Visiting Nara

On our last day of this trip we left Kyoto in the morning and drove an hour to Nara. We stopped at Todaiji Temple and interacted with the deer that roam around the area. I thought Todaiji was a bit of a unique temple. You get really "temple-ed out" siteseeing in Asia, but Duke and I still thought this one was cool. It was built in 752 and is the largest wooden building in the world! It was pretty big. On the inside is a 45 ft buddha statue.
As for the deer, wikipedia taught me that the ones in this area used to be considered sacred due to a visit from a certain god who appeared riding a white deer. Killing the deer was considered a capital offense punishable by death. After WWII the deer were stripped of their divine status but were designated as national treasure

Lucy's paparazzi-it never gets old!
In one of the wooden pillars of the temple there is this square hole at the base. It is believed to be the same size as the nostril of Buddha's statue sitting under the same roof. If you can fit through the hole you will reach enlightenment in the next life. So of course I had to stand in line and try!
Lucy was pretty timid of the deer as she is about most things, but I think she enjoyed seeing them from the comfort of dad's arms.
I loved all the fawns!
I had bought some weird snack from Family Mart that I didn't end up liking, so we fed the deer our 2 bags of them. These deer don't mess around when it comes to snacks!!
We thought this guy was going to follow us all the way back to our car^ but he eventually gave up.
I love the flight back to Okinawa. It's always so beautiful.


Life currently

This last week (month?) has been so crazy for me. We are planning on flying Winston home tomorrow and that has consumed so many hours of my life this whole last month. If anyone needs to know anything about flying a bulldog from Japan to the USA I think I know everything now! Duke's sister came into town on Friday and we are sending him back with her. I honestly am not even 100% sure it's going to work, so I have been pretty stressed out about it.
I also got to play host to 4 Japanese students on Thursday for a few hours. They were here with their school from Niigata (somewhat near Tokyo). We got to practice english with them, take them to some sites around the island and feed them lunch. They were all 14 and had so much enthusiasm it really made the whole experience so fun. The first time we drove up a hill and they could see the ocean all the girls started screaming and freaking out. It made me laugh but I loved it!! We fed them PB&J for lunch and it was some of their first times having peanut butter!!! When they left they asked for my email to stay in touch and told me they miss me. Haha, seriously made my day!
Lucy is still cute as ever. She had a really rough day on Saturday that made me say if my next kid is a Lucy I'm done having kids! Ha. She just cried and whined the entire day. It was so rough on me. I think she may have been teething. She doesn't have all her 2 year old molars yet. I've learned that Lucy does not have a high pain tolerance. She has made it loud and clear each time she has had any tooth come through!
The weather here has been starting to get warmer and sunnier which has made me so happy and ignites my adventurous soul! We had a week or two in early February where it was cold (50's) and rainy and windy everyday. May not sound too bad, but I promise if you had been here you would have been freezing. Seeing the sun after that was basically the best thing ever. I'm ticking through my bucket list every weekend with Duke, trying to make the most of these last few months here in Okinawa! Although I keep adding things to my bucket list every week!
I made reading one of my goals this year. Last year I think I read 2 books. It was horrible! This year I finally finished Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. One of the best books I've ever read. Changed my life I might even say. (I'm a big nonfiction lover.) Read Talking as Fast as I can by Lauren Graham-actually listened to it on audible which was read by her. I really loved this book! Much more than I had expected to. Recently finished Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I thought it was so great. It made me realize the importance of speaking what you feel and also sitting through your pain vs. numbing it or trying to push it aside. I'm halfway through If you ask me (and of course you won't) by Betty White. I'm not sure if I'll finish it. It's pretty boring and just not what I expected. I love Betty White, but I was expecting more sage wisdom or how she got from here to there. It's none of that ha. Currently I'm listening to Shoe Dog by Phil Knight on audible and really enjoying it. He's the founder of Nike shoes.
I still have a few more posts from our Kyoto trip last July! Hoping to finish those soon and move onto my more recent adventures!


Fushimi Inari Shrine & the Golden Pavilion

Fushimi Inari Taisha is my most favorite Shinto shrine. I love it for it's uniqueness and beauty and involvement of nature. Just past the shrine entrance there is a network of trails lined with torii gates that lead to the top of the mountain. There's smaller shrines along the way and even a couple restaurants. Lucy fell asleep so we enjoyed a nice peaceful, sweaty hike up and down the mountain. 

And for your history lesson...Inari is the god of rice in the Shinto religion and foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, which explains the foxes throughout the shrine. Also interesting is that all the torii gates are donated by companies or individuals, starting at $4000 and going up to a million! The writing you see on the sides of the torii gates are the names of those who donated them. 
entrance to the shrine^
One of the shrines at the top of the mountain
We stopped by the picturesque Golden Pavilion Temple as well. I didn't take many pictures since I took so many on my last trip.
We were cracking up at Lucy in this picture^^ She luckily napped so well on the go!


Thriving as a military spouse

Ahh the military lifestyle. It isn't for the faint of heart, but it's not as bad as people may think. Whenever I visit home friends and family often say to me "I don't know how you do it". My first thought is always "I don't really have a choice right now!" We're stuck in the military for at least another three years and who knows after that. I thought I'd share my journey of getting into this lifestyle and how I handle it and embrace it. This can apply for anyone whose husbands work long hours and travel a lot. I know that is not unique to the military.

When I was first dating Duke he had just graduated college and I knew of his plans to go into the military. I knew NOTHING about the military life. However, I knew I could not marry him because I was not going to marry someone who was going to go to war and be gone all the time. No thank you. So I tried to break up with him a couple times before things got serious haha. We always got back together and when I realized things were serious and I googled the base pay for military folks and thought, "well I guess we'll be poor, but thats ok". Yes, I was willing to be poor lol. (Turns out you get more than just base pay. ) I also talked to an older couple who had retired after 20 years in the military and they told me how they absolutely loved it. That was another turning point for me.

I married Duke while he was in flight school. He was never gone overnights, except an occasional cross country trip. It was great. Then he moved from Corpus Christi to Jacksonville, NC for his last 6 months of training. I stayed behind for 6 weeks to finish my job before joining him. Once we moved to Japan he was gone about 2 weeks of every month and deploys every other year for a few months at a time. On top of that he works long to very long days. Some days he is home by 6:30 other nights it is 8 or 9 or 10 or midnight. There is not much consistency. So, how do I stay happy?? Here are my thoughts...

1. Make good friends. Having really good friends has been my saving grace. I don't have the luxury of having family nearby. I need to talk to adults, get out of my house and feel loved. I heard one of my friends call her good friend her "military wife", I thought that was perfect. These are your friends who invite you over for dinner when your husband is gone or working late, let you be a 3rd wheel on nights and weekends and are there for you when everything is going wrong, your husband is in another country and you can't even call him. These friends keep my world spinning. "It takes a village" is truer no where else than the military. I cannot emphasize this enough! Find your tribe and invest in the people who invest in you.

2. Find your passion. Do you have a hobby? If not you better find one. Your husband will be gone a lot. If you do not have kids you're going to have a lot of free time. Develop your passion and run with it. This will help you to love your free time and keep you busy. If you have kids, you still need a passion to keep you sane. Get a babysitter or find time when they are asleep. Do something that excites you. Mine is taking pictures and editing them and blogging. It's my creative outlet and who cares if you're even good at it. I love creating things even if it's just for myself!

3. Travel. The cool part of this military life is that we get to move a lot. It makes us eager to explore the area we are in and travel to nearby areas while we have the chance. Right now we live overseas so we do a lot of international trips. When we lived in Pensacola we traveled to Atlanta, Jacksonville, FL, the Everglades, Miami, Clearwater and Birmingham. When we were in North Carolina we went to Washington DC, West Virginia, Charleston, Knoxville, Asheville and Myrtle Beach etc etc. Get out and explore. Plan trips for yourself when your husband will be gone so you have something to look forward to. This is one of my favorite aspects of military life!

4. Find the silver lining. Positive thinking is key. If you find yourself down in the dumps and feeling "woe is me" it's most likely your thinking patterns. You have to catch yourself. When I catch myself I get out paper and I write down all the good things about Duke being gone. (You can apply this to any situation.) For example- I don't have to cook dinner, less laundry, less errands, I can stay up in my bed reading late with the light on, I can watch whatever I want on TV, more ME time etc. It honestly helps me. I also hung a sign above my computer that says "A bad mood is a reflection of a negative thought cycle". This helps me to catch myself if i'm replaying those negative thoughts.

5. Surround yourself with positivity. This goes along with the last point. I'm a passionate believer in the fact that positive vibes equals happy life. Find people who lift you when you are around them. Listen to a podcast that inspires you, read/listen to self-improvement books. This helps me to have a constant stream of motivation moving me upwards. You really cannot afford negative energy when you're already running on fumes.

6. Make the most of your time together. I am a proponent of date nights. My parents always made this a priority and I carried it onto my marriage. Especially when you have kids, you need time to connect as husband and wife rather than just co-parents. I also believe that your spouse should come before you kids. Marriage is hard and takes a lot of work and you can't hide behind your kids forever, especially if you want to be happy!

I'd also say that having days that you feel sad and/or overwhelmed is totally normal and inevitable. But remember-You can do hard things.