Crash and Burn (a little cash)

I’ve described the treacherous driving here on several occasions.  Our family vehicle could only avoid getting dinged up for so long.  It was only a matter of time.  That time passed several months ago, but wasn’t worth mentioning.  What happened this week is a tale that must be told.

A building is going up across from our house.  Construction has been ongoing since we arrived 16 months ago.  That’s 16 months of digging, drilling, jack-hammering, cement pouring, and loud local music.


It also means that we consistently have large vehicles blocking half of the street.


A few days ago, as I approached our house, one lane of the road was blocked by a crane, and just beyond that, parked cars lined the other side of the street.  As a moved over to avoid an oncoming speeding scooter, I misjudged my distance from one of the parked cars and bumped the front left side of a car’s bumper.

With a loud sigh, I stopped my car in front of my house and got out of the car to survey the damage.  There was none to be seen on my car.  To my surprise, a grumpy looking man emerged from the car I’d hit.  I uttered “對不起” (dui bu qi), which means sorry, and the man responded with a calm, but rambling, stream of Mandarin.  My Chinese language skills are practical, but limited, so I understood only part of what he said.  What caught my ear was the word, “睡覺” (shuì jiào), which means sleep.  So, I asked him if he was sleeping.  He ranted on about how I woke him up by hitting his car.  He was more upset that I disturbed his nap than that I had struck his car.  I can’t say I was surprised because one- napping in cars is normal behavior here, and two- his bumper had several clearly preexisting scratches and marks and spots of rust on it.  

I knew I had to take action in order to get out of the situation, so I asked him what he wanted, knowing it would be money, and waited patiently while he thought for a minute and then spoke.  His words came quickly then, and I missed most of them.  So, I asked him, in Mandarin “just tell me what you want.”  He responded with another long string of words but this time I picked out the word for money.  So, I asked him, “how much?”  He paused the appropriate amount of time and then said, “1000 NT$” (about  $33 USD).  I walked back to my car, pulled a 1000 NT note from my wallet, handed it to the man, told him, again, that I was sorry, got back in my car and parked it in my garage, while he stood by.  Not the most pleasant experience I’ve had…


I’ve heard stories of other people hitting cars, and paying money to make the problem go away, during our 5 years in Asia, but this is the first time it has happened to me.  I can’t say I wasn’t shaken by it, but nor was I crushed by it.  I’ll count that as a win.  Just another day in paradise…



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Ugly Christmas Sweater Giveaway


It’s time to get ready for the winter holidays, and gearing up with an ugly Christmas sweater is a fun way to prepare and celebrate.

The folks at UglyChristmasSweater contacted me to help them promote their line of 3D sweaters and offer one as a giveaway to one of my U.S. readers.  The sweaters are hilarious and were even featured on Live! With Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan.

The company offered to send me a sweater to check out and review before the giveaway, so I let Dwight select one.  It arrived just in time for a dip in temperatures to actual sweater weather, which is rare where we live.  He is wearing it today.  The sweater is soft and cozy and he is happy with his choice. He already shared a picture on his social media and plans to wear it the last day of school before winter break.   Maybe it will bring him luck on his Semester Finals… Not that he needs it.


Enter the giveaway!

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Confusing Quest for Medical Care- Again

Rugby is a rough sport.  We know this.  Dwight loves it but knows the risks and the risks became a crushing reality 12 days ago when he took a direct blow to the left knee in the first junior varsity game of the season.  I saw him limping.  My friends, other players’ moms, pointed it out to me, but he limps often, as he has chronic knee pain from an issue he will most likely outgrow.  My friends were more concerned than I was, initially.  Then, after the end of the play, across the field, we could see one of the players sitting on the ground, unable to get up; the team gathered around him, blocking our view of who exactly the injured player was.


It was Dwight.

He had hyper-extended his knee and the pain was intense.  Horatio and I had to wait for the game to end to learn the full extent of the injury and get advice from the team trainer on how to proceed.  It turns out, there’s a very good orthopedist in the vicinity of the school, so we gave Dwight ibuprofen and called the doctor’s office first thing in the morning.  Alas, his office is closed on Saturday and Sunday, was fully booked Monday and Tuesday and was leaving the country on Wednesday.  So, I called the on duty medical officer, where Horatio works, for guidance.  She described our hospital options and we chose the one slightly further away, with the knowledge that crowds would be smaller there.

Taiwan Adventist Hospital ER was pretty tame.  The doctor saw Dwight in less than an hour, but it was immediately apparent that the ER doc, the only one on duty, would not be of much help.  He told us we had to go back the next day to see an orthopedist in the clinic.  He said Dwight should use crutches, which we could rent from the hospital for 50 NT$  (about $1.66 USD) per day, with a 1000 NT$ deposit (about $34 USD).  The crutches were mismatched and slightly uneven, so I was very grateful when our dear friends offered to lend us their pair of perfect crutches the next day.  As anyone who has ever had to use crutches knows, they are uncomfortable and burdensome, only fun for the younger brothers.


Mismatched, uneven, crutches are still fun for a 7 year old.

I filled out the paperwork for the crutches and then the hospital administrator handed me a piece of paper with our appointment time and a number typed on it.  It was more of a time frame: 2:00-4:30.  Our number was 56 and she advised that we need not arrive until close to 4:00.



This confused me, as none of our previous appointments at the hospital were done this way.  Thank goodness for the on-duty medical officer and her diligent follow up.  She caught that the appointment was not booked at the Priority Care Clinic, which is set up for foreigners like us, but rather with the regular clinic for locals who know what they are doing.  We’d have waited in a long queue with lots of people, and might not have gotten in to see the doctor at all!  She changed Dwight’s appointment to correct clinic for the following morning.


At the appointment, the orthopedist said Dwight needed an MRI but that it couldn’t be done until the following week, 7:30 pm the next Monday.  When I questioned the time frame, he told me we are lucky we were at the Priority Care Clinic because if we were in the main hospital, it could be more than a month’s wait!


Meanwhile, Dwight hobbled around with a brace and crutches for the next week.  His pain level was tolerable, but we still wanted to get to the bottom of the problem, so we kept the MRI appointment Monday night.

The hospital was deserted because it was after normal hours.  After some mangled use of my conversational Mandarin, which does not include medical vocabulary, I got out my phone, looked up how to say “MRI,” pointed to the words, and was quickly directed to the basement.

The dimly lit hallway led us to a surprisingly opulently decked out imaging center.  Dwight was led right in to the MRI room by a kind, helpful nurse.





Fancy reception desk at the Celebrity Medical Imaging Center

The follow up appointment for the results of the MRI was the next morning.


Waiting for the orthopedist.

We returned to the Priority Care Clinic, and after the sad experience of passive medical care we had when Bob was sick last year, I admit, my expectations were very low.  To my surprise and delight, doctor was great.  He showed us the radiology report and then showed us the details on the scans and described them in great detail.  His English skills were fantastic.

Dwight has a micro fracture, bone chip, and bone edema at the base of his femur.  Painful, but no surgery required.  Phew!  He has to wear his brace and rest for four to six weeks and then can gradually return to normal activity.  Does that include rugby?  I don’t know.  We’ll take it one step at a time. ;-) Pun intended.


I have no idea what this is telling us, but it was posted at the door of the Celebrity MRI clinic, so I feel like it might be important.

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Giveaway – Lil’ Troops Toys

It’s that time of year, when parents search high and low for great gift ideas for their kids. I found a perfect one for the military kid in your life.


Lil’ Troops are the ultimate collectible military action figures officially licensed by the U.S. Army. Each figure stands at 3″ tall, is sturdy enough to withstand heavy action and I love that they each come with a non-violent accessory such as the American flag, night vision goggles, or water canteen, etc.

A portion of each Lil’ Troops sale also goes to support to U.S. Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.  They are available at Toys R Us.


I can’t wait to give these to young Harold next month.  He will love playing with them.


I got a complimentary set to review and am pleased to be able to offer one as a giveaway.  Enter here to win a Lil’ Troops set.

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6 Ways Endure Deployment More Easily

I started this blog 5 years ago, when Horatio and I broke the news of deployment to our boys.  I wrote posts to help myself and others get through long deployments.  During deployments, often, the days are long, but the weeks are fast;  sometimes, though, the weeks, months and years are very, very slow.  Over the years, I’ve shared the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of military family life, in particular, life of a military spouse.  With 20 years of experience, I can speak with some authority on the issue.  While Horatio is not in a deployable position right now, he does spend a lot of time away from the family and it helps me to have coping mechanisms to get me through the long weeks.

Here is a list of 6 ways to get through your spouse’s deployment…

Find Your People

When you are on your own, in a life which you usually go through with a partner, you need people.  People who support you, people who understand you, people you can escape with, people who share your interests, and people who will listen to you when you need an ear.  Sometimes you can find one or two friends who cover all of these aspects, but sometimes it takes a village.  Try to figure out who your people are before your spouse leaves, but even if you don’t think of it until after he (or she) departs, find them.  Think about the people in your life and you’ll figure out how they fit into the roles you need to help you get through the deployment.

Develop Routines

After finding people who “get” you, routines are probably the most important and simple way to make getting through deployment more tolerable.  Make your days and the days of your kids, if you have them, predictable.  The quicker you and your family adjust to the new normal, the better you will be able to handle any curve balls that come your way.

Go Back To School

As a military spouse, you know there’s, most likely, another move in your future.  Furthering your education can help you find a career that you can take with you wherever  you go.  As a teacher, I can, at the very least, substitute teach wherever the Navy sends us, and schools need teachers, so I always know there are jobs out there.  Take time to think about how you’d like to spend your career and then start taking classes with an online program such as Martinsburg, which has knowledge and experience to specifically help military spouses.  There are special programs that give money for education to military spouses.  Use it!  There are also unique programs that cater to military spouses looking to expand upon their education to help advance in their mobile careers.  Martinsburg’s instructional methodology accommodates a wide variety of learning styles as well as providing for flexibility of time and place for engaging in coursework.  They also provide one on one support, if necessary and even have a facebook group that offers great support. Do a little research and you’ll be cracking books in no time!

Get Involved In the Community

If you have kids, get involved in their schools;  if you don’t, get involved in your church or synagogue, volunteer at the library or a museum, find some way to feel connected to the community.  It might feel like you are too busy to take on something else, especially if you have a child or two, or more, but I speak from experience when I say that staying busy, with community, can really go a long way to feeling less alone during deployment.  I volunteered as room parent for one of my sons and helped in an art program at the school while Horatio was on his most recent deployment.  I’m not usually the mom who volunteers for steady gigs like those, but having the routine helped me keep my mind occupied.

Take Up a New Hobby or Embrace an Old One

Ok, yes, I know, finding time for a hobby is a bit optimistic, but if there is something you love to do, even if you can’t do it very often, you’ll know it’s there and you can make time every once in a while to do it.  I decided to learn to knit when Horatio left in December 2010.  My mom taught me how and my neighbor friend, master knitter, gave me refresher lessons whenever I picked up the needles after very long periods of time in between knitting sessions.  I never really caught the knitting bug, the scarf I started is about an inch and a half long, but I always knew it was there if I needed something to keep my hands busy while I indulged in a little tv watching.  Now I needlepoint.  It’s something I took up in high school and it is simple.  It’s hard to forget the simple stitch.  I’m making belts for my sons and it is taking me such a long time that I’ll have to add inches to the ends before finishing them off with buckles, but it passes the time and I like the idea that I’m producing something that will, some day, be useful for the boys.


Yes, I said it.  I definitely like to keep things in perspective and make note of the fact that things aren’t that bad, in the scheme of things, but sometimes you need to wallow in the misery that is a long day without your spouse.  I hereby give you permission (not that you need it) to drown your sorrows in whatever way you need.  You earned it.  The job of military spouse is grossly under-valued, under-appreciated and misunderstood.  When someone says, “well, you knew what you were getting into when you married him,” and they will, resist the urge to punch them in the throat.  You can say, “well, no one can really prepare for what it’s really like,” or you can just smile and nod and go home and call one of your people, have a glass of wine or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and blow off some steam by talking about every big and little thing that is getting on your nerves.  You’ll feel better.

This post is sponsored by Martinsburg College. I received compensation for this post through my relationship with the Quality Blue Community. All opinions are my own.

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Our Baby Class: Bringing the Parenting Village Back to Our Communities

I like to help out military families, past and present, so, the following is a guest post by Alisson Kolodner, wife of a former Navy submariner, and co founder of Our Baby Class

Veteran's Day Special Offer

“My husband is a former submariner and right when we left the Navy I got pregnant with our first child. We then settled in a city where we had no family or friends. When my son was born, I had to cobble together a support system, scour books for information on how to take care of a baby, and just hope that somehow we were doing it right. I was a mom without a village.

Four kids later, and after meeting many new parents over the years as a childbirth educator, I realized that it wasn’t just me who felt alone in those early days. It’s common for many new parents to feel isolated and lacking a community or mentorship once baby arrives. And it can feel especially so for military families who find themselves either moving frequently or not living near family. So I decided to create Our Baby Class to fill the void and bring that village back.

OBC offers evidence-based information and supportive classes to new and expecting parents, all through local certified teachers. Our classes are guided by some basic principles, but above all else, we encourage parents to trust their instincts and that, despite supermarket wisdom, their baby can’t be spoiled. You can read about all of our classes here.

We want to reach military families because we know Our Baby Class can have a real, positive impact on both the people taking the classes and the mentors teaching them. New moms feel more confident learning valuable information and gaining the support of new friends and a valued mentor. And our teachers are able to earn real money, on a schedule they create, with a business that can travel with them anywhere in the world. As a special thank you to our military veterans and their families, we are offering a Veterans Day discount of 40% off any 2016 OBC teacher training so you can create the much needed parenting village wherever you land.”

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Review: Midori Spring Ceremonial (GOLD) Matcha Green Tea

I love green tea, especially Matcha, so I jumped at the chance to try out Midori’s Spring Ceremonial (GOLD) Matcha Green Tea, and I was not disappointed.  I’ve been drinking Matcha for many years now, since we lived in Hawaii in 1998-2001.  Midori’s is on par with the finest varieties I’ve tried.


Made alone, it can be an acquired taste, but I like it that way, and the brewing techniques are detailed on the Midori Spring website.  I especially like to make green tea lattes with it.  They have several recipes on the blog at their site.

Midori’s Matcha is kosher, vegan and organic.  It is very pure and the caffiene levels are quite low.  I feel good about drinking it and am happy to know the health benefits while I enjoy it.


What are some health benefits of Matcha?

  • Increase in energy – Matcha is an energy booster due to the combination of caffeine content and other natural properties.
  • Reduce stress and improve mental alertness – Matcha has an abundance of the unique Amino Acid L-Theanine. Matcha may contain up to five times more of L-Theanine than the common green teas. L-Theanine creates alpha waves in the brain to promote relaxation and alertness.
  • Improve metabolism and help with weight loss – Matcha is close to zero calories and helps burn calories four times faster than average. Matcha also lowers cholesterol and blood sugar and does not raise insulin levels.
  • Boost immune system and reduce inflammation – Matcha has the highest rated ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) compared to many fruits and vegetables. Matcha also contains a specific Catechin called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCg). EGCg is most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. Research has found that Matcha contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea on the market.
  • Help the body cleanse of harmful elements – When the tea leaves have shaded sunlight, this causes a tremendous increase in chlorophyll production. The resulting high levels of chlorophyll in Matcha acts as a powerful detox machine capable of naturally removing heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body.

Good tasting and good for you.  A combination I love.

I received the Midori Spring Ceremonial (GOLD) Matcha Green Tea in exchange for my honest review.

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Veterans Day Discounts and Freebies

Use them or Lose them, but read the fine print.  Many restaurants offer only a limited menu from which you can select your free entrée.


Popular Veterans Day Restaurant Discounts

Popular Veterans Day Travel & Recreation Discounts

Popular Veterans Day Retailer Discounts

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Cars and Stripes $100 Visa Card Giveaway!

This Veteran’s Day, both Maaco and Meineke are honoring Veterans by treating them to discounts and freebies.  As a military family, we really appreciate efforts, such as these, and I like to pass the word to others who can make use of the deals and give business to companies who remember and honor Veterans.  Both companies help veterans, so let’s help them by giving them our business.

The Cars and Stripes campaign shows Maaco and Meineke’s dedication to honoring men and women who have served our great country.

Here’s what they are offering:

o    Meineke: Free Basic Oil Change for all veterans at participating locations on 11/11/2015

o    Maaco: 20% off Paint Services with military ID (active, retired & reserve) until 11/30/2015

Take advantage of these great deals, and enter my giveaway of a $100 Visa Gift Card.


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Creepy Crawly Critters on a Morning Climb

My hiking pal and I crossed paths with more than our fair share of creepy crawly critters this morning on our 3 mile hike up the mountain.  It’s not unusual for us to see a few frogs and a snail or two, but today we saw dozens of snails and frogs, some dead, some alive, and also, most frightening, a giant spider.  I’ll count my blessings that we avoided snakes today.

p1010013 12038392_10206325812276912_6608412128717384760_nFullSizeRender-8 FullSizeRender-7Images of these spiders, and the possibility that they are lurking in my house, are among the many thoughts that sometimes keep me up at night.

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