others for not achieving perfection.
5. Be right. Be always right. Be the only one who is always right, and be rigid in your rightness.
6. Don't trust or believe people, or accept them at anything but their worst and weakest.
7. Be suspicious. Insist that others always have hidden motives.
8. Always compare yourself unfavorably to others. This guarantees instant misery.
9. Take personally everything that happens to you.
10. Don't give yourself whole-heartedly to anyone or anything.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
In addition to a full physical exam, they tested her blood and stool. Hobbs is exceptionally healthy for her age and condition. They did de-worm her at the clinic. However, several days later I had to take a stool sample in because she had diarrhea. Just as I suspected, she had coccida. Since she's had this before, the vet put her on a 21-day regimen. It's a liquid suspension this time rather than a pill, so I just pop a towel over her, pry open her jaws, and squirt a little of the syringe contents into her mouth. She makes a token protest but we both know it makes her feel better.
She has annoyed Gregg mightily by urinating on his gym bag. She has done this at least twice. She also urinated on the kitchen floor several times. Gregg initially thought it was because of Sparky, but he went on puppy training papers right in front of the door, not under the hutch where she puddled. I looked on the mentor site at Purina Cat Chow and it appears her problem is most likely stress.
Miss Hobbs is not the friendliest of cats and has been traumatized since kittenhood after getting tangled in a plastic grocery bag. Since she's been back, the whole cat hierarchy has been upset. Considering she spends most of her time hiding out under our bed, I'm not sure what the big issue is amongst the cats. When she does come out from under the bed to walk around all stiff-legged, it's very evident she's an old cat. I wonder if she hasn't suffered from some sort of dementia. Or maybe she's just mad that I didn't try harder to find her.
We got two calls just four days later. One of the callers worked with me and came by my workspace to find out more details. I drew him a map to our house and hoped for the best. He had a dog back home who weighed 84 lbs and it was too expensive to ship him here. He said he just accepted the fact it would be two years before he saw his dog again. Sparky would help him while he was missing his dog back home.
When I got home that evening, the doggie gates were down. My heart sank just a little. Part of me was so relieved---no more getting up early, no more spending time with the dog instead of my family, and no more conflicted feelings. Except there were still conflicted feelings: part of me was incredibly sad that I failed at loving dogs.
When I walked in the door, my observations were confirmed. Sparky had a new home.
It's a bittersweet feeling. Dogs force you to live in the moment with them. Cats live parallel lives with you. Something can be learned from living with both.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
I was at Isla interviewing Brett Silk for a story on dog bite prevention when this woman pulled up in an SUV, pulled out a cardboard box, brought it in and set it down. She went back to the SUV. We all watched her from the glass doors.
"Does this happen often?" I asked.
"All the time," they said.
I guess the woman had second thoughts about what she was doing, because she returned to the lobby and said, "My son brought this dog home that he found along the roadside. I can't bear the thought of him being hit by a car but I can't keep him. We're moving to South Carolina and I'm taking care of a sick relative."
A moment of silence. Then I, ever hopeful, took a deep breath and said bravely, "Well, I have a credit card. Let's see if he's healthy and take it from there."
Three kinds of people exist in the world: cat people, dog people, and indifferent people. I am definitely a cat person. I thought Gregg was a dog person; he always talked about how he grew up with dogs and said he wished we had a dog. That is, until we actually got one.
I had to get up earlier than normal to play with him, feed, and toilet him. When I got home at night, I played with him instead of reading my email or books, or spending time with my family. Working 12-hour shifts meant I didn't spend much time with my children before bedtime anyway. My discretionary time, always scarce, became microscopic.
Sparky, as we named him, adored playing fetch and could play it for hours on end.
Cats, on the other hand, love playing with me and, at about the time I'm getting tired, it seems they feel the same way. Without any obligations or hard feelings, we both move on to other activities. My cats lack the ability to inspire guilt in me, unlike Sparky. So there you have it: the way to get me to do something is use your big brown eyes and guilt me.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Guam PDN Memorial Day Article
Here is something from one of my Marine buddies:
Memorial Day is their day, isn't it? It is supposed to be the day a grateful nation pauses to quietly thank the more than one million men and women who have died in military service to their country since the Revolutionary War.
Or is it the day the beach resorts kick into high gear for the summer season, the day the strand is covered by fish-belly white people basting themselves in coconut oil, the day the off-season rates end and the weekend you can't get in a seaside seafood restaurant with anything less than a one hour wait.
Or is it one of the biggest shopping center sales days of the year, a day when hunting for a parking space is the prime sport for the holiday stay-at-homers? Or is it the weekend when more people will kill themselves on the highways than any other weekend and Highway Patrol troopers work overtime picking up the pieces?
I think the men and women who died for us would understand what we do with their day. I hope they would, because if they wouldn't, if they would have insisted that it be a somber, respectful day of remembrance, then we have blown it and dishonored their sacrifice.
I knew some of those who died, and the guys I knew would have understood. They liked a sunny beach and a cold beer and a hot babe in a black bikini, too. They would have enjoyed packing the kids, the inflatable rafts, the coolers, and the suntan lotion in the car and heading for the lake. They would have enjoyed staying at home and cutting the grass and getting together with some friends and cooking some steaks on the grill, too. But they didn't get the chance.
They blew up in the Marine Barracks in Beirut and died in the oily waters of the Persian Gulf. They caught theirs at the airstrip in Grenada in the little war everyone laughed at. They bought the farm in the I Drang Valley and on Heartbreak Ridge, Phu Tai and at Hue.
They froze at the Chosin Reservoir and were shot at the Pusan Perimeter. They drowned in the surf at Omaha Beach or fell in the fetid jungles of Guadalcanal. They died in the ice and snow of the Bulge and the Vosges Mountains. They were at the Somme and at San Juan Hill and at Gettysburg and at Cerro Gordo and at Valley Forge.
They couldn't be here with us this weekend, but I think they would understand that we don't spend the day in tears and heart-wrenching memorials. They wouldn't want that. Grief is not why they died. They died so we could go fishing. They died so another father could hold his laughing little girl over the waves. They died so another father could toss a baseball to his son in their backyard while the charcoal is getting white. They died so another buddy could drink a beer on his day off. They died so a family could get in the station wagon and go shopping and maybe get some ice cream on the way home.
They won't mind that we have chosen their day to have our first big outdoor party of the year. But they wouldn't mind, either, if we took just a second and thought about them. Some will think of them formally, of course. Wreaths will be laid in small, sparsely attended ceremonies in military cemeteries and at monuments at state capitols and in small town's squares. Flags will fly over the graves, patriotic words will be spoken and a few people there will probably feel a little anger that no more people showed up. They'll think no one else remembers.
But we do remember. We remember Smitty and Chico, and Davey and the guys who died. We remember the deal we made: If we buy it, we said, drink a beer for me. I'll do it for you, guys.
I'll drink that beer for you today, and I'll sit on that beach for you, and I'll check out the girls for you and, just briefly, I'll think of you.
I won't let your memory spoil the trip but you'll be on that sunny beach with me today.
I will not mourn your deaths this Memorial Day, my friends. Rather, I'll celebrate the life you gave me.
This Bud's for you, brother!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
The kids, of course, love it. They put on their bathing suits and play in the gutters as they overflow from the deluge. Check out Drew in our most recent downpour. (Click image for full size photo)
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Anna decided she wanted to enter the Guam Islandwide Science Fair in the Chemistry division about a month ago. I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to recreate the Mentos-Diet Coke experiment we saw on TV and on the web.
Good choice, I guess. She ended up taking first place in Chemistry in the 3rd - 5th grade division! Not too bad, particularly since she's only in 3rd grade.
Click here to see a short video of her experiment. If you have small kids, you should try this at home because they will love it. Simply get a pack of Mentos (about 15 or so) and one 64 oz bottle of Diet Coke. Roll a piece of paper into a tube with a hole that is slightly larger than a Mentos and long enough to stack about 12 Mentos in a row. Place the Diet Coke on the ground and remove the lid, then place a 3 x 5 card over the mouth of the bottle. Put your tube on top of the 3 x 5 card and directly over the mouth. Stack your Mentos, get ready to run, then pull the 3 x 5 card to allow them to all enter the Diet Coke. Watch the video if you have any questions.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
"I have a mansion forget the price
Aint never been there they tell me its nice
I live in hotels tear out the walls
I have accountants pay for it all.
My maserati does 185
I lost my license now I dont drive
I have a limo ride in the back
I lock the doors in case Im attacked.
I go to parties sometimes until four
Its hard to leave when you cant find the door
Its tough to handle this fortune and fame
Everybodys so different I havent changed."
This was probably one of the better courses I have ever attended. Fiscal law is very important in the military, as you can imagine. It is also very complex. Guess who senior leaders turn to when they need it deciphered? Yep, JAG's.
The course was taught by three Majors from the Army's JAG school in Charlottesville, VA. Flew in just to teach this four-day course. They did an excellent job, in my opinion - well worth the trip.
I can now tell you the primary rule about spending money in the military - Purpose, Time, Amount. You can only spend money for the purpose congress intended it to be spent, only during the time that money is authorized (usually one fiscal year), and only for the amount congress authorized. Sound simple? If it was, I wouldn't have had to spend four days in the BASIC course. Truth is, one could dedicate their life to understanding the nuances of budgeting.
I picked up some gifts for Anna and Drew, as always. Also got a gift for Alana and her family, and one for Mark Arquette and his family. Hope they enjoy them - I am not the best shopper.
I know from experience that Mary takes these tragedies personally. She will rerun that terrible day over and over again in her head, searching for any clue she believes she should have caught, believing she can somehow alter reality or stop the inevitable. She knows deep down there was nothing she could have done, even if she were Super Nurse. If, somehow, she had brilliantly deduced that her patient was going to experience a stroke in advance, something numerous other doctors and nursed didn't do either, that still would not have been enough. She couldn't stop it. She knows this. But she will still continue to search for that elusive clue she believes she missed, so that she will know the next time.
You want a nurse like this taking care of you.
She's unfortunately been through losses like this before, as has any health care provider. It's the nature of the healthcare business, trying to prevent the unpreventable. I will never understand how they do it, these doctors and nurses. Working so hard to learn everything there is to know about the human body in a futile effort to control it and prevent it from doing what it is destined to do.
We, you and I, those of us not in the health care profession, owe them a deep debt of gratitude. They work so hard, with so little recognition, and rarely get the thanks they deserve. They do it because they care.
No one remembers the doctors and nurses that cured them of disease or eased their pain or delivered them at birth or removed their wisdom teeth or game them flu shots or set that bone or removed that appendix or did countless other things to make their passage through life more comfortable. We only think of them when we believe they screwed something up. Well, guess what, life is not guaranteed, and even God never promised you a life without pain. How we ever came to believe that doctors and nurses were somehow at fault when they failed to insulate us from being human I will never know. But I thank God they try.
Both my sister and my wife are nurses and I have tremendous respect for them. I like to think there is nothing I can't do, but they do something far beyond what I could ever do. They endure the inevitable health care crises that occur every day just so they can be there when their presence does makes a difference. I once read a story about a doctor who dedicated his life to helping the deaf hear. He combined technology with medicine and developed a device that, in certain individuals, would help them hear when they couldn't before. I remember it because he tells the story of a young woman who had been deaf since birth that he once had the opportunity to work with. He was standing in her room, post-surgery, when she heard her mother's voice for the first time. He said he had worked his entire life for that one moment, and it was worth every bit of it. Can you imagine?
Here's to my wife and sister. Thank you.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I am traveling to Camp Zama in Japan today to attend a fiscal law course. United States Army Japan (USARJ) is stationed at Camp Zama, 25 miles southwest of Tokyo. It is supposed to be a beautiful area - I am really looking forward to it.
Of course, the downside is I have to leave Mary alone with the kids during a particularly brutal week for her. She is scheduled to work 6 12-hour shifts over the next seven days. In other words, I couldn't have picked a worse time to travel. I would have turned down the course if I didn't need it for my professional development.
I really have to hand it to Mary. She bears the brunt of my travel. It wouldn't be so difficult for her if her job wasn't so demanding. She has to be at work at 7:00 am normally, but must be there even earlier when she stands a 12-hour shift. This makes it impossible to drop off the kids at school, since they can't arrive any earlier than 7:00 am. She has to rely on friends and babysitters to help her make everything work. Making matters worse, when she stands a 12-hour shift, she doesn't usually get home before 7:30 pm, but the kids have to be picked up from school before 5:30 pm. Again, she couldn't do it without the help of others. All this becomes a management nightmare, but she weathers it pretty well.
The fiscal law course at Camp Zama should be a real help. As I'm sure you can imagine, fiscal law and policies are a huge concern within the DoD. There are literally volumes of rules and regulations governing who can spend how much on what, and when. Many people devote their entire career to trying to master the subject. For me, I just keep those folks' phone numbers and email addresses handy.
I plan to do some video-taping and photography while in Japan. One of my life-long best friends, Mark Arquette, has a son Preston who really wants to visit Japan some day. I promised him some photos and video quite some time ago, but managed to lose everything I had in an unexpected hard drive failure. Ugh. Six months of pictures lost. Anyway, I should be able to get some good stuff on this trip that I can forward to Preston.
Friday, April 20, 2007
We ran our third family 5K race today. Anna sat this one out, instead reading a few pages from Abraham Lincoln's biography. More on that later.
The race was held by a new non-profit organization in Guam dedicated to environmental protection. Good cause, but new, so few participated. Worse yet, there were two other big races today as well, causing the number of runners to be even fewer. There were only 80 or so people in this race. But that was a good thing for Drew.
Once again, Drew ran the race from start to finish without stopping once. He cut his time from 35 minutes down to 29 minutes, 58 seconds, and managed to place 2nd in the youth bracket (12 and under). Very exciting for him. Drew was 2 minutes behind a 10 year old, and beat out an 8 year old for 2nd place by a minute. Not bad for a 6 year old on his third race. Must have been the new shoes be bought him.
I will scan the certificate he won when I get back from Japan. I'm traveling there tomorrow for a fiscal law course.
About Anna and the Abraham Lincoln book. She has been saying for the last two or three months that she wants to be president. I'll post about her quest at length later on. About two weeks ago, she found a biography of Abraham Lincoln I had on our book shelf and asked if she could read it. I said yes, of course, but expected her to put it down after getting bored with it. But she has been carrying it around for two weeks with her wherever we go. She hasn't read a lot so far, but she already is telling us things about Lincoln that she has read in the book. Very cool. She says he is her favorite president because he helped people. Wise words for a young scholar. I think the world would be a better place if she was our president. But, then again, I'm a little biased, as you can imagine.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Since Drew won his pack's Pinewood Derby race, he was automatically entered into the Guam Islandwide Pinewood Derby Championship. The race was scheduled for 10:00 am on the 14th, which was only about four hours after we got home from our eight-day trip to Hong Kong. So we were dragging.
The race was only supposed to have the champions from each pack, but since some packs had not held their elimination event yet, the council opened it up to all those who had not yet raced. So, instead of only six cars, there were 19.
After the preliminary round, the top four cars advanced to the championship. Drew made the cut. The championship round consisted of four heats between the four cars, with each car running on each of the four tracks. Drew won three of the four heats and easily won the championship. As you can imagine, he was pretty happy.
I've posted a short video of the race on our home website. You can visit the video page here:
Once there, click on the picture to launch a Windows Media Player file that is about five minutes long. There are a few other videos worth checking out as well.
At last, we were heading home. But our flight didn't leave until 10:30 PM, so we had some time to kill after checking out of the hotel. This worked out pretty well, however.
We headed over to the Hong Kong side to give Mary one last chance to purchase some fabric. She had been shopping for fabric since we arrived, but couldn't find what she was looking for. So, we headed to Western Market, where we had been told there was a good restaurant and perhaps some fabric stores. We hit the jackpot. Mary found just the type of fabric she had wanted, and the restaurant turned out to be an excellent place to eat.
After finishing lunch, we headed back to Kowloon so Drew could visit the space museum. The museum was a big disappointment, unfortunately. We had set aside two hours to spend there, but walked through in less than an hour. Not much to see, and all the interactive exhibits were broken. Too bad.
We then stopped by a tailor Mary had ordered two dresses and some shorts from and picked up the merchandise. Then back to the hotel to pick up our bags and have dinner before heading to the airport.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Five hour night flight, arriving in Guam at 5:00 am. Got home about 6:00. Not much time to sleep, though. Drew was due to race his Pinewood Derby car in the Guam championships at 10:00 am. See my next post.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
We decided to take a day trip to Shenzhen, China, more out of curiousity than anything else. Many go to Shenzhen to shop - primarily for namebrand knockoffs. We, however, spent the day on a "cultural tour" of Shenzhen.
Our trip was part of a coordinated tour of Shenzhen, which is really the only practical way to go. Otherwise, we would have had to apply for visas on our own, which I'm told is a very difficult process. The tour was scheduled to last 10 hours, but did not start until noon. Which meant it was going to be a long day.
We started our tour on a fast ferry from Kowloon to Shenzhen, travel time about 1 hour. Drew loved it, of course.
During the transit, our tour guide filled us in on what we would be doing during the day, and warned us to be very careful of pickpockets and scam artists. After that, we all tried to take a nap to prepare for the rest of the day.
On arrival, we quickly passed through customs and immigration, then met our official tour guide, a Chinese government agent. That's right, China requires all tours be guided only by officially-designated agents. Hmmmm.
Our first stop was a shrine dedicated to some watery goddess holding a piece of broken sky, nothing spectacular. But, we had our first opportunity to speak with our official Chinese tour guide, Benny. He was nice enough, but the way in which he spoke and the things he said made it perfectly clear that Benny was reading from a prepared script written to mislead tourists.
That hotel over there? A five star hotel, the first of fifteen so-called five-star hotels in Shenzhen. The bus we were riding in? Why, it was a brand new bus designed and built by the people of China. The shopping centers and parks? All five star, of course. Benny then proceeded to tell us that China was a modern socialist republic, compared to Hong Kong's democracy. Not communist at all, no.
Everyone was happy, everything was clean. Shenzhen seemed to be the ideal place to live. Of course, the reality was dramatically different.
Everywhere I looked, I saw a people suffering from poverty and repression. Although the bus stayed carefully away from the poorer side of town, we did pass by one high rise housing unit that was so obvious Benny had to say something. That building, he told us, was where laborers from other parts of the country would stay while they were in town to work in the industrial plants. Which helped explain how the city grew from a population of 50,000 in the early 90's to over 10,000,000 today. People were coming in from all over China to work in probably the only semi-socialist (as opposed to communist) city in the country. But not to worry, Benny explained, everyone had a nice apartment elsewhere.
We visited a park along the way to the "cultural" spot we would visit. Here is a photo of Anna and Drew with Shenzhen in the background.
Along the way we stopped at what was called a mineral museum, which turned out to be a jewelry store with some jade sculptures out front. The place was pretty dismal, given that it was supposedly the official "Chinese Mineral Museum."
We finally arrived at the "cultural" spot on our tour, which turned out to be a garden-like amusement park, without the rides. It was called Miniature China, and had miniature villages spread throughout the park that represented the 22 different regions of China. Here is a shot of one of the miniature cities.
Now, don't get me wrong, it was a nice park and provided plenty of interesting sights for the family. But, again, as a cultural experience, it was more like visiting Disney's Epcot Center and calling it a United States cultural tour.
We had dinner at the park restaurant, which I'm told was pretty tasty. Unfortunately, I had developed a stomach bug and couldn't even drink the water. But Mary, Anna and Drew loved it.
We then walked around the park for a bit and took some pictures.
Next we went to the evening show, which was a recreation of a Chinese New Year's celebration. This was very beatiful, and as Anna said, very elaborate.
We caught a train back to Hong Kong, cleared customs and immigration, and headed for the hotel. Finally made it to bed around mignight.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
We decided to go ahead and give Hong Kong Disney a try, and am I glad we did. We all had a lot of fun, particularly Drew. He rode his first roller coaster - the Hong Kong version of Space Mountain, and I couldn't drag him off it. We rode it 5 times in a row before we had to leave.
The Disney park here is a blast. Not nearly as big as Orlando Disney, but setup the same way. You can make it around the park at a brisk walk in about 30 minutes. The best part is, there are not that many people. We never had to wait more than 20 minutes for any ride, even Space Mountain.
Another major difference was the food, as you might expect. As soon as we entered the park, Anna and Drew said they were hungry. So, we stopped at the first kiosk we saw. Our choices? Corn on the cob, sushi, pickles, some sort of doughnut on a stick. Drew and Anna went for the corn and loved it.
I locked in on the popcorn and bought some, only to find out it had some sort of caramel/fishy kind of coating. Uck.
But, it was a great day. Far better than we had at Ocean Park. If you come, I recommend going to both if you can, but if you can only go to one, make it Disney.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Monday, April 9, 2007
When we intially planned our trip, we planned to visit Hong Kong Disney on one of the days. However, everyone we have talked to since we arrived recommended Ocean Park instead. So, we decided to give it a shot. Not too bad, but nothing like Disney back home. Not too many rides, but all-in-all, a great way to spend a day.
It is located along the south side of Hong Kong Island, providing a spectacular view of the South China Sea. Here is a photo we took as we rode the cable car from one side of the part to the other.
Later I caught Drew as he stood in line for the Frog Hopper ride.
Anna and Drew then rode the Frog Hopper and had a blast.
We were all so tired we came home and vegged-out on room service and watched the Discovery Channel, which had a great show on about Chinese History.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
On Easter Sunday, we spent the morning at the Methodist International Church - Hong Kong. Excellent sermon by the pastor, who actually managed to quote Stephen Hawking as he explained how science and religion were not necessarily in conflict.
We then stopped by the Hong Kong Club for brunch. The Hong Kong Club is a reciprocal club to the Union League Club of Chicago, our private club. The view was spectacular - the 48th floor of 2 Central Building. We ate out on the patio - check out the view.
Next we went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art on the Kowloon side. We then spent the rest of the day touring the neighborhood around our hotel, the Regal Oriental, in Kowloon.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
What an incredible first day in Hong Kong. We took our first ride on the famous Star Ferry, then boarded a double-decker bus bound for Stanley Market.
The double-decker bus is an amazing experience in its own right. We moved to the front four seats on the upper deck, sitting directly above the driver. This gave us a completely unobstructed view of the road ahead and all the beautiful sights along the route, including Hong Kong traffic and the South China Sea. It felt like we were flying.
We passed by Repulse Bay on our way. Repulse Bay is a beautiful beach community on south Hong Kong island.
Eventually we made it to Stanley Market, where we shopped until we dropped. Drew picked up a warm jacket that he rarely takes off. Anna, Drew and Mary K also bought stamp sets, which are customized stamps with their English and Chinese names carved into jade-like sandstone. I picked up a stylish pair of Crocs.
After a full day of shopping, we made our way back to our hotel in Kowloon. On the way, we stopped for photos of the family with Hong Kong in the background.
We also picked up some snacks on the way home. Anna is seen here eating some of her favorite dried fish. Uck.
Then, after dinner, we decided to do some shopping in one of the many night markets. We took a taxi to Lady's Market for dinner and shopping. Drew got tired, so Mary K took him back to the hotel. Anna and I stayed for a bit longer. I snapped this pic of her just before we left.