The New More Flexible Normal- Not For the Faint of Heart

On April 15th last year, my taxes were filed, and the day ahead probably looked identical to the 45 preceding it. Starting with mine and Spouse’s morning coffee talk, through school drop off, to the work out session aimed at maintaining my trophy wife status, painting class which should have involved fingers, nap time, back to school, shuttle the neighborhood and Offspring to the necessary 8-10 practices within a 2 hour timeframe, dinner, homework, and cap off with the nightly coma. Mercifully no Desitin under the fingernails at this stage, just an ancient station wagon bearing the battle scars of 20 baseball hits, a bike crash or three, and a broken bottle of green glitter fingernail polish.

Neither of us had nary a clue to the international move lurking ahead; the crystal ball cloudy on the details of natural disasters in store.

The old routine quickly replaced, and then again by a more flexible routine. One which goes something like this:

Spouse and I still start the day with the indispensable coffee talk, where we review information gleaned from the day before thus ensuring neither of us have missed any crucial information necessary to the running of the smooth military unit known as Delta Force Clampitt, where all are commanders and none are soldiers. It takes the dual one- two punch of strategy and tactics to keep the unit under control in these trying times.

I scan the school emails which review the new procedures instituted post earthquake. After the earthquake hit, the roads were checked, deemed safe, and all kids were put on bused toward home. So began what would become the 8 hour trip home. Emails were sent hourly informing the parents of the location of each bus as all were equipped with GPS and cell phones, however, the cell phones were rendered non functional for large portions of time. The internet remained open for business as the only means of communication. Post earthquake- IPhones for all buses so that communication remained constant between the buses and the school.

Two- yes, two, to, too, 2, new start and end times have been instituted since the earthquake to accommodate questionable power supply. New bus schedules, new school schedules, new track schedules…. I, never one to follow the exact details of a schedule,let alone multiples, either for time or day, have had to rely on Offspring #2, in order to ensure that both Offspring actually get anywhere.

Next, peruse the paper for the latest update on the ever evolving power plant. Really, I would prefer a weekly summary as it usually involves one of the following: the power plant is burning, there’s been an explosion, it’s leaking, the rod’s are exposed, it’s hot, it’s all under control, repeat from the beginning several times.

The Japan Times

The Japan Times

And worse- for how long do we have to suffer through this?

The Japan Times

Cancer from radiation isn’t going to kill me- my nerves from the roller coaster of updates will.

During the last week, there has been a noticeable upsurge in aftershocks. Big ones. Long ones. Not welcome words when describing an earthquake. Many between 6.5 and 7.2. A few days ago a magnitude 7.1 shook the Clampitts harder than salad dressing in the middle of the night. This was followed by several more over the next 48 hours. The unfortunate consequence for the Clampitts is we just continue about our daily business as they rattle the structures around us while our compadres seek solace. One day, the kids spent half the day underneath the desks. The following day, one of the Offspring’s teachers, during an earthquake at school, told the students not to bother getting under the desks because the earthquake was too small. That particular Offspring was in full agreement.

The Japan Times

Keeping track of what food is off-limits is cumbersome. Much of the produce in Japan comes from the area around Fukushima. Immediately after the EQ, milk and spinach was banned, then it was lifted based on radiation levels being within healthy limits. Following that, milk was suspended and subsequently lifted. Now, shitake mushrooms grown outside are banned while those grown inside are acceptable. It’s getting somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, however, I would like to avoid scurvy if possible. Again, following the daily newspaper is useful as I can see what the Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano eats- assuming I can TRUST THE GOVERNMENT AND THIS IS NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORY….(many Japanese think Edano is actually leading Japan right not but alas, this is not a political blog…)

Today, we can’t eat this:

The Japan Times

But we can eat this:

The Japan Times

Unfortunately, most grocery stores don’t list the “Hometown” of the produce which makes this all very difficult- and when is the last time your mushroom told you whether it was an inside or an outside mushroom out of fear of discrimination?

So- the Clampitts are now Bagaterians- we only eat food that comes in a bag.

Next on my list of  morning “To Do’s”- tracking the radiation levels. Of which I have many sources- but this is the easiest to picture.

Here’s what it all means:

The Japan Times

We’re still in the clear. The diffuser on my hair dryer is probably causing all the Tokyo radiation.

I, of course, read the miscellaneous items along the way.

I quake in fear when reading about the packs of wild, rabid dogs roaming the evacuated areas like this pack of wolves:

The Japan Times

and exhale an anxious breath of relief knowing that rescue workers have braved “off-limits” areas to save the world from these ravenous carnivores on the prowl.

I shake my fist at the headlines:

The Japan Times April 13

Or maybe I’m the only one who thought that static and stable were the same until I looked it up. Catchy title but not helpful- or am I overly sensitive because I live here?

Then my menopausal hormones kick in and I reflect on the juxtaposition between this picture and similar articles posted in a Japanese paper on April 15, 1941:

The Japan Times

Operation Tomodachi- “Operation Friend”-  Currently, all branches of the military are involved in the search, rescue and clean up efforts as a result of this disaster. Many Japanese people have expressed gratitude to me for the efforts of the American military. A documentary produced by the Japanese showed American soldiers carrying deceased Japanese carefully and respectfully out of demolished buildings, dropping out of helicopters to rescue people and animals, distributing food and water, which otherwise would have been impossible since the Japanese do not have a military force.

On to my run in the park, then I check the Twitter feeds for BBC, Japan Times, American Embassy, London Guardian, and NPR for any news breaks that might require ingestion of iodine tablets or immediate corralling of the Clampitts.

When I left work 6 years ago, this isn’t exactly the retirement I had in mind. Isn’t your brain supposed to retire also?

And thanks to the Nose for the emergency supply of Tums.

Question: How and Where do you get your unbiased news? I’ve had to rename CNN the Crisis News Network.

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26 Responses to The New More Flexible Normal- Not For the Faint of Heart

  1. What a great post! Really, really helpful and fun!

    I can only offer this advice: in Haiti I subscribed to the twitter feeds of US journalists based in Port-au-Prince. In Hiait we had someone from the Miami Herald, AP, and AOL full time. I also subscribed to the feeds of local journalists who posted in English.

    The key may be to find out who is filing say the NPR reports and subscribe to that person’s feed. Usually journalists working on the ground in that kind of setting will share breaking news with one another well before (as in hours) before it appears on the offical feed for the news outlet. Does that make sense? At least that’s how it worked in post-earthquake Haiti. As you know, Haiti is often an all together different animal with regard to 1st world standards, so actually my advice may be useless.

    Good luck, my friend!



    • amblerangel says:

      Thanks dear-
      That is really helpful- I have been following a couple of folks- I’ll have to look more carefully in to their actual columns to find their feeds. Great advice!!! Thanks! Living in this environment has really taught me how technology can be your friend…I see how the people who won’t take advantage of it are struggling to find information…


  2. Paul says:

    Things sound interesting around you at the moment. I get my news from Fox, because in Australia what happens in Japan these days seems to be not reported. As you say none of what you are hearing, or reading, really can be relied upon to confuse.
    If you can get onto the Aljazera English news it tends to give a very good coverage of world news. Could be of some use to you.
    I think you have to look on the bright side of things. I noted that your “menopausal hormones” are at work. After menopause there is retirement followed by CRAFT desease, altzhiemers and finally dementia. All this brain activity caused by EQs’ and ASs’ is of great assistance at staving of the aforementioned deseases, ensuring that you have a long , useful and enjoyable retirement terrorizing spouse and “Billy Lids”!
    Good Luck and Take Care.


    • amblerangel says:

      Paul- you always make me laugh. Good to know after menopause life just continues to improve!
      I’ve heard Aljazera has great news coverage but I didn’t realize for issues outside the Middle East however. I’ll check in to it.


  3. Tori Nelson says:

    Oh, man. It’s making my brain throb and my heart hurt from my little patch of Tennessee. I can’t imagine what a bizarre reality this is to adopt as the norm.


  4. Michi says:

    I was going to say something similar to what Paul said, but he said it better.

    That’s a lot of homework you’re doing! I’ve been reading about the aftershocks that are the size of big California earthquakes. I don’t know how you do it, I’d be peeing in my pants all day. The effects of radiation exposure chart was interesting to read. I knew about radiation in airports and just air travel in general, but I didn’t know exactly how much it would be. I’d like to know how they determine which radiation levels are “safe”…


    • amblerangel says:

      I read that populations with a baseline low level of radiation live longer. Apparently mountains give off some natural radiation therefore Denver has a higher baseline radiation level than Tokyo for example… The nuclear scientists arecall giddy with excitement to get over here and study the impact of all this…


  5. The Nose says:

    Great Post! So funny and so true about you and spouse’s am strategy meeting of Delta Force Clampitt, ancient station wagon so forlorn that you refused to sell or donate it to the BHein family, and of course the well deserved nod to General In The Making— offspring 2, your right hand woman with glittery green nails who manages to carry out Clampitt plans with deft precision and timing. Ah, to have such a highly skilled and capable family unit. Meanwhile, we are being eaten alive by “No See ‘Ums” aka Sand Gnats, dropping precious bottles of offsprings antibiotics on the streets of far off cities, and learning cultural lessons from DVR’d episodes of Glee and Modern Family. You will probably not recognize the Hurricaine when you finally get her back because she is morphing from highly trained attack dog to deaf and dumb loafer, just like the family she was orphaned with. By the way, her pal Odie spent 15 minutes wallowing in a dead raccoon- the carcass only recognizable by the stiff striped tail that stuck out of the ground like a flag at half mast. Talk about a pleasant car trip home from the park. I digress.
    Glad the Tums are helping and thanks for taking me off the detention list. XXOO


    • amblerangel says:

      That is HILARIOUS!!! Poor Odie…why do dogs do that? Spouse says the prevailing theory is so they can hunt better- he also postulates that there is a connection between that and Offspring #1 spraying Axe all over himself and choking the rest of the family.


  6. Dana says:

    I was probably the only Communication Studies major in the history of the program to never watch the news– any of it! I find it so confusing, repetitive, contradictory, and negative. Can’t stand it, so I don’t watch and/or read it. (Then again, I’ve never been in a situation that requires careful monitoring of daily news items like you and your family are right now. Sorry I can be of no help in this regard…)


  7. I’m awful at following news, I just don’t…I forget about the real world a lot of the time, if it wasn’t for Twitter, I’d not have a clue. Sometimes, I go days without looking at the news, but when I do, I tend to look at the BBC. I do not have a radio or a TV…I spend way too much time in my fantasy land of writing….oops


    • amblerangel says:

      I really have fallen in love with Twitter but I can’t figure out exactly how to communicate on it… Am working on that – for instance I sent out a message yesterday asking for recommendations on places to take teenagers in Japan but didn’t get any responses. I don’t think I’m doing it right. Man- I’m off topic…


  8. nanne says:

    you need out of dothan and a care package packed with dreamland ribs, taco casa, agd trainwreck casserole, boiled peanuts, wing-n-things, zap potato chips & bourbon and coke in plastic cups with legion field flavor crystals in the bottom of the cup…..



    • amblerangel says:

      AHH- Nothin’ says Alabama football like a cigarette and a bourbon and coke with no ice….

      While we were in Hawaii, I ran across boiled peanuts in a grocery store- bought every package- the Samoan clerk said,”You’re likin’ those peanuts YA?” Of course I had to reboil them in salt once I got them home. By the end of the week, they were giving me at least one of the packages free….


  9. Olga SE says:

    This description of your eventful life reminded me of Scarlett (“Gone with the Wind”) waiting for news from the front.


  10. jacquelincangro says:

    This brings me back to 9/11. The news was constant and long and inescapable. After the rest of the country and the world had moved on to other things, we were enmeshed in the nitty gritty details like air quality and frozen zones.
    Your mentioning of all the conflicting news reports was the same here. It’s hard to not make yourself crazy keeping up with it all. But try. 🙂


    • amblerangel says:

      A friend of mine from NYC said the same thing- that this felt very similar to her. At this very minute, I’m more worried about my Japanese test in the morning! Thanks for the encouragement and words from experience! It does get better every day.


  11. Ironic Mom says:

    Overseas moves are stressful. I spent 3 years in Bahrain. And 5 in Bangkok.

    And Crisis News Network = brilliant redefining of CNN.

    I watched a lot of BBC when I was overseas.

    And good luck on your Japanese test!


  12. Moving so far away, across the world is an act of bravery alone. I could never do it. Add the recent events to the equation, and I can only imagine you must be an extremely strong person. You and yours have been in my prayers since I first heard of the quake, and will continue to be. Big hugs from the USA.


    • amblerangel says:

      I was more afraid moving to Philly and suffered from more extensive culture shock. Cutting my teeth on that move prepared me for me for me for all scenarios!!! Thanks for your sweet thoughts!


  13. kasuross says:

    It is so long since I have writen a comment but I was tracing posts anytime I could have :). My computer has broklen down hence I AM broken down and cut off from the World/Web.

    I am so sorry to hear that schedules changed. I hope they don’t make such problems as they seem to. This power plant observation costs you much effort I think but sombody said that a man can get used to everything, doesn’t he. Even this new way of living can become a ‘routine’.

    ‘Cancer from radiation isn’t going to kill me- my nerves from the roller coaster of updates will.’ 🙂 I believe you and your family will get through this.

    Edano eating a strawberry… I have no idea why it makes me laugh, photo is fabulous.
    Speaking of headlines – you are not the one sensitive enough o ‘shake your fist at them’. If you lived in Poland you would have understood what I mean. 🙂

    :* :* Take care.


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