Friday, August 30, 2013

all quiet on the home front

Let me start off by saying that Yoni made it to Afghanistan safe and sound. It was a long trip – he had many endless layovers and basically went three days without sleeping – but he and his RP are there now and are quickly adjusting to the oppressive heat and the rhythm of daily life there. Thank you so much to all of you who have been keeping Yoni (and me) in your thoughts and prayers. According to my parents, almost every conversation they have includes some element of “please tell Leora and Yoni that we’re thinking of them” – so I just wanted to say – thanks. I appreciate the global support. But please don’t worry, at least not about me. Feel free to worry about Yoni an appropriate amount.

As spouses of deployed service members go, I'm one of the lucky ones. First of all, my husband will only be gone for about a month (as opposed to 3, 6, 7, sometimes as many as 12 months in a row). Second, I’m only going to be alone for just over a week. Talya arrives on Tuesday!! Third, Yoni is traveling with someone whose only job is to protect him. How many people can say that? Finally, I’m surrounded by people who have been exactly where I am, and who are preprogrammed to care for others like me who may be experiencing a spouse’s deployment for the first time. I have had more social invitations in the past week than in the past month. So, while Penny and I certainly wish Yoni was here instead of there, I’m confident that we’ll make it through this deployment relatively unscathed.

If you’re looking for a reason to feel bad for me, though, here’s one: while Yoni is gone, I’ll have to write a blog post EVERY WEEK! To that end, I’d love to hear from you: is there anything you’ve been dying to hear about/see pictures of/learn more about? If I have to think about something to write every week, I could use a bit of help.

By the way, this is our 100th blog post. Quite a milestone if you ask me. Hope you’re still enjoying the ride. Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, August 23, 2013

1 puppy + 2 babies = ?

At the beginning of the summer, Yoni’s battalion underwent a change of command, which basically means that Yoni has a new boss. What does that have to do with puppies and babies? Well, that’s where this story gets interesting.

After the Change of Command ceremony, Yoni and I attended a reception where we had a chance to chat with the new CO and his wife, Laura. She and I quickly bonded over our mutual love of dogs, and when she realized that we had one with us on island, she immediately volunteered to dog-sit. While I make it a firm policy to never turn down someone who offers (I always tell people they shouldn’t offer if they don’t mean it), Laura and her husband have 10-month-old twin girls. Well, at that point I guess they were 7 months old. But you catch my drift.

Any of you who have spent time with Penny know that she can be…shall we say…enthusiastic. She is not a shy or retiring puppy. Rather, she is a tongue (and sometimes teeth) in your face kind of girl, always looking to play, and occasionally scaring people. She’s big on what we call “love chomping” which involves a lot of jaw snapping (but very few actual injuries). It’s an activity she reserves for the people she loves the best or is most excited by. Add all of that to the fact that she has not spent any time around babies, and you can understand my hesitation to accept Laura’s kind offer. I suggested to Laura that perhaps it would be a good idea to have a puppy/baby play date first, to test the waters and see how all the interested parties reacted. She agreed, and we decided to set something up once they were a bit more settled on island.

We finally had our play date on Tuesday. I was pretty nervous - after all, couple Penny’s potential craziness with the fact that the babies in question belong to Yoni’s boss, and you have all the makings of a stressful situation on your hands. But it turns out that my worrying was unnecessary. Penny was a CHAMPION. The babies were asleep when we arrived, and so she had some time to get used to the house and to Laura. By the time the girls woke up, she was completely at home, and when the babies came out of their room she was the most restrained version of herself I have ever seen. Sure, there was still a lot of face licking, but Laura and the girls took it in stride. As long as Penny got to lick the babies once every few minutes, she was happy to stand in front of them (or lie down between them) and let them poke and touch her. At one point, one of the girls crawled underneath Penny to try to get to her sister, and Penny was just like, “Oh, hey, you want to hang out down there? Alright, that’s cool.”

We didn’t re-visit the topic of dog-sitting, but I think Laura and I were both pleasantly surprised with the outcome of our little experiment. She got to acclimate her girls to a dog, and I got to work with Penny on not trying to eat babies – it was really a win-win. Oh, AND we got to get to know one another. That part was nice, too. All in all, a successful play date if ever there was one. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

I'm a Combat Life Saver

Leora says she didn’t have a busy week.  With another rabbi arriving on island and shuttling her around from place to place, I can imagine she was incredibly busy.  But she tells me that she has nothing to talk about, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt.  I post again, because my week was crazy.

For the past week and a half – while Rabbi Yonina Creditor arrived and while I was on-call as Island Duty Chaplain – I have been in a course called PTP.  I’m pretty sure that the acronym is Pre-Deployment Training Protocol; I’m not sure that’s correct, but I know the idea is spot on.  My RP and I are deploying to Afghanistan in the coming days/weeks/months (I’m trying to be OPSEC – Operational Security - smart, see above), so we’re getting the sped-up version of what Individual Augments get for their AFG deployments.

Much of it does not apply to me personally.  While I’m an officer in the Navy, the chances of me setting up a check-point on a highway are pretty remote and the chances that I patrol for IEDs is even more remote.  But now I know how to do so AND I have a better idea of what my Marines are training to do.

One thing that sticks out however is the Combat Life Saver course.  I think it takes a really special group of Hospital Corpsman to put this course together; people who really want to save lives but also watch too many gory movies.  Whoa, there was a lot of fake blood.

Throw out the ABCs from First Aid.  In CLS, we use a new acronym (it is the Navy afterall). 

Remember CPR?  Forget it, you don’t have time for that.

In three days, we learned how to insert IVs.  I caused a Major to go into shock (it seems he doesn’t like needles).  We applied tourniquets, dragged each other and carried each other and found out we could stop chest bleeding using a used MRE bag and tape (Take that Dr. Hank Lawson and your McGuiver-esque practice of medicine on USA). 

I learned a new term and that was fun: Tension Pneumothorax.  One treatment according to Wikipedia, “This involves the administration of local anesthetic and inserting a needle connected to a three-way tap; up to 2.5 liters of air (in adults) are removed.”  Treatment according to the Corpsman, “Take the needle, find the second intercostal space, and bam.  He’ll be thanking you for stabbing him.”  Good people, those corpsman.

On the final day, they threw us in a room that was more a warzone than a general training op.  Marines covered in fake blood, mannequin parts strewn all over the floor, and mannequins with heart beats spurting out blood all over their rescuers.  Lights were flashing and the sound effect guys were doing some incredible work; the fog machines were on full blast.  It was insanity times insanity. 

As a squad, we got in there and saved the lives of two mannequins.  We got them safely to our Casualty Collection Point and called in the helicopters.   (Unfortunately for us, in the fog of war, we chose a gasoline station as our collection point; maybe not the best decision.)   It. was. awesome.

Am I ready to go?  Mostly.  I am certified in CLS and I’ve completed my PTP.  I still have a major pile of Administrative work that needs to be done and actual chaplaincy work that I need to spend some time doing.  Like other rabbis at this time of year, I’m still worried about what I’m going to talk about and which tunes I might use in the service!  But these past few days have made it all start to come together in a real way.  I know one thing for sure: Rosh Hashana 5774 is going to be a lot different from any other New Year that I’ve ever experienced.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Okinawa Marine Article: Resignation and Resilience

I am the Okinawa Duty Chaplain this week, which means that I’m supposed to write an article for the Okinawa Marine Newsletter.  It seems that my article was pushed to next week, so it will make absolutely no sense to the reader.  But I share it with you, and I hope you enjoy.

Resignation and Resilience

August 9, 1974 - exactly 39 years ago today, President Richard Milhous Nixon resigned as 37th President of the United States.  It's unfortunate that of his many speeches and acts, his presidency is remembered primarily for Watergate and summed up by the sound-bite: "I am not a crook". 

Shortly before noon, Nixon assembled his staff and colleagues one last time.  In those final moments, Nixon was presidential; the President acknowledged and inspired.

"We think sometimes when things happen that don't go the right way...We think that when someone dear to us dies, we think that when we lose an election, we think that when we suffer a defeat that all is ended. We think…that the light had left [our lives] forever. Not true.

It is only a beginning, always. The young must know it; the old must know it. It must always sustain us, because the greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. "

At this moment, Nixon was at the bottom of his game.  A President who thrived on public opinion had the lowest approval of his extensive career.  He was quite literally being kicked out of his house and job.  As the Hebrew Bible (completely out of context) states:  How the mighty have fallen (II Samuel  1).  How easy it would be to leave angry and to burn bridges!

No President enters office with Nixon as their model; no leader enters their role hoping to resign in disgrace.  Nixon's presidency will forever remain clouded in scandal and cover-up.  Yet, Nixon's August 9th lesson in spiritual resilience can serve as a powerful model for all of us.  

Nixon reminds us that only through an appreciation of the human condition and only through experiencing the full gamut of highs and lows, can we begin to appreciate glory and can we begin to appreciate grace.

Friday, August 2, 2013

sometimes, when you live in the tropics... run into wildlife that is, shall we say, less than savory. (And sometimes, when the author of this blog is feeling particularly uninspired, those encounters get publicized.)

Right before we left for Hong Kong, Yoni and I went out on a day trip and ran into an unusual number of terrifying spiders. I wish I could say that we were in some sort of nature preserve…but we weren’t. We were just walking.

(To really get a good look, I recommend clicking on the pictures to enlarge them. Though I'd understand if you didn't want to.)

If you look closely, you can see there's another spider just behind this one...

...see it now? 

Ok, I cheated. This one was in Hong Kong. But it was only a few days after the rest of them, so I figured it could count.