Will You Marry Me?

Two years ago today, Casey asked me to marry him. I am sure that it is quite obvious that I said yes, but I’m going to tell you the story anyway. While there is a lot of adorable back-story to this, I am going to save that for later posts. I prefer to draw this out. 😉

As former policy debaters, my husband and I are both talkers. To be honest, there is nothing that we do not talk about. As children of divorced parents, we did not take the subject of marriage lightly, but we certainly discussed it. Less than a year into our relationship, we discussed never getting married. We agreed that we would both be happy to live out our lives together, unmarried and unafraid. Soon after that discussion, we moved to Pensacola, Florida, together. It was here that I received a fairly rough introduction to the military lifestyle, as the Marine Corps sent Casey away to California on a temporary assignment two months into living together. Fortunately, we had just adopted this guy:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHis name is Barley, and yes, he is still that cute. Thank you for asking.

During my three months living on my own in our little home in Pensacola, something changed. I certainly became stronger, as I picked myself up, found a job (or three), made friends, bought a car, and explored this new city on my own. Barley and I ran every day after work along the bayou, Barley chasing crabs while the sun set and the Blue Angels flew overhead.  While that was wonderful; the emptiness I felt with Casey on the other side of the country, the longing I felt for all the little things in our life together, coupled with the realization that I could handle all of that affected me deeply. Somehow, Casey and I independently came to realize that we wanted to marry each other from opposite sides of the US. Actually, at that point I discovered that there was nothing I wanted more. He returned to Florida and we discussed our future together.

Fast forward about 9 months, and I just knew Casey would be “popping the question” soon. In fact, through careful deduction, I was able to predict it down to the time and place. Here’s how. First of all, Casey is a grand gesture kind of guy. I’ll save the story for how he first told me he loved me for another day, but I can tell you that it was over the top. Second, Casey is terrible at keeping secrets from me. For our first Christmas together, he bought me a CHI hair straightener. About 5 minutes before we exchanged gifts, he pointed to my hair straightener and asked me how it was working for me. Similarly, before he proposed, he kept getting excited about certain details of the date we had planned for our second anniversary. My first observation gave me the idea, and the second reinforced it. That date was set to be a repeat of our first date together in Fredericksburg, VA, where we were to visit right around our anniversary to attend one of my best friend’s weddings. (I made sure to warn my friend that we would probably be getting engaged the night before her wedding to make sure that she would be okay with it). 😉

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On our date, we walked through downtown Fredericksburg, past the little cafe where we had shared a sandwich two years before. We went to see Transformers 3, since we had seen Transformers 2 on our first date together. We ate dinner at Sammy T’s, where we had shared our first dinner and Sierra Nevada. We even wore the same clothes that we had worn on our first date. I know, it’s just too much. Finally, Casey drove me by the house where I had lived during my senior year in college. We got out of the car, and in the spot where he had nervously dropped me off and asked for a kiss, our first kiss, he said something I will never forget.

“Amanda, two years ago in this spot I asked you a very important question, and today I have another one. I love you very much, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” And then, from one knee: “Amanda, will you marry me?” Crying, I said, “Of course! I would love to marry you!” As much as I had known when and where he would ask me this, nothing in the world could have prepared me for that moment.

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Categories: Marriage, Our Story | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Four Years Ago

Casey and I had been dating for about a month and a half when he finally asked me to be his girlfriend. I hadn’t necessarily been waiting for him to ask because we had been functioning as a couple for the better part of the last month anyway. Looking back, I remember it feeling silly, and I am sure Casey was nervous to ask me, but I guess the conversation needed to happen at some point.

We had walked home from downtown Fredericksburg, VA, where we had spent the night out with some of my college friends and a few of Casey’s Marine Corps buddies from the Basic School. We must have left early because when we arrived at my house (where I lived with 5 other girls!) the door was locked and I had, of course, forgotten my keys. We sat on my front porch talking while waiting for my roommates to come home. While sharing a seat in an old rolling office chair, Casey asked me to be his girlfriend. A traditionalist, Casey always handled these matters by the book.

I could tell you a much longer story, but the point is that four years ago I became his girlfriend; and today I am his wife, and coincidentally the luckiest girl in the world.

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While today I am missing you, I look forward to many, many more years together!

PS. To read about our epic (well, maybe not quite epic) first year of marriage, click here!

Categories: Our Story | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Lives I Could Have Lived, the People I Could Have Been

I have long been intrigued by the labyrinth that is life, the twists and turns determined by our directional decisions. Even having lived a fairly simple, straight-forward life thus far, there are moments in my life that radically changed its course and thus have led me to who and where I am today. I often wonder who I would be had I made different decisions at each turn, or had those moments played out differently.

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I think back and look at the potential I had in certain areas when I was younger. I could have been a violinist, a runner, a martial artist, a lawyer, a bartender, an actress. At some point in my life these interests, however exciting or mundane, respectable or less so, could have decided who I am today. I could have lived any of those lives. Was there a point at which I made the decision not to be those people?

Well, sort of. I decided that my almost life-long dream of going to Law school to study International Law (and then save the world, single-handedly bringing an end to genocide around the globe) was not a reasonable one, given the lifestyle I had chosen as a military wife, moving every few years with my husband. At an earlier point, I had decided that being an actress or a bartender just weren’t for me.

But the rest of those people I could have been, what happened to them? At what point did I decide that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be a runner? Did I think that to be a runner was somehow mutually exclusive with my other interests? That must have been it, because I gave up running after I went to college and joined the debate team. And I gave up the violin even earlier, but at least I’ve continued to drag my violin from one closet to another as I have pushed the violinist in me further and further away. And the martial arts? Well, I gave that up when I joined the Cross Country team in high school, because surely I could not have done both. Why did I give all that up? Where did all those other Amandas go, successful in so many different ways, happy in their singular focus in life?

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To be fair, there were other Amandas, less happy or successful, whom I also could have been: for example, the Amanda that could have gone on to do anything but marry my husband, or the Amanda that went to another college and did not have the chance to meet some of the most important people in my life. The Amanda that stayed in an unhappy relationship forever, or the one that allowed herself to be degraded and disrespected by her mother’s husband; either of them could have lived on. Many of those versions of myself could have avoided the obstacles of being a military spouse, but none of them could have lived to be the woman that I am today.

All of these moments and decisions in my life, however obvious or subtle, happy or painful, have brought me to the life I live today. While it is interesting to look back and wonder who or where I would be had I handled those differently, I celebrate that those moments do not define me. Rather, they are pieces of who I am, who I have been, and who I can always become. I’ll never be a bartender, and I will always be Casey’s wife, but I can also be so many other people. In just a few months, I am running my first half-marathon, because I refuse to look back and say, “I could have been a runner.” Today, I am a crafter, a friend, a billing specialist, a wife, a student, a blogger, a runner, and above all, a woman who can do so many things.

Life is too short to look back at the things you could have done and wonder why you gave them up. There is always a reason for today, so we should be making our decisions every day to become the person we want to be. This way, we will never have to look back and wonder if we should have chosen a different path. We should pick up our running shoes, our violins, our LSAT study guides; and go on to live our best lives, the lives we were born to live.

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As for me, I can look back and say with certainty that of all the people I could have been, I am my favorite one. I will continue to work harder to be better and better at being happy and fighting for the Amanda that’s still here through it all.

Love always,

Me.

Categories: Goals, Military Life | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hiking to the Falls

A few weeks ago, Casey and I went out with a group of friends to witness one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. About an hour north of the base where we live is Tadake Falls, a gorgeous waterfall hidden in the Okinawan jungle.

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We trekked along a small river, climbing slippery rocks and dodging giant wasp-like horse flies and floating palm-sized spiders. (This monster was floating along on a raft fashioned from a live grasshopper).

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At various points along the river, we hiked over slippery rocks and swam across fairly swiftly-moving portions of the river. Casey, unable to resist an opportunity to play Tarzan, stopped to jump from a small cliff into the river.  When we arrived at the waterfall, I was amazed at how massive it was.

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This definitely made the list of places in Okinawa I will never forget.

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The Other Side of the Road

I recently came back to Japan after a 7-week-long trip to America, in which I watched two of my best friends get married and met another one’s new baby girl, among many other things. I am just now adjusting to my own life here in Okinawa again, and am finally ready to get back to blogging!

The most difficult thing this trip forced me to unlearn and relearn is driving! There are so many differences related to driving in Japan and America. First of all, in Japan, we drive on the left side of the road. When we moved here almost 9 months ago, Casey and I had to take a written test in order to receive our SOFA-status drivers’ licenses. We had to learn the laws of the road, but no one held our hands through learning how to navigate this place. The switch to the left side of the road was difficult because (duh), we had been driving on the right side since we were 15! I was so terrified to drive out here, that Casey had to force me to start driving about 2 weeks in. (We went out with friends and he decided to drink, meaning that I became the de facto designated driver. I wasn’t happy).

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Some things to “unlearn and relearn” along with this transition:

1. In Japan, there is no “right on red,” and there are actually different laws out in town and on certain military installations for taking a “left on red.”

2. Fast lane, passing lane, bus lane: all different.

3. Where to look when making a turn at a stop sign: right left right, or left right left? This one still confuses me. 😉

4. Parking lots. Yes, they are backwards, too.

5.The driver sits on the right. Sometimes, I still try to get in on the wrong side. (It’s been 9 months).

6. Most difficult of all: the wiper blades and turn signal are on opposite sides of the wheel. It is common to see new people on Okinawa turning on their wipers when they mean to signal that they are turning. We call this the “Oki wave.”

Fortunately for me, I’ve had an adorable car in which to learn all of this. This is “Turtle car.” She is a 2003 Daihatsu Naked. Yes, Naked. (The Japanese love English words, and often show little regard for the meaning of the word when they choose it. More on that in another post)! She has a whopping 750cc engine, which for you less mechanically intelligent (like myself) out there, means the engine is smaller than the one in Casey’s Harley Sportster. In short: tiny. She has a difficult time making it up hills, or going over 60km per hour, which for you Americans out there is only about 37 miles per hour.

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She is like a mini Hummer, complete with golf cart tires, a rubberized interior, removable backseats, retractable side mirrors (very common in Japan because the roads and parking areas are so narrow), and lots of love to spare. You might be able to see Casey’s Toyota Camry Gracia parked next to Turtle car. As you can probably see, the Camry is much larger, which is why we do not often drive it around Okinawa. While not a large car in America, in Okinawa it is like driving a boat. It has a normal-sized engine, but a bad turning radius and we often have a hard time finding a parking space big enough for it! Also, my car is much cheaper to drive because it is awesome on gas and the road taxes are so cheap because the Japanese government subsidizes efficient cars! Small, or “kei” cars with yellow license plates are common in Japan because the road taxes are about 90% less than that of more American-sized vehicles, like the Camry!

Learning to drive here was much easier than I expected. However, a few things will continue to be difficult, no matter how long we stay here. Roads can be so tiny that you will have stop and sometimes back up in order to allow cars to pass in the opposite direction. The Japanese often do not name their roads and highways, so we rely on landmarks when giving directions. Sometimes, highways have the same name. For example, there are two highway 58’s on Okinawa. Sometimes, the signage can be pretty confusing:

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Overall, however, it can be a beautiful place to drive.

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After spending 6 months in Okinawa, it was time for me to go back to the states for a visit. The idea of driving back in the states was terrifying to me for a few reasons.

1. I would need to relearn to drive on the right, and Americans would be much less forgiving than the Okinawans, who are used to Americans driving on the wrong side when they first arrive on island.

2. Everything moves a good deal faster in America. The fastest speed limit I’ve seen on Okinawa is 80 km, which is about 50 miles per hour!

3. American drivers are significantly less courteous than Okinawan drivers. Okinawans are much better at merging because they actually let people in, and then they often thank each other by flashing their hazard lights quickly in a gesture of thanks. (This is my favorite thing about driving in Japan). 🙂

4. America is much more dangerous than Okinawa. In Japanese culture, it is very uncommon for women to get kidnapped, raped, or mugged. I was going to be driving by myself through some cities which are known for the frequency of these crimes, and could not help but be worried after feeling so safe on my little island.

5. Worst of all, I would need to stop at red lights again. In Okinawa, it is safer to go through a red light than stop short because everyone behind you is already planning to run it. Yeah, sure, you have to wait a few seconds before driving when the light turns green, but it feels so good to run those red lights!

To be fair and balanced, for all you Fox News fans out there, America does a few things better than Japan:

1. Turning lanes. These are important, and Japan should install them.

2. Roads sized large enough to fit cars. It’s easy to forget how nice this is.

3. Fair arbitration of car accidents. In Okinawa, an American involved in an accident will always be at fault. The accident would not have happened if you weren’t on Okinawa, period.

4. Road and highway names make life so much easier.

5. Motorcycles aren’t… terrifying! Out here they drive like maniacs in flip flops with unbuckled helmets! They do wheelies at stop lights, drive in between lanes to speed past traffic, and drive up to the front of the line at stoplights. To deal with them safely, you have to view them as suicidal so that you remember to steer clear of them, literally.

6. Shoulders, bicycle lanes, HOV lanes, parking lots for businesses, and the Jersey Turnpike. (Just kidding, folks. Seriously, it was a joke).

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I dealt with all of my concerns, but in end I made it through my travels. I drove over 3000 miles in my parents’ trusty Subaru Forester, only breaking down once. I sent Americans the “Oki wave” a few times, resisted the urge to thank/thoroughly confuse courteous drivers with a flash of my hazards, and kept the doors locked at all times. I dealt with stop-and-go traffic, speed demons, and road rage just like the old days. And then I came back to Okinawa and learned it all over again.

Love always, Amanda

PS. The turn signal makes so much more sense on the right side. That is all!

Categories: Okinawa Life, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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