Leaving Work Early

In the military there really is not a lot that you can offer in terms of incentives for great work.  There are awards and other recognition that can be given, but where most other employers have financial incentives to offer, that just isn’t an option in the military.

So while money is generally the first thing that employers offer the only other real thing there is to offer is time.  So that is generally what we go to when it comes to showing gratitude for hard work in the military.  That may be as much as a whole day off or simply a long lunch or leaving early.

Such was the case today.  My commander walked into the office and asked if we had anything important going on.  When we told him no he said we should go home early.  Well, you don’t have to tell me twice to leave work early and see my family earlier than usual.

So thanks to the generosity of my boss I got to the gym early, and was able to get home around the time I would normally be starting at the gym.

It really is the little things in life that make the most difference which is why I am grateful that today I got to leave work early.

My Faith

I know religion is one of those things you aren’t supposed to talk with people about, but I am the only one talking here so I guess that makes it okay.  This post really could go on and on so I will try and keep it concise.

Today I was at the hospital with my son again for an MRI so that hopefully we can figure out why he is having seizures.  If you are not aware, you must remain perfectly still for an MRI which is naturally a piece of cake for an almost four year old with the attention span of…squirrel.

In order to facilitate said MRI the nurse needed to give my son some medication to put him to sleep.  As he is inclined to do with medicine on occasion, he immediately proceeded to spit it out all over his shirt.  Of the 12ml he was supposed to get, I would guess that at the absolute most he got two.

The nurses were too afraid to give him more but assured me that he definitely got enough.  They even told the radiology nurses that he had taken most of it.  I have an orange stained shirt to prove otherwise, but whatever, maybe he got enough.

They tell you to expect the medicine to take 20-40 minutes to take effect, and just like the previous visit, at about 25 minutes he started to fall asleep, though this time that included a large amount of screaming, not a good sign.  He did doze off eventually, and was totally gone in about 5 minutes.  To make a long story short, we called the nurse, and they said it would be 20-30 minutes because the machine was in use.

Well crap!

I really hoped he would stay asleep, which he did.  Until they showed up to take him.  While trying to move him to their rolling bed he woke right up and it didn’t look like he had any intention of going back to sleep.  He put his hands behind his head and was looking around at everybody and everything.


We quickly pushed him back into the darkened room where I turned off all the lights and hoped beyond reason that he would actually fall asleep.  I had a few moments with just my son and after worrying about him sleeping for a few minutes, I knew what I had to do: Pray.

So you know where I am coming from, I’m a Mormon.  That means that prayer is a really important part of my life.

So I reached over and held onto my son and said a little prayer asking Heavenly Father to please help him fall asleep and stay asleep through the MRI because we really needed to get it done, and we really did not have time to wait for another appointment.  I opened my eyes, and he was still wide awake doing everything he could to challenge my faith, but I knew that he would fall asleep so we could get this done.

I texted my wife and told her and my youngest daughter who was at home to pray that he would go back to sleep.  I even posted on Twitter, and got a few responses which is amazing.

I’m not really sure how long I waited, but when the nurse came in to check on us he was once again sound asleep.  To which she responded it would be about 15-20 minutes because the machine was being used again, I kid you not.  But this time I wasn’t worried because I had faith that he would stay asleep and we would get this done.

Sure enough he stayed asleep and they brought him back to the room still totally out.  Now I realize it would be easy to say that the medicine just finally kicked in and that is why he fell asleep, and maybe that is exactly what happened.

But after watching him sleep with a full dose of medicine with a much less noisy procedure, and seeing how he responded with maybe 15% of a dose, I don’t know of any other way he could have slept through it than without the help of a loving Heavenly Father, and the faith of his family.

You don’t have to agree with me or believe me, but that is what is awesome about faith: it can be different for all of us.  Maybe you have faith in God, or in other people, or maybe even just in yourself, but faith is what gets us to do amazing things precisely when no one else believes it can be done.

When you are willing to look beyond the obvious and believe in something that is true but cannot be seen, then you have faith.  That is exactly what I experienced today, and that is why I am grateful for my faith.

Great Leaders

As one might imagine, we talk about leadership a lot in the military.  What makes a good leader, what makes a bad leader, how to handle this, how to handle that…It can be exhausting at times.

If there is one thing I have learned about leadership in my life it is that there is no ONE way to do it.  What works for me may not work for you, and we all must find how we do it best, and then do it that way no matter what.

With that being said, there is one aspect of effective leadership that holds true no matter what your style: You have to take care of your people.  This is not always easy, but it is essential.

I won’t go into the details because they aren’t really relevant to my gratitude, but I am being taken care of by two exceptional leaders at this moment.  They have both gone to great lengths to take care of not only me, but my family.  For one of them taking care of me may very well be his last act before he moves on to a new position, which will take place in just over a day.

But that is what great leaders do!  They take care of their people no matter what the cost to their own personal time or convenience.  I know there is next to nothing I could do to truly express my gratitude to these great men, but the least I can do is to recognize their efforts.

That is why today I am grateful for great leaders.

Mt. Fuji

There are few things more iconic in Japan than the majestic Mt. Fuji.  At 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) she is the tallest peak in Japan.  What makes that even more stunning is that the summit is only about 15 miles from the coastline.  

During the nearly two years that I have lived in Japan I have been able to forecast what kind of day it would be based on how well I could see Mt. Fuji from my work about 50 miles away.  Part of this could be because I fly for a living so if you can see something 50 miles away the weather must be pretty good.  

However, there is also something energizing about seeing that stunning peak rising up on the horizon, generally covered in snow.  She has a very spiritual influence on the life of many Japanese people and it is easy to see why.  

Today I had the opportunity to once again drive out to the mountain to enjoy her beauty up close one last time before my family leaves.  To give you an idea of just how large and steep the mountain is, it takes about half an hour to drive from the base to the fifth station, the highest you can drive, about 7,000 feet up.

The climbing season to the summit is only about two months long because it is so cold and covered with snow the rest of the year.  Here on June 11 there is still a ton of snow all over the mountain, and the temperature on the summit at 1pm was -3°C or about 27°F.  Not exactly a warm summer afternoon.

I had the opportunity to sneak up to the summit right at the end of the climbing season last year and it is in my top five favorite things I have done in Japan.  The Japanese say, “a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, a foolish man climbs Mt. Fuji twice,” but if I am lucky I hope to sneak back up to the top one more time before I leave.

I have always found joy from being in the outdoors, and there has always been something special about summitting tall mountains and passes.  I think it is the reward you get at the top of knowing how hard you worked to get there and then the view you get to enjoy while you rest.

I know there will be dozens of other mountains I will climb during the rest of my life, but Mt. Fuji will be a tough one to beat in terms of meaning.  I am just grateful I have gotten to live in her shadow for the past two years.

The Laughter of Children

Today was probably the hardest day I have had so far deciding what I am grateful for.  It was just sort of a crappy day, but this is supposed to be a positive space so I will just leave it at that.

The bright spot if my day was definitely hearing my kids laugh.  It has been a struggle with my youngest, who we recently adopted from China, but today I taught him how to do a “raspberry” with his tongue and he thought it was hilarious.

Then later on my older boy found the movie we were watching to be incredibly amusing so he was laughing too.  

I also never pass up a chance to tickle my youngest daughter.  You know the kind of kid that tells you to stop tickling her but then immediately began you to do it again.

My oldest is a little harder to get going these days, but that just makes her laugh that much more sweet. 

It really doesn’t matter which one of them it is, or why they are laughing, because I will never get tired of hearing them laugh.  It is one of the purest expressions of joy one can experience.  

So while today may have been rough, I still get to be grateful for the joy that I was able to experience when my kids laughed.

Old Friends

One of the most challenging aspects of military life is moving every few years. Not only do you have to figure out where everything is each time you move, but you also have to make new friends.  This doesn’t just happen when you move, but when your friends move too because none of us are on the same schedule.  

What it does help you do though is create amazing friendships quickly that last the test of time.  We have been blessed with one such relationship that we have been able to reignite over the last year.

While living in Pensacola, FL we became friends with a family that at first glance may not seem like the most logical choice.  He is enlisted in the Navy, I am an officer in the Air Force.  Their daughters are all older and our oldest is a year younger than youngest (until they had a little surprise about six months ago).  

However, we both have a love of board games, yummy food, and time with good quality people.  We were ecstatic when we found out that they would be coming to Japan so that we would be able to spend time with them again.

It has been great going to the ocean, visiting Tokyo Disney, and just spending time together at our respective homes enjoying good food, games, and lots of laughs together.

We had the opportunity tonight to be there for their oldest daughter’s graduation from high school and it was great to be there with their family on such an important occasion.  It will be sad to leave them again when that time comes, as it inevitably does.

While saying goodbye to dear friends on a regular basis can be extremely challenging, it is those deep emotional connections that makes those friends so important to me.  My wife has often said that when you are in the military your friends become your family, and that could not be more true.  

I am so grateful for all of the old friends that we have literally all over the world.  They make our lives so rich when we are together, and it is always so awesome when we get to meet back up and pick up as if we had never been apart.

A Healthy Body

I have been blessed pretty much my entire life with a healthy body.  To be clear, I am not in perfect shape, I don’t exercise nearly as often as I should, and I enjoy delicious foods like donuts and bacon way too much.

While I continue to work on my health and try to be more aware of how I eat, I have still been blessed with no major illnesses or injuries in my life.  I have gotten stitches twice, sprained my ankle a couple of times, and jammed more fingers playing basketball than I can remember, but that is really it.

This came to my mind today after going to the gym and doing some lifting.  As is wont to happen on leg day, I could barely walk up the stairs to put my kids to bed, but I did.  My legs work just fine and I still have the ability to do just about anything I want.  Something millions of other people across this world are not able to say.

While I will still eat the occasional donut, eat a snack before going to bed, and skip out on running to play a video game, I will be grateful for every day that I am able to hug my kids tight, throw a ball with my son, and carry him up the stairs to bed.