Jun 13, 2012

Household Goods Arrive

So, we moved in to our apartment on April 25th. We had been in the Lodge since April 6th. That doesn't really seem like a long time, but the room is only so big for a family of 6. We did have a separate bedroom, but the kids all slept in one room. Fro most families, I'm guessing this is the "living room." The kitchen was a tiny thing, with a table for only 2. I'm not complaining about it, because it was wonderful of our sponsors to line it up for us. It was on the base where Steven would be working, so that was convenient. There was a small playground by the lodge, a library, and a huge dip in the ground where we played lots of inventive games.

Anyway, for the day of the move, Steven was told that he needed to be there. This was extremely generous of his command, and doesn't always happen. Otherwise, it would have been me emptying the Lodge and greeting the movers with all 4 kids in tow. And when you're expecting movers, you better be there early. Steven planned on getting to the apartment at 8am, but the movers were there by 7:30ish! Our neighbor messaged me through facebook and let us know we were late! I am pretty sure that he showed up right before they were planning on leaving.

Luckily, our Express Shipment had arrived already so we had a few things from home. In our situation, we were not allowed to pack any furniture or mattresses for this shipment. Basically, it's the necessities: utensils, towels, sheets, blankets, pots, pans, plates, bowls, cups, etc. I am a part of a Chaplain Spouse group that offered their loan items to me. We went to the Kadena Air Base Loan Closet to get a few loaner items. We received a few more utensils, laundry basket, pitcher, and a toaster. This service is free and you can check them out for 30 days. We had to extend that by a few weeks, but that was taken care of with a phone call.

Another popular option is Okinawa Yard Sales or Okinawa Bookoo (they are one and the same). We purchased our van, our car, a couch and chair, bunk beds, and a loft bed through this. We don't need new items. We went to the furniture store on Foster, but it's just too expensive. I wanted to buy a nice rug, but ended up buying one that was stained just because I still have young children and there's going to be spills! No reason to buy expensive and new when cheap and used will serve it's purpose.

At the Housing Brief Steven went to, they sent home a list of government furniture we were allowed to borrow. (Here's a good link about what it looks like.)We are also allowed to keep whatever items we want for the duration of our tour here. We chose to keep a dresser, a dresser with a mirror, and a nightstand. The day that we met the movers, they also dropped off mattresses, a couch, chair, end table, desk, dining chairs, and a dining table. It is decent stuff. I was afraid that it would be gross and/or grimy, but it wasn't. I really think they must do a good job of cleaning stuff up. My only complaint is that the bed is SO uncomfortable!

We also had to borrow the fridge, stove, washer and dryer. We were not even allowed to bring our own appliances to Okinawa.

Finally, home! Well, sort of. Not all of our stuff was here, but it was still nice to be out of the Lodge, out on our own!

Jun 10, 2012

Off-Base Housing in Okinawa

An ocean front apartment we couldn't afford!
One of the main questions families have about PCS-ing to Okinawa is all about housing. Will I live on base or off base? Our friends had PCSed a little earlier than we had and they were told that housing was too full on-base (this seemed to only be for Navy men and women working with Marines). So, we prepared ourselves for living off base. When we arrived, however, everything felt so foreign, plus the base housing I had seen looked pretty nice, so I really was leaning towards on-base housing. 

Steven went to the housing brief alone and the Off-base Housing info was already pulled up on the big screen, so it's not like they were going to give us a choice! For his rank and all that, we qualified for 180,000 Yen (he's an O-2). When he came home, he had a whole list of houses, apartments, and "plexes" that were available. I had been looking online at some good websites like Total Okinawa.

Let me just interject with this: YOU WILL NEED A CELL PHONE RIGHT AWAY. I know that it's tough when you haven't gotten wheels yet, but this is one of the top priorities when you get here. Ask your sponsor to take you to the BX to get your phone. Because you will need one to call all these housing agencies.Plus, they will want to call you also.

Anyway, back to the housing info. After studying the list, crossing out, highlighting, etc, we came to the conclusion that the list was worthless. Really, you just need to call/email about 5-7 of the top agencies and tell them what you want: how many bedrooms, how far you're willing to commute, and most importantly that you want American hook-ups. You do not want to have a Japanese stove/fish broiler or washer and dryer. You can make it work and I know some who are, but why do it, if you don't have to? You will need to use the list the Housing Office gives you for approved agencies though.

Some top companies are Koza Housing, Ajast Housing, and/or Central Housing. These agencies will begin looking for you and will call you back with a few choices. They will also offer to meet you at one of the gates of whichever base you're staying at. Our situation was a little difficult in that there were 6 of us and very few Japanese agents have a car that large. So, thankfully, our sponsor's wife watched the kids while we went to a few appointments. We met one lady at the gate and she drove us in her vehicle. So if there's only 2-3 of you, that should work perfectly. Otherwise, you're going to have to find childcare, send your spouse alone, or wait until you get licensed and get a vehicle.

We went to several different places before settling. I really wanted a house, but it just wasn't something we could afford. We went with an apartment that Keiko from Koza Housing found us. They took us to a great 4 bedroom that was big enough for us. The rent was more than what we were allowed by about 20,000 yen, but it was worth it to us to have the extra space. 

The apartment we live in has tile floor (not ceramic) throughout. In fact, I don't think any of the places we saw had carpet. It must be because of the humidity and mold issues? Anyway, you won't find carpet unless maybe you live on base. Our apartment is air conditioned, but not centrally. Each bedroom has it's own unit and the living/dining/kitchen/laundry area has one big one. Since electricity is quite expensive, we shut all the bedroom doors during the day and only air condition the living area. About 30 minutes before bed, we turn our AC on in the bedrooms. The bathrooms have nothing. You will need to purchase a dehumidifier for your  main living area. The AC units have a dehumidifier, but I've heard mixed reviews on that. Some say it's too expensive to run, some say it doesn't really work anyway. And don't forget that the remotes to these AC units are all in Japanese. our housing agency labeled a few of the buttons with English, but I still am not sure I'm pushing the right buttons!

Trash: another big deal here. Some areas are very picky and some are not. This is not America--- you will become a recycler, like it or not. I'm not against recycling, but I don't have time to sort every piece of trash I throw away. Luckily for us, we have 2 trashbins out front: flammable and non-flammable. So our metal and pop cans go in non-flammable and the rest in flammable. We also have to use clear trash bags and label them with our apartment number. Not every apartment complex has to label their bags. I have seen the trash guys pick up. Some trash trucks actually play music like the ice cream truck-- do not get excited, it's only trash. Anyway, they wear gloves and tear into the clear bags to make sure you're throwing away appropriate items!

Specifics on our apartment: Electric was about $144. Trash was $45. We don't know what our water is yet. We pay our bills through G.I. Bill Pay. That way, we don't have to worry about paying our Japanese bills. They take care of it for us.

We love where we are....off-base. Of course, since this is our first duty station, I have nothing to compare it to. My kids have made friends with other American kids in the apartments here. I know a few people now also. It's nice to be able to go somewhere and not have to show your ID to get back home, you know? We have the 100 Yen store down the street, which is like a Dollar Store. Restaurants all around (even and A&W and McDonald's up the road). Clothing stores, gas station, convenience stores.

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated. We just got our HHGs yesterday and I haven't had my desktop keyboard. I hate typing on laptops and ipads. 

Apr 19, 2012

From There to Here

So saying goodbye was harder than I thought. And it lasted for too many days. If I had to do it all over again, I would've put on a good-bye party for ourselves and gotten it all over with on one night. I cried for about 3 days at random times. Or when I saw my sister-in-law cry and my niece and my daughter and my dad and my nephews. Then, at the airport, my niece, my sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law, and my mom. Makes me cry all over again...It breaks my heart to take my kids away from their cousins. But as we remind our children, it's not always easy to follow the Lord's call on our life. He never said it would be rainbows and butterflies, you know? (By the way, saying this to myself doesn't really help!)

Our flights to Seattle were great. I chose to check my 2 year-old's carseat on the plane. GREAT IDEA. If you're reading this and wondering about it-- check the carseat. Do not take it on the plane with you. It's too bulky and the kid will not want to stay in it. On our flight from Salt Lake City to Seattle, each person had headphones and a tv in front of us. That was nice.

We got to Seattle around suppertime. We dropped off as much luggage as possible at the USO luggage hub. While very nice to have this offer.....not nice that it only stays open until 3am. Which means, we had to get our stuff out of there before that time.

The whole Patriot Express ordeal/Seattle USO was a wreck. Not very well thought out for families I think. You would think with all the huge military flights coming out of Seattle, the USO would be huge. Not. (And I'm not blaming anyone by any means.) There was only 1 family room-- we shared it with another family of 4. Only 2 couches and then a bunk room. Kids weren't allowed in the bunk room. There were TONS of people who came through there that night, but there wasn't NEARLY enough space for them. I went to a bigger/nicer USO in Chicago. Also, some young soldier/sailor/marine thought it was a great idea to play guitar all night.

There's just no way to even sleep with the schedule. We picked up our baggage, then had to report at a ridiculous hour to check said baggage. Then, we went through security, ate a Wendy's breakfast (who knew?), then found our gate. Since we had about 3 hours to chill, the kids napped some and then played around.

Let me say that our flight to Japan was amazing. Our kids did well and everyone else's kids did well. There was a young baby behind us that cried almost the whole way. I felt so sorry for her parents. At one point, I offered to hold her and she stopped crying. I don't know why and I don't care why, but I am sure the parents and everyone else was grateful for the rest. But, alas, the parents took her away from me. Maybe something about a stranger getting too attached to your baby...I don't know... :)

The flight over the ocean was a breeze when compared to the flights in Japan. My daughter almost had to be quarantined. Since she got sick on the ocean flight, when we stopped on mainland, they called her and Steven to front and questioned them about why and when she got sick. Apparently, if she was sick before our Seattle flight, they would have detained here! Yikes, that was scary! Thankfully, it was just airsickness.

Anyway, we got off the plane once, hung around for about 1 1/2 hours in the terminal, got back on the plane, landed again, got off again, hung around for about 1 hour, got back on and then finally landed in Okinawa.

Everyone was exhausted by the last 2 flights. My whole family fell asleep. For some reason, I just could not sleep on the plane. I don't know.

When we arrived at Kadena, we had to ride a bus to the terminal. Our first time in a Japanese style vehicle. Then we had to show our passports and orders. Then we had to wait FOREVER for all of our luggage. We had something like 18 bags, one umbrella stroller, one carseat, and one booster seat. While Lincoln did not spend much time in the stroller, it was very helpful in carrying our luggage from terminal to terminal.

It was so great to have new friends greet us at the terminal. We had SO much luggage to load up. I believe there were 3 cars waiting for us and our luggage. We were introduced to a lot of people that night, but we were so tired that we didn't really remember their names. Well, at least, I didn't. Steven probably did. They drove us to a McDonald's and then dropped us at our lodge.

We were so glad to be done with that part. The 2 days of travelling had come to an end. The Lord was good to us. Not too much sickness and all our luggage made it. Some of it beat up, but contents intact.

If you have found my blog by chance and are making this trip in the future, just plan on eating at the USO and then finding a quiet place in the airport for sleeping. I wish we would've known to do that. Bring a blanket or two in your carry-on for comfort.

More on getting settled to come.

Mar 13, 2012

Packing and Moving, and Packing and Moving

That's what I've been up to and it's just begun. Last Friday began our moving adventures. The men came to load up our Express Shipment (unnaccompanied baggage). Unfortunately, instead of making it's way to Japan, it's going to sit in storage until our Overseas Screening paperwork and DEA come through. Oh, well. Nothing we can do on our end really.

I fed the guys pizza and it only took them a few hours to get it all taken care of.

Today, the company who will pack up our HHG (household goods) is stopping by to assess how much  we have. That way, they can bring enough supplies and figure up how many days it will take them to pack it all. Most of our big furniture is going into storage. We are not taking the kids' beds because they are sort of big and bulky. Plus, their grandpa made them and we would hate for them to get damaged. Our washer and dryer is something we're not allowed to take. None of the appliances in the house are ours, except the microwave. I still don't know if I should pack that, as Japan has a different electric system (less power I think).

My mother-in-law is going to take the 3 boys to her house while all the packing is going on. I know she doesn't think of it as a blessing to me (more of a blessing to her), but I so appreciate it. My mom watched all 4 kids the first go-round. I will miss all this help when we get ready to PCS out of Okinawa!

My husband is at RMTEX this week. (Click on the RMTEX link to read another chaplain's explanation of it). He said he would be incommunicado, but he called the first night. :) He said on a scale of 1-10 for fun, he's rating it a 9 (so far). His M.R.E. was chicken n' dumplings. He said it was OK. This guy would NEVER have ordered that meal at a restaurant or had me make it at home! Wednesday is the gas chamber. You can find tons of videos on YouTube for that entertainment. I'm hoping someone takes a photo of Mr. H. coming out of that thing!

Anyway, that's the latest. I'm doing just fine holding this fort down. My kids are officially on their extended Spring Break. We probably won't start back up until we're a little settled in Oki. They're loving it, but I read an email from my daughter that said she's a little bored!

Only 23 days left in the states. Can't wait!

Feb 27, 2012

My Turn

While it may seem as though Steve-o is having a wonderful experience during his training, I'm just having an experience! I didn't know that military wives had so much paperwork and legwork. I knew there was lots of paperwork on his end as far as getting into the Navy, but I thought I was good to go. That's simply not true. I had to fill out 5 overseas screenings, plus get 5 people's dental and medical appointments up to date, then copy each of those 5 person's screenings, then figure out how to email all those to one person without it being a HUGE file. Well, that's done now, but I'm waiting to hear if I got it all filled out correctly or if they still need more information. Who knows what I'll have to re-do.

Now, I'm on to the moving part. I had to call Ft. Leavenworth and set up a Moving Brief with them. Hopefully after that appointment, some of my questions about moving will be cleared up. Then, March 9th, March 13th, and March 19th, pieces of our house will begin to disappear. Some will begin it's way to Okinawa and some will settle into storage. I have a friend who has advised me about moving and let me tell you that I am NOT looking forward to those 3 days. We'll see how it all goes down. Those of you readers who are familiar with this please post some helpful tips in my comment section. I would love to read about your experience and helpful hints!

I have less than 3 1/2 weeks with our families left. I'm leaving for a week to be with him in SC and for spouse training. Then when we come home from SC, we only have about 5 days to tie up loose ends and see some people for that last time for awhile. It'll be hectic. On one hand, I am so wishing these last days would go slowly, but on the other hand, I wish I could fast-forward to April 6th when we'll already be in Japan.

I am so thankful for the friends I've met during this experience and for my family. It is so weird that I have friends on facebook that I've never even met in person. Yet, because of this whole Navy thing, we have something in common already. We "get" each other. We are all going through the same thing right now. We are at home with the kiddos making moving arrangements, etc. So I'm not really alone. I also have a few friends in Okinawa already. The Reid's and Benefield's have been INVALUABLE to us at this time. I can't wait to meet them and their families in person! God has been good to us by giving us a great sponsor (I heard this is not always the case) and friends who are willing to answer our many questions.....silly and serious.

Thanks to anyone who reads this who is also praying for us. Though I may not know who you are, I am aware of the benefits of your prayers. Being a single parent & homeschooling mom of 4 kids is no cakewalk. (Shout out to my reliable and fabulous babysitter--Izzy! Wish I could take you with me. Let me know if you want to be adopted.) And the communication with someone who is several states away can sometimes be difficult....if not impossible! ;) I have a very merciful and gracious husband!

Feb 21, 2012

Chaplaincy School—Weeks 1 & 2

I write this on the cusp of week three, and let me just say the first two weeks here have been AMAZING!!  I love the training, my classmates, and the instructors are incredible!  It is such a change from ODS.  I am up just as late, get up just as early, the PT is much harder and yet I find myself engaged and awake during instruction.  I look forward to our briefs and always walk away with something of value.  I’ve passed my first PRT and knowledge test, and completed my first paper.  This week I start my second paper and continue with more briefs and a two-day trip to Florida!!  

Here are the highlights of weeks 1 and 2:
*Seeing my family: Amy and the kids made the two-day trip this weekend, along with my mom.  It was great to see everybody after 7 weeks.  This is by far the longest I have gone without holding my kids.  I don’t know about them, but I had a great time!  It was good to be “Dad” again!  They bum rushed me in the hotel lobby and didn’t want to let go.  Neither did I!  Joel latched on to my leg, Si waited because he wanted to hug me the longest.  We had a few hiccups in coming back together as a family, but got it figured out by the end of the weekend!  I hated to see them go, but I know it won’t be long until we see each other again!  God has been with us so far, and he will continue to do so!   

2.     *  Parris Island—This was probably my favorite part of chaplaincy school so far.  We were allowed to get on the bus that future Marines take to Parris Island, stand on the famous yellow footprints, and be yelled at by drill instructors!  While not my favorite part, it gave you a sense (although short-lived) of what Marine recruits go through.  I couldn’t imagine being an 18 year old and going through that part alone.  Never mind the PT, weapons training, martial arts (MCMAP) and everything else.  We got to meet with the CO who explained that everything they do there is a science dedicated to making Marines.  Just know that everything recruits go through there is for the purpose of developing the next generation of warriors to defend your freedom!  There were two surprises:  the chaplains there minister more to the staff than they do the recruits and I will be able to learn the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program!  The chaplain in charge said “You can’t carry a weapon.  You might as well turn yourself into one.”  How awesome is that!

3.       PT—PT has been rough but good.  The first day killed us (I could barely lift my arms for two days), and it hasn’t lightened up that much since.  Much harder than ODS!!  I have never been much for exercise, but I am genuinely starting to enjoy PT.  I even started PT-ing on our days off.  Our Gunnery Sergeant pushes us, but he also inspires us to work our hardest.  He constantly reminds us we need PT so we won’t be “that chaplain” who falls out on run, or needs to be drug through a firefight because they have the stamina to carry on.  We need to be assets, not liabilities!!  He reminded us that as chaplains we may PT every day as we minister to different units, and that we need to be in top shape so we have the stamina to minister while the Marines are resting during a march.

4.       My classmates—We are a diverse group from all over the country and different faith groups.  We have males, females, Protestants, Jews, and Catholics.  I really enjoy my interaction with those from other faith groups.  I love learning about their faith and hearing their point of view. I have learned a ton from them, and I hope they could say the same about me.  Faith groups aside, I am blessed to have such a great group of classmates.  We laugh together, struggle together and work together to accomplish the task at hand.  Amy and I have talked about how awesome it will be to have colleagues and friends all over the world!  My classmates have been a blessing to me, and I hope I have blessed them as well!

5.       Group devotions—Every morning we have devotions led by a member of the class.  These have been a great source of encouragement and strength.  I have been asked to put my “worship skills” to use several times, and I enjoy that as well.  It’s been a while since I’ve led worship anywhere and I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  I also had the opportunity to attend Jewish devotions.  They are much different than what I am used to.  First, they are in Hebrew and my semester-long Hebrew class did not prepare me at all!  Fortunately, the English translation was on the opposite page!  After one devotion, multiple conversations, and a Torah service, I have a greater understanding of why they do what they do and a newfound respect for the ritual and symbolism they use. 

Week three has a lot in store for class B12010.  We are headed to Mayport, FL for two days this week to live on a ship.  That’s about all I know about the trip this far, but I’m sure we’ll find out more before we leave.  Please keep Amy and me in your prayers.  Moving to Okinawa is drawing closer by the day, and we are getting excited and nervous.  We are truly excited to get to Okinawa, get settled, and begin our ministry there.  The contact I’ve had with the other chaplains there has been very positive, and I look forward to working with them and learning from them.  I haven’t been officially assigned to a unit, so please be in prayer over that.  I know God knows but I would like to know, too!  We are in the process of deciding what to take, selling our vehicle, setting up our move, and working out all the bugs along the way.  Each day holds something new! We were instructed by our sponsor to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy this experience!! That has become my goal.  God has worked everything out up to this point, and I have good reason to believe he will continue to work things out for us.  We trust in him and look forward to what he will do thorough us and in us as we begin the next phase.  God bless you and thank you for the prayers and encouragement!!

Feb 9, 2012

Week 5 of ODS

As I write this, ODS is over, and I am at the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center at Ft. Jackson, but I wanted to give everybody a brief overview of week 5 of ODS.  Week 5 was basically a laid back week that consisted of wrapping things up.  The best day of the week was “Track Day” where we were able to meet with our class officer at Chaplaincy School.  He came in and gave a great message about being a Naval Chaplain.  We are the bearers of God’s presence to the men and women God has called us to serve.  It was a great reminder of the calling God has place on my life, and encouraged me in that calling.  I was ready to head to chaplaincy school on Wednesday!  While at ODS, that purpose and calling got lost in the shuffle of inspections, briefs, and all the rest.  All of us were brought back to the reason we joined the Navy.  It was completely refreshing!

Beside track day, I still had 3 major exercises that needed to complete.  The first was damage control on the USS Buttercup.  If you don’t know, the Buttercup simulates the sinking of a ship.  Most of the morning was spent in briefs on the proper procedures for damage control on a sinking ship. After the brief, it was time to suit up and head out to the Buttercup.  The drill started off with the call to battle stations, and a torpedo strike on the port side.  After that, the damage control team went into action.  Investigators went below deck to determine the damage, and then individual response teams were sent in to repair it.  I was on the team responsible for installing an “H” style shoring on a tear in the hull.  It was kind of intimidating at first as the ship was filling with cold water, water was spraying from pipes above, and we had never built “H” style shoring before.  We eventually overcame and I stood watch on the bracing until we received word that the Buttercup was saved. 

The next major exercise was an abandon ship drill in the combat pool.  For this drill, the lights were turned out, a “storm” was turned on (strobe lights, thunder on CD, and instructors with garden hoses), and the pool was filled with “sharks” (instructors who hunted any students who strayed from the group).  We abandoned ship, swam 200 yards as a group who remained connected the whole time, and then entered a life raft for instruction.  It was tiring!  We had to help the weak swimmers, and rescue a “dummy” along the way.  Even entering the raft was difficult as I was beat from the swim, and volunteered to hold the ramp as people entered the raft.  I was one of the last ones in.  The brief inside the raft was very informative, and gave us a general idea of what needs to be done in case we ever need to abandon ship.
The final exercise was firefighting.  This was really cool!  Another morning spent in briefs, and then we donned full firefighting gear (respirators and all) and started putting out fires.  We put out a weapons fire, Bravo Fire (combustible liquids) in a simulated deep fat fryer, an Alpha Fire (ordinary combustibles) in a ship’s space.  It was fun, and I was a little intimidated.  I never felt in danger, but it was a little creepy walking into a dark room in full gear with a fire blazing.  There was smoke, and heat, and very little visibility.  We had to trust the man in front of us as we went in, and the man behind us as we exited the room.  I came away with a new appreciation for the men and women who do this on a daily basis.  It is nothing like the movies.  There is very little visibility in the room, and on top of that my mask kept fogging up.  All in in all, it was a great experience!
Friday was graduation, and then Amy and I spent the weekend in New England. We stayed in Newport, but traveled to Boston for a day in the City.  I loved going to Boston, walking the Freedom Trail, and standing in the same buildings our founding fathers stood in as they contemplated and planned the revolution.  We walked through the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, King’s Chapel, several graveyards, the USS Constitution, the USS Cassian Young, and finished the day off with a trip to the Bunker Hill battle ground.  I walked all 294 steps to the top and caught a great view of the city.  Amy made it to step 125 and headed back down!  We took a water taxi back toward Boston Common, visited Cheers (not that impressive), and then headed back to Newport for one last night together.  It was a great weekend with my bride!  I can’t wait until she visits me at Chaplaincy School in a few weeks!

After leaving ODS, I can say that the experience has truly changed me!  For one, I have become a coffee drinker (my mother-in-law cheers)!  It’s pretty good if you add a little creamer, and plenty of sweetener!  I have a cup almost every morning, now.  Secondly, it has given me a foundation to build my military career upon.  I don’t have all the military bearing, knowledge, or experience I need, but I do have something to build on.  I am trying to build upon what I learned at ODS every day as I strive for excellence in the United States Navy.  

ODS has also given me a new love of the scriptures.  As I mentioned in a previous post, ODS was a famine for me when it came to God’s word.  I was still in it, but not like I was beforehand, and not like I needed to be.  After the famine, I have gained a deeper appreciation and love for the scriptures.  Passages that used to seem mundane to me jump off the page with meaning.  I often find myself deeply impacted by the truth of God’s word, and I am regularly moved to tears as I consider the meaning of the passages I’m reading, or being taught from.  I am reminded of Nehemiah 8:1-9 when the people gathered to hear Ezra read the Law.  The Bible says the people understood what was being read, and they wept as they heard Ezra read.  That is where I am at right now.  Scripture has new meaning, God has given me a greater understanding, and when I read it, it is so meaningful to me that it often brings tears to my eyes!  Finally, this experience has changed my relationship with God.  Like I said, I didn’t read the scriptures like I should have, I didn’t pray like I should have, and my mind was often more focused on the Plan of the Day than on heavenly things, BUT, there was still a sense of closeness to God.  Not the closeness you experience in your quiet time, but the closeness of his presence.  I knew he was still there, I knew I was doing his will, and as ODS drug on I had extreme confidence that God was right there with me.  He wouldn’t let me falter, he wouldn’t let me fail, He was holding my hand as I followed Him into this new adventure!  It was like nothing I have ever experience before.  I talked with one of the other chaplains there who said he experienced the exact same thing!  We serve an amazing God!  He loves us, and he’s with us wherever we go! 

God bless you,

Jan 30, 2012

Week 4 of ODS

Week 4 (Jan 22-Jan 28)

Finally, a sponsor with the 3rd Marine Division!  I made contact with my command, and found out some details about my ultimate duty station!  From the sounds of it, there are no plans to deploy (YET)!  I will most likely be participating various short term exercises in several Asian countries (We’ll see)!  I haven’t been assigned to a specific battalion, but I should know where I will be assigned to in the next few weeks.  I haven’t had much contact with my sponsor, yet, but I did receive a very encouraging e-mail from one of the chaplains in Okinawa whose lifestyle and beliefs are very similar to ours!  I can’t wait to meet him and the other chaplains already serving “The Fighting 3rd!”

Week 4 was pretty uneventful.  We started the Division Officer Leadership Course (DOLC) this week, and the class was informative at times, and not so informative at others, but overall it was good.  It was nice to sit under new instructors who allowed us to relax a little.  They allowed us free reign on the coffee pots, (not that I drank any in case you were wondering) and were not so rigid and formal as the other instructors we’ve had up to this point.  One of them gave the class a great method for keeping shirt stays attached, and it actually works!  I was amazed and will continue to use it as long as I wear them, which won’t be much longer.  I’m buying a shirt lock as soon as I can!  The highlight of the class was our discussion on the Navy’s “diversity” policy, and watching the “Curahee” episode of Band of Brothers!  After we watched the episode, discussed Captain Sobel’s leadership style and how we needed to adjust our leadership style depending on our situation.  We pretty much spent all day, every day in DOLC.  Friday we got our briefing on the NWU’s and we will finally get to start wearing them in week 5.  I believe we will have an inspection sometime tomorrow.  I can’t wait as the NWU’s will be easier and more comfortable to wear than the Khaki’s.  Plus my wife already told me she thinks I’ll look hot wearing them!  It’s like killing two birds with one stone!  She said she’s going to jump into my arms when she sees me, and I can only hope I’m wearing NWU’s when it happens!

The only other thing we did this week was take our final PRT!  It is good to have that out of the way.  I really sapped for energy, and didn’t perform like I wanted to in curl-ups and push-ups.  I did fewer than the time before, but still passed.  I did cut my 1.5 mile run down to 10:37, so I was proud of that!  I also noticed that I have lost about 5 pounds while here, and that I can start to see the beginnings of 6-pack abs.  I haven’t seen anything like that since high school! 

There have been a few noteworthy events outside of class!  One of which was my battle with the seagulls.  When standing watch as the rover, I noticed trash everywhere behind one of our buildings.  The seagulls had drug a bag out of the overflowing dumpster, and they (with the help of the wind) had scattered it everywhere.  When I arrived on the scene, they were still picking at one of the bags, so I decided to run them off.  They held their ground until I was within a yard or so and then they split!  I never realized how large a seagull really is.  I thought they would be about the size of a pigeon, but they are much larger.  I ran them off, and then cleaned up the trash afterward.  I felt silly picking up trash in my Khaki uniform, but I bit the bullet and did it anyway!   A small sacrifice compared to what others have done!

Besides my seagull battle, I had the privilege of educating one of my friends in Midwest slang!  He had never heard the term “ganked” before, so I filled him in on the details!  He made fun of me by telling me somebody had “Ganked his corn!,” and I had a good laugh!  He’s a great guy who always brings a smile to my face with some sort of joke or harmless ribbing.

As a class, we were authorized to go on liberty anywhere within 100 miles.  A majority of the class headed to Boston for at least a day.  I had plans to go, but decided to cancel them at the last minute.  I was ready to crash on Friday afternoon, and thought it would be best if I stayed in Newport for the weekend.  I had a great time here on my OFP.  I pretty much did whatever I wanted, except when I had watch.  If I wanted to go somewhere with somebody, I did.  If I didn’t want to go, I didn’t.  It was great!  I’m hoping to make the trip to Boston this weekend with my beautiful wife in tow!

On Saturday, I had a couple experiences I may never have again.  My roommate and I decided to see the new Mission Impossible movie that was supposed to be playing at 10:30 am in Warwick.  The time seemed odd to me, but I thought maybe that’s how it’s done in New England.  Needless to say, we showed up to a theater with an empty parking lot and a movie that didn’t start until 4pm.  So we went to McDonald’s where I had breakfast, and a McFlurry (sweets have been officially authorized!).  Then we headed home when my roommate decided he wanted to stop by the Mercedes dealership. . . because he wanted to purchase a new Mercedes.  He didn’t buy one, but probably will soon!  Needless to say, it was my first trip to a Mercedes dealership, and probably my last with somebody who actually has the money to buy one.  After the stop at the Mercedes dealership, he decided he wanted to stop by the Harley-Davidson dealership to buy a custom part for his Harley!  The Harley dealership was a pretty cool place to be.  There were about fifteen bikes on the show room floor, and I enjoyed looking them over.  I was going to purchase a t-shirt as a souvenir, but the cheapest one I saw was $25.  I took a business card, and a free sales brochure instead.  While there, I met a Vietnam Vet who showed me the scar left over from when a NAVY CORPSMAN saved his live when his Huey crashed in Vietnam.  It was great visiting with him, learning about the “Jesus Nut,” and thanking him for his service to our great country!  Although we didn’t get to see the movie, it was still a great morning!

I also had colors detail on Saturday,  and once again it was a great privilege to raise and retire our national ensign.  We were authorized to use the big flag on the 130+ foot flag pole.  I carried the flag to the flag pole, and held it as it unfurled and began its ascent.   Our CDO (Command Duty Officer) told us that people can see the flag from all over Newport, and that was humbling.  Particularly, I thought about the symbolism of the raising of an American flag.  Perhaps seeing the flag going up reminds the people of Newport of the moon landing, their time on Iwo Jima, or merely of their own service to our country.  What a privilege it is to raise and retire a flag that means so much to so many people!

On a more somber note, I am starting to miss home and it stresses me out at times.  This weekend, Lincoln showed me his “Ninja Moves” over Skype, and it was kind of depressing.  I didn’t realize how big he was getting and seeing him run around the living room with some semblance of coordination reminded me of what I’m missing at home!  I hate that, but realize that it comes with the calling.  I just keep telling myself (and others who will listen) that nobody ever said you could follow Christ without sacrifices.  When I get stressed out because I miss my family, or my room gets tossed, or for any other reason, I’ve started imagining myself walking into our home and entering each room!  I see my wife (man she looks good), and my kids in my mind, and it puts me at peace!  The stress leaves, and I’m ready to carry out the Plan of the Day!  It reminds me of what Maximus did in Gladiator or what CPT. John Miller did in Saving Private Ryan.  They removed themselves from the situation at hand for just a few moments, reflected on what was truly important, and then took care of business!
Today at Bible Study the OTCN chaplain spoke on “Loving your enemies, even though you were literally killing them.”  He specifically addressed the OCS students, but lumped us chaplains in as part of the United States “War Machine.”  It’s been said that at the end of the day, it’s ultimately about, “Dropping warheads on foreheads,” and that came out in the chaplain’s message.  Ultimately, we minister to sailors and marines so they can go out and “Drop warheads on foreheads.”  He based his message on Romans 13, and I agreed with everything he said, however, I know I still have to wrestle more with this issue before I fully come to grips with this new ministry and its ultimate results.  I wasn’t alone, but as we walked back to King Hall, we all agreed that we had all experienced a clear cut call to this ministry, and God wouldn’t have us here if he didn’t want us here.  Regardless of what our sailors and marines end up doing, they need spiritual care and many of them need to know Christ as their Savior.  I pray God will continue to have his hand upon me as I undertake this ministry!

Monday starts week 5, and I can’t wait!  This week we get to do a lot of fun things.  On Monday, we are going to do damage control drills on the USS Buttercup.  These drills simulate a sinking ship which we get to try and save.  We will also get to put on firefighting equipment and learn how to put out fires, and we are headed back to the combat pool for some kind of training I have heard nothing about.  I just know we are going!  We graduate on Friday at 9am, and I can’t believe it’s almost here!  The last 4 weeks have flown by, and I’m sure this week will go just as quickly.  Amy is coming in on Tuesday, and I think I will be able to see her Tuesday night if it gets cleared.  If not, I should be able to on Wednesday, and our Class Chief said we should be able to check out of King Hall and spend Thursday night in town with family after Himoms at the O-Club (We’ll See!).  I can’t wait until Amy gets here!  I get so excited when I think about it, my heart beats a little bit faster!  She is the love of my life and the best woman I know!  We’ve talked about heading to Boston together, but we may hang out in Newport for a couple days!  There is a lot I haven’t seen here!  It really doesn’t matter what we do because we’ll be together! 

I still count it a privilege to serve God and Country in the World’s Finest Navy!  Hopefully the next time I update this blog I will have graduated and I’ll be writing from South Carolina!  God bless you, and I hope you Have A Fine Navy Day (HAFND)!

Jan 27, 2012

Led Here By God

*Post from Steven*

January 22st, 2012

I wrote this last weekend, but didn’t have time to post it.  I’ll try and write another and post it this weekend.
Week 3 is over, and we received off-base liberty this weekend, which is pretty cool considering the students at OCS are locked down for the entire time they are at Officer Training Command.  We had to stay on Aquidneck Island this weekend.  There are three bridges and maybe a ferry, and we were ordered to stay off all of them!   I spent Saturday at the Liberty Center, and then we went out on the tizown!  We ate at the Brick Alley pub, ran a few errands and came home.  The food was expensive, and I couldn’t bring myself to spend $25+ for seafood or steak.  I had a bacon cheese burger, my favorite!  I almost tried one of my shipmate’s sushi, but then logic took over.  I’ve gone 33 years without it, why try it now?
We have heard rumblings of overnight off-base liberty in civvies* next weekend.  There is a 100 mile travel radius, and everybody is talking about going to Boston.  I have mixed feelings.  I want to go, but now without my bride.  It just won’t be the same.  I’ll probably do it because most accommodations are better than staying in KH 5407.  It’s not bad, but at the end of the day, it’s just a place to sleep.  We have a desk, dresser, and bed.  The room is so hot that neither me nor my roommate need a blanket.   We get on our PTU’s and sleep w/o covers.  We tried opening the window for relief, but the room stayed hot!  As I’m typing this, it’s 32 degrees outside, the window is open, and I am literally breaking a sweat because it is so hot.  I can’t complain, though.  I’m still sleeping well, and am much more fortunate than those on our floor who have lost heat over the last few nights. 

This week was quite eventful.  We had our Mid-PRT, and I improved!  I cut nearly a minute off my 1.5 mile run by finishing at 11:00, added 7 pushups, but my sit-ups stayed about the same.  We also took our final exam for the first half of our training and I passed that as well with a 91%.  I wanted a 100%, but couldn’t pull it off this time.  Monday starts a new unit called the Division Officer Leadership Course.  I’m not sure what that is about, but it sounds more interesting than the “Death by Powerpoint” we have been experiencing.
We also got our immunizations on Tuesday and Thursday.  I had to get six shots (3 each day) and one flu-mist.  In my opinion, the shots are better than the mist.  There is some manly pride in taking a shot without wincing, but there is just something wrong with another human being spraying liquid up your nose!  It’s almost degrading!

The big event for the week was the Service Dress Blues inspection.  I passed that as well, but I haven’t seen the final score sheet so I don’t know what or how many I missed.  I’m sure I took a few dings as my grader did point out a few minor flaws like smudges on my tie clip, and officer insignia,  and  that I forgot to tuck in my shoe laces, and trim my excess belt to less than 4”.    The inspection was pretty intense for a group of newly commissioned officers.  We stood at parade rest outside our hatches (rooms) from 1445 until 1500 and then the “fun” began.  The graders entered, and “Attention on Deck” was announced. We quickly moved to the position of attention and waited for our graders to square off in front of us.  Once they did, we were to give them the greeting of the day and do whatever they told us to.  Mine had me walk into my room (using proper facing movements with 90 degree turns) and get my ruler.  He measured a few things on my desk, and then I stood at the position of attention, and he began asking me questions from my gouge pack.  I knew the answers to his questions, and passed that part without much trouble.  It was difficult because as I was rattling off information, he would interrupt me, point out mistakes in my uniform, or ask any other questions he thought pertinent.  Once I answered him, I had to start where I left off.  I did stumble a few times, but we are able to ask for “Permission to Correct” if we recognize we made a mistake.  At the end of it he asked me if I was stressed during the inspection.  I said “A little bit, sir!” and he said “Just so you know, a naval officer doesn’t need to yell and scream to intimidate people; all it takes is our presence.”  I would agree after our inspection, but I’m not sure how the “intimidation factor” works as a chaplain.  Before he left the room he “complimented” me by telling me I knew my knowledge “pretty good.”  At the end of the inspection, my roommate who has 23 years in the Army, and others who heard my inspection said I did awesome.  It didn’t feel that awesome, but I must have done better than I thought!  When it was all over, we were given time to “recover our uniforms,” (put on our jackets and straighten up everything they messed up (like my excess belt he pulled out and left), and then we were supposed to go back outside our hatches and stand at parade rest.  I was one of the first ones, and forgot what I was supposed to do after being inspected, so I just stood in the room at attention until another grader ordered me to get outside at parade rest.  Then I stood by as everybody else was inspected.  It was interesting hearing the other inspections, they were all a little bit different.  Some people failed, and had to go through another inspection on Saturday at 0800.  Everybody who failed the first inspection passed the second one!  This is a tribute to Delta Company as a whole!  Friday night after the inspection, and Saturday morning before it commenced multiple people were helping their shipmates study their knowledge and get their uniforms together.  We are learning that life in the Navy is not about individuals on their OFP (Own Friggin’ Program), but about working as a team to accomplish the mission.  We stand together, we fall together!

There are also some other good things happening in our company.  You may remember that I was nominated for a Bravo-Zulu award for tearing off a piece of my gouge for a shipmate.  A couple people have told me they were very impressed and amazed with what I did.  I have also seen various other shipmates following my lead.  Several times at chow you’ll hear gouge being ripped apart to help out a shipmate. It’s pretty cool to know that you were the one who started it all!

I also had the opportunity to call “Attention on Deck” for the commanding officer at OTCN.  Anytime he walks into a room (which is very rare) or across the quarterdeck (also very rare) we are to call “Attention on Deck, move to the position of attention, salute and give the greeting of the day.  Our instruction was to follow this protocol even if he was in his birthday suit.  So. . . I was standing watch as Officer of the Deck on Thursday night when he exited through the quarterdeck in his civilian clothes.  I called “Attention on Deck” and saluted, but forgot the greeting of the day.  He gave it, I responded, and the he told us to carry on.  As far as I know there is only two other people who had to do that!  Fortunately, they put up with our errors as they train us to be Naval officers.
Today I had duty which meant me and my duty section are responsible for the security of King Hall and a couple other buildings nearby.  This duty section was much different than those I had been on before.  The other times I was on duty, my watch was as Officer of the Deck, or Rover, but today I am responsible for colors.  I was part of the detail responsible for raising the flag at 0800 and lowering it at sunset.  It was a great experience to help raise Old Glory here at Officer Training Command.  Because of the wind conditions, we’re unable to use the large flag on our 100+ ft flag pole, and we had to settle for a smaller flag on a shorter pole.  It was still a privilege to stand at the position of attention in the blowing snow while our national anthem is played and our colors go up! 

The other new thing about my duty section was the snow!  Apparently the Navy doesn’t need to pay for professionals to remove snow from the sidewalks here.  They have students (us) to take care of that for them.  It snowed hard yesterday and several inches of snow and snow drifts covered all the sidewalks.  Because we were on duty, it was our responsibility to shovel it.  Other than a brief respite at chapel, and lunch, my detail and I shoveled snow from 0800 to 1430.  We shoveled drift covered sidewalks at King Hall, Callaghan Hall, the combat training pool, and even shoveled around the Commanding Officer’s government vehicle.  Believe it not, it was great fun!  Our shoveling group was filled with lighthearted, fun-loving people who embraced the mission and carried out with great gusto.  We joked, laughed, and told stories as we worked.  There was a great espirit de corps, and the time flew by.
Other than that, I miss my family like crazy, and it’s only 9 more days until Amy is here!  I can’t wait until she is in my arms again, even if it is for only a couple days.  I hate that it may be the end of March before I see the kiddos.  (I’m hoping Amy will bring them out for the weekend halfway through if possible.)  They are each amazing in their own way, and missing out on their daily lives is killing me.  Fortunately, I receive a daily log of activity from Amy.  It always brings a smile to my face and makes me miss them more and more.  I generally think about them each morning at breakfast and walk to and from chow with a smile on my face!  Being apart from them is difficult, but as I explained to them, nobody (not even Christ himself) ever said following Christ would be easy.  As I think on that, I am taken back to our Biblical Leadership Study last weekend when the base chaplain taught from Romans 8:14.  He reminded us that we were led here by God so we could lead others to him.  That’s why I’m here, and I have had several opportunities to visit with people about Christ and his role in my life.  Keep praying the seeds I am planting will grow.  Pray I will keep focused on the real mission as the busyness of training is always a distraction.  Other believers in our company have the same problem, so pray for them too.  Eleven days and a wakeup, and we are out of here!  God bless you all! 

*civilian clothes

Jan 16, 2012

The first two weeks (of ODS). . .

*A Post from Steven!*

 If I could sum up the last two weeks here in Newport, I would describe them as both amazing and difficult.  On the amazing side, I am truly loving life here and our training.  I am learning a lot and have been challenged mentally, physical, and emotionally.  

The first week was the most difficult.  On Tuesday, we went to the uniform shop and purchased our uniforms.  If you know me you know that spending any amount of money makes me cringe, (although the amount my wife spent for her trip here didn’t bother me at all, I must really love her!) and I dropped a lot of money on my uniforms, and there is more to spend!  Wednesday was our first official day and we were woken up at 4:30am by chiefs yelling that we had two minutes to get dressed and get on the line for PT.  This courtesy wake-up call continued throughout the week! Of course, nobody was able to make it in two minutes, and the yelling continued!  We spent the rest of the week in briefs (sidenote: he's not talking about underwear, ha, ha) and in-processing into the Navy.  Nothing fun except for getting to know some of the amazing people who have chosen to serve their country in a time of war!

The difficult part was getting used to the packed schedule.  We get up at 4am and go to bed around 10pm (or later depending on the night) and we are working practically the whole time.  If we are not in briefs, we are doing laundry, cleaning our rooms or deck, and studying for exams or inspection.  

On the night before our Khaki inspection, I was notified that I had to switch my entire room at about 8pm.  Couple that with getting my Khaki uniform clear of “IP’s” (extra strings), wrinkles (I don’t really know how to iron), and adding the appropriate creases and it made for a late night for me. I was not alone.  Saturday was another full day of briefs which ended with the Khaki inspection.  I don’t think I “failed,” the inspection, but I did not do as well as I wanted to.  It was kind of a train wreck as a company, but definitely a learning experience.  

Another difficult task was my attempt repair my PTU uniforms on my own. We have to stuff our watchcap (stocking hat) and gloves into the pouch on our hoodies, and both of mine ended up getting ripped.  I took the initiative and purchased a sewing kit at the NEX and attempted the repair.  Having never sewed before, I did my best, and it held up pretty well!  One of the other ladies in our wing didn’t think it would suffice, and offered to repair both of them for me.

Week two was much better.  No longer do we get yelled at for our wake up call. We are allowed to wake up when we please as long as we are ready for PT by 0425.  We now have a chain of command within the company, and our chief is slowly releasing the reins and letting us run our own company.  He told us he’s only a tour guide, and what we do is really up to us!  

We are now wearing the Khaki uniform every day.  It’s great to get out of the PTU’s (smurf suits) because people recognize you as an officer, and you receive salutes!  It’s a pretty great feeling to be saluted when you walk around the base.  I don’t mind wearing the same clothes every single day of the week, but I get the impression that it bothers some of the ladies in the company.  The only thing I dislike about the Khakis are the “shirt stays.”  If you don’t know, they are pieces of elastic which attach to the top of your socks from the bottom of your shirt.  It keeps your shirt wrinkle-free and looking good.  However, they tend to come off from time to time and you have to dig them out of your pant leg and make it to the head for a repair.  The first day they all came off, day 2 three of them came off, day 3 only two came off, and I’ve been able to keep all four of them on today. Experience, I guess.  That being said, it is still an honor to wear this uniform!  The Khakis represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before us as naval officers. 

I did win our Bravo-Zulu award for helping out a shipmate.  We have to have our gouge pack at every meal to study, and if we forget it, we have to read a condiment bottle instead.  I saw one of our company without his gouge, and just as he reached for a ketchup bottle, I tore a page off mine and handed it to him!  Apparently our chief saw it and just walked away instead of accosting us for not having our gouge.  Because of my generosity, I had first dibs on a washing machine for the night.  It was a pretty awesome feeling. 

Week 2 was filled with more briefs, studying, and getting ready for another Uniform and Room Inspection which takes place this Friday.  Week 2 was also our first experience of Liberty while here.  We were given liberty around 5pm on Friday, and several of us booked it down to the Liberty Center for the Night.  I spent my time skyping with Amy and watching the festivities.  Some of the younger officers played Wii and others spent time watching TV for the first time in a couple of weeks.  We were able to watch the NFL playoffs in our lounge as well!

Spiritually and emotionally, ODS has been taxing.  The packed schedule leaves very little time for spiritual matters.  I went from being a pastor and spending hours in the word to being a LTJG and spending 10-15 minutes if I’m lucky.  I definitely miss my regular quiet times with the Lord.  Week one was the worst in this regard, but things are getting better.  I have found a regular routine, and another Christian to pray with every night.  Attending chapel and Bible Study on Sunday has been a life-saver as well.  Going to these services puts things in perspective.  The staff at ODS continually reminds us that we are naval officers, but chapel and Bible study remind us that we are much more than that!  In ODS everything seems to be so performance based, and we must strive to be the best!  Chapel reminds us that everything is grace based, and God loves us no matter what!  An amazing paradigm that can only be truly appreciated by going through it!  I treasure my time on Sunday mornings!

Liberty is almost over, and we are getting ready to head back to King Hall for the night to start preparing for week 3.  Before I go to bed tonight I still have to wash my uniforms, prep them for tomorrow, shine my shoes, study my gouge, sit through a brief on our inspection, and finally climb in my rack!  Week 3 should be exciting.  We have our second PRT, firefighting and damage control training, our NOW exam (necessary to pass the course), vaccinations, and our Service Dress Blue’s inspection (this inspection determines our status for Liberty next week.  This week will be hectic and packed with activity, but I’m looking forward to it!  Missing Amy and my family like crazy, but only 15 days until she’s here!  I can’t wait!  I hope I am able to spend time with her before Hi-moms and graduation!  As our chief would say “We’ll See!”  More later!

Joshua 1:9


Jan 13, 2012


Steven called while I was at church on Wednesday night. I dropped what I was doing to answer it. He was checking to see if I had been working on my paperwork and what the status of our No-Fee passports was.

I asked him how his room and uniform inspections went. He said he failed both of them. When they arrived, there was a document about  how to keep your room while there, with no further instructions. The list had about 60 things on it, he said. Joking or not, I'm sure they have to be meticulous. Anyway, he said when they came back to their rooms, their beds, bedding and any gear out was tossed all about. Apparently, they (he and his roommate I guess) didn't fill out the room inspection sheet correctly.

Then he said he also failed his uniform inspection. His belt wasn't straight, the officer crest wasn't on correctly, etc. He also said everyone except one person failed it.

He had to order military grade glasses for chaplaincy school.

I had to overnight some information to him yesterday so that he could get us enrolled in DEERs.

When I spoke with him last night, he said that they have what's called a gouge pack (scroll to the bottom to see a link to a pdf of the gouge pack). It's about million things they have to have memorized. Anchors Aweigh, Chain of Command, Officer Rank Structure, etc. Anyway, when they go to eat, they are supposed to have this with them to study. If you forget it, you are supposed to grab a ketchup bottle (or whatever's on the table) and begin reading that instead. The chief petty officer will see you reading that bottle and know that you made a mistake by NOT bringing your gouge pack. The guy next to Steven began reading a ketchup bottle, so Steven ripped out a page of his gouge paperwork and handed it to him. The Chief Petty Officer saw this whole thing and then walked away. I have no idea what Steven was thinking at this point. I would be thinking that I was in trouble. But apparently, the Chiefs go on and on about helping your shipmate, etc.

At the end of the day, you can nominate anyone for doing something exceptional. All these are read out loud later. Steven's lunchtime act was read aloud. Then, they put all these nominations in a hat to draw for who gets a special privilege. Most of these acts are done by 2 people, so since Steven did this all by himself, he was chosen to have the privilege of doing his laundry first.

He said he's doing fine, but still a little tired. He is eating well and excersizing but is staying under 180. They get liberty on Sunday and Monday.

The kids and I are doing well. We are keeping pretty busy really. I only seem to miss him in the early morning, when I write my daily letter to him. Thanks for all who are praying. We need it and we notice it!

Jan 10, 2012

Paperwork On My End

Steven has still been calling frequently. I didn't talk with him on Monday or Tuesday night though. When he called, he gave me a few tasks:
1. Call Ft. Riley's Travel Office to check the status of our No-Fee Passports.
2. Call Forbes and ask about getting our I.D.s done there (Addie and me)
3. Get the Overseas Screening Info Taken Care of

I did call Ft. Riley-- not in yet. I called Forbes and they need Steven to fill out an 1172 Form. I believe it's a form that has something to do with us being in the DEERs system. DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System). Taken from the DEERs website:

"DEERS is a worldwide, computerized database of uniformed services members (sponsors), their family members, and others who are eligible for military benefits, including TRICARE. All sponsors are automatically registered in DEERS.  However, the sponsor must register eligible family members. Family members can update personal information such as addresses and phone numbers once they are registered in DEERS." 

I spoke with all the dentist and doctors and am waiting to hear back from them. We have to be current with our dental exams and have the doctor look over our records. I believe this is all to make sure we aren't going to have a health/dental emergency in the next 12 months. Even my 2 year old has to have a dentist look at him. Good luck with that!

Mix all of this in with being an only, stay-at-home-mom of 4 kids and I'm feeling a little busy right now! Actually, 2 of my kids are at Grandma's, so I'm getting a little reprieve. I am just really missing my husband being AROUND. It's not that I am feeling overwhelmed by doing all the cleaning, cooking, laundry, bedtimes, baths, etc. I did that anyway. I'm just feeling lonely. And this loneliness is from not having my best friend within reach.

I asked Steven how I could pray for him and he said spiritually, they just don't have time for much Bible study. He does go to chapel on Sundays and last I knew, he and his roommate were reading and discussing what they read. He said he's lucky if he gets one chapter in per day. When they aren't busy with PT/admin/classes, they are ironing their uniforms or doing laundry, etc.

He also said he's pretty tired. I suppose that's to be expected. He mentioned that they all go to bed late (11pm) and get up around 4am for PT. So please pray that the Lord would sustain him through this. I have full confidence that He will!

I made arrangements to go to his ODS graduation in February since he can't come home inbetween ODS and Chaplaincy school. So I'll be flying out at the end of  January for a few days...by myself. And renting a car...by myself. I will get used to this kind of thing I bet!

On a positive note-- I haven't put Steven in the poor house like he thought I might!  I'm doing fine and not spending all his money. :)

Jan 6, 2012

Almost a Week Later

I have gotten to hear from Steven almost every day so far! That's quite unexpected. He is settled in and has begun official training. He passed all his fitness tests (which I knew he would). He bought his uniforms and has NOT sent me a photo of him in them yet. When he does, I'll post it. He's busy learning tons of stuff and being "indoctrinated" into the military.

The kids and I are doing fine. One of them was sniffling in bed last night and said that he didn't want his dad to be gone for 3 months. I told him to wake up every day and say, "I can get through one more day." I hugged him and kissed him and told him to pray and ask God to help him through it. What else can I do? I feel the same way!

I had some information emailed to me for our oversees screening. Our doctors and dentists have to fill out information that says we aren't going to require medical/dental emergency care while we're in Japan. As in, we won't need "special" care while over there. I have to get a doctor to fill out a form that my children aren't "special needs" either. Apparently, it's more difficult going oversees if you have a special needs family member. The military calls it "exceptional family member." So, I'm working on filling out all that information and sending it to our doctor and dentist.

Yesterday, it got up to 70 degrees, so I took the kids to the zoo and the library. We did our work in the morning and headed to Topeka for the day. I love being a homeschooling family. We practically had the zoo and the park to ourselves. I totally forgot my camera! This was Lincoln's first visit and I couldn't even document it.

Thi sweekend, we're going to spend some time with family for a day or two. Not looking forward to the driving, but am glad to be with family in the end.

Jan 1, 2012

The Countdown Begins

The night before he left, his family came to dinner. Then, my family stopped by later that evening. They asked him questions and joked around. I don't know how it felt for him, knowing he wouldn't be seeing these people for 3 months, but he said that he had a good time. They gathered around us later and prayed for us. Okay, so I cried a little.

The morning of his flight, he started saying that he would miss me and I started to cry again. Then later, he said something again and I started to cry AGAIN. Ugh!

I know this is perfectly normal and in a way, I feel like I should be crying more. But I'm afraid that if I do cry, then I won't stop. I don't want my kids to see me crying like that. I have to show them that yes, it's sad, but it's also going to be alright.

My oldest son cried a little before we left for the airport, which surprised me. He doesn't usually wear his heart on his sleeve. In fact, his feelings are usually a mystery to everyone.

As you can see, my daughter had a rough time yesterday at the airport. She and I haven't really talked about how she felt about her dad being gone for 3 months. I figured she didn't really grasp that concept, but it must have hit her all of a sudden. Or else, like me, she was trying to put off the tears as long as possible.

I did cry when he and I hugged. I wanted to stay in his arms all day and not let him go, but I also wanted to get on with it-- the separation. The sooner it starts, the sooner it gets over!

He called when he landed in FL and then again when he was in a taxi on the way to the school in RI. When he got there, the taxi wasn't allowed on the premises, so the policeman offered him a ride. When he got to check-in, they told him that they had just sent someone to pick him up. Oh, well. They also didn't have his name on their roster, but he showed them his orders and that was cleared up quickly. He called one more time later that evening and told me that he met some people already. One was a baptist chaplain like him, so that was good. Also, this guy had the same experience as far as not being on the roster. How we have known for 3 months that he would go there and the Navy hasn't known is beyond me. I'm sure I should get used to that, huh!

In the past few days I've received encouraging words, texts, and offers of help. I just want to tell you all THANK YOU! I take great comfort in knowing that people out there are praying for the both of us. I know that I can't get through this on my own. As far as offers of help go, I don't really know how you can help me yet. Since I've never been here before, I'm just not sure.