Two Stars Too Many

I have a colleague who jokes that to her, camping means any hotel rated less than two stars. Well. All I have to say is that if the hotel I’m staying in right now really is three stars, then to me, anything less than four stars is camping.

I believe that someone may have met her demise in this very room. To support this claim, I submit the follow three pieces of evidence:

Um, yeah. Does it look to you like someone gouged into the room with a screwdriver? Thought so.

And the damaged headboard…really don’t want to guess what happened there.

And is that blood!?!?


Gouges around lock on door, smashed headboard, and BLOOD!?!? *Shudder* I rest my case.

This is the Comfort Inn Downtown/Historic Area, Philadelphia, PA. Cannot recommend. If this is three stars, I’d rather camp. In any tent.

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Some of my coworkers jokingly call me House-of-Ha because they think I’m full of one-liners and like to stop by my office for a quick pick-me-up (let’s never mind how well it rhymes with Hasselhoff, shall we?). But lately I’ve been more House-of-Pain than House-of-Ha.

While I am generally so very optimistic, lately I’ve been struggling to rustle up some happy hope. I’ve heard that the region in which my friends/family live in Japan is relatively stable, so that’s good, but then more bad news hit this week.


(above: a photo I snapped last August when several soldiers from my Chris’ unit gathered for J’s funeral and memorial services)

You all know my husband, Chris, is a veteran (honorably discharged from the U.S. Army Reserves following a 2006-2007 tour in Iraq).

On Monday evening, we had dinner at the home of M, one of Chris’ best friends (a Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who sustained major brain trauma and spinal injuries). During dinner, we got a call that one of their comrades currently serving in Afghanistan, L, had been shot twice earlier that day and possibly hit with an IED.

How this works: soldiers who usually have regular internet (via their own personal laptops) and phone access get completely cut off while officials try to contact the injured soldier’s family. It’s mostly a good thing—no one should ever find out her husband was injured in war from a Facebook post—but it’s also difficult because the ban on communication can last much longer than the contact period.

As of right now, we know L has been sent to Germany and is in serious condition with two gunshot wounds. However, Chris hasn’t been able to contact anyone else in the company and he’s worried about their morale. He understands the debilitating guilt that is felt by those who are spared.

The pain is mounting for all of the guys in Chris’ former unit—especially ones like M (who is completely disabled from his injuries and suffers from acute physical pain). You see, this group of reservists just lost a fellow soldier, J, who suffered from severe PTSD just eight months ago to suicide. These soldiers have rallied to support J’s widow and the baby girl she gave birth to just weeks after his death.

These guys are now rallying around L’s girlfriend and his family. But they were already stretched thin trying to deal with their own war-related issues/injuries and providing emotional and sometimes other types of support to others (like J’s widow, mother and sisters, and the families of other soldiers in their unit who were killed in action).


(above: A few weeks after J’s passing in August 2010, his widow looks on while my Chris inspects the great Salt Lake)

I won’t get all political here and would appreciate that the comment section of this post remain war-politics free (read: I will delete what I deem inappropriate, disrespectful or rude).

Please remember that these are our peers—spouses, siblings, friends, neighbors—and they are still fighting, even though you may not see the same frequency of news coverage today that you did a over the past few years.

I remember a junior high teacher once saying, “Everyone knows someone touched by cancer.” Well, everyone knows someone, if not lots of someones, touched by war. We truly are a generation scarred—a fact that will become more and more apparent with time.

I implore you to please PLEASE remember that the battle isn’t over once these young men and women return. For some, it’s only just begun.

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Letters from Osaka

As most of you know, I am a communicator/marketer in higher education fundraising. Pasted below are two letters written for the university community by one of our students, an Asian studies major, who is right now living/studying in Osaka. (I omitted her name to protect her privacy.)

March 15, 2011

I don’t know much more at the moment, but many of my friends are leaving because they are afraid of radiation poisoning. I can’t understand the news and all of the sites in English say different things about the nuclear plants, so I have no idea what is going on, only that it seems pretty bad. I am watching something on the news about it now, and they are evacuating people in a 20km radius and people within a 30km radius have been told to stay inside. Iodine pills have been passed out to try to counteract any radiation poisoning that has already been contracted. I’m not sure how true this is, but I have heard certain plants are under control, but one of the plants has a possibility of melting down or having a partial melt down.

I know there are still many people missing and that Tokyo doesn’t have power. They are using rolling blackouts (not in the area I am in because the west side of Japan and the east side use different Hz of power, I believe 60 vs 50) to try to get some power back. Since many trains aren’t working, there are some people who have to walk 4 hours to work. The CIE has told us not to travel to the affected areas and that we should not go and try to help, as we would be more of a hindrance. The best thing we can do is stay out of the way and try to raise money to send to them. I have heard that there is a good chance of another earthquake happening, up to a 7.0 or 7.5M, within a week of the initial earthquake. (The earthquake has also been re-evaluated to a 9.0M) I am not sure how true this is, but I do know there have been many smaller earthquakes/aftershocks since the initial quake. Food, clean water, and gasoline supplies are running low and the survivors without power don’t have enough blankets or heaters to keep themselves warm.

March 12th

There’s not much to report from Osaka. I had just got out of class on Friday, around 2:40pm, and went downstairs in the CIE (Center for International Education) Building and was in the lounge talking with my friends. I suddenly felt very dizzy and thought I just needed to get something to eat. I went across the street with a friend to get some lunch. We came back and were eating and my Japanese friend asked if we had felt the earthquake. I realized that I had felt the earthquake and for some reason it had made me extremely dizzy.

No one realized how bad it was until a few hours later when we all went home and watched the news. I live with my host family, and my host mother had not even felt the quake. Most of the buildings in Japan (especially the newer ones) are extremely earthquake resistant. We watched the horrifying story take place on the news and began contacting friends and family to see if they were all right and to assure them that we weren’t in danger.

I’m not close to the coast at all, nor am I near the nuclear reactors so we didn’t have to evacuate. We have been watching the news for the past few days and it’s absolutely horrible what has happened. The tsunami absolutely wiped out wherever it hit, and there was fires everywhere.

There are still search and rescue teams out looking for people. I went out to Kyoto yesterday, and the only thing I noticed out of the ordinary were the increase in people carrying newspapers. There are groups at school trying to organize some sort of help/relief effort, and I’m sure the teachers will have something to say when we go back to school Monday.

I will keep you updated if I know anything more. I don’t have any pictures of our area because nothing happened here other than a slight aftershock from the initial earthquake.

At a time when so many are unable to account for their friends/loved ones, I appreciate this student’s perspective. It is an interesting realization for me that many people in many parts of Japan are as frustrated about not being able to help those in the zone as we are. Fortunately, there are ways we can help.

We can donate to the Japanese Red Cross Society to support those affected by the earthquake and tsunami (you can switch the page to English at the top left). Donations must be between ¥100 and ¥50,000  (¥2000 is about $25 USD).

Other ways to help: American Red Cross, Mercy Corps, Save the Children

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Mixed Feelings Weekend

We feel so sad and keep checking Facebook and e-mails, hoping to hear from our friends in Japan that they’re okay. I still can’t find the number for Otosan (my Japanese host father) but I’m going to keep looking.

We decided to get away from the corner house and head to friends’ anniversary party out of town. It’s been good to have a night off.

After a 1.5 hour deep tissue massage (not your typical, relaxing massage but they keep me moving post-accident), Chris and I met up with my brother Philip at a local Asian restaurant. I had spicy udon noodles with roasted vegetables.


Our dinners came with all the fixings.


It was really delicious…there were marinated mushrooms, seaweed salads, kimchi, adzuki beans and other yummies.

It’s always strange sleeping in a new place—not that my bro’s apartment is strange—so we were up super early and totally starving. We hit up a local coffee roasting place. Super good choice.


You can’t tell, but on the left is Papua New Guinea blend and on the right, Primo’s blend. We all preferred the Papua New Guinea, which was, (no surprise here) the lightest blend they had. We had the coffee French press style, so it was good and strong.


Just the way we like it. Smile

But throughout it all, the topic of Japan and how our friends there are faring kept coming up. I feel very close with Japan—maybe it’s having grown up hosting Japanese exchange students, maybe it’s having visited the country several times, maybe it’s having lived there for a year in high school myself, maybe it’s living on the west coast and working/living among many Japanese people.

Whatever it is, I feel absolutely sick about what is happening. I’ve been in constant contact with other exchange friends from Iceland, Finland, Turkey, Venezuela, etc. and none of us have been able to make contact with any of our friends or families from where we all lived north of Tokyo, in Saitama-ken. We are all praying and watching and waiting.

Please keep the people of Japan and other affected regions in your minds and hearts. I think they must know that we are all thinking of them and that must bring them some level of comfort amid the devastation.

日本のみなさん : I hope you all are safe! 気をつけて !
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My Heart Aches

I cannot even understand/process what is an 8.9 earthquake. It is impossible to watch the devastation unfolding in Japan and believe that the shattering images are of this amazing place I once called home. I look through these old photos and wonder if my friends and families are okay.

Although keitei is operational, phones are down.


It will be some time before contact can be made.

In the meantime, I pray for the people of Japan, for my friends and family.

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Dinner So Gross

Since we were out of town shopping for banisters for the house, the hubby and I decided to grab a bite a new restaurant that was packed (always a good sign, no?). Let me sum up the experience in a word: gross.


  • Amounts of food
  • Sugary pasta sauce
  • Meatballs the size of ZsaZsa Chihuahua
  • Frozen-then-thawed pre-dinner bread (yes, with those really hard, freezer-burned parts)
  • Powdered parmesan “cheese”

Well…maybe pictures could better describe:


(That’s my Droid in its case next to the plate, for scale)


The only good part was the beer, and that wasn’t even mine. Sad smile

I don’t know what’s wrong with us…there were tons of people there and they all seemed to be loving it. Maybe we’ve just become to accustomed to whole grains, non-industrialized meats/dairy, little-to-no sugar…you know, real food. (Here are my thoughts on real food).

We’re used to eating fresh, real food that we prepare in our own kitchen with flavor enhancers like herbs, spices, citrus, etc. We’re not used to canned sauces, powdered bullion “French onion” soup (with croutons! yuck!) and soft white bread. We’re definitely not used to the lack of vegetable presence at dinner (unless you count a sprig of parsley, and we don’t).

Funny…we used to eat all this stuff and never think twice about it. At first, switching to better foods was rough and we craved this stuff. But now, after so long, we couldn’t force ourselves to enjoy it.

At least the company was unbeatable and the service superb. Smile

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YogaCycle, Coming Up!


When I called to register for the 2nd session, the nice lady said the class had only one spot left (see the max????). While we were on the phone, however, someone came in and told her they opened up two more spots! Yipee! I immediately stopped brainstorming ways to tell Chris he just couldn’t do the class and signed us up.

Not looking forward to: waking up at the crack of dawn.

Looking forward to: starting my Mondays and Wednesdays with a burst of cardio and stretching .

Can’t wait for the class to start!

Today’s lunch: lentil and sweet potato curry with Greek yogurt.


With blood oranges for dessert.


Still thinking about those blood oranges; they were perfect!

Also I’m thinking about YogaCycle…I’m not totally sure what to expect but I am SO STOKED!

Teresa’s to-do list:

  • Find yoga mat (house is still a pile of boxes)
  • Find alarm clock
  • Figure out how to get to bed earlier
  • Buy more blood oranges
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Up and at ‘em!

Nothing is better than a bright and early morning. I literally mean that—there has to be a lot of sunlight pouring in the windows for me to like early mornings.


A glass of cold, zippy kombucha to help keep my healthy bacterium in check while I’m taking antibiotics (for my damn toe!) and I’m off to a great start.

Hoping to sign up for YogaCycle today. Hopefully there is still a spot available—wish me luck!

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Accidentally Awesome


Sometimes the very best things begin as accidents. Like tonight’s dinner. I planned to make Whole Living’s mushroom, spinach and scallion tart.

But, I didn’t have scallions on hand and forgot to defrost the phyllo dough. Ugh!

So, I improvised. I roasted the veggies I had in the fridge that needed to be eaten ASAP and gave the recipe my own little twist.


Recipe: Vegetable Tartlets (adapted from Whole Living’s recipe)


  • 1/4 head chopped organic cauliflower
  • 1 white chopped organic onion
  • 1 cup chopped organic kale
  • 2 cups chopped organic mushrooms
  • 4 oz. pastured goat cheese
  • 3 pastured eggs
  • 1/4 cup raw milk
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground corriander
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste


Order of Operations (sense the math dork in me?):

  • Toss chopped vegetables in olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper
  • Roast vegetables on baking sheet in 425 degree oven until edges are lightly crisp, set aside
  • Grease cupcake pan with olive oil
  • Lightly brush phyllo dough with olive oil and press into cupcake pan
  • Bake dough until edges are lightly golden
  • Fill dough cups (still in cupcake pan) with roasted veggies
  • In a food processer, puree goat cheese, eggs, milk, corriander, cumin and salt
  • Poor mixture over vegetables
  • Bake for 20 minutes (until custard is set) at lowered temperature of 350 degrees
  • Let set in pan for 10 minutes
  • Let cool on wire rack for 5 minutes


These were a huge hit. I can’t believe how easy they were (or how quickly they disappeared).

A few accidents turned out to be a definite yum!

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Adjusting (this time for something GOOD!)

Well, well! This morning marked Chris’s first day at his new job Smile. He’s been out of work since August, so this is a very good thing. Of course, it requires a few minor adjustments:

  • This morning we both looked at each other with that “weren’t you going to make the coffee?…I have to get ready” look. I was pretty spoiled with yummy breakfasts these past 6.5 months.


  • I had to actually pack a lunch. I’ve gotten used to running home and eating something warm and freshly made with my hubby and puppy. Yep, spoiled.


  • With the resident “contractor” at a real job all day, we’ll be without a kitchen floor for even longer. I know, boo-hoo, right?


  • The Chihuahua will have to learn to jump to pee. The former house’s owner’s dogs were HUGE and the current doggy door is taller than our pup. She’ll either have to learn to hold it or pole vault. She did not look happy when we broke the news.


Although I’ve gotten used to being spoiled (and the Chihuahua to, you know, peeing), adjustments we can do.

Yes, today is a very good day. Chris is so excited about working and to be helping out with expenses (a single income has made for tight budgeting for projects at Our Corner House and hardly allows for international travel—a serious addiction).

And me, I’m gonna have to get creative if I don’t want to eat a sandwich and handful of pistachios every day for lunch. Winking smile

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