22 April 2014

Emerald Coast Aggie Muster 2014

Emerald Coast A&M Club 2014 Muster Speaker! 
Captain Goodbaby listening to Dad 
"You know, you see things on the news, and it just doesn't have the same impact as hearing about it from someone who was there," an 'Old Ag' said to me after Chris' talk last night at the 2014 Emerald Coast A&M Club Aggie Muster. "Tell your husband 'thank you' for what he did there, and for speaking tonight."

Chris talked about his squadron's work in Operation Tomodachi as an extension of the Aggie Spirit. He'd been asked to speak shortly after the January edition of Texas Aggie magazine came out featuring this year's 12 Under 12 Young Alumni. Muster was at Fort Walton Beach's Magnolia Grill. Everyone was so nice, and the food was delicious! For any non-Aggies reading this, TAMU students and former students are supposed to meet every April 21 for a 'family reunion' type event called Muster, to discuss days at A&M and have a roll call for absent Aggies (who have passed away since the last muster).

Chris' speech and some pictures he shared will be posted on our local TAMU club's page soon, but I also wanted to quote my favorite part here. Isaac was astonishingly well-behaved during the entire event; we only lost him a couple times when he bee-lined for the gumball machine while Chris and I were otherwise engaged. I'd brought the electronic babysitter so Isaac would play Endless Numbers if he got fidgety, but during this part of Chris' talk Isaac paid rapt attention. When Chris sat down again, Isaac slid from my lap to his own chair and put his head on Chris' shoulder while patting his arm.

Part of Chris' speech: 
Possibly the best example of exhibiting the Aggie Spirit to me while we were there was more on an international level than anything else. On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake struck 70 kilometers east of the main island of Honshu, lasting nearly 6 minutes. It was the most powerful earthquake to have ever hit Japan, and the fifth most powerful on the planet in recorded history. It moved Honshu eight feet east and shifted Earth’s axis by four to 10 inches. The tsunami it triggered is estimated to have hit 133 feet high at its highest point---Albritton Bell tower on campus is only five feet higher than that---destroyed the northeastern coast of Japan and killed about 20,000 people. Additionally, the earthquake and tsunami caused the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to explode and melt down, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in the only country to have experienced the use of nuclear weapons.
Our Tiny 12th Man
Without hesitation, all US forces in the Western Pacific turned immediately to Japan for the next 3 months of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. We immediately deployed aircraft and squadrons north from the Tokyo area and Okinawa thinking we would be hoisting people from rooftops and saving people out of the water. We quickly realized how total the destruction was; everything above the waterline was virtually untouched, everything below it was utterly destroyed, like the hand of God had swept across the land and took everything back into the sea. No one needed to be “saved”; they were either safe on dry land with no food, water, or medical supplies and no way to get them, or they were simply gone.  We flew every day back and forth from ships at sea to any location that needed supplies - parking lots, soccer fields, parks, etc., all the while learning more about the radiation we were being exposed to. I was grieved for a country that had become a second home to me, and its people, but I was eager to help and do everything I could, as was everyone involved. We wanted to do more than we were allowed.

Slowly, Japan and its people began recovering, but even now it’s not recovered. The US gave a name to our efforts in helping Japan, and called it Operation Tomodachi. It was a fitting name, as Tomodachi means “friend” in Japanese. Months later I was at our Japanese church, and a new couple was there who had lived in the Sendai region prior to the earthquake, the area worst hit, and had lost everything in the tsunami and were nearly dragged into the sea with their house, but had escaped and eventually made it south to the Tokyo area. They had been directly helped by one of our helicopters delivering food, water, and other supplies in the weeks after the disaster. It’s impossible to say if it had been my helicopter, but the experience of meeting and befriending these people was so gratifying and meaningful to me, these people who I could have directly helped without ever having known them.
Ring Dance, April 2004

While everyone involved in this situation was not an Aggie (though a fair number were), this is an example of what the Aggie Spirit means to me, not just in our personal lives, but with our families, our communities, and from one nation to another.  Again, our core A&M values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service help to describe the Aggie Spirit, but I’d like to add one more descriptive word to it; friendship. (END of quoted part) 

In the middle of Chris' speech I had a funny thought. Chris and I met a decade ago, give or take a few weeks. He invited me to the Ross Volunteer Ball, then to Ring Dance a few weeks later. What if I'd seen a picture of last night's Muster that spring, with no explanation at all? Hey, that's Chris speaking---I know that guy. Is that me? I'm sitting next to a two year old. Is he mine? Am I at Muster by myself with a toddler? Where is this? Ha ha. Chris and I laughed about that on the drive home.

Nice work, Chris! Congrats on a speech well spoken!

Kruegers---April 2014

12 April 2014

How About Zoo?

I love budgerigars. 
A budgerigar and a duck bit Isaac within our first 30 minutes at the zoo last spring, and we had fun anyway. Today, which was probably the most gorgeous day in the history of weather, nobody got chomped. We fed lots of gorgeous budgies/parakeets in the free-flight budgiery. And we got to wave as the trolley/train circled the large animal enclosure below our perch on the boardwalk. Imagine the joy! 

Note: there is no point to this post. It's all photos. 
The overstuffed parakeets were just as fun, if not as hungry! 
Exclamations of surprise! 
Isaac and Dad share a laugh. Budgies are hilarious! 
If I'm ever filthy rich, I will have flocks and flocks of these in my backyard citrus grove. 
Little Buddy was captivated all day. And by all day, I guess I mean about two hours. 
Kruegers at the Gulf Breeze Zoo, 2014! 
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is small enough that we saw almost everything and fed the parakeets twice in just a couple hours. PERFECT. We particularly enjoyed feeding everything---goats, giraffes, parakeets...ah-hem...monkeys---and clearly, Isaac thought having food licked out of his hand was about the funniest thing ever. Last year he did not enjoy that. Between today's unbeatable weather, no one being sick, and Isaac laughing uproariously at absolutely everything, we had the most fun Saturday I can remember!

I haven't seen so many irises in bloom since the Japanese iris festival in Sawara, Japan

All the budgies and kookaburras = flashback to Australia. 
Our little monkey
Chris got Isaac a zoo train to go with his wooden Thomas set. He played happily the whole way home. 
I think there's a wasp living in my side mirror. It was hanging onto the side of my car here. I see it everywhere. 

26 March 2014

I Don't Like It Park!

Stuffed animal pile jumping! 
In case we weren't sure we had a two-year-old in the house....

"Isaac, are you a baby?"
"What are you?"
"I'm a TWO!"

"Oooo, are you a baby lion?"
"Issac NOT a baby lion! Isaac baby DINOSAUR! RAR! Daddy Dinosaur! RAR! Isaac baby dinosaur! Rar!"

"Isaac, let's go to the park."
"You don't like the park? Yes you do."
"Yes, you do like it. You love the park."
"Too bad, we're going to the park!"
"NOOOOOOOO! I DON'T LIKE IT PARK! I DON'T LIKE IT PARK! ... Oooh, park! I like it park!"
"But you just said you don't like it park. Do you like it park?"
"Yeah! I like it park!"
In other news, Isaac can recognize the words: eat, STOP, Isaac. He continues to love Blankie, Coffee Bear, Doggie, and--most recently--elephant. They are inseparable. Isaac is a big fan of Dad, waving to Dad's helicopters ("HI DAD!"), pushing his cozy coupe up and down the driveway, trying to stay in jammies all day, and being my buddy. And "I don't like it!" everything. What do you expect?! He's TWO!

19 March 2014

Happiness Over a Cup of Tea

second tea

What a tea treat! The grandmaster of the Higashi-Abe School of Japanese green tea, or Senchado, presided over a tea ceremony today at the University of West Florida's Japan House. Grandmaster Sessho Doi is the fifth generation  Higashi-Abe School grandmaster. He is training his 16-year-old son to be the next grandmaster. His son made tea while the grandmaster's wife looked on, elegant and composed in a gorgeous spring kimono. The grandmaster taught about tea while his son worked silently.

Two cherry trees outside the International Culture Center were in full bloom. The tea garden just beyond the tea room revealed an azalea bush beginning to bud.

branch and blossom higashi
The grandmaster's younger son assisted the older brother and brought sakura higashi tea sweets to the five guests enjoying tea in the tatami room. Afterwards, I asked if he, too, studied tea. The older son told me not yet; first the oldest son must learn. Then, after his father passes away and the older son becomes Grandmaster, he will teach his younger brother. He has studied four years already.

They live in Kawasaki and came to the USA to perform tea here, Boston and D.C. for the cherry blossom festival.

Senchado (Japanese green tea) set up
Here's a brief history of Senchado: 

A monk named Baisa-oh founded Senchado in the 18th century. He left his temple and began preaching the principles of Zen spirit and human morality while preparing tea for people. He relied on whatever donations they left for the tea. His followers were mostly intellectuals, poets and calligraphers, even into the 19th century. Senchado blends Chinese and Japanese cultures and was very popular during the late Edo and Meiji eras. 

The Higashi-Aberyu School, formed in the 19th century by Abe Kenshu and developed by Sessho Inao, rests on four tenets of harmony: gratitude, mutual concession, service and self-examination. It is considered more open, less formal style of tea ceremony. Tea is steeped, unlike in Urasenke, which I studied. We dissolved ground tea leaves, matcha, in very hot water.
Grandmaster's wife and oldest son
Preparing first tea
Tea leaves are steeped twice in Senchado. The first brew contains many amino acids to balance out the bitterness of green tea. After this, the guests enjoy higashi. Then, the more bitter second brew is served. In different beautiful cups, of course!
First brew: tea is served in the tatami room

Grandmaster Sessho brought a 150-year-old scroll depicting tea ceremony. I watched him and another guest have an animated conversation about it. Then I saw they were looking at his iPad, not just the scroll. This confluence is what brings me back to tea again and again: Florida meets Japan, past meets present, traditional meets high-tech, Urasenke student meets Higashi-Abe School---appreciating the day and whatever it brings.

Even though I have another cold. At least I got to see my friend Tami and enjoy Japanese tea and sweets---an unexpected, delightful encounter all around.

11 March 2014

Good News!

HT-28 Instructor of the Year, Navy League Santa Rosa County

"I used to think I got sick a lot. Then I met you," said my friend Julie the other day. It's so true. As usual, not blogging is a sign of recent illness. Most of February in the Krueger house was claimed by the flu. Good thing it's now March.

Fortunately, we were not sick at the exact moment of the Navy League Santa Rosa County Council's sailor and instructor of the year awards ceremony last month! Chris received this honor for HT-28 and was featured in the local newspaper. I'm so proud! It was fun listening to Chris's CO talk about all the reasons Chris is smart and generally great. I couldn't agree more. Congratulations!

In addition to being sick for no reason, I've also been sick for a good cause. Part of hating January this year was having a second miscarriage within seven months. Despair. Then at the end of January, I woke up feeling very sick. "I haven't felt this nauseous since the first miscarriage," I thought, and headed to the bathroom to look for a pregnancy test. When the plus sign popped up, I thought, "Oh great, three miscarriages." WRONG!

So wiggly at 8.5 weeks! 
Being sick (congestion, aches, fever) intermittently over the next month was just the flu or something (who knows, I got a flu shot in October). My doc classified the baby as high risk given the two recent miscarriages and put me on a progesterone supplement. Common side effects? Extra morning sickness and exhaustion.

"How are you feeling?" she asks at each (frequent) check up.
"Like crap!" I say.
"Yay! Just what we want to hear," she says.
So that's good.

Last week, the risk of miscarrying dropped to just 10% (...what was it before?!) We heard a steady heartbeat two visits in a row, at 6.5 weeks and 8.5 weeks. If it's still there around week 12, risk of miscarrying drops to 3%. Come on, little baby! You can do it!

In early January we'd asked Isaac, "Hey Isaac, do you want a little brother or sister?"
"No!" he said.
"Good, at least one of us is happy," I said.
Well, it looks like he'll just have to get used to it, because this one is due around his third birthday. Hee hee. Happy birthday, kiddo!

14 February 2014

FriDecor: Valentine's Day!

My siblings and I would come downstairs in the predawn darkness of mid-February to find a Valentine's breakfast spread across the table. A box of chocolates, a valentine, paper hearts and lace scattered across the table, candles. Mama made heart-shaped toast. Thanks, Mum! It took me a while to understood why some friends hated Valentine's Day so universally. Being in love didn't seem like a requirement for celebrating love to me. So even now, going out to a crowded restaurant for an overpriced set menu seems all wrong. Tonight we're having tortellini in the dining room, which is simply but festively decorated in pinks and reds. We'll have chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. Hee hee! Happy Valentine's Day!  
I have kimono and obi for ALL OCCASIONS. 
There. I put out some red and plum blossoms. It's Valentinesy. 
Here's what I like: seasons. It has been cold cold cold, so I am thinking about plum blossoms, which are probably blooming a lot of places now---the first signs of spring in the dead of winter! And they smell so good, and are essentially synonymous with Valentine's Day for me. So is Enoshima Island. Here is my plum blossom Valentine's Day seasonal display (above). 
Pounce likes Valentine's Day. 
January mantle---please note the wooden northern Japanese horse on the right for Lunar New Year
Captain Goodbaby and I have been stuck home with a rotten cold. Now I must be feeling better, because I've started rearranging all the crap on the mantle. Chris' samurai swords have been on the mantle since we moved in, but I draw the line at Christmas. NO SAMURAI SWORDS ON THE MANTLE FOR CHRISTMAS. Instead of reinstating them to their place of honor come January, though, I filled the mantle with books when Chris wasn't looking. Here's what I like: books, maps, seashells, anchors, tea. But with Valentine's stuff on the bar, and a crowd of books on the mantle, and the real issue of a console and the step tansu in the living room too, there's just too much display space. It looks junky. Then I get sick and Isaac dumps every toy he owns on the floor and we're drowning. What to do, what to do. The tansu looks blank if it's empty, but the whole room looks crowded if there's stuff on too many steps. So I transferred all the blue, plum, gold and white books from the mantle to the step tansu. Now it reads more like a bookcase and less like a curio cabinet. Ahh. A colorful globe on the console brightens and lightens up that dark corner, and now the mantle is blank. It might be time for a Hina Doll display (in anticipation of Girls Day, March 3)! 
Balancing the junk on the tansu is the main reason I've never posted a picture of the whole living room. 
Seashells and books! Love. 
The Captain's toys don't stay in that pot for long! But he knows they go there at bedtime. 
Streamlined the console a bit.