How I moved across the world

TO ALMOST PARADISE

1M7A9040Okinawa consists of a group of islands 400 miles south of the mainland of Japan. It has an area of 463 square miles.

I scored. I landed a job in Okinawa. In a tropical paradise. I pulled up roots, left the comfort of my home & everything I know, hugged my loved ones goodbye, and began a journey to the other side of the world.

Phase 1   LETTING GO

We tore out of California, my husband and I. This husband of mine who encouraged me, knowing he’d be the “dependent”…this is the man who is the wind beneath my wings. And me, I’d be the “sponsor” & breadwinner for both of us, at least for awhile.

There were months of packing, deciding what stayed, what went with us. Seeing our home empty after 20 years was shocking. The to do list was all encompassing: Rent out the house, sell the cars, close accounts, get the mail forwarded…when one detail was finished, another took its place.

Saying goodbye to family & friends was brutal…and I wondered over and over…am I doing the right thing? Meeting my three week old granddaughter Avery Mae for the first time then kissing her goodbye was like ripping out a part of myself.

Letting go…all the time. Letting go was the mantra.

Phase 2.  ARRIVAL

Along the Coast The 11 hour flight was fairly easy. But leaving for the airport at 3:00am with minimal amount of sleep from grueling packing days, plus layovers in airports was draining.

By the time we landed in Okinawa 26 hours later, I knew I had the deer in the headlights look on my face. Even so, I was thrilled to be here at last.

We checked into the hotel at 11:00pm. Once in the room, I remembered I would be beginning work in the morning so I found an ironing board & my “business casual” clothes for the next day.

No problem, I told myself. I’d done this same thing countless times before with my previous civilian work with the military. I was used to the late night arrivals and early starts.

Amidst the, shall we say “adjustment” that comes with a new job, we began the search for a house, a car, cell phones, a bank account, getting Japanese driver’s licenses, insurance, a post office box & signing countless documents that needed my signature as the “sponsor.” All the while I tried looking cheerful & pretended not to be tired while the inside of my head felt torked and crazy.

One morning while getting ready for work, I sprayed hairspray on my hair, like A LOT. Suddenly I thought, what’s all that white stuff in my hair and on the mirror? It was white hair foam, the “product” that gives body to your hair, which is not meant to go on your hair when you’re ready to walk out the door but when you blow dry your hair. Cursing everything I could think of, I dabbed the sticky stuff off & stumbled out the hotel room to get to work.

 I loved Okinawa right away. 

1M7A9007The sight of the aquamarine sea was magical. I had been here twice before & remembered the people… polite, considerate, and BOWING.

One day I saw a gasoline attendant bow to the woman in the car while she was driving away after he had filled the tank with gas.

A pretty Japanese property agent, Shoko, showed us a house by the sea….we fell in love immediately. It was light and room and looked just like the picture I posted in my journal a few months before.

We decided on THE AWESOME HOUSE & moved in.

The next day, we discovered it was 3 doors down from my son & his wife who were expecting their first baby. They were back in the US at the time so none of us realized the location of the house.

Honest to Pete, this was a shocker…..completely unexpected, unplanned, the SURPRISE of my life. We would be neighbors.

Today I still shake my head & wonder how it actually happened. Out of all the places and houses to be found…. I’m good at manifesting things, asking the Universe for stuff… but this? This opportunity to live across the street from my granddaughter? I didn’t even think of asking for something so fabulous.

Phase 3.  ELLA ROSE

Ella I was there in the room when my second granddaughter was born. This 6.3 pound angel arrived and I entered an altered state. I watched her take her first breath and I fell in love. This tiny sweet baby, so alert, stopping her wiggling to look into my eyes.

She had me at that first look. There she was, Miss Ella Rose…the one we had been loving long before she arrived. Every day after work, I’d say, yes, I’ll have another hit of Ella. I could drink a case of her. And I could hold her & sit for hours just looking at her little face.

Sweet Ella Rose. So small yet so strong & mesmerizing.

Phase 4.   NOW & THE FUTURE

The language is challenging. Driving on the left is not so bad, but attempting to stay healthy & vegan when you’ve landed in the land of pork is tough. The Okinawans are considered to have the most number of centenarians so maybe I can bypass the pork and eat the seaweed and cultured vegies. Much more to come on this subject.

IMG_2368 As things settle down now at 5 months, we get less lost, we’re speaking a few Japanese phrases & learning a little Hiragana & Kanji, the way to be able to read Japanese.

The weekends are spent discovering new beaches for sea glass & shells. We travel the backroads & basically, we wander and see another side of Okinawa that tourists & even residents often miss.

We plan on Fuji. Climbing (gulp) Mt. Fuji on the mainland. 12,388 feet high, baby.

My husband & his longstanding dream of climbing Fuji have convinced me we must do this. Our adventure on the mountain happens in late July. The training has already begun.

Soon the weather will be really hot & we’ll be snorkeling & maybe scuba diving. There’s the festivals to photograph and there’s the whole world of learning about Okinawan ways of being healthy. Stay tuned.

For now, I’m holding up the sign that says, go for your dreams…they can come true.

This life I created, was handed, dreamed up…it’s for real.

And I totally encourage you to follow your own dreams wherever they lead you.

boat on water -101111-nikingusuku castle-0730

I’d love to show you this part of the world. In pictures, words, I’ll do my best. Let me know if you have any requests for pictures, for a site you want to see through the lens of my camera.

Sign up here (if you haven’t already) at johatcherretreats.com in the box to the right.  You’ll get a notice when I’ve posted something new.

Cracked Open

On Becoming a Grandmother

There are those moments when life opens you, breaks you into pieces, and you get to experience wonderment.

Avery Mae.

Avery Sweet Mae

That’s the wee baby who came to us, to my son and daugher-in-law a week ago.  Avery Mae took her first breath in the world and started her life journey November 20th at 9:15 pm.

9 pounds 5 ounces of grace and beauty.

It was a tedious labor…24 hours it took her to get here.

Her mother was strong. Her father right by her side.  Avery’s two aunts… sisters supporting, waiting, texting.  She was surrounded by love.

I also was waiting…minute by minute at the end of the phone….the text messages were like gold nuggets for me.

The words would pop on the screen:

4 cm.

now at 6

When things got hard, I saw it on the text. When the doctor came in, there was my text.

I felt slightly bonkers, dizzy, gaga, ridiculously inept to focus on anything.

I made playlists of favorite songs…my beloved “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and shamelessly allowed the tears to fall.  Then I’d break out in laughter and I danced a lot. I was a lunatic would-be grandmother.  If someone had seen me, I could have been considered more than slightly deranged.  But the  joy and anticipation drove me to celebrate and embrace all the emotions I felt.  I played Julia’s song, “Just Dance” by Lady GaGa.   Anything to send messages, energy, strength to my daughter-in-law.

I texted my son that the “birthing angels” were being called in and surrounding them. He replied back, “well we could sure use them now, Mom.”

My sisters, my birthing coach friend, we were sending love, holding vigil. I forwarded this team of mothers the texts, as soon as I got them.                                                                                 We were women waiting, helping birth this baby in our own way.

“She can’t push yet until the baby is really low,” I saw on the next text.

Next it was “Okay, we’re almost at 8 cm now.”

I relived my own two sons’ births.  I recalled the sheer force of the experiences, how we got to the hospital and the nurses said “just walk around,” because I was not at the required 3 cm dilated to be admitted.   After a few hours I had decided that suicide by jumping off the 7th floor of the hospital seemed like a better option than labor.  The pain was brutal. Nothing had prepared me.

In the delivery room I heard a doctor say, “we’re gonna have to do a C section.” I said “NOOOOO WE ARE NOT.” With the might of an elephant I bore down and my oversized 9.4 lb baby, Avery’s Mae’s uncle, made his way into the world.

I remember how primal it all was, the birthing process. How at some point you realize there is no going back. It is beyond messy, it’s wild, it all comes down to when you push. Push with every power you have

and then…it is over and another journey begins.

It is a magnificent moment when one world stops and you fall completely and desperately in love

with your baby, with life,  with being alive.

Avery Mae.

I looked at the text.  “It’s close now”

And then the words appeared:

….SHE’S HERE!

And something melted and dissolved inside me.             My granddaughter was here.

Family

Pictures on the texts flowed in.  She was round and robust.  Strong.  Relieved and joyful, I knew she was healthy.  Thank you, thank you Universe, she is 100% okay. Her mother is okay, too. Hallelujah. Gratitude to the heavens.

She was so close I could feel her, sense her. Taking her first breaths. She, this product of my son, my youngest who was not so long ago that baby….

Rob-Avery copy

Breathtaking.
It was breathtaking.
She takes my breath away.

Welcome, Avery Mae to the world. May you have the best life ever. May you live it full and well. May you get make a difference in the world with your light and your love. You scored two of the best parents on the planet and a legion of people who already love you.

I loved you way, by the way, before you were born. And I love you now before I’ve even met you.

Avery Sweet Mae

 

A Letter to those Voices in my Head

Dear Saboteurs,

Some people call you their inner critics, monkey mind, critical voices, gremlins… but I call you guys my saboteurs.  Because that’s what you do.  You sabotage me.

I think you all know who you are because you’ve been around since I was about 6.

Remember?  When I looked at everyone else’s drawings in 1st grade and realized that mine didn’t look the same as all the other kids.

I’m talking to you, Mr. Comparison.

You probably didn’t want me to have my feelings hurt, so you said, hey, kiddo, yours isn’t as good as the other kids.  Your drawing looks stupid.  That was a perfect way to get me not to draw anything but stick figures and even then you said they didn’t look right either.

What’s been happening is that I am having phenomenal experiences traveling around & I’m always taking classes in cool stuff and so I really would like to share all that with my peeps.  Okay, so I’m not always clear about what I’m going to write or why I’m standing on my head in front of castles, but hey, I want my readers to have fun and do some silly stuff, too.

So Miss Not Good Enough shows up & I say to myself, “who wants to read about my life?  And it’s just being self indulgent anyway.”  That is you, MISS NOT GOOD ENOUGH…that is you, talking in my head.   See….I know, when I’m in my best moments, I can recognize you and know that it’s not really true.

When I don’t write, I suspect my readers sometimes wonder what happened to Jo?  Where’d she go?  Doesn’t she care about us anymore?  I don’t write sometimes because it’s not perfect & so then I have to edit over and over.  Because, as you know, Miss Perfection,  I’ll hear you scream in my head if it’s not just right.

And since I work with busy women  like me, I want to inspire them to have their lives be easier and put meaning into it in between being crazy busy.

And if they’re not living the life of their dreams, I want to inspire them, to have the kind of life they love .  So I need to show up…. on my blog, on the page.

Do you all remember a couple of weeks ago when I sent out my last post?  It mysteriously went out before I had a chance to format it or edit.  There were misspelled words, it wasn’t right…. you all told me.

Well, at first, I was a little freaked out.  I heard all your voices in my head….”oh great, you screwed up again, now what will they think?  That looks totally lame.”

But you know what?  My readers said they didn’t even notice!  They liked the story about how I had that horrendous fall.  They didn’t say a word about the post not being perfect.

So there…..all of you gremlins in my head….my peeps are telling me it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Some of them said they could relate, that they stand on their kitchen counters to change a light bulb and now they’re going to use stepladders instead of the washing machine.  Because they heard my story.    So we’re all going to be safer.  SEE?

And you know what?  I’m listening to my readers, not you bunch of whahoos.

If you show up here again while I’m writing or when I’m editing, then I’m insisting you go to Antarctica for awhile.  Seriously.  Your services are not needed anymore.

Because I’m making a commitment to my people…

To write my stories, for the ones who love to read my stuff.  I’m going to write and inspire my folks to go after their dreams, to be bold.  I’m going to encourage them every step of the way to make their life the way THEY want it, especially if they have saboteurs like you floating around in their heads.

Hey…come to think of it,  why don’t you just hang out with all my reader’s saboteurs and leave us alone to get down to savoring every moment of life, and being the powerful women we are.  We don’t need no stinkin’ saboteurs.  You hear that?

Now go away.  Scram.  Beat it.

Readers:

What kind of saboteurs do you have?   Please post in the comment box below your personal favorites :)

What’s your best way to deal with them?

Maybe we can send them all on a road trip together.

 

 

The Hazards of Dancing on your Washing Machine

What can happen in the blink of an eye

I was almost finished. Just one more shelf. The job was easy enough. Getting rid of all the junk, unused, outdated stuff crammed up on high shelves. It was freeing to be getting rid of clutter.

I was standing, (not actually dancing) on the washing machine, an act that felt as natural as breathing to me. What I didn’t predict was the chair I was using to step down onto would tip over. So many times I had climbed up & stepped on kitchen counters to change lightbulbs, stood on cabinets, stepped on the washing machine to reach something needed that standing on stuff seemed like the best way to get what I needed and fast. Sometimes I even just jumped straight down onto the floor.

 In the blink of an eye, I was falling. Backwards. Out of control.

And fast and hard. My back hit the filing cabinet and the ledge of the desk with a vengeance. I felt the trashcans and pieces of junk on the floor all around me.

It was a strange sensation. My insides seemed as if they had vaporized. I felt as if something had pierced me. And I could feel a tight band around my chest squeezing the front and back of me.

My husband was there in seconds. Don’t move! Stay right there, I heard him say.

I obeyed. I could feel a sting, a sharp stab in my right hand. I knew it was bleeding but I didn’t want to look at it. That would for sure make me reel.

I want to get up.

I’m calling an ambulance,” he said. “Don’t be silly, I’m okay” I replied.

I laid down on the bed face first. Ice. I need ice. And Advil. Lots of it. My husband was there in seconds with the ice and the gauze for my punctured hand. Give me some bloody Advil. I want four. NOW.

Fifteen minutes. Maybe it was ten. I tried to feel better, to let my body stop hurting. But the pain got worse. I thought, this stinkin hurts. A LOT.  I hate pain.

At last I said to my husband, maybe we should just go to urgent care and have it checked out.

My husband was looking for the keys. The truck or your car? What’s easiest for you to get into? I couldn’t answer. Just trying to stand up was hard. Everything hurt and it was hard to breathe.

The ride to the hospital was short but every turn, every bump reverberated in my hurt body. I could barely breathe. The imagined vise around my chest seemed tighter and tighter.

I said, maybe we should just go straight to the ER.

The ER. My husband found a the guy with the wheelchair. I’m unable to look up, still focused on not dying. My thoughts: don’t you dare bend over or something will fall out or you’ll feel that knife sensation in your back go in deeper.

The woman at the desk wanted to know my social security number. Oh geez, can’t you see I am half dead, woman? Really? Is your address the same? Are you serious? Who the hell cares?

My husband is now trying to joke with them. But not even a smile. They are serious people.  I wait, knowing that relief is a doorway away.  All my energy goes to not fainting in the waiting room.

At last someone is rolling me into triage.

I am freezing cold.  Some kind soul gets a blanket for me.  And then my hand begins to shake….really shake and it won’t stop. What is that about, I wonder, alarmed. Oh no, now this has set off some kind of Parkinson’s thing.  Great.

I am rolled into the inner sanctum of the ER. There is no room available so they put me in a bed in the hallway. The nurse tries to cover me up while she gets me into a hospital gown. She tries to hide my bare breasts while I take my shirt off. I don’t care if the whole world sees me naked, dealing with the pain is all I can manage.

The doctor will see you in a few moments.

I desperately try to control the shaking. For a few seconds I can mentally will my hand to stop. But then the other hand begins to shake. Oh please stop.

I ask the nurse what’s going on and she says it’s my body coping with the pain & there is lots of adrenaline. She puts the blood pressure cuff on and my hands start to gnarl up, twist and then they go numb. I’m hyperventilating, creating the cramping phenomenon. I remember my yoga training and start to breathe more deeply when she tells me.

We wait. And then the nice doctor comes. He exams me. How did you fall? My husband explains it. She was on the washing machine. Can you just imagine the weird stories doctors and nurses in the ER hear everyday?

 Would you like something for the pain he says?

Do dogs wag their tails?

He names several things and I hear “morphine”. Yes, I’ll have that, please.

I surrender to everything, people rolling me places, to the X-ray room. My faithful husband is at my side, telling me what’s going on. We wait. And wait. The pain is starting to subside a bit. But my body is still tense.

The doctor appears again. There is good news. No broken bones, no punctured insides, no cracked ribs. The cut in your hand is a little deep so I will glue it instead of stitches. And then you can go home.

Four hours drift by. We wait, there is another shot of morphine before going home. Hallelujah. And I must walk before he will release me out into the to the world.

He superglues my hand. No stitches, just glue. And then a huge bandage for my hand to keep it safe.

A man comes into the ER with a spider bite. Thom talks to him and when we leave, spider man says, “tell your wife to stop pole dancing on the washing machine.” Now I have a reputation: the kooky lady who dances on washing machines. Hmmm.

Two weeks later, I am still in rest mode. I am sitting on my bed, writing, journaling, learning how to allow my body to heal. My back still warns me that I have not healed yet and that if I don’t listen, then there will be a fresh new round of pain.

Do we need to say that again? No thank you, Body. I got it. I promise to obey and not do too much.

I am lucky beyond words not to have broken any parts of my body nor punctured anything.

 The moral of this story is to never think that something bad can’t happen to you because it can. Just because you do lots of yoga and you think you have unbelievable balance, doesn’t mean you won’t fall. It’s a great lesson in not being stupid, to not take unnecessary chances. And it’s a good reminder to have gratitude for your body and how miraculous it is. I bow to you, my body.

Stayin Alive on the 4th of July

I wrote the following post back in 2011 when my son, Rob, was deployed to Afghanistan.

Today, I am privileged to be working with Soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan. Their stories are chilling, young men who know the horrors of war and are trying to make sense of it all.

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, I hope that all of us remember our service members & their families.

The ones who are still deployed, still in danger, the ones who are struggling, and the many who are wounded warriors.

Think for a moment about the ones who did not return.  Think about their families and take a moment for gratitude.

Send those families some love.

July 4, 2011

I wonder what Rob & the other Marines will be doing on this day when we celebrate our nation’s independence and freedom. How many patrols will he be out on today? Will he be in a humvee or on foot?

Just exactly how hot will it be?  I think about these things as we go to the 100 degree mark here & my house is 87 degrees inside tonight even with A/C , I’m hot. I imagine he would smile if he heard me complain, especially since I don’t have to strap on 80 pounds of gear to begin the day and think of air conditioning as some distant luxury.

I wonder how he feels about us celebrating the 4th with fireworks while everyday there I imagine he sees and hears deadly “fireworks” as a normal thing. I imagine he doesn’t have time to think about much except staying alive.

Remember that old John Travolta song? Rob was always great at dancing when he heard Saturday Night Fever “Staying Alive”, waving his hand across his body just like Travolta.  And now he’s “stayin alive”, watching out for IEDs and “bad guys.”

I think he’d think it was cool if he knew I was participating in a Cross Fit class in the morning dedicated to him…all organized by his beautiful wife and his thoughtful sister-in-law.

I wonder what he’d say if he knew we’d be making our annual trek to the high school grounds at 6:00pm where families sit on blankets, play Frisbee, & we all watch skydivers jump out of planes and land triumphantly right in front of us. My husband and I will be in our folding chairs on the front row as usual, having a picnic of roasted eggplant, fresh cucumbers from my garden in a Greek salad, fresh peaches, and a glass of red wine.

We’ll hear the band play the national anthem and we’ll stand and put our hands over our hearts.

When the sun dies down, we’ll wait for the first cascade of bursting white lights & we’ll hear the loud blasts & see the spectacular firework display from the comfort of our own blankets as it cools off and the the smoke will be everywhere afterwards in the starry night.

Rob doesn’t wonder about any of this ’cause he’s just stayin’ alive.

I love you, Robbo.

Mom

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