I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My husband is a Captain in the US Air Force. I have three adorable kids and I love to teach yoga. This blog is about our family, the LDS church, and our journey through the US Air Force.
As we start to prepare for our move from Misawa Japan to Enid, Oklahoma, it became clear that it is time to purge. When we arrived here three years ago, our kids were in a different phase of life and we have just held on to the leftover items because there was no motivation to get rid of it. We have to divide our home into three different shipments- the big shipment HHG (household goods) which will leave in May, the more essential day to day items, Unaccompanied Baggage, that will leave in June, and the things that we will cart around in suitcases until we have somewhere to live in OK. We have no extra room in our house to sort all of this and so it is necessary to get rid of things that are not needed anymore. We used Marie Kondo's philosophy of discarding. It seemed fitting as we are in Japan and there was the Netflix series and her book to learn from. I really liked thinking of the things that bring us JOY and the things we are going to keep. It seemed so much easier to make decisions this way. I do not think we discarded enough to be featured on her show, but I was surprised at how much we have been holding onto in our little Misawa home:
Every time I took a load to the thrift store on base I felt a little bad for the employees there who have to sort through my junk. Maybe someone just arriving here can benefit for it. Life comes full circle here in Misawa!
Since we arrived in Misawa, we wanted to make it to the Sapporo Snow Festival. A big draw for me is that my father once attended while on his LDS mission. He was at the festival in 1973, the 46th Festival. We were attended the 70th Annual Festival. I don't have a picture of him at the festival to share because he took his pictures in slides. I do have this jem from his mission:
I have not wanted to think of this year's experiences as my "lasts." I do know that I will keenly miss the connection I feel to my father when I am with the Japanese people at a festival. It has been a joy to travel to some of the places that he lived and taught in this amazing culture.
We were extremely cold at the festival. The kids seemed to enjoy it only when we were playing on the ice slides or getting free samples of apple cider and onigiri (rice balls). I did wonder at one point while people, namely me, would choose to travel to a snowy, ice covered place.
Stage for entertainment
Wall of ice
The detail on the sculptures was amazing
Favorite Japanese characters- Sumikko gurashi
Favorite characters- Pokemon
I think this sculpture was the big draw but the kids were too cold to enjoy it.
Luckily, under Odori Park is a subway line with lots of retail stores and restaurants. We stayed under until we warmed up enough to enjoy our day again. And when we emerged, we found ourselves in the land of glittering ice.
Ice sculpture for the upcoming Hina Festival on March 3rd
We found their initials carved in ice!
Frozen fish suspended in the ice wall
Thank goodness for warm ramen in Ramen Alley!
Another draw of traveling to Sapporo is having the opportunity to visit the temple. This time Josh took Bear to do baptisms. They did lots of family names and Josh got to baptize Bear and a Japanese youth. He tested his Japanese name deciphering skills.
We traveled over to the Tsudome Snow Play area. They had a huge sledding hill for tubes, a snow maze, an area to make and display mini snowmen, snow sculptures, ice slides, and tube rides behind a snow mobile. Again, we got cold, but I think the kids had fun while the sun was shining.
We have enjoyed trying out a few Japanese traditions and they have many when it comes to starting a new year. We decided to welcome 2019 by watching the first sunrise of the year as it rose over the ocean.
To warm up we went to the Shimoda Mall to purchase Happy Bags. New Year's Day is much like Black Friday in the US. There were people lined up in the cold to enter the mall. Once we got in, we were assaulted with noise, crowds, and music. Many of the workers in the stores held megaphones to advertise their wares. Most of the stores had sealed bags labeled for 1,000 en up to 10,000 en. The bags are purchased blind with items from the store inside. We each picked a few bags and had fun discovering what was inside.
Josh and I both grew up with many Christmas traditions, many of which we have adapted to our little family along the years. Many of our traditions happen during extended family gatherings and are bitter sweet memories now that we are so far away. This year we went a little overboard maybe but it make the season meaningful. We had seven countdown calendars (a candle, Hershey Kiss tree, felt board manger, Lego activity calendar, daily Christmas joke flap calendar, ornament tree, felt ornament tree) starting on December 1st.
Hershey kiss count down. The kids take the chocolate out each day and leave the foil on the tree for the ornaments
Grandma Beverly Turner's felt tree made for us by Stacy Turner
We like to do Light the World https://www.mormon.org/christmas/light-the-world put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We watched a weekly video and did weekly activities to 1),Light the World, 2)Light our Community, 3) Light our Family, and 4) Light our Faith. This really keeps service and the spirit of Christ present during the season.
Daily we read a different Christmas book at breakfast time. We enjoy doing the 12 Days of Christmas to a neighbor each year. It is always fun to think about those who might need a little extra love and thoughtfulness. I have collected all the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square Christmas concert DVD's. We watched them all December long. We learned about the members of the nativity and how they contributed to the night of Christ's birth with the Christ Centered Christmas.
Each piece of hay represents a secret act of service given to a family member or friend
We searched for ways that we might stay connected to our family members since we live so far away and cannot attend family parties. Among the Turner's, we made a list of everyone's favorite things about Christmas, like lights, baking cookies, giving gifts, gingerbread houses, etc. Then we all tried to do each of the things in our own homes to feel a connection to our loved ones. We shared the experience through pictures with each other. Here are a few of ours:
I have been very interested in family history this year as Bear has started joining us at the temple so I decided to research a few traditions from our heritage.
2. Burn your letter to Santa so that the ashes may waft to him in the North Pole
3. Nativity plays on Christmas Eve
Costumes courtesy of friends the Justiniano's
4. Presents in stockings left by Santa
Germany- Kartchner 1. Advent calendars- we had that one covered! 2. Singing Christmas carols around the tree
3. Glass ornament given as a Christmas Eve gift
Schnauzer for Josh, Guitar for Bub, Yoga mat for me, Unicorn for Pants, and toe shoes for Bear
The Netherland's- Harenberg Put shoes out on December 5th for Santa Claus to fill. This year we were lucky to host Sister Missionaries from the Sendai mission for the night so that they could attend a mission conference in Misawa. They got to participate in our new tradition!
Seven pairs of shoes are filled and ready to be discovered
It was fun to share the tradition with Sister Burrows and Sister Cordoso
It is also traditional to fill the shoes with a biscuit made in the shape of the first letter of the receiver's name. I think this tradition will not be a passing thing. Everyone had fun with it.
We are so grateful for our parents who filled our childhood with fond memories that we can pass on to our children. We are grateful for the technology we have to allow us to stay connected to our family from across the sea. We are grateful for the emphasis placed on service and giving and the spirit of Christ that has filled our home all month.
We were so excited to have Bob and Stacy Turner visit us in Japan. Japan is not easy to get to and Misawa is even harder so we have been grateful when we have had visitors. We do our best to show them as much of our little Japan. Josh flew to Tokyo to meet his mom and dad. They wanted to see Tokyo first before coming up to Misawa. Josh took them to the Tsukiji fish market, Sensoji shrine, Sky Tree tower, the kabuki theater, the Tokyo tower, the Zojoji Temple, the imperial palace, and shibuya crossing. Some new places that Josh explored with them were the Nihombashi bridge which is where the five original roads in Tokyo begin, the Fukutoku shrine that blesses prosperous business and they saw people ranging from businessmen to common laborer worshiping there. They also traveled to Nikko, a 90 min train ride north of Tokyo. They visited the Toshogu shrine, a world heritage site and the most ornately decorated in Japan. Some of the most popular carvings are the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkey carvings and the dream elephants. The leaves in Nikko were amazing according to Josh, lots of vibrant colors and quantity of colors. This side trip was a highlight for Bob and Stacy.
Josh took all the family but me to Hirosaki to see the Chrysanthemum festival. I had been sick and stayed home to rest undisturbed. He took the kids out of school so they could enjoy a full day with their grandparents. Bob and Stacy enjoyed seeing the castle. They enjoyed the models adorned with colorful chrysanthemums as well as the fall foliage.
We have spent so much time on ITT tours that we cannot let someone visit us and not take them on an adventure too. We to Hirazumi. We wanted to show the Turner’s how we have enjoyed seeing Japan on our monthly outings. We saw the wooded shrine, lovely leaves, and the golden temple. Then we traveled to the Geibikei Gorge for the boat cruise. The Turner’s seemed to enjoy the song that the oarsman sung as we floated on the boat.
The incense is supposed to heal the body if breathed in.
Autumn is stunning in Northern Japan
We went to Morioka Round 1, a sports amusement center. The kids have always wanted to go there, and it was fun to have grandma and grandpa along. There was a ball pit area, soccer, basketball, bowling, tennis, baseball, and a large rink where we roller bladed, tried motor bikes, and segways. I loved the segways but Bub crashed on the motor bikes. The kids had a blast going from thing to thing and were reluctant to leave. Too bad it was back to school for them tomorrow! As we arrived home, we took them to Kappa Sushi because everyone should try conveyor belt sushi in Japan.
We traveled to Aomori to stay at a traditional Japanese hotel, ryokan. We had two traditional rooms with Tatami flooring. They had a little sitting area, bathroom, table that drops into the floor so that you sat on pads but did not have to kneel, and Yukata robes and slippers for all of us. We put on our slippers and watched a shamisen show in the staging area and then went to the onsen. I was proud of Bob and Stacy for trying out the public bath. I don’t think they particularly enjoyed it but I think they wanted to say that they had tried it. We slept on traditional pads (no beds) and we brought an air mattress for Bob and Stacy. I really love the experience of Japanese hotels.
Tatami mat flooring- no beds! We slept really comfortably actually
Japanese style dining in our room
In the morning, we woke to beautiful ocean views out our large window. One side of the room was just windows and it was fun to watch the fishing boats fill the bay. Tessa and I went to enjoy the onsen one more time because it also overlooked the ocean and we wanted to see the view while we relaxed. We also enjoyed a traditional Japanese breakfast buffet before leaving.
We spent the day in Aomori and started at the Nebuta Museum where we learned about the floats in the famous parade. Four winners from this year’s parade were displayed there. We also got to play the taiko drums, cymbals, and learn the dance from the parade. We took Bob and Stacy to Showa-Daibutu to see the big buddha. I had never been there in the day and it was a little different experience. Inside the buddha, pages of artwork and quotes of wisdom were displayed. Stacy really liked them and was able to find the book of quotes in the gift shop. We then traveled back to Misawa and we ate at the free member buffet at the club. I figured that it was probably a good idea to change up Japanese food occasionally.
I turned 40 this year and instead of feeling that I needed to shy away from my age, I wanted to celebrate it. About half way though my 30's, I realized that they were way better than my 20's. I was done having babies, I felt comfortable in my skin, I had found yoga, I had more money to travel and spend on others, and I stopped caring so much about what people thought of me. I hope that this will all multiply in my 40's. I also wanted to have a big, DEAD, party and 40 is a good excuse for a party. I love the macabre so I called my party, "Half Way to Dead." I do not feel that I am half way to dead, I just love vampires, zombies, day of the dead, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc. Again, an excuse to have what a want at my party!
Dia de los Muertos James Bond and Jack Skellington
I am born in December, a hard month to celebrate. I decided to have my party in November before people are sick of parties. I rented the Officers Club on base and served a variety of finger foods. We decorated the room with "dead" decorations and I invited attendees to dress up to match the theme.
Dan and Elspeth Allen
Kirsten and David Trefflich
Asuka the Zombie in a Kimono
Maybelle and Carl Martin
Brian and Sharon Smith
Stefani and Ron Steeleman
Angella and Eric Parkinson
Julee and Matt Nielson
Emily Graze and me
These party crashers were not supposed to come to the party. They wined so much about being left behind that I finally relented. They were the only kids at the party and Bub at least, was bored to literal tears at one point in the night.
Bob and Stacy were visiting us in Japan so it was fun to have them at my party
We had a DJ playing hits from my 40 years of life. It was like a blast from the past and some brave souls decided to join me on the dance floor.
Mary Kay Rachel gets into it!
We all enjoyed my tombstone cake. I enjoyed the walking dead of Misawa coming out to celebrate my birthday!
Famous People: Seretse Khama- He was the first President of Botswana after the country gained independence. I like to read the Ladies No 1 Detective Agency books that take place in Botswana. To me, Precious and Grace are famous people and good friends.
Art: We saw many images of weaving, pottery and bright colored art.
It is ball season in Misawa. Misawa is a joint base: Air Force, Navy, Japanese Air Defence, and a few Army members as well. The Air Force birthday is in September and the Navy's is in October. We have two opportunities to dress up and go out to the club for a ball. I have always enjoyed going to the Air Force Ball. I love to wear formal dresses and Josh's mess dress is pretty handsome to me. Josh likes to collect a new challenge coin and take off his coat to show off his party shirt.
Friends the Trefflich's and Allen's
Josh applied to the Navy two times before actually being accepted to the Air Force. The first time was shortly after he completed his graduate degree in Social Work in the hopes of finding a way to pay off his loans to the University of Denver. The second time was a period of job insecurity. Both times he was turned away as the Navy was only hiring contractors to provide Social Work services for the Navy. We sometimes wonder how our journey might have been different if he had been accepted to the Navy the first two times. We are happy in the Air Force.
We had heard that the Navy balls were better so we decided to crash the party. They had an impressive display of flags lining the walk into the ballroom. There were a lot of jokes about the baby Air Force (71 years to 243 years) and some ceremony around inviting the distinguished guests into the room. There was a cake cutting just like ours, food, and dancing. They did have a general that was flown in for the event to speak. The Air Force ball speakers in Misawa have always been pulled from the airmen serving here. They also had raffle prizes which the AF does not have. So, there were some differences between the two. I cannot say that I liked the Navy Ball better. I knew less people, but this is a small base and we certainly were not the only Air Force members in attendance. I just like to wear my fancy dresses and dance with Josh, so I was pleased with both evenings.
Josh and I have been married 17 years and we decided to have a little get away right in Misawa. 15 min from the base is a beautiful hotel called Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya. It is a Ryokan hotel with two onsens. When we arrived, our bag was taken in a cart pulled by a pony. It was the cutest thing.
We were greeted at the door ushered to a sitting area where we were served some apple juice in an apple cup. The hotel employee checked us in while we sipped and then led us to our room where she proceeded to tell us all about the hotel. We felt like royalty!
Our room was Western Japanese style, so we had a sitting area with a dropped floor so that we would not have to kneel, and the mattresses were on a raised step but directly on the floor. We took off our shoes and were given slippers and clogs to wear in the hotel. We were also given robes or yukata to wear during our stay. The best part was that we were able to stay the night without children. The kids were being watched at home by a college student in our ward.
We started out by exploring the grounds of the hotel. Directly behind the hotel is a lake with a walking path. It took about 40 min to get around because we stopped to look at the lighted terrace, shrine, pony stables, and bridge. We also enjoyed foot bath near the lake.
Then we went downstairs where the hotel was holding an Apple and Scallop Festival. We sat in the scallop sofa, had two different kinds of apple juice from the tap, walked through the apple lantern corridor, and enjoyed the Jawamengu show with shamisen and shovel performances. Our hotel stay included dinner and we enjoyed a Japanese buffet.
Writing wishes for this year
Apple lantern corridor. I love all the lights and lanterns of Japan!
After dinner we changed into our Japanese robes and went back downstairs to enjoy the onsen. Let's talk about onsens! It took me two years to venture into an onsen or Japanese bath house. Since Japan is a volcanic island, the Japanese people benefit from a lot of natural hot mineral springs. In ancient times, onsens used to be considered a medicinal treatment. Today it is used as an opportunity to get relaxed and healed mentally and physically. Japanese children grow up being taken to the onsen with their mother or father and there is a method to cleansing the body and enjoying the waters. Being from the West, it is unnatural to bathe naked with strangers or even in front of your children. I definitely had to get over that mental hurdle. Now that I have, I thoroughly enjoy the experience. I love the warm bubbly jetted pools, the cold pool helps my circulation, and the electric pools ease my back and sciatic pain. All summer long as the kids and I would play at the beach, we would enjoy the onsen afterward to clean up and warm up from the chilly northern ocean. The onsens are separated by gender so Bub got adept at a solo experience and I would have the girls. Over the summer, I felt that the girls, especially Bear, lost some of their body issues and became comfortable in their own skin. Josh is a little slower to the love of the hot water soak but indulges us in our desires to refresh and relax.
The onsen at the hotel is called Ukiyu and it is reserved for hotel patrons. The onsen was lit for the evening and the room was wood panel lined. It was a very soothing atmosphere. It also had a lit outdoor area looking into the lake. It was beautiful and the water so warm and relaxing. I just felt pampered all day long. What a great Japanese anniversary!!
At the entrance of the onsen- a blue curtain for men and a red curtain for women