Jetlag

8 Apr

I have been soooooo tired since we got back from Japan! Even today, a week after we returned, I ended up sleeping until about 10:15. Would getting out of economy and into seats with more room, presumably for better, more comfortable sleep while in transit, help? Does jet lag get worse as we age? Will my body clock ever return to normal?

I need a nap.

Konichiwa!

3 Apr

We’re back from our just-over-a-week-long trip to Japan! Mike, Michaela, and I flew from San Diego to Tokyo on March 24, arriving March 25 (12 hour flight time + crossing the international dateline + 16 hour time difference = gnarly!), and were there through April 1 (our flight took off at about 5:30 p.m. Tokyo time and landed at about 12:30 p.m. on April 1, San Diego-time. Michaela was tickled we had TWO April Fools Days). We spent most of our time in Tokyo, with a trip to Kyoto, from which we did a day trip to a town called Nara. It was a really lovely trip! Here are some highlights:

The Japanese people

Everyone we met was very polite, which I expected, but they were also surprisingly warm. Michaela got to interact with several children on the subway, including a family we met on the metro and then ran into hours later at a park. The language of play is universal, and a smile goes a long way. We try not to be “ugly Americans,” so I like to think we also left the Japanese people we encountered with a positive impression of the people of the United States.

The Giant Buddha

Nara is home to the largest wooden building in the world and one of the largest bronze statues anywhere. The Buddha there was amazing! So huge, I couldn’t capture it properly in photographs. So calming and peaceful and reassuring.

The Imperial Tokyo

Our last hotel was super posh, with top-notch service. The bathroom was enormous. I could have stayed there forever.

Quality time with the family

We travel a lot, but this was our best trip yet. Michaela is a champion traveler. She was up for almost anything, trying new foods (octopus balls and tiny shrimp and chicken hearts), walking her feet off, and dutifully capturing each day’s activities in her travel journal.

Unplugging

Our cell phones’ internet, phones, and text messaging all worked in Japan, but I kept my phone in airplane mode for the most part so that I could focus on being in the moment, rather than documenting it for social media. It’s very rare that I unplug, so that was a nice treat.

Reading

I read three books during the trip: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” “The Sound of Gravel,” and “The Rent Collector.” They were very different, but very good. “Bernadette” is a typical beach read– breezy and fun. “Gravel” is an autobiography by a woman who grew up in the fundamentalist, polygamous Mormon church. “Collector” is a fictional story that takes place in a Cambodian dump. I set a goal of reading 20 books this calendar year, and thanks to several vacations, I’m already at 12.

Feeding the deer in Nara

Nara is home to about 1200 deer that roam the grounds of this large park in the middle of town. We bought “deer crackers” and fed the deer… and tried to avoid their kicking and biting. It was actually very cool.

Mike’s 360 camera

Mike has a special camera that takes 360 degree photos. It’s like a panorama picture, but better. It was an excellent way to capture the full experience of wherever we happened to be.

Learning a few Japanese phrases

This goes with my “don’t be an ugly American” thing… I always try to learn at least a few words or phrases in the language of the country we’re visiting. It’s the least I can do since Mike takes care of all of the logistics of our trips! I had a dozen or so phrases (good morning, hello, thank you, excuse me, etc.) and deployed them with gusto.

 

It was a great trip!

Michaela’s Favorite Fruit

23 Mar

Michaela came home from school the other day with a journal entry about her favorite fruits. Here’s what it said:

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My favorite fruits are apples, bananas, watermelon. I like apples because the Granny Smith are so crunchy. I like bananas because you don’t have to lookout for seeds or puts. I like watermelon because it cools you down in summer.

 

My Leprechaun

20 Mar

A (belated) look at my little leprechaun.

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This and That

20 Mar

What’s life been like for us since I last blogged six weeks ago?

Michaela kicked booty at Girl Scout cookie sales! She decided she wanted to sell enough cookies to earn an owl neck pillow– 300 boxes! (It’s the most expensive neck pillow ever, and ironically, we won’t have it before our vacation, so I purchased this one for her to have for our long flight) She walked the neighborhood selling cookies, did some “stand abouts” where the girls sell cookies in front of someone’s house, called friends and family, and made a couple of videos. After all her hard work — and me and Mike trekking cookies all over the state (literally! Mike took several boxes to Oakland, where a friend of a friend picked them up, and I took boxes to Sacramento to school PR colleagues) — she managed to exceed her goal. Many thanks to our friends and family who purchased cookies from her!

Mike traveled and traveled and traveled. At one point, I counted and he was gone 20 of the following 30 days. Then he came back and both sets of in-laws (Mike’s dad and stepmom, and mom and stepdad) come to visit (separately, not together), and now he’s gone again.

I went to Sacramento for the annual California School Public Relations Association conference. I’m president this year, so I had the honor of giving a “State of CalSPRA” address to our 200 attendees, including the state superintendent of public instruction (the top education official in California).

While Mike’s mom and stepdad were in town, we did some cool things. The grownups went to a special adults-only night at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center and had cocktails and checked out the exhibits (including the very cool Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery exhibit) while my parents watched Michaela. Mike’s mom and I visited the San Diego Botanic Garden for a girls’ outing, followed by a lovely lunch. And all of us – me, Mike, his mom and stepdad, and Michaela – got to go to a sneak peek of a new Living Coast Discover Center exhibit. Plus lots of relaxing, eating at favorite places, and even some naps!

Last fall, Mike bought a new car, which I lovingly refer to as his “midlife crisis mobile.” It’s a two-seater Mercedes convertible, and he loves it. Since it only seats two people, though, it’s not super practical (especially for a family of three). While his parents were in town, he needed to be able to take them places, so I got to drive his car while he used mine. I felt very chic zipping around town in it, and I drove home from work each night with the top down, soaking in Vitamin D and blasting tunes. Maybe I should get one, too?

Next up for us is our trip to Japan! It’s a quick trip (9 days including the days of our flights), but I’m really excited. I have never been to Asia before, and before this, the only place I’ve been with a non-Western alphabet was Greece, which is still in Western Europe. So it’ll definitely be an adventure!

One Week

8 Feb

It’s been a week since Rey died. I miss him so much.

Roll with the Punches

8 Feb

Mike is out of town, so I’m temporarily a single mom. Michaela and I are used to it, and we do a pretty good job of rolling with the punches. Today is a great example.

6:25 a.m. – my alarm goes off. I browse the news, check emails, look at Facebook.

6:50 a.m. – I wake up Michaela.

6:55 a.m. – I wake her up again.

7 a.m. – It’s late! Michaela eats a bowl of cereal while I get dressed and put on my makeup.

7:20 a.m. – I start making Michaela’s snack (I’m off the hook for making lunch today, because Michaela likes to buy school lunch on Wednesdays).

7:25 a.m. – I fix Michaela’s hair.

7:30 a.m. – I nag Michaela about putting on her shoes and getting her backpack packed.

7:35 a.m. – I gather my things, Michaela gathers her things, and we hustle out the door.

7:40 a.m. – We arrive at school, just in time for the first bell. I get Michaela off to her classroom and head back to my car.

7:45 a.m. – The 5th graders at school are selling Valentine’s Day treats that will be delivered to classrooms next week. I pony up a dollar to send one to Michaela from Mom and Dad.

8:10 a.m. – I get to work.

8:15 a.m. – I get a call that my 9 a.m. meeting is canceled, so I’m meeting-free for several hours. A rare treat!

11 a.m. – I’m hungry! I put off eating for a while longer.

11:30 a.m. – Walk down to the onsite cafeteria and grab some lunch. Yum!

12:45 p.m. – I have to leave work to get Michaela from school. Wednesdays are half days, so she’s done at 12:15, then has Spanish until 1:15. Because I have to attend a board meeting tonight at work and Mike is out of town, my parents were nice enough to agree to watch Michaela for me. My dad had plans this afternoon, though, so I had to grab Michaela from school and run her to my parents’ house.

1:15 p.m. – I get Michaela from school and we head to my parents’.

2 p.m. – I’m back at work. Finally! My calendar is clear until 4:30, so I get some work done at my desk.

4:30 p.m. – Meeting.

5:35 p.m. – Meeting ends. I have 25 minutes until the board meeting, so I sneak in some dinner.

6 p.m. – Board meeting kicks off.

9:30 p.m. – Board meeting ends. Finally!

9:35 p.m. – I’m in my car, heading to my parents’.

9:50 p.m. – I grab Michaela, who had been asleep, and we drive home. Poor thing is bushed! She falls asleep in her carseat clutching Dieciocho, her bear.

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10:05 p.m. – Michaela asks if she can sleep in my bed. I tell her sure and once she disappears into my room, I check the mail, unpack her backpack, load the dishwasher, etc.

10:30 p.m. – Settle in for a quick blog post.

10:45 p.m. – Bedtime! The alarm will go off again in just a few hours!

RIP Rey

1 Feb

When Rey got sick in December, it was odd. When he was diagnosed with cancer last week, it was sad. When Mike and I took him to be put to sleep today, it was devastating.

Rey joined our family just two months shy of 10 years ago (part 1 of how he came to live with us; part 2). He was there as Mike and I renovated our first house. He was there when we got married. He was there when we brought Michaela home from the hospital. And throughout it all, he was awesome. Sweet, smart, friendly, charming. People fell in love with him.

Last week, I got an opinion from a second vet at our practice who said we could give Rey steroids to try to shrink the masses in his lungs and appetite stimulants to make him eat. She said we’d be able to tell in a week if the treatment was working or not. I was optimistic at first, but it soon became obvious that it wasn’t working. In the last couple of days, his condition got worse. He started having trouble walking, then he stopped eating (even the turkey meatballs I started giving him when he stopped eating his regular dog food), and he wasn’t drinking much.

I knew Rey was really sick, and I knew he was going to die, but it was still a shock. Last night, his breathing was really labored. Mike was giving him water with a syringe, squirting it into his mouth. Today Mike promised to keep a close eye on him and to let me know if he got worse. He sent me a message this afternoon saying I should come home. That it was time.

Michaela was crying. A couple of neighbors stopped by to say goodbye and they were crying, too. I was crying. Rey? He was laying there feebly. His gums, which should have been a bright pink, were white. He was so anemic. His breathing was heavy and he was making a wheezing sound. It definitely was time.

Mike and I took Rey to the vet. They were very kind. A technician took Rey to place a port in one of his veins and when she brought him back, the site had been bandaged and they’d drawn a heart on it. The doctor told us she would have made the same decision, given the state of his health. She used the port to inject two drugs and a minute later, he was gone.

This is the last picture I took of him alive.

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I keep waiting for him to come sauntering down the hall, his nails clicking on our hardwood floors. I’m waiting for him to jump up onto the couch with me to snuggle. I look in the corner of our bedroom where his bed was (I moved it when we came home; it was painful to see it) and see an empty space.

Rey was such a big part of our lives. He was here everyday. He counted on us to meet his needs. And now he’s gone. It’s different than with Elree, who I hadn’t seen in a while. And yet in many ways, it’s the same. Both were bright spots in my life. I’m thankful for the time I had with them.

Oh poop!

30 Jan

Just to give you another idea of how Michaela’s brain works…

She came home today with a sheet saying she needs to come up with something for the 100th day of school. There has to be 100 of something, on a paper no larger than 12×18 inches, to make up a larger picture, which can be decorated with whatever else she wants so long as there are 100 of one thing.

Michaela started racking her brain for something. She wanted to pick her item first, before figuring out what the larger picture should be. She thought about macaroni, to make a sun. I suggested chocolate chips – they’re flat on the bottom so easy to adhere to the paper, plus they’re cheap and plentiful. I said maybe she could have them spilling out of a bag. She didn’t like that idea.

All of a sudden, she yelled, “I GOT IT! I can use chocolate chips to make a poop emoji!!!!!”

So I guess that’s what we’re going to do.

(Also, Michaela’s teacher deserves extra credit for having Michaela in her class this year.)

Not Today, MFer

29 Jan

For years, I’ve had in my office a framed postcard with the Martin Niemoller quote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” I try to live by that approach and to speak up when something isn’t right.

I’ve also seen a meme going around lately that says, “Remember sitting in history class thinking, ‘If I was alive then, I would have…’ You’re alive now. Whatever you’re doing is what you would have done.” That has really stuck with me.

When Donald Trump issued his order blocking refugees (refugees!!!) from Syria, stopping immigration from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, and adding a religious preference to our immigration policy, I was pissed. There’s really no other way to describe my emotional reaction. It’s such a short-sighted, Islamophobic, pandering policy… so guaranteed to have no positive outcome and in fact only make things worse for our nation and especially our troops serving abroad… that I just couldn’t sit by and do nothing. And even though I was tired yesterday, even though Mike was out of town and I had Michaela, even though going to a demonstration doesn’t seem very impactful… I did.

I saw an alert on Facebook about a gathering at the local Islamic Center, to show opposition to the Muslim ban and to demonstrate support for our Muslim neighbors. I called my mom to see if she’d watch Michaela and she immediately agreed. I ran over there and my dad helped me make my sign. They’re good people.

I was pleased when I got to the Islamic Center that there were about 30 people there. I took my spot on the street, holding up a sign that said “Muslims Welcome Here.” As time went on, more and more people gathered. We chanted and waved our signs. Some people driving by honked their horns in support, and, in a moment that touched me deeply, a couple of men from the center came out and offered us water bottles.

I stayed for about 45 minutes before heading home. I was going to leave my sign for someone else who’d come without one, but I realized I will probably need to use it again, so held onto it.

It’s not much, but I’ll keep doing it until I don’t have to anymore.