Back to Duty

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Submarine Birthday Ball 2016

Back in the middle of March, I finally got cleared to stand duty again. I have only one more appointment left before I am done with all things relating to my shoulder. Is it completely fixed? Well, I can do things, but they don’t always feel great. It’s a much better shoulder than I had after deployment, that much is certain.

With that comes standing duty and re-qualifying all the watches that I haven’t stood in a year. We are still in shipyard and will be until I get out of the Navy, so at least I’m thankful for that. At my last Career Development Board, I think I made good progress with the command about transitioning out of the Navy.

On my side of things, I’ve started talking to recruiters and looking for real world jobs. It’s still very early, but I’m confident that I can find something interesting to do. I’m starting to think more about buying a house and settling down for good, which is both scary and comforting. We are really trying for the Southwest. I would love to live around New Mexico.

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The view from the cruise ship. Hawaii is a beautiful place.

Carissa and I did the same cruise we did a year ago, and it was awesome like before. We love cruises and I think the next one we might do is a Mediterranean one, once I actually have a job and regular income on the civilian side.

I haven’t updated this much, but really not much is new. We’ve just been hanging out with the dogs and enjoying our time together. Even though I am not at home once every four nights, at least I’m not out to sea again.

Stand Down

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Myself as Chris Pratt from Jurassic World, with Jameson and Molly playing very ferocious raptors.

Things are starting to wind down at work and we’re moving into Christmas stand down. It’s a military word to basically mean that people are on leave and work has been minimized so that only a skeleton crew will man the boat. It’s a nice change of pace, though I haven’t stood duty in a few months so it doesn’t really impact me.

This Christmas, however, I will be home and opening presents with Carissa and the dogs. Last Christmas, I was in Sasebo, Japan on duty. That was a pretty lame Christmas. The Christmas before that, we had just arrived in Hawaii two days earlier. It’s hard to think that we’ve already been here so long because deployment was essentially the same as a time machine for me.

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Jameson and Molly at Bellows Beach, oil on canvas.

It seemed crazy to me to miss so much last year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, our anniversary, Carissa’s birthday, Christmas, New Year, and a few other holidays mixed in between. For this year, I was home and I made sure to do better than a late e-mail. I commissioned an amazing painting of our dogs playing at our favorite beach for our third anniversary. And Christmas presents are still coming in as I write this.

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Festive in Hawaii. Give me a couple of years and I’ll be the Santa!

I think I’m slowly becoming an old, boring man these days, and I’m okay with that. I keep looking forward to the future when I start my post-Navy career and settle down. It’s coming up sooner than I can realize, and I’m sure that I’ll look back on this later.

It’s actually a little hard to imagine me posting to this blog as a 12 year old kid. I never thought I’d end up here, but I’m glad I have.

 

The Family Vacation

I really look great after a good ol' fashion surgery
I really look great after a good ol’ fashion surgery

Well, I left the last post kind of dramatic about me possibly dying after my surgery… and then never updated it. Whoops. As you can tell, I’m still alive and kicking. My surgery was not much fun to have and the recovery has been slow and frustrating. I still can’t accomplish a lot of basic tasks and it’s starting to drive me insane. As I mentioned, the “good deal” getting off of the boat at work is only good on paper — I miss being me and I’d trade it all to just be normal again. I can’t run right now because the motion hurts too much, and I can’t do push-ups either. I bought an exercise bike to maintain some sort of fitness, but I wish I could just go for a jog like a regular person.

This open air helicopter was one of the coolest things I've ever done.
This open air helicopter was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

That said, getting every weekend off is pretty nice. I won’t complain too much about that part of the deal. It’s much better than three or four section duty, where I spend every third or forth day at work for at least 24 hours. But because of this, my future remains uncertain. It’s possible I may need even more surgery, which would definitely end my career sooner than I expected. But, I’ve been working my ass of with physical therapy so I can get back to being myself.

Jameson and Molly. Jameson was very sleepy.
Jameson and Molly. Jameson was very sleepy.

In the mean time, my family came out for a visit, and that was really, really nice. Amazingly, it’s been about two years since I’ve seen them last. It doesn’t feel that long because deployment and time out to sea blurs time like stepping in some black hole for months on end. I have a hard time even remembering it straight now.

I was happy to show them all of my favorite places to eat, and do all the things possible. Because we’ve already seen most of it, we knew where to go and where not to go, which made everything much better. I really hope they had an unforgettable trip out here.

The Good Deal

More shiny stuff to wear on my uniform
More shiny stuff to wear on my uniform

So what is “The Good Deal”? If you’ve ever been in the Navy, and especially a submarine, you’ve probably heard of the mythical “good deal” — something that takes the suck away from your daily grind at work. Whether it’s getting out early on a Friday or getting all three days off on a long weekend, the good deal just doesn’t happen to people. Or so I thought.

Right now my shoulder is an office joke because I’ve managed to injure it badly enough to not be able to stand duty on the submarine, which has relegated me to upper echelons of the good deal. Unfortunately, it also means I’m one day away from having very serious surgery on my right shoulder, which is being categorized as a complete labral tear that needs pretty invasive correction action to fix. This will grant me pain meds and convalescent leave, but it may also plague me for the rest of my life.

Molly and Jamison (and Carissa!) after a much needed bath
Molly and Jamison (and Carissa!) after a much needed bath

I’m not a fan of surgery, but this is the only option to try to make me better. It’s that or live with crippling pain every day. There’s also the risk that I may die, but it’s pretty remote. I mean, what could go wrong with military doctors? Oh shit. (If you’re reading this three years from now and I haven’t updated again, I guess I didn’t pull through. How strange!)

Molly and Jamison becoming fast friends
Molly and Jamison becoming fast friends

Anyway, in other news, I got my first NAM, Navy Achievement Medal, which pretty much completes my goals in the Navy. From here, I just have to fight through the next 1 1/2 years and I’ll be out. I’ve already had some basic feelers put out for becoming a shipyard Radiological Controls Technician, the civilian analogue to what I do at work anyway. We’ll see. First off, I have to make it through the next few weeks!

We also got another little dog named Jamison. She and Molly are becoming fast friends. I’ll get to hang out with them all day every day while I’m out on leave. Should be a blast!

The Shoulder Problem

At the Submarine Birthday Ball, 2015.
At the Submarine Birthday Ball, 2015.

Well, deployment, of course, wasn’t all fun and games (wait, it wasn’t any fun and games…). In Japan II (October), I fell in the engineering space and tore my right arm out of the socket, so much so that it was literally on my back. It got jammed back in and since then I’ve been dealing with it.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was able to see a doctor and get an x-ray. After that, they upgraded me to an MRI and now I am waiting to see if I need surgery and physical therapy or just physical therapy. It’s been a constant pain and hurts me even when I do the smallest things at work or at home, so I am mixed about getting it fixed. On one hand, I don’t want to be a crippled dude for the rest of my life. On the other, this has been a hugely limiting factor for doing anything physical.

I’m still waiting to see what the results will be, but I’m nervous to see what is said. All in all, though, I get a few days off work because of this so I’ll take that as a win in the mean time. Molly and I are flopping around on the couch and I’m watching movies all day while Carissa works. Not a bad day out of context.

In other news, we had another successful Submarine Birthday Ball, which was pretty fun. Basically you get hammered drunk and wander around Honolulu. There’s some guest speakers, but I don’t remember literally anything from them. Hooyah?

Home, Forever

The stuff I earned on deployment.
The stuff I earned on deployment.

After what seemed like the longest time imaginable, deployment is over and I am home with Carissa and Molly. It was one of the hardest times being away. Personal issues aside, it’s not easy on anyone. Coming back can be a little jarring and I felt disoriented for a couple of weeks. But now I’ve been home for a while and things are slowly becoming like they were pre-deployment. Just two more years and I’ll be out of the Navy and living my life, doing something different. At least I know that I will never go back out to sea again.

Enjoying some drinks off the coast of Maui.
Enjoying some drinks off the coast of Maui.

However, when I first got back, I did my best to go back out to sea — that is, Carissa and I went on a seven day Hawaiian island cruise. (I’ve been asked why I would want to get on another boat, but this time around I’m not working days straight in their engine room either!) The cruise was pretty reasonable to do since we didn’t have to deal with flying or getting passports to go out of the country. Definitely a good deal, and I could see myself being a frequent cruiser in the future.

The still active volcano on the big island.
The still active volcano on the big island.

I had never seen a volcano, or even kayaked, so now I can say I’ve done that. And, it was Carissa’s first time snorkeling. The food was amazing the whole way through too. We never made it to the big parties at night because we were so full from dinner and tired from hiking up and down the Hawaiian islands. I don’t think we missed much because the median age on the boat was probably 50, or a little more. That said, I was kind of thankful because hanging out with Carissa was really my only goal.

The Town of Kona on the Big Island; our favorite spot on the cruise.
The Town of Kona on the Big Island; our favorite spot on the cruise.

A few people from work went to Vegas, but I’ve already done that one and all I ended up doing was getting myself broke. This was much more relaxing. I’ve spent the remainder of my time hanging out with Carissa and Molly non-stop. It’s insane how much I’ve missed them; the three of us are a family. It’s even hard for me to go into work knowing I have to be away. When I see the boat in the morning, I get a little sense of sadness in my stomach. I think that’s probably normal though.

Molly fights hard not to fall asleep, but I rubbed her belly for too long.
Molly fights hard not to fall asleep, but I rubbed her belly for too long.

Since getting some time off, work is already getting pretty intense to get us into a maintenance period, but then hopefully things will calm down and everything will be quiet until I get out. I’m looking forward to getting my mom and dad out here to Hawaii around Christmas and showing them the island. I also want to spend more time finding new places on the island — we always just hang out when there’s so much out there.

In the end, I’m just happy to be home, finally.

Guam II

Guam can be beautiful, but only when I'm drinking a beer at the ocean.
Guam can be beautiful, but only when I’m drinking a beer at the ocean.

Jeez, what is there to say about Guam that I haven’t already said the first time around? It’s hard to summarize this place when I’ve only had 7 days total in port, but I’ll try my best. Guam is a filthy shithole of an island; besides its strategic location, I’m not sure why this place is even “America”. It feels somewhat like America, and English is spoken by almost all (even if it’s hard to understand), but it’s just not really the United States.

Essentially, Guam is a big strip of expensive shops that Japanese tourists come to; signs are mostly in English with Japanese translations, and the people are 90% Japanese in this area. Very strange. Next, as soon as you’re away from the expensive shops, the rest of the island, from what I can see, is a ghetto full of strip clubs and bars, with little distinction between the two.

Let me talk about this strange cultural custom: the “Mama-san”. Essentially, all restaurants and bars have a fat 40+ Asian woman that is the “big boss” of the store. Not necessarily the manager or owner, but a middle-man between you and the drinks, you and the food, or you and whatever product. They exist, for some reason, but I don’t understand why. Their goal is to make you buy them drinks, food, etc., and to spend more money. They come to you and hassle you for the entire duration you are there, and will get greatly offended if you don’t play her games.

“Oh you don’t care about Mama? You give me a tip! You buy me drink!”

“No. I don’t care about Mama.”

Then they tell you to leave. Screw that noise. The only thing I accomplished in Guam was shopping at the NEX, Navy Exchange, and getting drunk off their over-priced drinks in town. It is somehow far more expensive to do anything in Guam than it is Hawaii, which is already too expensive. This in spite of the people in Guam seemingly having nothing to their name and a run down, filthy town. If I never go back to Guam, it’ll be too soon.