Monday, November 26, 2018

Being apart ain't easy on this love affair

As of today, November 26, Blake has been away from home on temporary assignments for 101 days of this calendar year. He's had short trips to Okinawa and Sasebo, both in Japan. Another short trip took him to Guam, and I was able to join him for the weekend after, which was really nice. His longest assignment was for a few months to South Korea, so we essentially lived in separate countries for some time. I was able to take three different trips to visit him while he was there, which was a great blessing and I've come to really enjoy and know Seoul more than I ever planned to, even after two trips there last year.

We tend not to broadcast that he's away during those times. I live in a secure place (a foreign military base is a well guarded gated community), but we still don't like to make a big deal of my being alone. Our ward and command and families know, so that we can both receive support, and we generally don't keep it a secret from anyone else if it comes up, but who we tell what information to is related to both Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC). Even I don't get to know everything every time for those reasons.

It's fortunate that Blake's job isn't so secretive that I can't know anything. I know of families whose military member just disappears sometimes to do their jobs and know one knows where they are or when they will return and certainly not what they are doing. I know of marriages that have ended because of it. Comparatively, I know quite a lot about Blake's comings and goings and we can prepare for our separations.

For most of his time away so far, we've been able to talk regularly, usually daily, at least via text messages if not via phone or video chat. We can orchestrate playing games together online and or simultaneous viewings of streaming movies or tv shows. During one night while he was in Korea, we even went to the movie theaters on our respective bases and saw the same movie and had the same dinner (thank you chain restaurants). so it was almost as good as an in person date, just with less hand holding. We keep up with our family scripture study schedule and keep each other as informed as OPSEC will allow about what we're up to each day, just as we would if he were home, so that we can stay involved in each other's lives.
Genesis 31:49 - I commissioned this from an Etsy seller who makes custom dog tags. When he realized what it was for and that we were a Navy family, he included two chains and thanked us for our service. Blake wears his with his regular dog tags.

I believe in some ways I was prepared for this - I lived alone for more than three years before we got married, so I am very comfortable doing so when the Navy requires it. I'm independent and self-sufficient, possibly to a fault, so I know I can handle things while he is away.

That's not to say it isn't hard sometimes. It definitely is. We miss each other like crazy. But we make it work and the times we are together are that much sweeter.
For assignments that require him to work on a ship, he wears a silicone ring, so I wear his titanium one.

Today, Blake left for what could be his longest assignment to date. It's an incredible learning opportunity, for both us really, and one we've been aware of for over a year. Even when it wasn't an entirely sure thing, we've prepared and readied ourselves to be apart for awhile. We're going to miss to each other, as we always do, but we know this what we need to do right now. Our command, families, ward, and friends are all very supportive and this is going to be worth it.
A gift from Blake to me

This is what we signed up for when we joined the Navy. Blake is the one who wears the uniform, but we're both in this together. We didn't know the full extent of it, but we're learning and looking forward to wherever this adventure takes us!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nothing was different, but nothing would ever be the same

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Last week I spoke of loss, largely of parental loss, and that I believe in life before and after this one. This is the story of the most profound loss I have yet experienced in my own life.

I confirmed that I was pregnant late on a Wednesday afternoon in late August 2017, about ten minutes before Blake was due to be home for the day. I was fairly confident, based on certain symptoms that I now know for sure are my personal early pregnancy signs, but a quick home test and I knew. I'd been antsy about it all day, but I didn't want to know too much sooner than he did. When he got home, I gave him a super cute little "Made in Japan" onesie I'd rather hopefully commissioned a few weeks or months prior and we were both very excited. We got hospital confirmation by Friday of that week.

We told family that weekend, because Blake would be leaving soon for another temporary assignment and we wanted the familial support during that time. We told a few local friends and Blake's chain of command for the same reason. And because we just couldn't contain the happy news for long!

As is often the case with the Navy, Blake's assignment changed. He was supposed to be flying out to the carrier, the USS REAGAN, but instead he was tasked to help with the USS MCCAIN investigation down in Singapore and left right after Labor Day, with an undetermined return date. I didn't get to visit him, because of Zika, but I had my first prenatal appointment and busied myself with good things, as I do while he's away.

Three weeks later, Blake came home for 19 hours! Hooray! He got home Saturday night and was gone again by late Sunday afternoon, this time definitely for the Reagan with another undetermined return date. We'd been looking forward to him getting some experience at sea, and he was stoked about landing on an aircraft carrier!
Taken during the short window we got to be together

Malcolm tries to remind Blake to take him too by laying in the middle of his re-packing

I was feeling a little ill the Sunday afternoon he was home. I'd been having some mild spotting almost daily for the previous month, but everything I read indicated it wasn't anything to worry about, so I was trying not to. By Monday morning, just before he was supposed to take off on his flight to the ship, the spotting and the feeling ill had increased, but OB said not to worry yet but to keep an eye on it. So, I told Blake to get on his flight and we'd be okay.

Naturally, I worried and kept close eye on things all day. I was taking a pottery class on base on Monday evenings, so I headed down. I was running late, and our dear friend (and Blake's immediate report in his chain of command) was leaving work late, which is unlike both of us, but it gave us a chance to run into each other and to talk. I think we were supposed to run into each other. I told her what was going on and she said that if anything more happened, anytime, to call her. I promised I would.

Pottery class was an hour long. OB had said that if bleeding increased enough to soak a pad in an hour to go immediately to the ER. I checked right after class and, sure enough, it was time to go. It was a blessing that I was already on main base, where the hospital was, and my instructor was kind enough to drive me to the hospital while I called Kate and stayed with me until Kate could arrive. I also called my upstairs neighbor, Jen, to update her and asked her to check in on Malcolm for me.

The ER wasn't very busy that night, so I was taken straight back. The next few hours was a lot of waiting, exams, tests, and worry. It couldn't be confirmed immediately that I was miscarrying, but I was told the baby was measuring small for the 9 weeks and 6 days they should have been and we were also checking that it wasn't ectopic or anything else.

Somewhere in that, Blake finally messaged me to let me know that he was safely on the ship and had started getting settled in. I had to respond that I was in the ER. He found a phone on the ship and called me immediately. I updated him as much as I could. He started offering to see if he could get back off the ship and home and I was about to tell him "No, you're already there, I'll be fine.", but I was taken to an ultrasound in the radiology department before I got a chance. I laid alone, scared, and crying while the tech, who had been called in from home, silently did their job. By the time I got back, maybe 30 minutes later, Kate had updated our commanding officer (CO) and Blake had updated his chain on the ship and the commands had already decided, without Blake asking, to send him home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be until next day, but it would ultimately be better than either of us being alone. We talked a couple more times throughout the evening and the doctor came by during at least one phone call so they were able talk too.

Somewhere in the 9pm hour, I finally called Summer (who I do the school musicals and many other things with) to let her know that I wouldn't be at rehearsal the next day and why. She immediately offered words of comfort and asked if I would like her to send Ben to give me a blessing. We believe that through the power of the priesthood, blessings can be given for illness and comfort and through our faith we can be healed, if that is the will of Heavenly Father. It can be hard to ask for help, of any kind, but after running to Kate as I had earlier and the pottery instructor offering to drive and this offer of a blessing, I was getting practice in taking people up on things as fast as I could. I knew I couldn't do it alone. Ben recruited another man from church to help and arrived about 20-30 minutes later. Kate, a woman of faith in her own way, had also prayed for and with me while we were waiting.

Finally, around 11pm, I was discharged. We still didn't know for sure yet, but it was most likely that I was experiencing a miscarriage. I was told to keep an eye on the pain (which had started setting in while in the ER) and the bleeding and sent home. Our CO, who lived very close to the hospital, had offered his car to Kate, since neither of us had one, so she could drive me home. I called my parents and Blake's to let them know what was happening. I also had to call Jen again, the aforementioned upstairs neighbor, because I was completely out of toilet paper. I had planned to pick some up on my home, if things had gone according to plan.

Eventually, I got to bed and woke up feeling sad and scared on Tuesday morning. I was still bleeding some and the pain was mild, and my outlook was not good. I walked Malcolm and probably tried to eat breakfast and go about my day. But, by late morning, the pain came on so suddenly and so intensely that I was vomiting and shaking on the bathroom floor. I called Jen again and asked for a ride back to the ER. When I was waiting for Jen by the front door of our building, I saw another friend from church and told her what was happening.

I later identified that the pain was probably labor pains, which my body was not ready for. It came in waves every several minutes and was the most intense and painful I could ever remember. Jen helped me breathe and work through them until I was able to get some medication. There were more tests and exams and finally the official confirmation - my HCG (the pregnancy hormone) levels were 50% what they were the day before. I was, in fact, having a miscarriage. Once again, Blake called to tell me that he in was back in Japan and awaiting a flight back home, and I had to, once again, tell him I was in the ER. I also told Kate at some point that I was back in the hospital and when she tried to check on me and I didn't respond right away, she came over from her office in the building next door and relieved Jen. Eventually, and I can't remember how she found out - probably related the church friend I'd seen earlier, my friend Crystal came shortly after I was discharged and waiting at the pharmacy and relieved Kate.

This time, Crystal took me home. We stopped for a smoothie (because I was hungry but had no energy or desire to actually eat), which she kindly went in for while I hid in the car. Once we got home, I took Malcolm out and then Crystal and I both took up residence on the couch. We talked a little, but mostly just watched The Great British Baking Show while I laid down. Crystal admitted it was probably the most tv she'd watched in years, but I was grateful for her company. At some point, I actually heated up some dinner for both of us because I was feeling up to it and because it was easier than trying to tell her where everything was.

Eventually, Crystal started falling asleep on the couch. By this time, Jen had picked up Blake from the airport so I knew I'd only be alone for an hour or so, and sent Crystal home.

Blake was given the rest of the week to be with me as much as needed. He had to do a little work stuff here and there, but mostly we were just able to be together. Wednesday morning, the fetal tissue passed. Thursday, we got a ride from yet another friend back to the base so I could some follow up lab work and see the OB. It was supposed to be my 10 week appointment, but instead to it was to make sure everything was progressing as it should in a different kind of way so I wouldn't have to have a d&c. We had a couple hours to wait in between the lab and the OB, so while Blake ran errands like groceries, I rested at a friend's apartment, even though they weren't home. Their cat took care of me instead, which I referenced vaguely last year

Throughout the week, we had a few visitors, meals were dropped off, and many people called or texted to check in. Because Blake was gone to the ship and then suddenly back and then there were all the people we had already drawn on for assistance, so we knew we weren't going to be able to not tell people, and we really didn't mind that word was getting around. It was easier than telling people ourselves. I can't say that I'm ever happy to talk to about it, but I'm comfortable talking about it and willing to, when the time is right.

Saturday we went out to a light movie on base, just to get out of the house. But on Sunday, I wasn't up to the social and fellowshipping part of church. I did, however, really want to partake of the Sacrament (much like communion, but with bread and water instead of wafers and wine), which we believe is a renewal of our baptismal covenants and chance to realign ourselves with God's will every week. I also knew I was in great need of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which we believe covers all struggles and ailments - not just sin and death. So, we showed up to church just as services started, stayed until the Sacrament had been passed, and then quietly left.

Monday, Blake went back to work and I went back to rehearsal and we tried to get back to normal life. Except, like the song lyric that I chose for this post, nothing was different, but nothing would ever be the same. It was the most intense grieving process I have ever experienced, and I was retrospectively sad for all the friends and family I've had who have had a similar loss. It's not a club you fully understand until you do. I felt broken and devastated and lost. And, admittedly, I sometimes felt relieved. I was (and still am) terrified about being a parent. Even though I was (and still am) mostly excited about the prospect, I was also okay with waiting a little longer, but then I'd feel guilty about that. It's an incredible roller coaster of emotions and a cycle I've been dealing with ever since.

Eventually, we did mostly get back to normal. There were probably even some days I didn't think about the loss at all, but most days it at least crossed my mind. And, as most people know, just over a year later, we are having better success this time around and have officially been told that the chance of miscarriage in this pregnancy is less than 1%.

I don't know why this baby didn't get to stay with us, and I don't know for sure what will happen in regards to this specific loss in the future. We have beliefs and doctrine about what happens to children after they are born, but nothing specific about before. Just hope, and I can live with that.

If you've ever experienced this kind of loss, you are not alone. I am here and we can talk, or not talk, or whatever you need. 20-25% of pregnancies end in loss, so it's a much bigger club than any of us would ever hope. Our generation is much better talking about it than those before us, but it's still not easy, nor will it ever be. I know I'm changed forever because of this, but I am grateful for the family, friends, and especially Blake, Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ who made sure I didn't have to do this alone. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

So come out of your cave walking on your hands

We live in a town called Zushi, which is directly east of Kamakura, which I've raved about many times. They are divided by mountains, on which there are many hiking routes and some historical sites. Since Kamakura was once the seat of the shogunate, these sites date back for centuries. One of those sites only opens a few days a week for a few weeks of the year, if at all, and we were able to jump on the opportunity to visit!

This is the Mandarado complex of yagura, which are manmade caves for the memorial services for the dead dating back to the samurai era between the 13th to 15th centuries. The dead would be cremated nearby and then buried or memorialized in the caves. There are more than 150 caves here, making it the largest of such clusters!
I love this handsome face.

We finished our outing with some delicious burgers - some of the best we've found in Japan. Mine had 5 different kind of cheese on it, and it's really good our cave visit involved a bit of hike to balance that out.

Local friends, this is only open Saturdays-Mondays until December 17, so if you want to see it, go soon!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Look around, look around!

Back in January we did one the best things we've ever done in Tokyo - a puzzle scavenger hunt in and around the Tokyo Metro. We were super excited to find out that it was back with all new adventures and puzzles! And, once again, the Tokyo Underground Mysteries did not disappoint!
Many other people doing the same thing we were doing - trying to interpret a series of windows!

We got a late start in our day, so we started with lunch while we figured out the first puzzle and then we were off!
Fried rice (chahan) from Pepper Lunch
Godzilla Road with Godzilla in the background!

Subway buddies!

Once again, my favorite part was the mystery train ride. We got on a the train, per instructions, and then had to answer questions solvable only during the ride between each stop until we knew where to get off next.
Watching the board for answers and clues

Puzzle book in one hand, train handle in the other, pencil had to go somewhere!
Not a puzzle, just an amusing sign outside of a restroom

Dialing for a clue
Chocolate pecan waffle break
Found an excellent view of the Shibuya crossing!

It took us a little longer this time, but we worked well together and definitely wouldn't want to do this alone. Once we'd acquired all the clues, we headed home, took a break, ate Thanksgiving Dinner Part Deux, and then spread everything out on the dining room table to solve the final puzzle. It took some trial and error and even a little serendipity, but we did it!
More windows = more clues


For those in the Tokyo area or visiting before the end of January, I highly recommend this adventure!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

It's turkey-lurkey time

My lemon meringue pie didn't turn out. I am officially 1 for 3 of lemon meringue pies I've attempted to make. Two of them have turned into a delicious lemon drizzle instead, which tastes great on vanilla ice cream, but doesn't hold up on a plate. Too many variables in the history of making the pie to know exactly what went wrong, but I'm sure I'll try again one day.

I'm most impressed that my pumpkin-chocolate tart turned out as well as it did! Despite the fact that I could have sworn I saw some at some grocery store somewhere, I had to make my own creme fraiche. It's not that tricky, but you have to start with buttermilk and I didn't have any of the that either. I can get it at the commissary, but I needed very little and didn't want to buy a whole quart of it. So, I started with making my own buttermilk with whole milk and lemon juice. Once that was set up, I added it to some heavy cream and just left it on the counter for 12 hours. The consistency didn't seem all that different by then, but I used it anyway. I also forgot to add sugar to the chocolate crust mix, so I just generally sugared the top of the crust and hoped for the best. Despite all this, it finished well and was quite yummy. 

Everything else went according to plan, except that I almost forgot to put the turkey in the oven! I remembered about 30 minutes later than I meat to, but that's not terrible. 

Overall, we had 10 people to feed and between our contributions and theirs, we had way more food than we could ever have needed and everyone had some of their favorites represented. I didn't even get to try it all because this lemon sized gummy bear I'm carrying around takes up more space than you think it would at this point. I even waited for pie longer than everyone else, and I still was barely able to find room for it. 

After dinner, several of us played Twister (an interesting post-dinner choice, but one our friends may make a tradition) and Pit - a game I love but don't play much because you need several players. 
Literally the only photo I took all day

Ultimately, it was a great day and a lovely meal with even lovelier people. We're up to at least 4 loads of dishes in the last 24 hours, with at least another two to go, but it was worth it! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

All the Ajax in the world ain't gonna clean your dirty laundry

The experienced Thanksgiving cook knows that it's best to spread the cooking and baking over multiple days. To that end, I spent several hours today doing just that - toasting bread for stuffing, baking a pie and a tart, making ice cream batter to cool in the fridge overnight, and making laundry soap.

Okay, so the laundry soap isn't for eating. I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure soap, Borax, and washing soda should not be ingested. It just happens to be time for me to make it again.
Ice cream batter

I've actually been making my laundry soap for several years now. For a while, I was making the base goop and then adding a whole bunch of water and storing it in 5 gallon buckets. The mixture didn't blend well and was never quite even. It worked, but how much actual soap was going into the wash was inconsistent. Finally, moving to Japan and having my own laundry room (instead of basement communal coin laundry or a laundry closet like in the last two places I lived) inspired me to make a change and just make the laundry goop base, stop there, and store it in quart jars. Less time to make and the results are much more consistent. I use one tablespoon per load and I eventually found the perfect spoon just long to scrape the bottom of the jar.
Toasted bread for stuffing

For the curious - this is the recipe I use. I only have to make a new batch every few months, but your laundry needs may vary.
Lemon meringue pie (left) and pumpkin-chocolate tart (right)

My favorite part is when I get to blend it all up. Before that part, it's half liquid, half solid and not useful. But put it on the blender (a standard quart sized jar fits a standard blender), press the button, and a few seconds later - fwoompf - it is suddenly laundry goop. It's very satisfying kitchen science.

Kitchen science in progress!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My friend, the dictionary, is a very reliable friend

Several years ago, back when I was still in undergrad, I was part of a Utah-based theater lovers message board, Players Anonymous. Our membership was largely comprised of community theatre practitioners in the Utah and Salt Lake valleys. It was an opportunity to keep up to date about auditions and performances and other opportunities in the area, but also a place for general socializing. Eventually, mostly with the rise of Facebook, the boards went the way of much of the internet, and I'd moved out of Utah anyway. I enjoyed my time as a part of this group and met many people who affected my life in many ways, but that's not the point of this post.

My name on this board was Stretch Armstrong, based on the doll - not the band, or Stretch for short, which is where I get the AmandaStretch I largely go by now online. For a little while on the board, I created a weekly feature called "Stretch's Word Corner" where I'd make up silly words and their definitions. I don't remember any of them anymore - nothing really took off, but it was an amusing diversion for me.

I don't remember how I came up with any of the words. Some of them I worked on, some of them were probably happy accidents, like chocolate chip cookies - one of the world's best accidental inventions, but with far less cultural significance and staying power.

Words get made up all the time, at least in English. It's a living language, after all. Merriam-Webster added 841 new words to its dictionary this year alone!

I don't know if it will become part of the dictionary anytime soon, but Blake accidentally coined a new word, a clever portmanteau, this week that we really like - packanizing.

There's packing - put stuff in bags or boxes for travel or moving.

There is organizing - shifting things around to new locations within a permanent/semi-permanent space.

Packanizing is both! Blake has both to do this week, and when mentioning them on his to do list, he accidentally combined the words and it was a perfect description of the task ahead - a little packing of things to take with him, a little organizing of things to leave at home.

So, if you find it fits in your own life, you're welcome to use it too! Maybe it will take off and make the dictionary one day. Or maybe it will just make your life easier instead of saying packing and organizing separately all the time. You just might save several seconds of time over the course of your life.
Two nerds in love at a library on a vacation to Australia

Monday, November 19, 2018

'Cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

For as long as I think anyone can remember, my grandmother made pecan rolls for her family and friends at Christmas time. They are delicious treats with a nougat center and caramel with pecans on the outside. It's a very involved, all day process, but she did it every year (except when she and Grandpa were serving a mission for our church) without fail. Every year, my family would get a package of them with one pecan roll for each of us. We'd put them in the freezer and once every other month or so, we'd get one out, thaw it, and we'd each get a piece or two. Once I didn't live at home, I'd get mine in the mail. I'd freeze it, thaw it sometime during the year and eat it over a few days. After Blake joined the family, she would send us two every Christmas. I have no idea how many she would make every year, especially as her own family grew in addition to all the friends who would receive them, but it was many. So many.

A couple of years ago, she finally announced that she would be unable to continue the tradition. It was too much prolonged standing for her, and we all understood. My mom and sister helped that last year so that they would get more practice making them on their own, and Blake and I each got one more pecan roll in the mail.

We finally thawed one of them today. They tend to hide in the freezer, plus I've wanted to save them, but it was time. It was as delicious as ever. We saved a few pieces for tomorrow, and we still have one more in the freezer for one more time.

I need to learn how to make them. I'm sure they will never be as good as Grandma's, but it doesn't mean I can't try! 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Families can be together forever

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

I believe that this mortal life is not all there is. I believe that we lived in a spiritual form before we were born and that we will live in a spiritual form again after we die until the resurrection when our spirit and body will be reunited in a perfect form forever. I believe that we have opportunities to live and grow and learn in this life and that we will have to chance to continue and progress beyond this life as well.

I believe because of those beliefs about life before and after this one that the relationships we have now may have existed in the existence before this and have the potential to continue after this one as well, especially marriages and families that are solemnized in temples for time and all eternity.

This belief is one of the great comforts of the gospel - that we will see those who pass on before us again and that death is only a temporary separation. That's not to say it's easy to lose those we love or that we can't be sad or grieve their loss, but that it can give some additional perspective to that loss and help, eventually, ease its pain. While some deaths can be a relief, such as the end of long and/or painful illness, others are still incredibly difficult, particularly anyone who dies before it is expected.

Of course, the closer we are to someone, the harder it can be to lose them, no matter the circumstances. Two of my friends (and their families) are going through one of the most challenging losses I anticipate anyone having to go through - the loss of a parent, particularly in a quick and unexpected way. These friends are close to my age and the parents close to the age of mine. One lost their mother, the other their father, and both due to sudden and relatively short illness. While it's not a loss I fully understand yet, and hope I don't anytime soon, I am still very sad for them and their families and their surviving spouses. And I'm sad for myself, because I know these parents that my friends have lost too, and they will be missed.

My friends believe as I do, but I know that they are hurting anyway and are sad not just for themselves, but for their young children who have lost a grandparent. Even when we believe we will see them again, we are sad for the lost potential of what could have been if we'd had more time here.

There is a lot more to Heavenly Father's plan for us than I can ever adequately explain here. You can learn more at this site, but I'm also happy to answer any questions anyone might have. I am grateful for the peace and perspective it gives me in all aspects of life and, in this particular case, look forward to seeing my loved ones again.

Grandpa P, who passed away in 2016. Shortly after I moved to Japan later that year, I realized he wasn't around anymore and didn't know we got to live in Japan. Immediately, I thought, "He knows." And I believe that's true - that he knows, loves me, and is proud of me and Blake and our little family.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I'll be your candle on the water

This morning, Blake took me on a little adventure to a place here in Japan that he had been to but I had not, which is a rare occasion here. Our destination today was the Kannonzaki lighthouse. The first lighthouse at this location, built in 1869, was the first lighthouse in Japan and designed by the same French engineer who designed the base for the Japanese that we currently use. That first lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake in 1922, and the second by the great Kanto earthquake in 1923, so this structure is technically the 3rd one, built in 1925.

It's a short little hike from the bus stop and a climb uphill at the end, then stairs in the lighthouse itself, but the view of Tokyo Bay is incredible. Lots of ships and boats were out on the water today and even though clouds obscured much of the view on the other side of the bay, it was still lovely.

On the way down the stairs, Blake told me some of the best trivia I may have ever heard and was officially surprised I didn't know yet - why spiral staircases are usually clockwise. It's so that defenders of the castle would be able to use their dominant hand (usually the right hand) to wield their sword against attackers who would be forced to fight with their non-dominant hand or run into walls. I took stage combat in college and love sword fighting as a result and I love trivia, so this was great to learn!
Before catching our bus home, we shared a Coke in a limited edition Shonan bottle. The Shonan region is essentially our backyard and it felt appropriate to buy one on a day we were exploring it!

In case I haven't made it clear, I love living here - learning both the ancient history and more modern and experiencing this fantastic culture. I also had a chance to practice my Japanese language more than usual today, since we helped clean the church before our outing and the sister missionaries are having a no English day today to work on their Japanese language skills. I responded a lot in English, but enjoyed practicing my listening skills!

It's been two years now since we moved here and it's gone by fast. We will still be here for a little bit, but it's not forever, so I still have more learning and exploring to do!
A cave with a few small shrines on the hike to the lighthouse