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.

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.

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.

Ending the Year

Well, as you can imagine, I haven’t updated this because I have absolutely no free time and I never get online. Oh wait, I actually have so much free time that I have no real excuse for not updating stuff and putting this post up. As before, I am currently in a hold status in Charleston at NPTU, Nuclear Power Training Unit because of a bunch of problems with our submarines. While technically I’m assigned to the MTS-635 (Moored Training Ship), I actually have been driving a bus since September when I first got assigned to NPTU, aka Prototype. It’s been really relaxing to do nothing, but it makes me wonder how much I’ve forgot — and how much it’ll suck to be leaving at 4:30 AM and getting home at 8 PM every night. I’ll be a zombie, I’m sure of it.

Posing for what was one of three hundred million photos for my mom. Our faces hurt from smiling!
Posing for what was one of three hundred million photos for my mom. Our faces hurt from smiling!

Anyway, the good news about being on hold is that I got to take a 13 day leave, my first in around a year. Thank God because even working a few hours a day still means that I’m stuck here in Charleston away from family. Carissa and I fly into Midland on November 30th, and the following morning we announced that we have secretly already got married. Yep, that’s it. I’m a married man. How strange is that?

To us, it just sounded logical and we knew we were right to be together. I didn’t see the point in prolonging an engagement because I have literally no clue when/if I will get out of Prototype, and how my leave schedule would be. This way we were able to get the paperwork done, get IDs updated, bank information changed, military insurance, and all that other fun stuff out of the way. Don’t worry though; we still plan on having a wedding/reception some time in the future, somewhere. The idea will be a small service in the reception area, and then have a lot of fun and party. The honeymoon is our big focus because we know only a few members of the family will ever get to be together for the wedding since her family is in Ohio and mine is, of course, in Texas. Perhaps we’ll meet in Savannah, where her mom currently lives. It is a beautiful city, so it’s possible. But, I’ll talk about this more in the future. Just writing it down because I’ve had to explain it about a hundred thousand times already!

Koreana, the best Korean food/any food that I know of. It's enough to send Dan into tears just thinking about it!
Koreana, the best Korean food/any food that I know of. It’s enough to send Dan into tears just thinking about it!

So, back to leave. We stayed in Midland for a few days, then went to San Antonio to see my relatives, Cathy and Dennis (and their big Huskies!). I’ve always loved San Antonio, and I’ve spent so much time there because of family and attending Trinity University that I knew all the cool places to go. We did the Riverwalk, ate at fancy restaurants, saw the Alamo, went to Market Square, and a few other places. Carissa definitely loved San Antonio the same way I did. The weather was in the upper 60’s the entire time, making it amazing for walking around and being devoid of tourists since it was December, after all. There’s still more to do in San Antonio, so next time I’ll make sure we get to see it all!

From there, we headed to Austin (and I gave Carissa her first kolache, the best pig in the blanket concept ever made). We were able to meet up with a couple of people, Charlotte from Wisconsin, who I studied with in Australia (random, I know), and see my buddy Scott, who I went to middle school and Trinity with. We toured the state capitol and went to some museums, but we stayed away from 6th Street, which is probably for the best (we had been getting really, really drunk in San Antonio!). After that, we drove into Dallas and saw my mamaw and a few other relatives, before meeting up with Logen and Ashley. It’s been forever since I’ve seen them and it was great to introduce them to Carissa. I miss those two so much because we’re all opinionated assholes.

Fat Ava, the laziest damn dog alive and my princess, who I love dearly. She has her own leather couch. Throne?
Fat Ava, the laziest damn dog alive and my princess, who I love dearly. She has her own leather couch. Throne?

After that, we were going to head to Houston but scheduling and finding a cheap enough hotel was an issue, so we had to miss out on seeing Faber, which sucked, but there will be plenty of opportunities in the future. We were dead tired by that point anyway. Not sure how I did it all the last time I was on leave! So, we headed back to Midland and hung out with the family. Carissa got to have her first barbeque, including some of the best brisket ever (thank you Howard!). And, we had time to see my niece, Genevieve, who is absolutely wild and in love with puppies. All in all, it was such a much needed break.

But, that was a few weeks ago and now we’re just back in Charleston, waiting for it to finally get cold. We don’t really go out much because we’re on a budget and Carissa is always working, but then again, it’s amazing to just get to hang out around the house with her. We both have an intense love for sleeping, which is where a large part of our free time goes. Thankfully, we balance it with exercise.

So other than that, Happy New Year! I hope it’s been as good of a year as it has been for me (minus six months of hell in Nuclear Power School). See you in 2013.

Grad Hold

Here’s 1201-8 in our whites looking like BAMFs.

Right now, I’m in a magical place called Grad Hold, which is basically a period where I wait for a spot for Prototype to open up where I do 6-9 months of final nuclear training before I hit the fleet. Due to complications with the training reactors, there’s a pretty huge delay time, up to 6 or 7 months for machinist’s mates like myself. This is actually awesome because it gives us time to do pretty much nothing, and it’s amazing. Most of the time we get out early and we can do whatever, which is nice. Finally I’ve had more time for the gym!

So, anyway, right after graduation on the 25th, my family came up and we spent the long Memorial Day weekend on the beach at Isle of Palms, and pretty much did every touristy thing possible. I made sure to get my fill of everything free that I could! It’s nice not having to pay for all the expensive meals that I love to eat. They liked seeing the ocean and seeing Charleston, and the weather, for once, was nice. They were completely skeptical of all the places I took them until they actually got there; I’ve been doing my best to scope out Charleston and the good places to eat for about a year now — Pearlz downtown has the best tuna burger, Sesame Burger is the best place I’ve ever eaten in my life (they have a peanut butter and a banana burger!), and Huck’s Low Country on Isle of Palms is the best fried oysters on this planet, period.

Me and Dad in downtown Charleston seeing the sights

I can tell they were proud of me graduating from this school, and I myself am more proud than the four years I spent in college — mainly just because it was such an awful bitch to get through. I didn’t take leave since they came up here, but I’m certainly missing Texas and that feeling of being home though; nothing will ever replace it in my heart. And I miss the barbeque! What is up with this pulled pork mess they love so much in this part of the country?

After that, Carissa came up and I was able to show her some more of Charleston. We did one of those romantic carriage tour things (aw) and drank heavily at one of my favorite pubs, Molly Darcys. Then, that weekend, me, Burns, Wager, Kass, Werner, Wagner, Barker, and other people I’m probably forgetting headed to Myrtle Beach. I had always wanted to go, but never made it, so I’m glad I finally did. We had a big suite overlooking the ocean and did a fair bit of partying. We did a casino cruise boat tour which I wasn’t too excited about after my last big winnings, but I ended up being a craps mastermind and winning a fair bit — enough to pay for the whole trip and a little more. On top of that, we had just got our 15 grand sign on bonuses (of which we see about 4 grand up front after taxes and being split over our contract). So, all in all, a good time.

Moving sand in the rain. Much like a Navy SEAL, only the exact opposite.

Other than that, I’ve been chilling. Did a BBQ at McNaughton’s house and had homemade chicken fried steak at Buetow’s house (courtesy of his lovely wife). Good to have a little homemade food mixed into the crap I’ve otherwise been eating. For the most part, we just sweep up and clean the base for a couple hours, but we were lectured about the importance of our job (actually the Senior Chief compared it to storming the beaches of Normandy, but that’s really a poor comparison…). The result is that we’ve been doing massive amounts of time sink activities, such as moving sand from one wet pit to another wet pit. Oh well, at least it’s something.

But, all this is fine because on Wednesday we’ve been given orders to go to TAD (temporary assigned duty, I assume?) to King’s Bay, Georgia, about 4 hours south of here. It’s awesome because it’s not here and I won’t be surrounded by us for a while. As well, it’s going to pay 60 extra dollars a day. Awesome. The plan is to work there for 4 months, but now we’ve been told 2 months. Who knows. I like to think that until something is happening to me, I won’t believe anything at all. We’ll see where it goes!

9 More Days (Again!)

My graduating class, 1201-8, minus the ones we’ve lost. Check out my sweet mustache (on the far left).

Well, it seems like only yesterday and I was graduating Nuclear Field A School, NFAS, and here I am about to graduate Nuclear Power School (assuming I pass the comprehensive exam in two weeks), arguably one of the hardest schools that the military has to offer. I can’t really even explain why this place is hard because it’s something that you would have to live through to really understand. It’s not just the material, the amount of it, and the speed at which you learn it, but the entire experience is meant to kick your ass from the day you get there to the day you graduate. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few along the way due to different reasons, and probably a few still after the comp exam takes place.

Much like in A School, this six months has been a complete blur. It’s hard to even remember starting the school, let alone what I was doing last week. The amount of stuff we’ve crammed into our heads has been ridiculous and after this I feel like I never want to slam my head full of random information ever again. But, in 6-9 months, I will be working on a live nuclear reactor plant training to go to sea. I’m ready to just do a deployment… but 6-9 months of doing nothing sounds amazing. Speaking of which, there’s a pretty decent chance I could get TAD (temporary assigned duty) to Norfolk, VA or King’s Bay, Georgia. Nothing is decided, but we were told today that if no one voluntarily selects it, every single Sailor will be up being “voluntold” to go. Exciting. Who knows what I’ll actually get. I just want it to be easy, to be honest.

Besides work, I spent this past weekend in Savannah, GA, for the first time since, well, the last update here in March. I got to spend time with Carissa and we hit up a ton of festivals (well, two), and the beach, and in general just relaxed. Nice to get out of Charleston, that’s for sure. The Navy means something there whereas here we just have our awesome Nuke reputation to contend with.

I’m starting to get a little stir crazy at work. I suppose we all are. We’re at each others’ throats one minute and friends the next. It really depends on the mood of the class. Our section leader Buetow just had a baby this morning. He and his wife are going to make awesome parents. Pretty hectic time to come along, but hopefully he’ll have a long graduation hold before having to go away.

May 25th can’t come soon enough. 9 more days of actual work and we’re finished with this place. Or rather, Admiral Rickover is finished with us.

Savannah

This is how Savannah looks when it’s NOT raining.

This weekend I finally managed to tear myself away from work, if only just for a little while. I was fortunate enough to have nearly all my work done on Friday due to a (strangely) open schedule. Right after work, I met up with Kessler and McNaughty for burgers and beer at Sesame Burger, one of my new favorite places to go. Trying to make it a Friday tradition since now every time I go to Breck’s it’s packed full of nukes. Guess I shouldn’t have spread the word. I’ll try to keep this place and Hanahan’s Bar (five dollar pitchers) down the street a secret.

Anyway, Saturday morning I left for Savannah, Georgia. It’s just a short two hour drive south, but it ended up taking me forever because of the downpour. I was actually surprised how much rain could come down. Everyone was driving like the amazing South Carolina drivers they are, which is to say, awful. But, I made it and met up with Carissa for lunch right next to the ocean. I actually didn’t realize there was an ocean around because of the rain. When we were eating, we could hear the sirens going off for a tornado warning, but one never came. Too bad, it would be a good photo op.

Either way, I got to meet her family and hang out with her for a while, which was nice. Good to be away from Charleston for a while and see something new, even if it’s in the rain. I was surprised at the sheer amount of hipster kids in the town (until I learned that they have a big art college, SCAD). You just have got to love that ironic hipster ‘stache that everyone is rocking. Of course, tomorrow starts comp ‘stache, so I’ll be rocking something nasty until May 25th, when we graduate. Actually, I have an interview for OCS tomorrow, finally, so there’s a good chance I’ll shave that to not look really gross for the commander I end up talking to. It brings back some memories of A School where I looked like a pedophile rapist for a few weeks.

Carissa and I at a plantation tour in early December. Check out this really interesting marsh.

Anyway, back to Savannah. I had dinner with Carissa and her family at a place called The Green Truck which serves fancy hipster burgers. Not as good as Sesame Burger, but still one of the better options. The next morning we did brunch at a place called Tortuga’s. When I asked Carissa if we were going to the “turtle place” she thought I was crazy — I guess the Spanish isn’t as obvious to someone from Ohio. After that though, I had to drive back. I was surprised how beautiful the country side was now that it wasn’t raining, but I hated the fact that I was going back to NNPTC. I really would have liked to stayed for a week!

Tomorrow is just another week, although somewhat easy since one of our exams was pushed to Friday to make room for our “E-5 Second Class” promotion exam. The Navy makes us take it, even though there’s no way we’ll be promoted. I think I’ve seen one Second Class walking around here as a student, and he had been on Medical Hold for nearly two years. Definitely trying to make it out of here as fast as possible. In fact, tomorrow marks the start of the second half of Power School; just a second ago it was 1/3 (marked by getting a new schedule card). I’m still hanging in there, doing good on some exams and worse on others — generally better at the raw memorization courses than the applied mathematics. Part of how my mind works, I guess.

Time for bed I guess. This place is pretty much a time machine. It’ll be May before I know it. I hope.