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First Hand

Justin is now in an area that was pretty hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami, Tsuduska, and he doesn't have email access. We were so spoiled, an email every week. Now we have to use old fashioned snail mail. The letter we received today was pretty interesting.

Background. Ishinomaki is about 25 miles north of Sendai and it has a HUGE bay (according to Google Maps) so they were pretty hard hit. They've been having them do service projects, lots of cleaning up the area and shoveling mud, but he says it's been difficult because there has been lots of rain.

I thought his comments on the Ishinomaki area were pretty interesting:

"On Thursday we cleaned up some houses and neighborhoods in Tagajo. This took about 1/2 of the day and then we took a bus back to Ishinomaki, the area we first did clean-up at. This time we were allowed to get off the bus and walk around and take pictures. There aren't too many words to describe the scene. As you walk around the now quiet area, everything is destroyed. There is a stillness that rests in the air from the destruction. Lives, houses, belongings, gone or scattered in piles covered in mud. What was once life and city is now just a silent memorial of that tragic event."

Follow Up Earthquake Experience

So the Church came out and said they were going to move all missionaries in the Sendai and Tokyo missions. I found out late on Tuesday night that my brother was being moved to the Sapporo area. He sent another email home early this morning, he called my parents too (at 1:45 in the morning!) but I'm sure they didn't mind. Here's his latest update. It sounds like he finally understands how serious things are. I guess without the news...you're kind of clueless, especially if your current city is mostly operating like normal.

So as you have probably heard, there was an emergency transfer and everyone in the Japan Sendai Mission has been moved to Sapporo Mission and as of now, we are staying. Who knows when and if that will change. The Tokyo mission split in groups of 50 and dispursed into the other missions. We will see how things will go for here.

The trip has been long and sudden. We left Wed with about 2 hours to pack anything that we needed. I got most of my stuff packed and have it with me now. I did not realize how bad things were until we ALL came together and talked about how the different areas were after the disaster. The bus left Kita Kami at 3 and arrived in Aomori at 1:00am. Spent the night there, and then headed to Tokyo by plane, then from Tokyo into Hokkaido. We are now in our new honbu and are.... going from here? Things are changing left and right so what is going on is still up in the air, kind of. We will have new transfers and companionships on Saturday.

Justin's Earthquake Experience

Here's what Justin had to say about Japan. He's currently in Kitakami, which is about 90 miles north of Sendai and 30 miles inland. I don't think he has any idea of what we're seeing in the news of the seriousness of everything, since he has no access. But, here's his firsthand account. I knew if I did not prompt him to answer the questions I wanted to know, he'd be a typical guy and not be too descriptive. Thankfully, he listened to his bossy older sister and answered my questions.

What were you doing when the earthquake hit?
---When the earthquake hit we were in the church teaching a lesson to a less active. We were about 20 minutes in when the first big earthquake hit.

What does a 9.0 earthquake feel like?
---Was it really 9.0? I hear that sendai was around 9, but Kita Kami was about 7.5 maybe 8, but then again that is just what I have heard, I dont really know, no tv or radio.... haha (although we did get yelled at by someone for not knowing)

Were you able to 'duck and cover' or did you kind of freeze thinking it would end soon?
---We just sat at the table, lol. Nothing was falling over or anything, so I figured it was ok, just lots of shaking.

Is Kitakami ruined, or are you guys still able to live there?
---Kita Kami is perfectly fine. A few of the glass windows on the larger buildings are wrecked, but things are fine. Some of the older buildings had parts fall off, but nothing catastrophic. Nothing like what you would imagine.

Did you have to go to an evacuation center? ---No
Do you have any of your stuff? ---The apartment was a little shaken, and the whiteboard fell over, but it really just looked like someone robbed the place looking for money.

Do you guys have food and water?
---After the earthquake we just lost electricity. Gas and water worked fine here, but other placed they were out water too. But because of the lack of electricity, we lost hot water.

The news shows bare shelves, I hope you guys have some sort of rations or essentials.
---There were long lines at the stores, I took some pictures, haha. We went shopping today and didnt have any problems. Media makes things so much worse, but then again, I dont know about other areas.

Are the aftershocks terrifying, or is there no way they can compare to the big quake?
---The first big one was the worst. The other earthquakes after and the aftershocks are still going. After the first half day, it just kind of became normal.

Have you been able to take pictures and document things, or is that not even on your mind? ---mentioned above

Is it as painful (not in a bad way, but for lack of a better word) for you to not be able to call us and let us know you are ok, as it is for us to wait for updates?
---I havent been worried at all. This maybe a little sadistic to say, but part of me wants to feel a bigger earthquake. But then again two days of not having warm water is less than suffering. Mabye after a week or so with no water too, I might change my mind. It doesnt feel as if it was a big deal.

What now? If Kitakami is not damaged as badly as I imagine it is, can you stay there? Do they move you to another area? What have you been doing since the earthquake hit?
---Life goes on as normal. Shops, stores, adn everything else will be back to normal in a day or two.

Vegas Fun!!!

Work Cheryl and Kathleen always hear about our weekends in Vegas. We aren't opposed to taking any of our friends out there, and somehow we ended up planning a President's Day weekend. I had hyped up Pai Gao poker to them, so that was one of our main gambing destinations. Kathleen was too tired to focus on learning how to play on Friday night, but last night we all played at Red Rock. The table was pretty hot and our dealer, Jason, was pretty personable. We had a blast! By the end of the evening I had given us all poker nicknames.

Adam - Ace (he had 4 Ace's and was NOT playing the bonus!)

Kathleen - Aggressive Misplay (since it was her first day of playing...you get the idea)

Cheryl - Forgotten Pair (after a vodka tonic she set her hand, thought she lost, but forgot she had a pair for her low hand)

Me - Pushy (hey, a push is better than a loss, but I was the push queen last night)

How Men and Women Think Differently

Saturday morning rolls around and we have no real plans. Adam texts Paul to see if he and Kelly want to go to dinner with us later on. Paul calls a few hours later and says they are meeting Brandon and Becky for sushi at 7 and we are welcome to join them.

7:05 - we arrive at the sushi restaurant. Brandon's surprised to see us, apparently Paul didn't tell him he invited us along.

10:30 - after dinner, check Facebook and see a post from Paul along the lines of "Good friends, good food, good night, but we miss Carlos and Raina."

Then Adam says something about how the dinner was supposed to be Paul/Kelly, Brandon/Becky, and Carlos/Raina, but the latter two are sick with the stomach flu.

So he, after 2 large Sapporos, says, what the hell, they were all going to go to dinner and they didn't invite us? WTF.

Sunday morning, I'm feeling kinda bugged by his comment. I know you don't always have to be invited out when your friends make plans - but now I'm wondering if there's a REASON why we weren't invited along??? So I tell Adam his comment kinda made me think twice about last night, annoyed me a little, makes me wonder why we weren't included.

He, in a perfect example of how men's brains are different says, "Hmm...didn't give it a second thought. We had a good time, so who cares?"

LOL - sometimes I wish I could look at things like a man.

Christmas Time Line

Ugh!!! Normally I am so good with the planning, this year...things were just crazy.

December 10 - 13: Vegas for a mini-family reunion and holiday party.

*Catch Uncle Dennis' cold. Pretend I am not sick until the work holiday party passes because I am to chair of the planning committee.

December 14: Dip over 100 pretzel rods in chocolate for the department holiday party (after a full day of work).

December 15: Bake & frost 2 dozen cupcakes for dessert at the holiday party (also after a full day of work).

December 16: Exhaust myself at holiday party, pass out by 9PM.

Finally admit I am sick. Sleep on and off until 9AM on Saturday.

December 18 & 19: Mild panic attack realizing Christmas is in a week. Convince myself the mall "won't really be that bad," and survive 2 hours of holiday shopping before tiring out.

December 20: FC meeting after work, get home at 8:30, could care less about OT.

December 21 & 22: Mad dash at work to finish up anything before the holiday closure. Don't normally buy any co-workers Christmas gifts as I bake tons of cookies. Did not bake this year. Feel terrible. End up buying 3 co-workers gifts, buy my boss a gift.

December 23: Thank god I had the sense to ask for the day off. Finish my Christmas shopping. Clean downstairs so it looks good in holiday pictures. Wrap. Wrap. Wrap. Feel bad about not doing any holiday baking, decide to make Adam his favorite bars.

December 24: Wrap some more. Load up all of my family's gifts. Spend 3PM - midnight at my parents celebrating Christmas Eve. Enjoy talking to my brother. Arrive home just before 1AM, pass out.

At this point we feel like we've been moving non-stop since the 23rd. We realize we still have one more day to get through, and it was C R A Z Y.

December 25 (Christmas Day) deserves it's own time line.

7AM: Wake up & get ready. Adam wraps his gifts to me as he only finished shopping the morning of Christmas Eve.

9AM: Gifts are wrapped, we are clean, showered, and beautified. Pop breakfast into the oven and open gifts.

9:30 Adam's mom calls to find out when we're leaving, tells us they are waiting for us to get there. Don't dawdle.

10AM: Finish our gifts, scarf down breakfast. Pack faster than I have ever packed before. Load up the car with our duffle bags and his family's gifts. On the road by 10:30 (including a stop to fill up the gas tank).

11AM: Tons of cars on the road. Call #1 from Sheila to find out if we've left yet.

Noon: Should be at Barstow. Barely at Cajon Pass.

12:30: Sheila calls to ask us to pick up coleslaw at the grocery store when we arrive. We tell her we are just past Barstow even though we haven't hit it yet.

1PM: Mike calls to tell us everyone is waiting for us.

2PM: Sheila calls to tell us everyone is waiting for us.

2:15PM: Mike calls to 'verify' our location and see when we will be there.

2:40: Arrive at Albertson's with about 80 other people who are doing last minute Christmas shopping. Wait in line for an eternity.

3PM: Arrive, unload duffle bags, unload gifts, stick on bows, we are handed a glass of champagne. Ask for a minute to have a snack as we have not eaten since we split a breakfast croissant at 10.

3:10PM: They generously gave us a few minutes to scarf down some cheese and crackers. Family portrait in front of the fire place.

3:10 - 5PM: Gifts.

5PM: Dinner followed by dessert, then Despicable Me in the theater.

10PM: Everyone has left and we can't believe the whirlwind day. Are told brunch on Sunday is at noon. Retire to bed to watch Scrooged and laugh at how ridiculous the day has been. Merry Christmas (if you can catch your breath)!

In with the new

Our department has a new director who started work today. He looks like Kenny Rogers!

In another life...

A few weeks ago at work Cheryl made a comment that, in another life, she would be a coroner or a mortician's assistant. I told her I would be Martha Stewart (minus the prison and fraud). Last week she was talking to someone else and asked them that question, so it was a front runner of discussion this week again. Crazy Andy said he would be a chef instead of an accountant, but one of those super famous chefs that also has time to come out of their kitchen to have all their customers tell them how good their food was. Some of the less imaginative people at work said they would do the exact same thing in another life because they enjoy it so much, BORING!

The day before Thanksgiving our fitness guy was walking down the hallway. He's such a character (sometimes we don't know if he's straight, gay, or bi, heck, maybe he doesn't know). So we naturally want to hear his answer, but to make things interesting we told him what the question was and then asked him to guess what he thought we would pick. He thought Cheryl would be a nurse. Haha, close-ish, I suppose, just living people versus dead. Then he told me what he thought I would pick as my dream job in another life.

A Hooters Waitress!!!!!!!!!

I swear to god!!! He wasn't joking. He said my bubbly personality would make me the perfect Hooters waitress. Cheryl nicely pointed out to him I didn't quite fit the 'hooters' part, to which he responded, it's not all about that anymore.

Hmm...so in another life he pictures my dream job as a Hooters Waitress. Thanks Allan!!!

If you NEVER work overtime - STFU!

These last two weeks at work have been a total whirlwind. Since last week was only a 3-day work week it was total insanity. I didn't even take lunch one day, someone picked me up a burrito and I scarfed it down and that was during an 11 hour work day. Craziness. Thankfully, things should start to settle down again in the beginning of December.

Anyways, I hate to feel constantly behind at work. There are tasks I do daily, weekly, etc, that MUST be done. I mean, hello, we don't want vendors calling because I got too busy to mail the checks out that week. LOL. So, yeah, these last two weeks I've really had to prioritize my work. I've even got 3 projects just sitting at my desk because I haven't had a chance to dedicate any time to them. PROJECTS, not even daily tasks, sitting, totally untouched.

One of my daily tasks is the mail. Three times a day. I open and distribute the mail for my department. Part of the reason why I do this is, as a control measure, I log all of the incoming checks before they go off to be processed. Once I log the checks, I take them to The Man (that's my nickname for him) and he processes them. Well, he's very particular about the checks. They must be sorted by ascending value, the check and any envelope contents must be paperclipped in the upper left hand corner, and he prefers large paperclips only. It's been like that since before I started so I don't think twice about it. I have found, when I'm PMS'ing his constant need to check on the status of the mail 3 times a day, drives me bonkers. The mail comes at 9:30, 2:30 and 4:30. By 9:45 he's asked, 'how does the morning mail look?' By 3 he's asked 'any checks this afternoon?' And by 4:25 he's usually emailed me to say he saw the mail crew walk by. You know, just to remind me that I should get the last mail of the day.

Well, with my crazy workload, I haven't been as quick as usual with the mail and checks and I certainly haven't had time to send him 3 emails a day letting him know how the mail/checks look. The Man emailed me at 2:59 today to ask if there were any afternoon checks. I got back from lunch at 2, did some work to prep for a meeting, and had a meeting at 3. I didn't get his email until I got out of my meeting and back to my desk at 4:15, and I certainly didn't get to the mail.

Between 2:59 and 4:15 he complained to his boss. Granted, it probably wasn't just today, I've been slammed for the last two weeks, so all during that time, he hasn't been getting the mail as quick as he's used to. So, he went to his boss (not even his supervisor, his BOSS - an Administrator) and complained he wasn't getting the checks fast enough and actually asked her if she could assign the task to someone else. Now, the bright side of all this - he's known for his lack of patience. The even brighter side, I sit right outside his boss's office so she knows how crazy busy I've been. I've often still been at work at the end of the day when she's leaving! So she looked at him, and told him everyone has been busy lately and with Patty retiring in 2 weeks, a lot of us have been given additional tasks, so no, she would not reassign the mail to someone else, he would have to be patient and realize that he WILL get them, but sometimes there are other priorities. *high five to his boss*

The Plan!

I hope I can execute my plan, if I do, my 4-day weekend will be a good mix of chores, fun, and relaxing! Thank goodness for the Veterans Day holiday and our 9/80 Friday falling on the same week.

Thursday - clean the house, finally put away the Halloween decorations, laundry. So far I'm halfway into the laundry, the Halloween decorations have been put away, and my downstairs bathroom has been cleaned. Up next is the kitchen. I think I'm in good shape for 1PM? Question is if I will make it to the upstairs. Dinner (chicken chili) is also in the crock pot ready for Adam when he gets home from work.

Friday - hair appointment! The rest is kinda up in the air since we'll have to coordinate the car. My appointment is at 10:15, so if Adam goes in to work around 9, I'll just read some magazines and enjoy a bagel beforehand. Then, if he takes an early lunch, maybe he can drop me off at home? If that's the case, and I don't get to the upstairs today, I can clean that up tomorrow. Maybe dinner with Paul and Kelly later on? We'll also have to watch the F1 practice from Abu Dabi. Is that how you spell it?? Looks funny.

Saturday - early start, 7AM make up of the last golf lesson. Should be fun, we get to actually try to golf an entire hole! Hope the stitch in my back loosens up though or things will be painful. I have no idea what happened, it just hurts in the general area of my kidneys, but feels more of like a muscle or a nerve rather than an internal organ. Heat pad is on right now. Probably after a nap, we'll watch the F1 qualifying. Saturday night is the Kings v. Islanders! Game 3 of our 10 game package.

Sunday - brunch with Cheryl & Greg, need to find out when and where though, to celebrate her birthday. Adam has his first hockey game of the season at 4 and then we'll head to my parents for dinner. I think we'll have to do our grocery shopping after brunch. I'm not sure how I'll feel watching the game instead of playing in it. *sigh* We'll have to see how that goes. We will also have to watch the final F1 race of the season. Adam and I have different favorite drivers and either one could be the world champion, maybe we'll watch in the evening before bed in case one of us ends up mad at the other because our guy didn't win!

Somewhere in all that...I want to go shoppoing! LOL, I know I just went last weekend, but there are gooooood sales. Must try to be good though. Do not derail the Christmas savings plan that was carefully mapped out. Be good Melinda!