Okinawa Hai fallback


I became a smoker in someone’s eighteen-wheeler. There isn’t much else to do when you hitchhike. You might as well smoke. I was good at it until eight years later when I met Joe at a bar in Tokyo. A week after Joe, I quit smoking and started running. I ran outside. I ran on a treadmill. I ran to Britney Spears. I ran races. And I fell in love with that rascally Joe.

Then I left Japan for the first time. I left full. Spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread, cloth napkins and checkered tablecloth kind of full. I had worked hard, thinned out, traveled and met my lump of sugar. I had done some growing in Tokyo.

For all that, Japan continues to tug politely at my heart strings. When we had the chance to come to Okinawa, I was giddy. There were rainbows and exclamation points everywhere. I wanted me some more Japan time. And, ta-da, here we are. I have loved it up and down.

Our time here is almost over and I’m ready for it be over. Except that I’m not ready for it to be over. Our orders have not materialized so the possibility of leaving at the end of April is dwindling. And while I want to go home and be home and share the boys, I don’t want to leave that soon. Or ever. I want both worlds at the same time is all. Not an option.

Instead, I imagine leaving could happen in two different ways.

Here’s the first plan.

I leave with the man-boys and the dog-boy at the end of April. Joe puts me on the plane before he deploys again. We will have packed out of our house. Joe will be in some bachelor quarters and who knows where our cars will be. Not sure if we have to get rid of those in order to get tickets. I take our housing allowance and find a place while staying with family.

The boys and I don’t have to deal with another deployment.

I have to travel alone.
I have to find a place and a car without Joe.
We’re asking a lot of our families.

Here’s the second plan.

I stay put and wait for Joe to come home by the beginning of July. We pack out together. We fly home together. We see family together. We look for a house together. We buy a car together.

We could do it all together.
We could stay in Okinawa a little longer.

The boys and I will have to go through another deployment.
The heat might make it impossible to take Maltsby with us so we’d have to pay someone to fly him home.
I’ll need to find a new school for Eli since his ends in two weeks.
I could miss my cousin’s wedding.

What would you do?

Talk to me like a toddler except maybe without the raised voice. I can take it.


All the posts in Meredith’s “Me & My Big PCS” series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX

For posterity’s sake we have left this universally euphoric, terrified, confused, “what am I doing?!” series on Okinawa Hai.  However, we have closed comments for future readers.  If there is relevant information for all readers to benefit from, we have taken elements from this series and created new posts, which we’ve linked to from the original text. Thank you for joining us on this ride.


  1. mere – just don’t leave at all. even though i don’t see you often enough, it brings me much comfort to know that you are on this island too. i traveled alone to the states with my boys last summer and vowed to NEVER do it again (and my destination was only nevada). i couldn’t imagine being responsible for the kids AND a dog. i guess you should check your personal momentum and decide based on if you’re dragging your feet to leave or anxious to go. i know you could make either scenario work. too bad neither is an ideal scenario. for me, i’m still scarred from that trip last summer.

  2. Go where the most support is – go where that massive heart leads you. It may be easier to stay put…one less transition for the boys.

  3. I would stay here until July. You can fly the dog on the Patriot during the summer with no problem…it is getting it across the US on flights that will cause you grief…but you could always drive or adopt him out until it is cooler or send him early like some have suggested. I wouldn’t be able to leave a pet here but if it looks like you can’t get on the Patriot, you could always fly him out of here early.

  4. I know you (and all of us) hate deployments, but going to D.C. to do it all alone has the same sort of feel to me. I think transitions to new homes (‘specially with the boys) are a big deal and doing it as a family just sounds better to me.

    As for Maltsby, I actually had an “Animal Courier” bring Nala to the States from our last overseas posting. All I had to pay for was the guy’s RT ticket (he got to spend a long weekend in San Fran & it was WAY cheaper than paying for her to fly as cargo alone) and he flew her as baggage (only about $200) with him. It’s obviously more expensive than flying him with you, but maybe worth the peace of mind (and so much easier than having to worry about the dog flying with you when you’re juggling all the leaving stuff as well).

    As for family keeping him — depends on your family. A nice friendly kennel in the DC area would always be an option (though an expense) — the guy who flew Nala kept her in his home for 2 weeks before flying with her. Very comfy for my brain to know she was in someone’s home.

  5. First off, thanks for indulging me here. I try to make these PCS posts relevant to other people who may go down the same road. BUT seems like I just went full-tilt selfish on this post. Really appreciate your thoughts. It’s hard to figure out what is best.

    Joe called tonight and told me that he’d prefer I stay on but would understand if I left early. I’m feeling like I want to do it with him. He’s calm, organized and good in crisis. I’m not really any of those things especially when he’s so good at all three.

    My real hang-up in leaving later is poor Maltsby, our dog-boy. Staci suggested that I put an ad in Japan Update and pay some single person to take him back if they are headed to the DC area. I like that idea except, again, it seems to be asking a lot of family. I hate to be a burden before we even set foot back home! Do you think that’s allowed? Sending someone else with your animal?

    While I don’t want to go through another deployment, I would and maybe even want to just so that I can have two more months in Japan. It breaks my heart to leave even though the deployments deplete me too.

    It does seem like I need a quadratic equation to sort this out. Diann, do you do math for hire?

    Thanks to each of you for sharing your thoughts. It helps to hear it from different perspectives. And thanks for letting me use this blog as my own personal venue to sort out my problems. You are good to me.

  6. Okay, if I were faced with the same dilemna, I’d probably choose A. Reasons: 1) Sometimes traveling without spouse is BETTER (it’s like having one less child to worry about), 2) Yes, finding a place and a car would be lonely, but ultimately, who spends the most time in both? and 3) You only THINK you are asking a lot of your families, but I guarantee you, if they are like my family, they crave that time and attention with you and yours.

    Yes, staying in Okinawa longer is a nice thing. We are actually considering doing a back-to-back tour, which means another three years. But when it’s time to go it’s time to go.

    Anyhoo, those are my opinions. Obviously, as the other posts have mentioned, you have to do what’s best for your. What feels right? What was your gut telling you? Good luck and I hope it works out!!

  7. Ugghh! Such a huge decision to make!!! I have no idea what I’d do if I were you. I’m such a baby about traveling with kids alone but the idea of seeing family sounds absolutely fabulous. I know you’ll ultimately come to the best decision for the whole family, whatever that may be. Until then though I wish you luck. Keep us updated!

  8. Time goes fast. July will soon be here. You are probably ready on more than one level, but you have a great little groove here (and there are worse places to have to spend the summer). I would probably opt for the second plan. Doing it all together as a family would seem way less stressful. Better for you and the boys. Is there any chance Maltby could be sent ahead(in the cooler months?)to stay with family/friends? Good luck…Okinawa Hai has been my “salvation” of sorts! Thanks for all your effort.

  9. I would have to say to leave in April. Either way you have to go through the deployment, but getting to see family that much longer is so much more worth it (I had to decide weather to stay in NC or go home to UT to have Tabatha. Dad was in Iraq! Hard decision, decided UT and enjoyed the 4 months I spent with family! I would do it all again). It’s asking a lot of family, but after not being able to see you every weekend for the past who knows how many years they will be more than glad to get to see you for a while!

  10. My vote for me: stay here and help me organize my toys into vehicles, people and other nouns. Maybe you could help me get the sand off my balcony? More importantly, parks at 6am on the weekends will be a “lil” lonely without your crew. I guess there’s always God.

    My vote for you: Do whatever makes your life easier altogether…for Meredith..Agree with motto above: Happy mommy- Happy crew!

  11. Hi! It’s Lulu and I’m new here. Like very new, as in this might be the second post that I’ve read here.

    How wonderful that you have had the opportunity to live in Japan! I can understand you’re not wanting to leave, yet wanting to leave. Here’s my 2 cents. If you have to leave the dog (whom I’m assuming is Maltsby and not one of your human children!), there’s no way I could do it. I would just suffer through whatever hardship to take my dog with me. But I am an animal-lover so this is a just a biased opinion. However, whatever decision you choose has to be the right one for you. Or you could just flip a coin. Both options seem a bit tough to choose between.

  12. arrggghhh, that’s real tough, I would agree with Marlene and try and get Malts off to family ahead of time. I know your pain, I could not leave my dog. Maybe you could leave in June, b4 the heat restriction, stay with family for a month and wait for hubby to get there in July to do all the house stuff, but that still means travelling alone. You’ll find your answer, but it’s tough man!

  13. A good friend of mine gave me words of wisdom which has led me to now. These words have grounded me no matter where I unzip my tattered suitcase.

    “Its the person, not the place.”

    (I’ll send you the longer version if you’re interested)I hope the words bring an epiphany in the dark hours. Good luck in your decision.

  14. Don’t you wish there was some simple way to solve this? If only the quadratic formula yielded the solution to a painless PCS instead of the value of x. You could try it… Maltsby =b, deployment= a, flight with ‘lil ones = c… rats, I knew I’d never use that formula in real life.

    I say, go or stay where you will be happiest. Happy mom =happy kiddos. (I stole that from whichever nanny was on TV last night) Once you decide that, the rest will work itself out. It has to.

    Best of luck to you, and thank you for all you have done. You helped Okinawa feel like home before I even got here, and now that I’m here Okinawa Hai is like a treasure map, illuminating all sorts of gems. And you and the Hai crew have done it all with wit, charm and style. Bravissimo!

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