Navigating Tokyo

View from the top of Tokyo Tower

Sometimes, well most times, military families do not get much of a decision when selecting a duty station. In our case, the Marine Corps sends my husband where he is needed, and the family just tags along; however, in our particular case, we were asked out of AZ, CA, & Japan, where would we like to go next.

For us, Japan was the obvious choice.

We sometimes get weird reactions when we tell people that, but we were born to travel. We want to see the world and everything it has to offer, and if the government wants to help pay for that, well, why the heck not?

Three weeks into our move, it was time for me to travel. A good friend of mine, Sam, was delivering her baby in Tokyo, so we arranged for me to come visit her for a few days while she waited for her baby to arrive. My husband had to work, so it was just little man and me venturing to Tokyo, and to say it was an experience would be an understatement.

Our plane journey to Tokyo is an entirely different story, so I will save that for another blog, so fast forward to my arrival.

  • Train Station-There may have been some watery eyes in this process. I feel I’m a pretty independent person, but when I’m in another country, with a 1 year old, a large suitcase, surrounded by virtually no one who speaks English, and I have to figure out what train to take to make it to my friend, my limits are tested; however, once I figured out the transit option on my Maps app, life became much smoother.
One of the many trains we took in our 72 hour visit.

The train system is color coded, which helped tremendously. The app even allowed me to see which train to take, when to transfer, how long I would be on the train, and how many stops it would make. For those who may be used to trains and subways-I’m looking at you NYC- this may be common sense. For the girl who drives everywhere, this ended up being incredibly tough for me, and even after three full days in Tokyo, I still didn’t mastered it.

The Japanese utilize every bit of space available. There are even professional “pushers” to make get as many people on each cart as possible.

Also, be prepared to have personal space invaded. The trains are packed and chairs aren’t offered to women or the elderly like they would be in the States; however, the Japanese are so respectful. I took up so much space; yet, I received nothing but smiles. As the train doors opened, and there were mad rushes to get on and off before they closed, my luggage was constantly lifted on and off the train for me. I had a few people even escort me to the elevator with it. Sound sketchy? In the States, I would have elbowed someone in the face if they touched by luggage, but Japan-it’s just different. They are genuinely kind people.

Most of the strollers are simple umbrella strollers, so even my single Chicco Bravo stood out.

The biggest takeaway, be weary of large luggage. Americans definitely stand out. We have big everything-strollers, luggage, and bodies! Even the Japanese who carried luggage only had small carry-ons or backpacks. Strollers were mainly compact umbrella strollers, and I didn’t see any diaper bags (nor families with more than two children). I’ve never thought of myself as an over packer, but my next trip to Tokyo, I will definitely size down in this area.

Welcome to Harajuku!

DAY 1: Harajuku & The Fashion District                                                                    If large crowds give you anxiety, Harajuku is not the place to go. I have never seen so many people at the same place, at the same time. It was both fascinating and exhausting. Harajuku was eccentric to say the least. The fashion is, well, different.: five-inch platform sandals, giant glitter hair bows, rainbow colored crop tops. However, once I was able to get past all the crazy shops of clothing and souvenirs that a part of me wanted to buy, yet knew it was a complete waste of money, we discovered some amazing cafes and restaurants.

My brunch at Pompompurin Café made up of rice, pancake, fruit, veggies, and salsa.

We grabbed lunch at Pompompurin Café. Haven’t heard of it? You may soon. Pompompurin is a golden retriever character created by the same company that started Hello Kitty and is growing quickly in popularity throughout Japan.

The entrance to Reissue. You have to be looking for it, or you will miss it.

After finishing lunch, my friend and I headed over to the Latte Art Café Reissue. After climbing up a very steep flight of stairs, were warmly greeted and led to a small table, which we shared with a Japanese mom and daughter. One of our favorite stops throughout the entire trip, we simply showed the waitress a picture of whatever we wanted to have their “café artist” recreate on our drink. Since Sam and I were away from our husbands, we thought this would be a good way to have them join us.

My custom latte. <3

Ten minutes later, a phenomenally looking latte appeared. After a half dozen pictures, we finally made ourselves drink the $10 latte, and it was delicious. The café claims to be able to recreate any picture that is brought to them, including 3-D, and by the amount of pictures being taken all of the customers throughout the quaint café, we were not the only ones impressed.

One of the many high end stores located in the fashion district.

A street over is the fashion district. This was a nice break from the massive crowds, but any real dreams of shopping were quickly squashed for these two military spouses. The street was aligned with high-end stores such as Gucci, Prada, Celine, Louis Vuitton, etc. We window shopped and dreamed, and an hour later, we decided it was time to head home.

Fashion District

 

 

We had to brace the crowd back through Harajuku, which by now had doubled in size. On our way out, we wanted some cotton candy at the Totti Candy Shop. We had passed by this shop earlier, but thought it would be a perfect ending to our day. This is not your typical cotton candy. It’s colorful and massive and even comes with a glove to avoid that annoying stickiness. Unfortunately, everyone else must have thought it was a good time for cotton candy as well because it was a two hour wait! We passed for this trip, but definitely on our list for next time.

Before giving birth, Sam had the opportunity to go back to Totti Candy Factory to grab her some cotton candy. I will have to wait until my next Tokyo visit before I can experience this rainbow of sweetness.
  • Day 2: Shiba-Koen & Shibuya
A different view from the top of the Tokyo tower.
Our private elevator (not sure why the blue led lighting).

We knew today we wanted to see the city: literally. We headed for the highest point: The Tokyo Tower located in the Shiba-koen district. We had been told to get there early to avoid the long lines. While reading up on the Tokyo Tower, articles kept mentioning all the steps we needed to climb. If this were accurate, it definitely would have been a site we wouldn’t have been able to see between a 9 month pregnant woman and a stroller. Fortunatley, it was the complete opposite. We felt more like VIPs. After about a 20 minute wait, we purchsed tickets and were escported to a private eleveator that took us right to the top. The views were spectacular. There was a little café, so we sat to have a bite and some coffee while enjoying the scenery.

Cafe at the top of Tokyo tower overlooking the city.
Max enjoying the view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an hour or, we started back down on our private elevator and headed to Shibuya.

Pedestrians getting ready to cross.
Approximately 2,500 pedestrians cross this intersection every 60 seconds. This is our view from the top of Starbucks.

This was the most fascinating part of our three day trip. There is a reason Shibuya is known for the world’s largest crosswalk. In only 60 seconds, up to 2,500 people cross the street every time the light signals. I have never seen so many people in such a relatively small space in my entire life. Before crossing, we had to take a moment and just watch (as did MANY other visitors). We finally went, and as cheesy as it may sound, it was a bit of an adrenaline rush. Directly across the street is Starbucks. The line was out the door, but we still wanted to see the “Starbucks View.” Hands down, that has to be the quickest Starbucks I have ever been to. There were close to 20 people in line in front of me, and I had my latte in less than 10 minutes. I headed up the stairs and just watched the crossing from a higher viewpoint. (Plus, I was able to grab my Tokyo Starbucks mug). With the exception of a $5 latte, it was one of our favorite spot and completely free.

  • Day 5: Kamakura
Great Buddha
Our entrance ticket to walk the grounds around The Great Buddha.

On our last full day, we decided to head to Kamakura to see The Great Buddha. There was a nice trail leading up to The Great Buddha. There is an option to go inside, but we decided just to purchase the main entrance ticket. We saw many Japanese lighting incense and praying, and it was a really interesting location to just observe. We walked around the site for a bit, learned more about Buddhism, and then ventured into Kamakura.

Shopping the streets of Kamakura.

There were cute shops and restaurants we visited, but after three days, these two gals were exhausted, so we decided to call it an early day and headed back.

 

 

 

Overall, Tokyo is a fascinating city to visit.  Although we just touched the surface on sites to see and things to do, we feel that three full days was our max for that trip. Our legs were sore, we were mentally exhausted, and it gave us an excuse to visit again.

 

Saying Sayonara in Kamakura

What is a must for our next visit? Mario carts!

A Kid in Kyoto

The second most visited place in Japan is the city of Kyoto. With a population of over 1.4 million, the city is filled with tourist hot spots, and my family couldn’t wait to visit as many as possible.

My husband, son and I decided to use Veteran’s Day weekend to take the 2 night, 3 day trip to the city. We had two options-drive 5 hours, or take the 2 hour Shinkansen (bullet train). I had been wanting to take the bullet train since we arrived in Japan, so that was an easy decision. Many of our friends had recommended AirBnB, so that is the route we decided to take. Our rental was approximately two blocks from the train station, so very convenient to access the train throughout the weekend.

No handrails-simply steps cemented into the wall. Terrifying, especially with a toddler.
Our AirBnB. It was small, but very neat and modern.
The only panel that was operated using the electrical panel in the shower stall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived around 3:30 pm, and with only about 48 hours to see as many (kid friendly) sites as possible, we knew we had to make it count. Here are our Top 5 Must-See Destinations in Kyoto:

 

  • Nijo jo Castle

About a block from our AirBnB, was the Nijo-jo Castle. The castle lets in its last guest at 4:00pm, so we had to hustle; fortunately for us, we were the last ones allowed in. Built over 400 years ago, the Nijo-jo Castle was the residence of the most powerful man in Japan and first Tokugawa shogun (military government ruler), Ieyasu. In 1893, it became an imperial palace after the fall of the Tokugawa before being donated to the public in 1939. Today, visitors can walk throughout the castle, viewing each of the numerous rooms and learning of its purpose. Some rooms were designated for the less ranking officials, while others were held for special guests. Breathtaking murals are painted throughout the castle, each with a distinct meaning and purpose. Some rooms are covered in tigers, while an adjacent one may have floor to ceiling pine trees. The most unique feature of the castle is the “nightingale floors.” To warn against sneak attacks or assassins, the boards were intentionally structured to make a bird chirping sound when anyone walks on them. Walking through this centuries old palace and getting a glimpse into the style of that time period can be considered beautiful in itself, but when guests exit the building, they are surrounded by acres of gardens, moats, and elaborate gates once used to protect the castle from outside enemies. English audio tours can be rented for 500 yen (around $4.50), and we wish we could have taken advantage of those. I’m sure we would have learned even more about this destination; however, being the last visitors, we simply ran out of time. Fortunately, there are signs throughout the castle explaining much of the site. Cameras are not allowed in the castle, so it really is a spot one must see.

 

Cost: 600 yen per person (kids are free)

 

Kid Friendly: Unlike many castles that go up, this one is considered a flatland castle. There are very few stairs; however, strollers are now allowed. Shoes also must come off before entering, but both strollers and shoes can be safely stored at the entrance.

 

  • Fushimi Inari Tight

The next morning, we headed to the most famous shrine in Japan, theFushimi Inari Taishi in southern Kyoto. About a ten-minute walk from the Kyoto train station, the shrine has thousands of torii gates dating all the way back to 711 A.D. Each of the torii gates were dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and their names and dedication dates can be found in kanji writing on the backside of the gate. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, so many statues are located throughout the grounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arriving to the destination, visitors will quickly see the gates start to ascend up a mountain. Many hikers will explore the full 2.5-mile path; however, all guests are welcome to turn back at anytime.

Cost: Free

 

Kid Friendly: Strollers are not allowed on the trail; however, the mountain is not steep, and with the flexibility to turn back at any time, it is definitely manageable with children. Take comfortable walking shoes.

 

 

  • Arashiyama

Arashiyama is a full sightseeing district and definitely worth the trip. Thinking our son would love it, we decided to take the hike up the Iwatayama Mountain and see the monkey park. With over 150 macaque monkeys up close and personal, the monkey park is about a 30-50 minute hike.

Being six months pregnant, this proved to be a bit more difficult for me, but there were benches located throughout the train that several visitors were utilizing. The trail itself had some dangerous areas, no railings and steep drops, so there were several spots we wouldn’t allow our one year old to walk and needed to be carried. Towards their top of the mountain, and just short of the park, is a “resting area” with a small playground. Once we left the playground, and ascended another 100 feet, an absolutely incredibly view of Kyoto opened up for picture taking. For a few moments, we didn’t even pay attention to the monkeys walking right next to us because we couldn’t take our eyes off this beautiful city, but once we broke away, the exhaustion from the trail was quickly forgotten. Our son loved the monkeys; however, he did decide to throw a tantrum when we wouldn’t let him play with them. Visitors can purchase food to feed the monkeys and there is no shortage of spots where monkeys are relaxing, but there are signs everywhere to not look them directly in the eyes. After half an hour or so, we decide to head back down the mountain, which proved to be much easier!

Cost: 550 yen ($5.00) per adult. Kids 4 and under are free

Kid Friendly: Semi depending on age. Strollers are not allowed, so be ready to carry small children.

 

Once we exited the monkey park, we took the 10-15 minute walk to the bamboo Grove, passing dozens of shops and restaurants and crossing a bridge with even more gorgeous sites to take in. I was so incredibly exited to get to these paths, which cover over 500 meters, and it was completely worth it. Shaded and peaceful, the bamboo forest really allows visitors to take in the tranquil surroundings of the area. If traveling without the kids and for a bit of a romantic feel, rickshaw rides can be rented for 5000-7000 yen (roughly $40-60). English tour guides on the rides will take up to two guests on private trails, picturesque spots, and provide knowledgeable information on the area. Although we snapped dozens of photos, none can convey the atmosphere in person, making it an easy (and free) must see.

 

Cost: Free

 

Kid friendly: Very. Strollers are allowed, and guests can turn back at any time.

 

  • Golden Palace

On our last day in Kyoto, we knew we wanted to check out the Kinkaku-ji , which became a favorite stop for my family and the most photographed temple in Japan. After a quick bus ride, we arrived at the Kinkaku-ji, better referred to as the Golden Pavillion, the Kinkaku. Dating back to 1397, the temple was originally built for statesman, Saionji Kintsune, and later purchased by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After Yoshimitsu’s death, and designated in his will, his son converted the complex into a Zen temple. In 1950, a crazed monk burned much of the original structure, but the pavilion was restored to its original design, including the gold-leaf coating that covers the temple. Besides the obvious gold element that makes this temple so unique, the building also boasts three floors of different styled architecture. The Kinkaku-ji is located in the middle of a pond, and although it cannot be entered, often the windows of the pavilion are open, where statues of Yoshimitsu and Shaka Buddha can be seen on the first floor.

Visitors can continue to follow the garden path around the pond and up a slight hill where a tea house will end the tour. The beautiful shaded trail is a must-see during the fall season when the leaves are changing colors.

 

 

 

Cost: 400 yen per adult & 300 yen per elementary/middle school aged child (toddlers/babies are free)

Kid Friendly: The garden path is a flat pathway and very easy to walk with small children and strollers; however, there are stairs towards the end of the trail (and must be climbed to access the tea house). We took turns going up the stairs to check out the tea house and small markets located at the top of the hill, while one of us stayed with our son (about an additional 10 minutes each). We then simply turned around and went back down the way we came down the path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Kiyomizu Sera

 

Once we left the Golden Pavillion, we jumped back on the bus and within a few minutes we were walking our way up towards the Kiyomizu Dera. Our last major stop on trip, this Buddhist Temple was founded in 780 and is best known for its “stage” that extends from the main building providing stunning sites of Kyoto. Like many sites throughout Kyoto, the Kiyomizu Dera is located up a steep mountain; however, the path is considered the Higashiyama District and is aligned with numerous shops and restaurants catering to tourists.

We were surrounded by both men and women in Kimonos and couldn’t help but to stop in a little shop to pick our son up his very own.

    

Throughout the Kiyomizu Dera are areas where guests can stop to pray, whether with the use of incense or in front of a statue. Once visitors exit the temple, they descend down a trail lined small waterfalls and even more views of Kyoto.

 

Cost: 400 yen per adult (kids are free)

 

 

 

Kid Friendly: The HigashiyamaDistrict is very crowded, but strollers are allowed; however, they must be left at the bottom of the temple due to the amount of stairs needed to climb. The temple itself is an easy walk with children.

 

What we wish we could have done:

There was one thing I really wanted to do on our short trip to Kyoto, but we simply ran out of time. I wanted to see a Geisha! Upon leaving Kiyomizu Dera, we decided to walk to the train station versus taking the bus. The walk was much farther, but it allowed us to walk through Gion, the area to find a Geisha. We had learned that dusk was the ideal time to spot one, and timing wise, we may have been a bit early, but that didn’t deter us from looking down every alley we passed. If you have extra time to sightsee, check out the neighborhoods of Hanami-koji-dori in Gion, especially n the weekends and holidays, but remember, snap a photo from afar since many geishas don’t have time to stop for a picture, as they are usually on their way to an appointment.

Overall, our trip was amazing. Kyoto is beautiful and has over 17 UNESCO World Historic Monuments. Traveling with a child (or children) will slow any family down, but children should never be an excuse to not explore the world.

The Beauty of Beaufort Book Deput

 

Written for Eat, Sleep, Play Beaufort

Beaufort Inn’s Tabby Place was filled with fans, photographers and members of Friends of Hunting Island Thursday evening for the anticipated book debut and author signing of The Beauty of Beaufort. A year in the making, the book features over 175 image from 28 local contributors. Throughout the night, guests mingled, snacked on hors d’oeuvres, sipped wine and one lucky raffle winner even walked away with a free book.

Author, Ryan Copeland & wife

Publisher Lydia Inglett approached the Photography Club of Beaufort’s President Joan Eckhardt about getting its members involved. Inglett visualized a book full of breathtaking images that captured the Lowcountry with historically written descriptions by Author, Ryan Copeland. Several categories were given such as shrimping, Port Royal wetlands, Hunting Island, etc. Hundreds of images were submitted and Inglett with her team, selected the ones that would be featured on the pages. As a thank you to the Photography Club of Beaufort, all net proceeds from now until May 31st will benefit the Friends of Hunting Island. After this date, proceeds can benefit the nonprofit organization if purchased directly from a Photography Club or Friends of Hunting Island member.

Members from Friends of Hunting Island, as well as the Photography Club of Beaufort gather for the book deput.

The Photography Club of Beaufort was very selective in choosing which organization to direct the donations, but the Friends of Hunting Island was the obvious choice. This nonprofit greatly depends on contributions to help acquire items such as planting sea oats, ADA beach accessible wheelchairs, sand fencing, and a nature center. This year’s plan is to even create a replica lighthouse playground for those not quite tall enough to climb the real one. “The books’ proceeds will really help purchase a lot of items that are not state funded,” stated Friends of Hunting Island President, Denise Parsick.

Publisher, Lydia Inglett (second from right) along with other staff members gather in preparation for the event.

If interested in purchasing The Beauty of Beaufort, contact the Photography Club of Beaufort, Friends of Hunting Island, or visit www.31stStarbooks.com to grab your copy today.

Author, Ryan Copeland autographs his first copy.

 

 

MCAS Air Show pleases crowd of thousands


Written for Eat, Sleep, Play, Beaufort

The bi-annual MCAS Beaufort Air Show officially kicked off on Saturday and by the time it’s over it will bring nearly 100,000 spectators to get a closer look at the myriad of historic military aircraft, modern jets, and of course the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.


The much-anticipated event was free to the public with gates opening at 9am and the fun began the moment the public began to flood the entrance. Families could stroll along the tarmac to learn about various helicopters, planes, and even cars. Many, such as the WWII-era C-54/R4D, could even be toured. Others could still be viewed up close. Pilots were more than willing to provide history of the aircraft and answer questions and there was even an opportunity to take a helicopter ride in a UH-1H Huey and an AH-1F Cobra.

 

 

 

 

Off to the side of the static displays was a designated children’s area. Kids were found jumping on one of the more than 20 bounce houses, or creating colorful masterpieces on a 20 X 6 mural. Older kids weren’t left out either. As long as they were height eligible, they could enjoy the two inflatable obstacle courses and large slides. Also available are items that could be purchased such as clothing apparel, souvenirs, or model planes, and of course food.

The Parris Island Marine Band led the opening ceremonies and was immediately followed by the USMC Legacy pass, which featured the F-35B, F/A-18, AV-8B, and the MARSOC Parachute Jump. The show continued with various gravity-defying stunts by Rob Holland in his Extra 300 and Gary Ward and his MX2 before shifting gears to the heart-pounding jet noise of the F-16 Viper Demonstration flown by Major Waters. At 2:25, Major Peppers demonstrated the capabilities of the F-35B by conducting a vertical climb on takeoff, a series of high-speed passes, an impressive hover sequence, and a slow landing. Afterward, the onlookers enjoyed the GEICO Skytypers before the highly anticipated U.S. Navy Blue Angels took flight. Their incredible maneuvers, often only 18 inches from each other, had the audience captivated as they roared over top of the crowd.

By opening the gates to the public, it allows MCAS to continue to educate the Lowcountry on the mission of the Air Station, along with showcasing all branches of the military service. With a full day of fun for the entire family, the Beaufort Air Show, once again, did not disappoint.


If you couldn’t make the air show on Saturday, you still have an opportunity to come out on Sunday! With the predicted low cloud bases, not only will the temperature be comfortable, the show is guaranteed to be packed with multiple low-altitude, high-speed maneuvers.

Don’t forget your sunscreen, a chair… and some hearing protection.
– See more at: http://eatsleepplaybeaufort.com/mcas-beaufort-air-show-pleases-crowd-of-thousands/#sthash.xT2zsyKb.dpuf

Local Organization “Takes Back The Night” in Downtown Rally

Written for Eat, Sleep, Play, Beaufort

Local non-profit, Hopeful Horizons (formerly known as CODA and Hope Haven) held their annual Take Back the Night awareness event to give a voice to survivors of sexual assault and child abuse.   Held in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park pavilion Friday evening, survivors and volunteers spoke to over 100 people discussing awareness, prevention, and treatment. Surrounding the pavilion were 1,495 purple and green flags – one for every survivor of sexual, domestic, or child abuse that they assisted last year.

CEO of Hopeful Horizons, Shauw Chin Capps, spoke on the purpose of Take Back the Night.  The message was simple: Make hope happen, end abuse, and change lives. Capps has a staff of 44 working in various areas helping the non-profit organization succeed. The organization offers counseling, treatment, and even a 24/7 crisis hotline for those that just need to talk.  Hopeful Horizons will also provide immediate shelter for women and children needing to escape an abusive relationship.
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Sexual assault outreach specialist, CJ Atkins began the evening by introducing sexual assault survivor, Jane Carson-Sanders. Retired Colonel Carson-Sanders told of her terrifying encounter almost 40 years ago with the East Area Rapist and serial killer (who has never been caught). Sanders has been featured on the shows Dark Minds, 48 Hours, Crime Watch, CNN and People Magazine telling her story, but she wanted to state that she wasn’t there to tell the details of her attack. She referred to herself as first a victim, then a survivor, and now a thriver. Speaking with others and discussing her story of survival as well as finding her purpose in life led her to write the book, Frozen in Fear.
Carson-Sanders was followed by another powerful survivor, Tina Bagneski. Twenty years ago, Bagneski was stabbed by a still unknown assailant 17 times with a pair of sewing scissors. She woke up months later from a coma, paralyzed and remembering very little.  The investigation of her attack led Bagneski to not only tell her story, but to teach others of deterrents, things to look for to lower a chance of an attack.  
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Sexual Assault Survivors Ret. Col. Jane Carson-Sanders & Tina Bagneski

Other speakers included Mayor of Beaufort Billy Keyserling, State Representative Shannon Erickson, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy, and City Councilwoman Nan Sutton.

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Mayor Billy Keyserling and state Representative Shannon Erickson speak on the strength of the survivors of abuse.
Chief Clancy wanted to take his speech a bit further, not only helping give survivors a voice, but talking about how we can work together to stop abuse. “Treat everyone with respect and dignity…that’s how you break this cycle.” Violence Prevention Specialist, Aldriene Parker, also spoke on the prevention of abuse. As the leader of the MOST Club (Men of Strength), he works with middle and high schoolers throughout Beaufort and Jasper County to help young men become leaders in preventing violence against women and others.  The final speaker of the night was Mr. Clean from B.A.C.A (Bikers Against Child Abuse). This group of strong (slightly intimidating) men take a firm stand against all forms of child abuse. They work directly with children empowering them and being a constant presence in their lives.
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Chief Clancy along with members of B.A.C.A.
The event ended with an open mic opportunity. Those who have been victims of sexual assault or abuse were given the opportunity to come up and tell their story.  After a couple of minutes, the first survivor bravely walked to the stand with an outpouring of applause and support. Others followed. Several mentioned it was the first time they had ever spoken of their abuse.  
April is Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Month. Hopeful Horizons is dedicated to helping both current victims and survivors. If you or someone you know need to escape a dangerous situation, or simply talk about a past occurrence, don’t hesitate to call their 24/7 crisis hotline at 1800-868-2632 or visit their website hopefulhorizons.org for more information. 

 

– See more at: http://eatsleepplaybeaufort.com/local-organization-takes-back-the-night-in-downtown-rally/#sthash.v5057KSu.dpuf

 

The Strength of a Military Spouse

On a recent Friday, I had a hometown friend tell me that her husband was leaving the next day for a work conference, and she would not see him again until the following Tuesday. I gave her a moment to vent a little, and I could hear a bit of sadness in her voice, but the truth was, I was annoyed. What I would give to have my husband leave for only three nights. When my husband leaves for a work related event, I will be lucky if I see him in six months. I am a military spouse.

The strength of a “milspouse” is second-to-none, and the military lifestyle is truly not for everyone. The women I have met are strong, independent, and adaptive to change. We all handle this lifestyle differently: the deployments, the detachments, the moves, and the ever-changing work hours. Some spouses find distractions such as throwing themselves into their own careers, while others are stay-at-home moms. However, there is one thing that stands firm – our comfort in each other. There is a reason that milspouses become so close. Unless someone has physically lived this lifestyle, most civilians will never truly understand, and because of this, we milspouses have a core connection to each other and where words often are not necessary.

The ladies of 115

We naturally bond in countless ways. Our husbands’ careers may have brought us together, but it is our love for each other that keeps us close. We compare the number of times each person has moved, and all the personal items that have been destroyed by movers. We talk about cities where we have lived and what we have loved (and loathed) about each one. We find that we know many of the same people, because even though the military can seem immense to outsiders, in our community, it is quite small. We make fun of our husbands’ jargon and how they gesticulate when telling stories. We also have to share with each other the birth names of our husbands, since they only use call signs. Quite honestly, I do not always know who “Twinkie”, “Omaha”, and “Broke” are! We even make sure to tell each other where our military discounts can be used! But none of this is not what sets military spouses apart from others. It is the connection we have with each other when the unexpected happens. Without asking what to do, or being nervous about what to say, a military spouse will step in to help another during the worst of times.

Secret Sister Reveal

On December 8th at 6:40 pm, F-18 fighter pilot, Jake “Red Stripe” Frederick, who was stationed in Beaufort, was killed while performing a routine mission off the coast of Japan. The last words the crew heard over the radio were, “I am ejecting.” His body was found 20 hours later. He left behind his eight months pregnant wife, Kiley, and his three-year-old son. Within a few short hours after Kiley was notified, her squadron’s wives started pouring into her home. For the next several days, they stayed right by her side, bringing food, helping pack up her house, praying and comforting her in any way she needed – even if she did not say anything specifically.

News of Jake’s death spread quickly through our military community, and within a couple of days hundreds of Facebook profile pictures had been changed across our nation with the VMFA-115 logo (Jake’s squadron), a Go-Fund Me page had been created by one of Kiley’s closest friends in the squadron, and pages with updates of different suggestions for helping Jake’s family were being shared thousands of times.

It was no secret that Jake and Kiley were Christians, and her faith carried her through these dark days. On the Sunday after Jake’s death, Kiley and Jake’s families gathered in her home, along with dozens of spouses to hold a small service. Songs were sung, stories were told, and prayers were lifted. Several days later, Jake was laid to rest in his home state of Texas. Kiley made a specific request: she wanted her military spouse sisters to sit with the family at the funeral.

Photo Credit: Paul Nurnberg Photography

This is the strength of a spouse. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and when your husband is a United States’ Marine, there is an extra concern for his safety, but you will rarely hear complaints. In a way, we chose this life. We knew this life would not be easy; we could have walked away, chosen a different path, but we stayed. We became military spouses, through the good times and bad. We know we have each other to lean on, and we make each other strong.

In Memory of Jake “Red Stripe” Frederick

 

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”

Why I’m Pro-Life

Maddox just turned 4 months old.  Every night, I say the same prayer for him: to be protected, healthy, kept safe, and to one day accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  I am a Christian, and I try my best to put God at the center of my life-every decision.  Sometimes, I fail, but for this election, I held true to my values.

When I look at Maddox, I realize how truly pro-life I am.  The moment I heard his heart beat at just a few weeks in utero, I would have done anything for him. I cannot support a politician who doesn’t flinch if a woman wants an abortion for unrelated health purposes.  I have been told, “There needs to be separation of church and state.” I disagree. The more we push Jesus out, the worse, I believe, our country is getting. “What a woman chooses to do with her body is her right.” What about the baby’s rights? Women have options if they do not want to raise a child, but as a Christian, I view abortions as murder.

When I was about 20 weeks pregnant, I was given the option to test for disorders such as Down Sydrome.  I asked around to a few of my friends on whether they got the test or not, as well as their reasons for it.  I heard a few mixed answers.  One that struck me uncomfortably was, “Yes.  I recommend it. That way, you can decide if you want to keep the baby or not.”  I was totally left speechless, and then I asked one more person. My friend Brittney.  Brittney has been one of my closest friends since childhood, and she is the epitome of a Christian woman.  Her response spoke volumes to me: “No, I wasn’t tested. It didn’t matter.  If God wanted to give us a child with Down Syndrome, then He obviously thinks we can handle it.”  That was all I needed to hear. I spoke with Jesse, and he agreed. There would be no test for me, but abortion would not be an option.

After Maddox’s birth, my 0pinion on the subject was even stronger. I look at him and thank God for this wonderful blessing. I have friends who have adopted and love their children just as much as I love mine.  These parents are also thankful to their children’s biological mother for choosing life.  That choice not only saved the lives of the babies, but brought a new love to a family.

I’ve often wondered why God allows some women to get pregnant so easily knowing they do not want to have a child, while others pray relentlessly for one-only to never have the chance.  I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m not supposed to.  Jesse and I became pregnant with Maddox very quickly, and four days after his birth, we knew we wanted more children. The same may not happen again for me as quickly, or at all, but that is out of my hands.

My mom and I have talked about abortion often. She knows my stance, and she sometimes reminds me that I did not feel this way as a teenager or college student. I was fine with abortion, but I also feel people change.  I didn’t know then what I know now.  I had never heard a heartbeat or had seen a sonogram.  I hope one day abortions become illegal again.  I know that is  a controversial statement, but that is the beauty of being American. I have the right to    say what I want to say, just as those who oppose me can do the same.

I believe every life is a blessing from God, and I believe every baby is created in the image of Him. To destroy that breaks my heart, especially knowing there are so many families out there who would love to raise a child.

Ecclesiastes 11:5

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.

Hello, President Trump

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I’m waking up this morning to the news that Donald Trump will be our new president.  Although our country is completed divided on this announcement, I am actually relieved to hear this.  I voted for Donald Trump.

The truth is I was never sold on Trump as a person. I still have my own personal reservations with him; however, I decided to vote for the candidate who was most aligned with my values and ultimately against the Clinton Administration.

I’ve heard many times that we should separate church and state.  As a Christian, I disagree. I will always put Him first in all my decisions including who to vote for as my Commander in Chief. When I was 18, I went with my Government class to the local voting precinct to register.  Our teacher had spent months teaching us of the various stances of each party that would prepare us to make a decision on which party to affiliate ourselves.  The Republican Party resonated with me most.  I was and still am pro-life, a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, a believer in a strong military, a proponent of small business, etc. I could go in detail about why I feel the way I feel about each of these stances, but that is not why I’m writing this.  What is needed to know is these are my values and beliefs, and they line up perfectly with conservatism.  So, that day in my government class, I registered as a Republican and never looked back.

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Maddox’s 2016 Halloween Costume
“Third Party Candidate Nominee”
He was endorsed quite a bit that night.

I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 nor 2012.  I didn’t think he was a bad guy (still don’t). I just didn’t vote at all in 2008, and in 2012, I liked Romney better, but these last eight years, I’ve seen our country go down-economically and morally. Being a military spouse, I started to fear ISIS more than just an average American.  We would hear about attacks on Americans or a possible threats on the military base where my husband worked.  We were told families of military were getting targeted and to change our social media names, don’t post any pictures military related, and even possibly take down our American flags that hung outside our homes so that we didn’t bring attention to ourselves.

Aside from possible terrorism attacks, I would speak to my father about the rising cost of Obamacare that he didn’t even want, but was forced to have.  I watched our country start getting more racially divided.  There was an increase in mass shootings, while trustworthy Americans were being threatened that their 2nd Amendment right was going to be taken away. The influx of illegal immigrants was beginning to get out of hand. I believe that with a Clinton Administration, these things would only not get better, they would actually get worse.

I need to be able to trust my President, and I do not trust Hillary Clinton.  I do not need nor desire to get into the various reasons I find her untrustworthy. I honestly feel it is a bit of a rhetorical statement, since much of America feels the same way I do. I do not like her plans for our country.  Those who work hard should reap the benefits and not be forced to pay for those who chose a different path. Looking at how I feel about her character, and then following my own personal values, I knew I was going to stick with the Republican nominee.

I’m nervous about Trump. He runs at the mouth, is arrogant, and a bit of a loose canon, but I’m still willing to take my chances with him knowing what I would get with Clinton. I like that he’s not a politician.  I am very impressed with Governor Pence, along with some the advisors Trump has. If this is any inkling of the type of decisions he will make while in the White House, I will feel great about my decision to cast my vote for him. I  truly hope Trump does his best to keep his promises.

And…I really like Ivanka!

 

Just Stop!

32 weeks pregnant with Maddox
             32 weeks pregnant with Maddox

“Make sure to do squats.”

“Definitely don’t do squats.”

“Don’t go hungry. Eat plenty.”

“Don’t eat too much. Stay under 35 pounds.”

“Don’t jump too much.”

“Jumping will help that baby come out.”

“Riding a bike is a great cardio workout while pregnant.”

“Riding a bike is the absolute worst thing you can possibly do while pregnant.”

“Everything you can have in moderation, except alcohol. Do not touch it.”

“You can have a glass of wine here and there. It’s fine.”

“Stay out of the sun. You’ll burn easier.”

“Make sure to get some sun. You need that Vitamin D.”

 

Everyone of these statements were said to me throughout my pregnancy by loved ones.  They all meant well in their advice, but to be honest, it got old!  I have no doubt that others have experienced similar statements, probably even more bizarre.

When I first became pregnant, I didn’t want to take any chances with my unborn baby, so I tried to listen to everyone! About halfway through my 2nd trimester, I snapped.  At first, I thought it was one of my crazy hormonal breakdowns.  I had just come home from spending an evening with some girlfriends and began to unwind for the night.  I slipped on my pjs and realized they were now too tight.  I’m not sure if it was the realization that I could no longer fit into even my baggy clothes, or that the pregnancy was quickly nearing the end, and I still had no clue what I was doing, but I just fell to the floor. I cried and cried and cried.  I truly believe that everyone has their breaking point, and this was mine.

My husband was home, and he happened to come into our closet to find me in a fetal position just staring at my too small clothes. At the time, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Why was I acting this way?  Like any caring husband (who has no clue why his 7 month pregnant wife is on the floor crying), he sat with me and just listened.  I told him my fears, my concerns, and everything that was on my mind; however, even after talking it out, I couldn’t figure out why I was still so down, and then I simply said, “I’m so sick of listening to everybody.”

My husband said the simplest, yet profound words that changed my entire outlook on the remainder of the pregnancy: Then stop.

And at that moment, I did just that-I stopped. I stopped listening to everyone who wasn’t my doctor, and I began listening to my body.  As long as my Obstetrician gave me the go-ahead, I kept doing what I wanted.

Riding my bike at 34 weeks pregnant.
Riding my bike at 34 weeks pregnant.

I did my best to watch my weight while still eating, for the most part, what I wanted. I went to Zumba several days a week, rode my bike miles (even on a busy highway-gasp), took long walks, and didn’t touch alcohol.

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Enjoying the day at the beach.

And guess what-I never felt better.  I was happy and still smiled when I got the occasional advice, but I just didn’t care anymore.  Every pregnancy is different, and each should be treated as such.  For every article or statistic stating what a woman should do, there is another one rebutting the same “facts.”

So now, the only advice I ever offer is simply this-Listen to your doctor and your body, and enjoy this time in your life.

Mimosas and a Baby Shower

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My milspouse girlfriends celebrating Maddox.

Maybe it was how I was raised. Maybe it is just my personality (maybe both?), but I have never been a huge fan of wedding or baby showers.  I’ve been told countless times, “Micah, it’s not about you. It’s about ______.” Yes, I understand that, and I am completely ecstatic to celebrate in a friend’s happiness, but those couple of hours of celebration are so long…

I’m not sure if it is any one thing specifically, but the mere detail that most showers are very traditional.  Wherever the location (a house, restaurant, etc.), there is usually limited “fancy” food.  Often the items are little bit sized, something or others I can’t pronounce, and if a giant veggie tray takes center stage on the food table, I’m already starting off depressed.  The guests then tend to sit around and socialize with one another.  I don’t mind this part, depending on how close I am with the other guests.  The beautiful bride or mommy-to-be then opens her presents.  Ok, this one is up for debate.  If we can chit chat while she opens her gifts, I’m completely fine watching her and oohing and ahhing when appropriate.  If we end up being silent, while she painstakingly opens each gift and reads each card, then I will slowly start to die inside, but my least favorite part of all…

The games! I despise them. Fill in the missing nursery rhyme. Match the celebrities to their babies. How well do you know the bride? Who can guess closest to the size of her belly?  For a long time, I thought I was the only one who dreaded this part.  Everyone else seemed so into it, but the more I talk about it, the more I find that others don’t care for them as well. I’m sure some still love them, and great for those fortunate ones! Honestly, I wish I was more like you. I’m just not.  So for me, I knew my baby shower couldn’t be completely traditional.

When I got married, I didn’t even want a shower, fearful of it falling into the traditional category, but my husband insisted.  We ended up having a couples’ shower during the Florida vs. Florida State football game. The shower was football/tailgate themed. Guests wore their team colors, and the food was phenomenal.  We opened gifts in a very casual way.  Our 40 guests moved about and chatted with one another, and the only game we had was the one on TV! Also, there were drinks-lots of drinks! It was perfect for me!

However, a baby shower is a bit different.  It would be just the girls, but I am very fortunate to have close friends who offered to throw it and are not exactly traditional either.  It ended up being wonderful!

It took place at one of my hostess’ beach house in Fripp Island-a tightly gated community.  It was brunch styled and the food suited that well-no veggie tray!  The brunch started off with lots of mimosas (8 Champagne bottles worth), and just as I suspected, they were completely gone within 2 hours.  A friend of mine who lives in another state said to me, “I don’t think I would want drinking at my baby shower. I wouldn’t be able to drink, so I don’t want others drinking.” My response, “Why!?!” I want people to have a good time, and seeing others happy and socializing is wonderful! I didn’t have a desire to drink.

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Socializing and enjoying one another.

The music was blasting through the house, and people were moving about meeting others and catching up with friends.  When I opened presents, the music remained loud, the guests continued talking, and drinks continued pouring. There was nothing awkward about it.

The best part? No games!  In addition, two guests mentioned they would usually skip showers, but they had heard that I didn’t want games, so they decided to come!

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The shower lasted about 3 hours and a few of the girls    stayed to hang out by the pool afterward.   I had several guests tell me it, as well as the hostesses, that it was the best baby shower they had ever attended. I could not have asked for a better baby shower.

Again, I am not trying to criticize those that love tradition. Quite honestly, I feel I am in the minority, but to simply acknowledge that not everyone is the same.  I love things that are different and fun. My style may not be the same as yours, but take my advice, Mimosas help!

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Results of Mimosas. Lots of Mimosas.