Book Review: Full Measure, By T. Jefferson Parker



full measure

I received an advanced copy of the book, Full Measure, by prolific author, T. Jefferson Parker.

I don’t do many book reviews, but this one appealed to me because it is a family saga that captures a man’s complicated journey from military life back to the real world.  I’ve heard so many of these stories in real life, I was curious to read a piece of fiction bringing a story to life.

Inspired by the troops returning to Camp Pendleton, which is located near the author’s hometown of Fallbrook, CA, Parker interviewed them about their experiences upon their return from Afghanistan.  These interviews helped Parker create the character of Patrick, the book’s returning veteran.  So impressed with the troops during their conversations, Parker also began holding writing workshops for them at the base. Parker talks about his experiences with the troops in the accompanying author Q&A.

I appreciate the authenticity Parker’s interviews brought to the story’s well developed characters.

Patrick Norris has seen the worst that Afghanistan has to offer—excruciating heat, bitter cold, and death waiting behind every rock as comrades are blown to pieces by bombs and snipers.  He returns home exhilarated  by his new freedom and eager to realize his dream of a sport fishing business.  But he is shocked to learn that the avocado ranch his family has owned for generations in the foothills of San Diego has been destroyed by a massive wildfire and the parents he loves are facing ruin.

Ted Norris worships his brother and yearns for his approval.  Gentle by nature, but tormented by strange fixations with a dark undercurrent, Ted is drawn into a circle of violent, criminal misfits.  His urgent quest to prove himself threatens to put those he loves in peril.

Patrick puts his own plans on hold to save the family’s home and falls in love with Iris, a beautiful and unusual woman, when disaster strikes.  When Ted’s plan for redemption goes terribly wrong, he tries to disappear.  Desperate to find his brother and salvage what remains of his family, Patrick must make an agonizing choice.

The story kept my interest and I cared about the outcome of the characters and how it would all come together.  Full Measure is a good, solid read.  Entertaining and insightful.  I recommend it to military families and civilian families alike.


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And Now There’s No Milk

I don’t know what’s going on here, but now, not only is there no bread, there’s also no milk on the grocery store shelves.

Where's the milk?

Where’s the milk?

What looks like half gallons of milk on the shelves is actually oat milk, apple milk and a bit of chocolate milk.  I’m OK with the chocolate milk, the apple milk is not appealing and I’m not sure what nutrients are in oat milk.  What I need is good old fashioned whole milk from a cow.  I have four growing boys and this little grocery store is my only option in our little village.

I found the other items on my list and checked out, where, as usual, the young cashier asked, “Yao dai zi ma?”  Which means “Do you need a bag?”  I am in the habit of taking my reusable bags to the store with me, as I was in the US, but I sometimes forget.   I stopped at the store immediately following my morning run and I did not have a bag with me, so I answered, “Dui, wo yao. Xie xie.”  (Yes, I want. Thank you.)  In Taiwan, if you need a plastic bag, you have to pay for it.  I think it’s about 6 cents, but I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I don’t like to have to use plastic bags or pay for them, so I was pleased when, after I dug the money out of my SPIbelt,

spibeltI saw that the cashier had neatly packed my groceries into one bag.

IMG_5770I thanked her, gave her a thumbs up, complemented her packing abilities, and then turned to pick up the bag and head home.  That was when I saw the problem.  The bag was so full, I could not grasp the two handles with one hand.  The carton of liquid yogurt, butter, oranges, kiwis, bananas, etc. made for a heavy bag that I had to carry with both arms on my 1/3 mile walk home.

If I’d been able to buy the milk, I’d have needed two bags.

I should have bought some ice cream.

Lesson learned.

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Babiators Cool Sunglasses for Kids

Bob in Babiators

Bob in his Babiators

*Disclosure: I received this product to facilitate my review, these opinions are my own and were in no way influenced by another person.

I selected a pair of Black Ops Black Polarized sunglasses from Babiators for my 10 year old son, Bob.  The description of the classic size says “3-7+” and at age 10, they fit him very well.  The frames are flexible and seem very durable.  Now that we live in a hot and sunny climate, good sunglasses are not only a stylish accessory, but are a real necessity.  Babiators feature 100% UV protection for little eyes and with the amount of time the kids spend outside here, the protection is a primary concern.

Not only are Babiators products terrific quality and very stylish, every Babiators product comes with a Lost & Found Guarantee: if your Babiators are lost or broken within a year of purchase, they’ll replace them for free—guaranteed!  This is especially appealing to parents like me, who have at least one child who tends to misplace things.  I’m not going to name names.

Babiators was featured as a “must-have” product by the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Vogue Magazine, Giuliana & Bill, US Magazine, People Magazine, and more. Celebrity children of Sarah Jessica Parker, Nick and Vanessa Lachey, Neil Patrick Harris and many more have been spotted rockin’ their Babiators.

They have a great line of kids’ products, including Original Babiators sunglasses, Polarized sunglasses, Submariners swim goggles, Rocket Packs backpacks, and Rx prescription glasses. Check out Babiators sunglasses and more at their website here.

Use the promo code: DeploymentDiatribes when you check out at Babiators to receive 20% off of your order!

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Holiday Gift Guide Openings

Gift boxes

I am putting together a holiday gift guide and am open to suggestions. If you have an idea, send it my way. Contact me at

I will put the list together with reviews and publish it in November.

It’s never too soon to start thinking of the holidays!

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An Easy Way to Help Veterans

You can Help Improve the Life of a visually impaired Veteran


Vision to Share campaign will provide up to $50,000 to raise, train and place an America’s VetDogs guide dog with a visually impaired veteran, and you can help in a simple way:

People nationwide are encouraged to participate by visiting and sharing the Vision to Share video. Every time a person shares the video through Facebook, Twitter or email, VSP will make a donation toward the care and training of a guide dog.

 There are 1.5 million veterans in the United States whose daily lives are affected by vision issues that often originate from active duty service. For these veterans, a highly trained guide dog can empower them to lead active, independent lives. Today, not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care, the nation’s leading vision care company, announced a partnership with America’s VetDogs®, a not-for-profit guide and service dog school that serves the needs of veterans with disabilities, to launch the Vision to Share campaign. Through the campaign, VSP will provide up to $50,000 to raise, train and place a guide dog with a veteran who is blind or has low vision.

“As a not-for-profit, VSP invests in tackling vision-related challenges around the globe, including those our veterans may face,” said VSP Vision Care President Jim McGrann. “VSP has a deep commitment to supporting U.S. military members and veterans through our ongoing hiring efforts, employee-led veterans resource group and dedication to ensuring all have access to quality eye care and eyewear. The Vision to Share campaign is a natural extension of our efforts and provides an easy way for everyone to join our commitment to improve the life of a visually impaired veteran.”

In addition to the online component of the Vision to Share campaign, VSP’s mobile eye care clinics will travel to three U.S. cities and provide free eye care to veterans and families in need. The clinic will make stops in:

  • Dallas, Texas, on September 3
  • Sacramento, California, on World Sight Day, October 9
  • Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day, November 11

There will also be activities on-site, including guide dog trainers, who will discuss the training process; opportunities to meet a guide dog or guide dog in training; and veterans who have been successfully matched with a guide dog.


“America’s VetDogs has placed more than 300 assistance dogs with veterans with disabilities at no cost to the veterans,” said Wells Jones, CEO of America’s VetDogs. “Campaigns such as Vision to Share are critical to our mission, and VSP has been a wonderful partner. Not only are we raising awareness about the struggles faced by veterans with low vision, but we’re also inspiring the greater community to band together to improve the lives of these American heroes.”

To date, through Eyes of Hope® charity programs, including VSP Mobile Eyes®, VSP Global® companies have invested nearly $167 million in free eye care and eyewear for close to 915,000 adults and children in need.

For more information about the VSP Vision to Share campaign, as well as to find eye health resources and more, visit

About VSP Global

VSP Global® unites industry-leading businesses to bring the highest quality eye care and eyewear products and services to help people see across the globe. VSP Global businesses include not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care, the largest vision care company with more than 71 million members and a network of 30,000 eye doctors in the U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland; Marchon® Eyewear Inc., one of the three largest global manufacturers, designers and distributors of quality fashion and technologically advanced eyewear and sunwear; Eyefinity®, the largest EHR and premier practice management software company for the eye care industry; VSP Optics Group, industry leaders in new lens technologies, production processes, service and logistics; and VSP Retail, delivering a memorable consumer experience through a variety of channels that meet the diverse needs of VSP customers. VSP Global businesses operate in 100 countries on six continents.

About America’s VetDogs

America’s VetDogs ( serves the needs of veterans with disabilities from all eras who have honorably served our country. VetDogs trains and places guide dogs with individuals who are blind; service dogs for those with other physical disabilities; and physical and occupational therapy dogs to work with service members in military and VA hospitals. It is accredited by Assistance Dogs International and the International Guide Dog Federation.

America’s VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation and relies on voluntary contributions to fund its mission. It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog; however, there is never a charge to the individual.  


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Searching High and Low for Bread and a Run

I can’t find a reliable source for sliced bread.  I thought I had, but it turns out I haven’t.  I’m looking forward to the arrival of our bread machine in our shipment as much as anything. 

I’ve been to the local grocery store three times this week and the bakery shelves are completely bare. It’s a strange thing.  I can understand regular western products disappearing from the shelves.  If they can’t get the supply, they can’t put it on the shelves.  But they bake the bread in the store, so what’s the deal? 

While I continue my pursuit of bread, I also remain in pursuit of a good route for my run.  The route I have been taking for the past three weeks is basically a steep incline up the mountain and therefor, a steep decline back home.  Neither of which is ideal.  So, today I headed up through the village, where I’d been told the road leads to a less hilly path.  It was beautiful and I was happy to see that while most of the route was mildly hilly, it was definitely doable. 

The area where I ran is so remote, my map my run app lost connection.  I kept waiting for the notification that I’d reached the mile mark, but it didn’t come.  When I finally stopped to check my phone, knowing I had to have run a mile, just based on the time, I saw that the connection had been lost.  I turned around and after several minutes, I heard the familiar voice say something wholly unfamiliar.  “Time, five minutes 37 seconds; Distance, one mile.”  I laughed out loud.  Twice that is more like it.  It was fun to hear, though. 

These are pictures from my new route.  It is truly beautiful but the smell is more than a little unpleasant due to the hot springs in the area.  Sulfur!  I’ll have to find the hot springs on my next route.

IMG_5652 IMG_5654




The locals use pipes to take advantage of the fresh water, but it spoils the view.

IMG_5661IMG_5665 IMG_5658

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Camp Sunshine Supports Military Families- Special Event With Navy SEALS August 21


Camp Sunshine is a retreat in Casco, Maine that provides respite and hope for children with rare and life-threatening illnesses and their families. Situated on a 27-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, Camp Sunshine has welcomed families from 48 different states and 24 countries to its facilities to participate in a week of healing, growth, and relaxation so that they may go back out and fight their battles with renewed strength and energy.

Sebago Lake

Incredibly,  due to the generosity of its donors, the camp provides housing, meals, camp activities, and 24 hour on-site medical support for free to every single family that comes for a session. Having served over 40,000 family members in its 30 year existence, Camp Sunshine provides a wealth of information and resources for families who are struggling to make sense of life with a child with a rare and life-threatening illness. The camp is committed to providing families with lasting memories and allowing them to build a community with other families who are also traveling the journey with a child with a rare and life-threatening illness.

future Oncologist

 While Camp Sunshine has welcomed military families through its doors year after year, an exciting opportunity will now make this magical place a reality for even more! On August 21st, four active duty Navy SEALs will be swimming the 13 mile length of the lake where Camp Sunshine is located in the hopes of raising $80,000, enough to send 40 more military families to Camp Sunshine in the future. The evening following the swim, a gala dinner will be held at Camp Sunshine with an opportunity to meet the SEALs, followed by a keynote address from an honored guest.

For those interested in attending this event, more information can be found at, where there are options to purchase tables at the gala dinner as well as reserve a spot on the beach where the SEALs will finish their swim. In addition, donations can be made towards the SEALs for Sunshine event here, where they will be doubled by the New Balance Foundation as part of a $300,000 matching campaign they have with Camp Sunshine. As a reminder, all contributions for this event will go towards helping military families with a child with a rare and life-threatening illness experience the magic of Camp Sunshine. For families who believe they may qualify, information about Camp Sunshine’s programming can be found on their website, along with general information and testimonials.

Sunny w-kids

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Let The Fearlessly Be Themselves (even if it’s hard)

No one who has actually had a child said that parenting is easy.

The key is to make it as easy as possible, though.  As in most other areas of daily life, I find it much easier to not sweat the small stuff.  I know it’s cliche, but it works.  For me, one of the things I’ve done to make my life as a mom to 4 boys easier is I do not battle with the kids over clothing choices.  I even let 13 year old, Dwight, wear athletic shorts to school every day for the past two years.  He occasionally wore long pants when the weather was bitterly cold, but those days were few and far between.  I know some other moms judged me for this parenting choice, but to me it was a matter of logical consequences.  If he chose to wear shorts, he’d be cold, so, let him be cold.  It wouldn’t harm him.  He would just be uncomfortable.  He is old enough to make these sorts of choices.  He also never carried an umbrella because it wasn’t cool.  I’m not sure how arriving at school soaking wet is cool, but I’m not a middle schooler, so what do I know?

Tomorrow is the first day of the boys’ new school and, for the first time, I struggled with whether or not I should insist that they wear collared shorts and nice shorts on the first day.  I want them to make a good impression on their teachers.  I really thought about this a lot and even posted the question on facebook for other people to weigh in on the question.

Despite my mild anxiety over this, I knew the right answer and yesterday I told them they could wear whatever they want on the first day, and every other day, of course.  Their personalities and actions will speak for themselves.  Their smiles and good attitudes will project more than their clothing.  I’ve made peace with it. 

Part of Bob’s character is he likes to have a military hair cut.  I wanted him to go to school feeling confident and sure of himself, so, this morning, before orientation and meet the teacher day this afternoon, we trekked up the hill to the tucked away barber shop one of my neighbors had pointed out to me as where her husband and son go for hair cuts.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.


Notice the typo in the sign.


IMG_5595 We had to walk down the narrow stairwell to get to the barber shop and at the bottom, it looked like an unfinished basement with some chairs, where two old men sat, chatting and drinking tea.  I told them I was looking for the hair place and they pointed to my left, where we found an actual, small, old school, barber shop, and barber, Augusta, reading the paper, waiting for customers.  He looked genuinely happy to see us. 

I showed him a picture of Bob with his hair the way he wanted it cut today and he said, “no problem,” and set to work.  We chatted a little, in Mandarin, of course, but my Mandarin is a bit rusty, so after discussing Bob’s hair and the fact that he has 3 brothers and a Dad who will also come to him for hair cuts and that we just arrived in the area less than 4 weeks ago, and they start school tomorrow, I’d exhausted my useful vocabulary, so he worked quietly while I looked on and took photos on the sly.

IMG_5597 IMG_5600He was quick and careful and did a terrific job.  In the end, the cost was less than $6 US!  He could have had a shave for an additional $3.50 US.

IMG_5602Now Bob is ready to fearlessly be himself on the first day, and every day, of grade 5.

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Adventures in Cotsco (not a typo)

Have I mentioned that we don’t have a car here yet?  We ran into complications when we tried to ship it, so it sits, waiting, at our dear friends’ house in Virginia, until we get the paperwork and then they will ship it to us.  Once it ships, it could still take up to four months to get to us.

So, in the meantime, we use buses, the metro, and taxis. 

Today we decided to take a taxi to stock up at Costco.  We walked to the main street, about a quarter of a mile from our house, and hailed a taxi.  Horatio asked the driver if he knew “Costco.”  The driver was puzzled, so Horatio took out his phone and brought it up on google maps, which shows addresses in English and Mandarin.  We laughed when the driver said, “OH! Cotsco.”  This led to a quick exchange to clarify that here, Costco is pronounced Cotsco. 

30 minutes later, we pulled up to said Costco/Cotsco.  The store opens at 10:00 but the doors actually open at 9:30, officially, and you can checkout at 10:00, but it is so busy that when we arrived at 9:30, people were already walking out with purchases.  I’m not sure what time they actually let people in, but I am sure that I’ve never experienced a busier Costco or Cotsco than the one in the Neihu district of Taipei, Taiwan.

We meandered through the aisles and, just like we would back home, came across many people handing out samples.  Imagine our surprise when we saw that Cotsco in Taipei was featuring Mogen David wine today, as well as several whiskeys, which were available to sample at 10:00 in the morning.  When in Rome Taipei!


Whiskey sample lady and Horatio. She was happy to hand us samples, in any volume, but not so happy to have her photo taken.


My “on the sly” photography needs some practice… 2 bottles of Mogen David Kosher wine for $389 NT (New Taiwan dollars), which is $13 US.

IMG_5580 This was my fourth trip to Costco since we arrived in Taiwan 3 1/2 weeks ago.  I’m gradually figuring out what we need to keep us happy and healthy in our new home, so my trips are more efficient each time.  Shopping at Costco is great because we can find some of the comforts of home, but it’s very expensive.  I wanted to buy tortilla chips because the boys really like nachos.  The bag of chips cost $8 US, though, and I just couldn’t do it.  As it was, we spent $580 US on our overflowing cart of goods!  Moving to a new place is always expensive and here we use cash for everything, so it feels like we are bleeding money.  Seeing a total of about $17,400 NT caused a shock to my system, but it’s part of the process, I guess. 

They sell rotisserie chicken here, just like in the US… EXCEPT that the chicken comes – with – the – head – still – on!  We passed on that one.

If you look carefully, you can see the head and neck curved toward its back.  Not a happy sight for this vegetarian!

If you look carefully, you can see the head and neck curved toward its back. Not a pleasant sight for this vegetarian!

We should be set for a while.  I’d like to avoid going back any time soon.  Plus, Horatio is leaving town, again, and without access to his office’s banking services, I’ll have to make due with the cash I have on hand, which isn’t a lot.  Taxis up and down the mountain on which we live cost about $9 ($265 NT) each way and I’ll be doing it at least 3 times this week, so I’ll have to watch my NT$!

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It’s Going to Take a While

I’m going to do something I rarely do.  I’m going to complain, so if you aren’t in the mood, feel free to skip this post.  I think I’m due, though.  So far, I’ve done pretty well settling into life here.  It’s only been 2 1/2 weeks, so I guess some bumps in the road are to be expected, but I’m not in the mood, so I’m going to share the bumps with my supportive readers.  Of course, as always, I’m keeping it all in perspective.  I know none of this is a big deal in the grand scheme of things.  Thank G-d, we are all healthy, we have a comfortable home, plenty to eat and drink, happy kids, etc.  Sometimes, though, it all feels like a bit too much.

Adjusting to a new “home” is almost never easy.  I’m finding this one to be especially hard at the moment.  In some ways, I think I’m doing quite well, but the lack of friends, and the plethora of undesirable creatures, are starting to get to me.

I know the friend issue will work itself out in the next few weeks because the families in our neighborhood, the majority of whom are on home-leave in the US, will make their way back, and school starts on the 14th, so we will meet people at the bus stop, at the grocery store and at new-family events at the school.

The creatures are going to be a constant presence during our stay here, though, and I’m struggling with that fact more each day.  The mosquitoes are larger than your average blood sucker and more than a little bit of a nuisance.  Poor Bob already has more than 20 bites.  I’ve started putting a mixture of basic moisturizer and tea tree oil on Bob and Harold at night since they seem to be the most affected, and it is helping.

Ants are merely a bit of a bother.  I put down traps in the kitchen and their numbers are dwindling.

We’ve now seen three large cockroaches, one which was flying.  I really REALLY hate cockroaches.  I dealt with them in my first apartment in DC and again in our house in Virginia Beach.  I didn’t like it 22 years ago, I didn’t like it 16 years ago and I don’t like it now.  I will go to great lengths to eliminate them from my living space.  They are a part of nature with which I will not share my living space.  I would not step on one crawling outside in my yard, but if they get too close for comfort, they give me no choice.

cockroachToday I had my first snake encounter.  I’d anticipated it since we arrived and the wait is now over, sort of.  I walked into the living room and spotted something that looked like a long piece of black yarn on our carpet.  Upon closer investigation, I discovered it was not yarn, nor a large worm, it was, undeniably, a tiny snake.  It slithered and had scales.  Our family resident snake expert, 16 year old Zack, identified it as a nonvenomous blind snake, and it was fast!

blind-snakeLuckily, our new housekeeper was on hand and had experience with this sort of thing.  She picked it up with a paper towel and gave it a burial at sea.  I still will be nervously on the lookout for the larger, venomous snake species who occupy the great outdoors on the mountain on which we live.  As long as they stay outside, though, I think I’ll handle it well.  As I run each day, I maintain a 2 foot distance from the brush and shrubbery at the side of the road, just in case.

The boys have dealt with the creatures with grace.  They seem unphased.  I am extremely proud of them for how they are adjusting.

On my run a few days ago, after a heavy rain, I encountered more than 20 of these red and black, 6 to 12 inch-long worms, and about half a dozen large spiders.IMG_5539IMG_5537Today is the first day all the little annoyances have gotten to me.  I’m sure I’ll feel better in a day or two.  I know I’m entitled to a day like this now and then, but I hope they few and far between.

Thanks for listening.
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