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.

Hawaii Life

Here I am thoroughly drunk at sub ball in downtown Honolulu
Here I am thoroughly drunk at sub ball in downtown Honolulu

Well, after my last downer of a post, I stopped posting for a while out of anger, being out to sea, and working my ass off. As it turns out, submarine life is pretty hard, but it seems doable (some days more than others). I’ve made good progress on all of my qualifications, getting phone talker, primary valve operator, and engineering laboratory technician finished ahead of schedule. I’m just a few more days away from standing shutdown roving watch and engine room lower level, which are most of the key qualifications I’ll need to be a decent ELT. It’s hard to think that I’ve been on board since January — most of the people on-board hardly even know I’ve been around so long (I was recently told they thought I had just got on last month!). I pretty much keep to myself and my division, except when I need to interact with other divisions for maintenance, training, or check outs.

My division is full of people I enjoy that are knowledgeable and helpful, and they provide good backup when I make a mistake — which is a pretty common for a new ELT. Most of what I’ve been doing recently is trying to enjoy my weekends and free time after work; deployment is looming closer and closer. I’m sort of looking forward to the idea of going to sea and having a deployment under my belt, but also dreading leaving Carissa. If I was single, I would be so much happier at sea because I wouldn’t have my wife at home alone to worry about. It really has been tough trying to balance work and home life.

My dog plays hard...
My dog plays hard…

Since I last updated, Molly, our new puppy, has gotten much bigger and slightly smarter. We also have a cat, named Cat, which Molly absolutely dominates. I feel like they are my children and it will actually be hard to leave them behind as well. I’ll have to have Carissa send me dog and cat updates when I am able to actually get e-mails. I’ve done a few underways, which definitely makes leaving easier, but it will never be fun to leave my family for half a year (or more).

... And sleeps even harder!
… And sleeps even harder!

In other news, I’m still a third class petty officer, even after taking the test six times for advancement. Instead, a guy who just got to the boat got it. Amazingly, the other new person on my boat is Pendergrass, a guy I went to boot camp, A-school, Power School, Prototype, and almost ELT school with. It’s pretty amazing that we ended up on the same boat after 3 years of being together through the pipeline.

Right now, I consider this the calm before the storm. I’m more focused on getting things done at home and relaxing than hard charging at work. I have so much more time to do that when we leave. By the time I come home, I certainly hope everything is just as I left it (except my bank account, which I hope to be full of money!).

Welcome to/Goodbye to Hawaii

Hawaii really is this beautiful, even in the winter.
Hawaii really is this beautiful, even in the winter.

Well, we finally made it to Hawaii, which has been an adventure in itself. It’s so hard to say goodbye to leave and start back up after a month of getting to be with Carissa, seeing Texas, and exploring Hawaii. It really is even more beautiful than the pictures. It’s paradise and I’m so thankful that I’ve got the chance to be stationed here. We’ve been to great beaches, hiked into the rainforest to see a waterfall, and eaten a lot of Spam in between. (They really do love the stuff here.)

Introducing Molly. She's pretty cute.
Introducing Molly. She’s pretty cute.

Since my last post, we got in to Honolulu, stayed at a nice hotel and eaten a lot of good meals. Then, we got our first house, one to actually be our home. It’s a great feeling having a place that is just for us, even if base housing is a little bit of a run down mess. I got to experience most of the holiday stand down, which effectively extended my leave by a few days. And, during that time, we bought a brand new bed, a nice couch, and even a puppy, named Molly. (She’s great at laying down and getting rubbed, so she’s good for Carissa.)

It’s such a shame that I can’t be here longer to get the house broken in, spend some more time with Carissa, and get used to my job. Soon, I’ll be out to sea and jumping face first into submarine life, and hopefully getting some good progress on my qualifications so that I can stand watch and be somewhat productive.

Seeing the sights.
Seeing the sights.

It’s amazing to think that this is actually harder for me than joining the Navy, going to boot camp, or anything else I’ve done — it’s hard because of Carissa. I never thought about what going to sea would mean for a family, and even though it’s just the two of us (well, three now, I guess), it’s an awful feeling inside to leave her. But, I will be back and then we can pick up where we left off. Right now, however, it seems daunting and insurmountable, but I’m sure that getting the privilege of being an unqualified junior sailor will absolutely keep me busy.

Until then…

Back in Texas

Same tree, new year.
Same tree, new year.

Well, it’s been a long time (nearly a year) since I was home, but it feels good to be back. I can’t say much is new with us besides trying to get everything figured out for Hawaii. It felt like a mountain of paperwork, chasing people around base for signatures, and a lot of close calls. Originally they had told me I wouldn’t be out for another month or two pending order changes, but I was able to get everything worked out.

So far we’ve been to Dallas for a wedding shower. It was nice to see my grandma and the rest of the family, and we took home a decent amount of cash. It’s kind of up in the air as to when we will actually get to go back to Texas after this — more than likely, people will come to visit us. It is Hawaii, after all. Still on our to-do list is San Antonio and Big Bend National Park. Both of those places are some of my favorite in Texas, so I’m excited to head back that way one last time before we go.

Besides that, all I’m doing is growing a beard. Kind of neat to have facial hair for the first time in nearly three years. But soon enough, we’ll be in Hawaii. And we both can’t wait for that.

Heading to Hawaii

So I bought myself a little something...
So I bought myself a little something…

Well, the day finally came, and I’m really in the Navy now. I just got orders to the USS Hawaii, a fast attack submarine out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It’s really amazing to think it’s been nearly three years of school and qualifications, but now I’m done with both Mechanical Operator and Engineering Laboratory Technician qualifications.

ELT school was actually pretty rough; a lot of mistakes and a lot of frustrations. I constantly felt like I was making mistakes and not being able to figure out how to fix them — but in the end, I was able to push through and actually start to get better at chemistry and the basis behind what we do.

Anyway, I ended up splurging just a little bit and getting something to replace my Mustang. It’s a 2013 Camaro, the V6 in a standard, and I pretty much love to drive it. I make up excuses to get out of the house I think. Definitely living the American Dream now — two car loans! Woo! It’s weird being an adult, that’s for sure.

The whole task of getting all of our furniture and cars out to Hawaii seems pretty daunting at the moment. I’m really not sure how that process really goes, but I do know that we’ll be paying out of pocket to ship Carissa’s new car over there. Anywhere from 1-3 thousand dollars; it’s still cheaper to buy the car here and ship it, however. The downside is that’s just another thing on the credit card. On the plus side, the future is looking bright when it comes to money — we’ll be getting base pay, submarine pay (including around 30 months of back pay), nuclear pay, housing, subsistence, and cost of living allowance. And, I’ll probably re-enlist and get a promotion on top of it. Pretty weird to think of having all that!

She's Snow White and I'm a "sexy" cop.
She’s Snow White and I’m a “sexy” cop.

Anyway, being done has its perks — I get to pretty much do nothing at work for a couple of weeks (good for getting all of our stuff in order before we go). We went to a pretty fun Halloween party on the weekend, now that I have weekends back. And, we even had an NFL get together on Sunday. All in all, very relaxing lately!

I’ll try to keep this updated on moving to Hawaii, and all the adventures we will likely get into. Before we head out, however, we’re definitely heading back to Texas. I will eat at least one full brisket before going to island paradise!