Oct 30, 2007

Of All the Times to Forget the Camera

This weekend's trip to New York City was amazing. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to document it. I realized that the camera was sitting on my desk at home, and Ben's was on his dresser right about the time the plane started to taxi out to the runway. In my defense, the sun wasn't up at that point, and wouldn't be until we landed in Atlanta.

But, I digress.

As with any trip that Ben and I take, there is always some little snag that has the opportunity to become a huge snag if we let it. This time it was the torrential rain on Friday night. On Friday night, we went to go see Les Miserables at the Broadhurst theater. So, of course, we got all dolled up in some of our nicest clothes, I did my hair, and I even wore heels (shocking, I know), and we left our room ahead of schedule. If we didn't make it to the theater by 5 minutes before showtime, our tickets would become null and void. We figured that by leaving an hour to go 10 blocks, we would be able to catch a cab and make it to the theater in plenty of time...boy were we wrong. It took nearly 40 minutes to catch the cab...and once we did, we were in gridlock. Somewhere around 41st street, we bailed out of the cab and started to run. Somewhere around 43rd street, I took off my shoes and ran in my stockings, in my little black dress, through the pouring rain. We made it on time though, and enjoyed a fantastic show! After the show we had some of the best pizza I think I have ever tasted.

On Saturday, our first order of business was to get me up to Yankee Stadium. I know, it seems sacrilegious for a Red Sox fan to be adamant about a visit to Yankee Stadium, but I wanted to see it before they tear it down. Now I have, and I continue on despising the Yankees into eternity.

After our visit to the Bronx, Ben took me to Rockefeller Center so I could see where they put the tree. If it hadn't been raining, we would have gone ice skating. After our visit there, we went to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, at the suggestion of my friend Sam. What a beautiful church. The architecture and the stained glass were amazing. I have to admit it was a little awkward to be at someone's wedding with a bunch of tourists gawking at the church (what a way to ruin a ceremony...with a bunch of people you don't even know talking throughout your vows), and the gift shop set up in the cathedral was not the classiest thing I've ever seen...but my goodness what a beautiful church.

After our visit to Rockefeller Center and the church, Ben and I went to Times Square. I still can't get over the sheer number of people there. I have never seen so many people in one place! It was a really neat thing to see. We capped of our visit to Times Square with a walk through the biggest Toys R' Us that I've ever witnessed. Three floors of toys! And a Ferris Wheel! We made it out with our wallets intact, and headed back to the hotel. I needed a nap before the World Series game :)!

It was quite an experience to watch the Red Sox pummel the Colorado Rockies while sitting in Yankee Territory. the funny thing is, I'm not the only one who was cheering for the Sox in that bar! We went to a place called O'Haras, less than a block from the World Trade Center site, and sat at the bar beside a group of Englishmen. What a fun group of guys!

After the game ended, it was time to head back to our room. My trip was pretty much over. However, it was a really good trip. Things between Ben and I are getting much better. Not everything is 100 percent yet. However, if this trip did anything, it was to remind us what we are fighting so hard for.

Oct 25, 2007

When Titles Are Superfluous...

This month has been a bad month, and it's not even over yet. I know that I promised to write more...it's just that I have had a hard time finding things that I'm comfortable writing about in my life right now.

I started a second job when Ben left...and proceeded to quit it three weeks later because I hated it.

Ben and I have been having some serious problems (I hate admitting that on the Internet where you can all read it, but, it is what it is). Serious enough problems that I almost moved out last weekend. Disturbing enough that they've rocked me to my core, and destroyed some of the best memories of my adult life, replacing them with anger and hurt. But, we've agreed to commit ourselves to trying to fix it. Therefore, I leave for New York City tomorrow at 6 a.m. to see him as the DALLAS moors. When he comes home, we will go into counseling to try to save all that we have created here.

And...the hardest thing of all...I have admitted that I am depressed. For this, I am seeking help and counseling. I want to be the person I used to be. The one who could climb any mountain that was put in front of her without batting an eyelash. I'm tired of being sad and scared, and always looking behind me, waiting for fate to kick me in the ass.

So far, I think it's helping. Wish me luck.

Oct 8, 2007

The Old College Try (Whatever That Is)

A few weeks back, Ben asked me why I stopped blogging. I really didn't have an answer to tell him. I could say I've been too busy. I could say I didn't have anything tow rite about. Those would be lies though. During this last inport, we've been to California (yay, San Francisco!). We went home to Massachusetts to visit Fenway during a Yankees series (the ultimate pilgrimage to Baseball Mecca if you ask me). We bought a new mattress. I've taken a second job. Katelyn came to visit (Double YAY!). There have been plenty of things to write about. I've actually written several blog entries, but haven't posted them because I didn't like them and thought I would go back and edit them later.

I just haven't.

I don't know why.

I guess part of it might be that I just don't feel like writing lately. Work is bothering me a LOT lately. Ben and I have gone through some serious growing pains in the last couple of months. My car is acting up, and I'm just NOW beginning to start making friends (of course, because I'm leaving in six months).

I'd be lying if I said that I don't feel isolated out here. I can count the friends I have on one hand, with fingers to spare. I'm hoping that I can make some more friends while waitressing, and maybe then have SOME kind of social life. That's one of the things that drove Ben nuts during this last inport. I had no social life, so I wanted him to hang out with me...constantly....to a point that I can admit I was probably being overbearing.

Well, I'm trying something new. I'm going to try to come out of my shell, and actually make friends. Also, I'm going to try to post more often (I know I said this LAST time too).

Wish me luck!

Aug 27, 2007

Appreciating What You Have

I know that my postings have been sporadic to say the least. Sometimes it's because I don't feel like writing. Sometimes it's because I don't want to write about things that may not be going well. Other times it's just because I'm too busy, or I just don't have anything tow rite about.

Today there are plenty of things I can write about. I could write about the trip that Ben and I took to California. I can write about the recent re-shaving of my dog. Or maybe the bike ride that Ben and I took this weekend (lots of fun, a bike is a great way to see Folly Beach).

However, those I'll write about in another post.

You see, on my way to WalMart this morning, I was involved in something that made me cry (yeah, I know, big shock), and really thank the Heavens for everything that I have. You see, sometime during the night, someone hit a dog out on Folly Road, and left him for dead. As I was just passing the Piggly Wiggly, I noticed a shape in the "suicide lane." Another woman, driving the other way noticed it as just about the same time. Realizing that it was a dog, both of us stopped, and ventured out into the middle of the road like lunatics. As the other woman (I believe her name was Tracy) called the veterinarian listed on the dog's Rabies tag, I got down on my hands and knees to see if he was still breathing. Maybe it's the optimist in me hoping and praying that we weren't too late, but I swore I saw some shallow breaths raise his tummy JUST a little bit.

As I was getting ready to help Tracy (?) lift the dog and put him in her van (he wouldn't have fit in my car), another woman pulled up in a little Mercedes. She pulled out a trash bag to wrap around the dog, and in her business suit and heels ran out into the middle of the road, mascara streaming down her face, to help us.

The dog died before we could get him into Tracy's van. As I knelt there on Folly Road with my hand on a stranger's dog's chest, feeling what I think was his last breath, I cried. Actually, I bawled. But I know I did the right thing by stopping. The strange dog, having lain there for Lord only knows how long - in the rain no less - died surrounded by the love of three strangers. Not only that, but Tracy was still going to bring him to the vet so that his family could claim him if they wished.

All I could think of was my Coda-bear at home, sitting there on the kitchen floor, probably staring at the door waiting for his momma to come home. I could just imagine the fear he would feel if he were that dog, and hope that somebody would stop and help him too.

I'll post again later, and I promise, it will be happier...

Jul 30, 2007

Almost Home

We're almost there. It has been quite possibly the longest two months of my life, but Ben will be home in 48 hours. More importantly, this time tomorrow I will be well on my way to Jacksonville to meet the ship. I will be riding the ship back to Charleston on what is called a "Tiger Cruise." It is a opportunity for some of the crew members to bring their family on board for a short while. I am so excited. How could I not be with a chance to see Ben a day early?

I'm also excited for myself. Another chance to get offshore on a Coast Guard cutter, does it get any better than that? Sometimes, especially right now, I don't think so. You see, a cutter is it's own microcosm. It is interesting watching all of the social and professional dynamics at work. Then there is my desire to just get back to seeing the stars, and ONLY the stars in the night sky. I used to make fun of the deck watch officers who could see 360 square miles of water from the bridge and nothing else...now I would give my right arm to see that.

And tomorrow night I will see that...and get to keep my arm in the process.

Jul 28, 2007

When You Don't Have Anything Left To Give

A good friend of mine has often told me that I give too much of myself to others, especially in friendship. He is constantly warning me to follow the popular maritime axiom "one hand for yourself, one hand for the ship," and apply it to any friendship or relationship that I enter. I have had a very hard time doing that. It many cases, such as with Ben and many of the friendships that I have been fortunate to have over the years, ignoring that advice has been the best course. However, many failed romances (BELIEVE me, many of my friends and family STILL won't let me live some of them down) and friendships later, I think I'm starting to learn.

Having your generosity of spirit and compassion taken advantage of is not fun. In fact it is very painful. I always try to go by the Golden Rule, treating others as I would hope to be treated. If that means having a hug, or a shoulder to cry on, or a waiting ear when things go bad, then so be it. If that means being ready with the confetti when things go well, I'm all for it.

But how much is too much? When does giving all that you have (and then some) turn into not enough? What happens when you aren't willing to give up everything in order to help someone?

In some cases they understand that you can't go any further. You've already undermined what's best for you enough that sometimes you forget that you need to take care of yourself too. Unfortunately, in others they get angry and lash out at you, expecting you to give that last bit that would destroy you.

Tonight I feel like the stump from the Giving Tree. However, unlike that stump, I won't let anyone sit down on top of me. I need to have SOMETHING left. In fact, I'm not even going to give up my trunk. I'm hoping to grow back some branches and leaves so that I can enter into other friendships down the road.

I'm tired of worrying about others so much it makes me sick. I'm tired of sleepless nights, worrying that I haven't given the right advice or enough of my time or helped a friend out enough. I'm tired of doing things that I really don't WANT to do, just because they bring a smile to someone else's face. What about the frown, heartache, and anguish that it brings to me?

I've given as much as I can.

I think now it's time that I worry about me for a little while.

Go West Young Man (and Woman)

So, in the inevitable wisdom of the Coast Guard, it has been decided that Ben needs to go to TRACEN Petaluma for a week...immediately following the ship's return to homeport...to go through Leadership and Management (LAMS) class again. Yes folks, that's right. They are sending him to California for a week, immediately following patrol. This equals no standdown for Ben, and no time for us to get to know each other again.

So, how are we going to solve this problem? I'm going on vacation, taking a week off to fly out to California with Ben while he is in training. Back to my old stomping grounds that I was itching to leave. Now, under any other circumstances, I would not be too excited about his...but strangely enough, I AM!

You see, I have been homesick for California for a while. I miss Katelyn, I miss Rosie, I miss Tiffany, and I miss Andy. I miss Sephora and the Rosenblum Cellars. I miss cool nights when I can wear a sweatshirt, even though it is August. I miss driving along the coast just to watch the sun set, knowing there's a good chance I won't be able to see anything because the fog has already rolled in. I miss all of those things that were familiar to me for better than three years, and that I find myself pining away for right now, as I'm here without Ben in Charleston.

Don't get me wrong, I love South Carolina. It is beautiful, the people are wonderful. I'm sure come January, I'll be glad that I don't have to scrape ice off my windshield. I haven't really put my roots down here yet though. I don't have a friend base like Ben was hoping I'd make (outside of Sam and Goose, I really don't have any friends here at all). As nice as most of the guys are at work, I really don't want to hang out with them outside the terminal.

Another good thing about going to California again is that it will give Ben and I a chance to go back to our beginnings. That is where we began. That is where a lot of our best memories are. A couple of romantic nights in San Francisco? Then a week up on the edge of wine country? I'm all over it. Ben and I were talking about taking a vacation somewhere that we wouldn't have to worry about Ceres, the Coast Guard, the dog, and anything else. Just some time to spend reacquainting ourselves and getting back to the basics. Well, we've fulfilled almost all of those requirements with this upcoming vacation.

California, here we come! I can already taste the Ghirardelli ice cream down on Fisherman's Wharf...

Jul 25, 2007

What Happens When There Are No Easy Answers

For the last couple of weeks, I've watched a friend go through Hell, and there has been nothing that I can do to stop it. What do you do when there is nothing that you can say to make someone feel better? How do you cope when there is nothing that you can do to ease that person's mind? How do you comfort yourself when you are helpless to help someone, and you know it, and it is the worst feeling in the world?

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster for me. Just when things seem to get better, the whole world crashes. I have to watch someone who I grew to know as a very strong and dependable person just disintegrate before my eyes. The next day though, things are fine again, and it's like nothing ever happened...yet, I wait for the implosion that I know is inevitable.

I'm sure that most people would say that I have allowed myself to care too much. At the first sign of trouble, I should have walked - no RUN- away as fast I possibly could. I can't do that though. I don't know if this is something that can be considered a flaw, or what. I mean really, how is it that people can just walk away when they see someone else suffering?

Truly, sometimes I just wish that I could. I'm sure it would hurt a lot less.

Jul 14, 2007

A Day Completely Off

Today I took the day off. I know, some of you are probably saying, but you've had a FEW days off from Ceres, what do you need another day off for? However, I don't mean a day off from work. I took a day off from...everything. This morning when I woke up, I knew that I should go to work at a side job that I have picked up, fixing boats for a friend of mine from the waterfront. I knew that my phone would ring some time between 0900 and 1000, and that it would be Goose telling me that I can't make any money sleeping.

When I finally opened my eyes this morning though, I felt like crap. I had a stomach ache, and even though I had slept nine hours the night before, I was still tired. Anyone who knows me well knows I don't sleep past eight most mornings unless I REALLY put an effort into it (or I've worked the night before). When I finally extracted myself from beneath the blankets, it was 0930.

When I had to go digging in Ben's dresser to find a clean T-Shirt to go walk the dog, I knew I needed to take some time for myself and just be. I looked around our bedroom, and then the apartment itself, and realized that it was a wreck. This is abnormal, considering that usually (especially when Ben is not around) I am a self-confessed neat freak.

So, this morning I told Goose that I was under the weather and I wouldn't be joining him today, even though it meant giving up a pretty good chunk of change. Instead, I put a load of laundry in the washing machine, grabbed all of the stuff to clean the bathrooms, and went to town. In a matter of an hour, I was feeling a little bit better (not to mention my bathrooms were sparkling). I tossed in another load of laundry, and went to work on our bedroom. It is amazing the crap that just piles up on the dressers. Half the time, I don't even know how it got there. I even dusted. Where does all of the dust come from? I mean seriously...

By the time my kitchen was clean, I was in a downright great mood. My stomach was still upset, but my house was clean. Although I felt guilty for bailing on Goose (who had already called me, asking me again to come out to work on a boat with him), I knew I had made the right decision.

After vacuuming the floors, I did something that I haven't done since Ben left over a month ago. I sat down by myself and watched TV, not just turning the TV on for background noise or to catch a baseball score. I sat on our couch, kicked out the recliner, and turned on the "boob tube." As luck would have it, "While You Were Sleeping" was on - one of my favorite movies.

I don't know what the rest of my day holds in store. I may go sit down by the pool for a while (providing that the thunderstorms that are in the area break up for a little while. Maybe I'll read a book.. Who knows, maybe I'll read a book down by the pool! I have a puzzle here that I've started to put together twice now, and never finished...maybe I'll do that. Maybe, if I get bored, I WILL call Goose and see if there's any work that he needs me to do this afternoon.

I guess the main point of this entry is this - so often, I try to keep myself busy because I'm afraid of what will happen when I slow down. If I keep moving, I can't think about how much I miss Ben, or how much I miss my family. I don't have to worry about what will happen if I can't find something to do in the next ten minutes. I don't have to think about how I really want to go back to school, or how Ben might be in Bahrain this time next year.

However, while I've been running from all of these things, I've forgotten the simple joy of doing absolutely nothing - and just how wonderful it can be....and if you will excuse me, there is a swimming pool that is just screaming my name.

Jul 4, 2007

Freedom Is Definitely Not Free...In Fact, It Can Be VERY Expensive

Tonight as I sat on the front balcony with my neighbor "Ms. G" and her husband Ed watching the Folly Beach fireworks, I discovered yet another level of pride for the country that I live in, have served for, and would serve for again if given the chance. You see, Ben is in port tonight, celebrating the Fourth in yet another Third World country, just counting the days until he can come back home. When Ms. G asked me where "my man" was for the holiday, I explained to her that he was still at sea, but they had pulled in for a couple of days. Conversation turned, as it always does, to where the ship is moored. When I told Ms. G where they were, I noticed Ed puff up with pride. He informed me that he spent more than a few holidays in this port as well, not to mention the births of two of his three sons. Ed was in the Navy for several years during and following the Second World War.

As Ed started reminiscing about his days at sea, I couldn't help but listen with rapt attention. You see, tonight was the first time that I've ever met Ed. He doesn't come out often because he is getting on in years. However, as he talked of his service in the Navy and the pride he still has for the organization to this day, it seemed that the years faded away. It was as if he was transforming in front of my eyes, and the grumpy old man that was sitting there ten minutes before was gone.

Once again, I thought of my Ben, serving his country on this day, far away from me and his family.

I thought about all of our soldiers over in the Middle East (the ones I know, and the tens of thousands that I don't know), serving faithfully to protect others in a war that has little support from their countrymen. They are putting their lives on the line, protecting the ideals that we hold dear.

I thought of my uncles who served in Vietnam, in a very similar situation as our men that are fighting today.

I thought of my own service to my country, and how proud I am to have completed it.

Most importantly though, I thought of the meaning of this day. For anyone that is not an American, July 4th is just another day throughout the rest of the world. For Americans though, it is a celebration of our independence and our right to rule ourselves; a giant birthday party if you will. It is a celebration of the rights we have as Americans, whether we chose to fully grasp their importance or not. Most importantly though, it is also a celebration of the victories won and the battles lost -both on the battlefields of the world and off - in the fight to preserve our way of life as Americans.

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of birthdays both as a chance to reflect on the events of the year gone by and as a day to reflect on the year to come. Normally politics is not something that I would be comfortable blogging about. After all, aren't we free to all have our own opinions? Isn't that what was fought for back in 1776? However, as I listened to Ed talk and reflected on the sacrifices that are being made all over the world to maintain the freedoms that we as a country take for granted, my thoughts always came back to one simple idea. As Americans we ALL need to do our part, be it serve in the Armed Forces or just voting for what we believe in. After all, the freedom that we enjoy is not free.

Happy Birthday America. I hope that you enjoy many more.

Jul 1, 2007

Another Day on the big blue...

These pictures are for all those people who do not think I smile...Emily??...or that I don't enjoy myself at sea. As you can clearly see, I have posed for the camera..willingly...and I have a smile on my face. No, that is not a muse. The Operations Department on USCGC DALLAS is in good hands, you can see my leadership in action. I'm also setting a fine exampe by showing everyone what a real baseball team is. GO BRAVES!

Fast Times on Folly Beach...

It has been an extremely busy week. I know, it doesn't make up for the lack of postings that we have been experiencing here at "The World According To Emily...", but hopefully, you all will forgive me.

My parents came into town this week to visit me. They like to see where it is that I'm living every time that I move. That is the only way that my mom can be comfortable with me living in a new place. My dad likes to see where I work. That way he is comfortable knowing that I have a job in a place he can visualize.

I was able to cater to both of them this weekend, even though I had to work while they were here.

While they were here, Mom and Dad got to see Morris Island Light, the Folly Beach Fishing Pier, Fort Sumter, and the IMAX theater at the aquarium. We also went to Kiaweh and Seabrook Islands (snooty doesn't even BEGIN to describe it...they wouldn't let us into their towns because we weren't registered residents...we came back to Folly Beach to come hang out on the beach here with normal folk), and they went out to Sullivan's Island. All in all, it was a pretty productive visit.

I miss them already. I can't wait until they come down again.

Jun 22, 2007

Faery PIctures!

So, today I got copies of the pictures that Trish took when she came down for the photoshoot! She sent me copies in the mail, including a disk of digital pictures that she took! I asked her if I could post them on my website (you know, do some more shameless advertising for a friend). She was of course ecstatic with the idea. These pictures were taken to be displayed and sold at a showing that will conicide with the release of the last Harry Potter book. The showing will be held at the Starbucks Cafe at Barnes in Noble located in Wilton Square, Saratoga Springs, New York.

Please remember that all of these pictures are copyrighted by Trish. The link to her business website is located on the bottom right-hand side of my blog.

So without further ado, here are some of the pictures that will be featured during "Faery Tales - An Enchanting Photographic Experience."

I'll post more of the pictures later on, but I have to run. Enjoy these!

Jun 19, 2007

The Importance of Friends

Today was a good day for me. I got to hang out with my friend Sam for most of the day, taking her and her daughter out to lunch (her husband is out of town for a few days), and then going to do a little shopping (which neither of us could REALLY afford, but it is always fun to do when you have another woman around to do it with), and looking at her wedding album (because I'm still trying to put faces with the names in the stories I keep hearing).

When Sam and I get together, it is always a good time. Ben always jokes that he has to get out his "Staten Island-Boston Language Dictionary" because he can't understand us when we talk. It's true...my Massachusetts accent comes out like you wouldn't BELIEVE when I get around Sam, and her Staten Island accent gets thicker...AND we both start talking with our hands. It's great. She understands things that I miss from home...good bagels, good potato chips (I can't TELL you how excited I was to find Cape Cod potato chips at the Piggly Wiggly), Drake's Cakes (kind of like Little Debbie). She understands how I miss the "hurry up" atmosphere of the Northeast. She knows what it's like to be a long way from the place you grew up, knowing that it will never be home again like it once was.

Hanging out with Sam makes me think of "my girls" back in California (Tiffany, Steph, Katelyn and Meg), Kim back home in Massachusetts, and of Trish up in New York (who I actually met in Hawaii), and makes me think of how fortunate I am to have the friends that I do. Being in the military has allowed me to move around, and even though I don't get to make a whole lot of friends, the ones that I do make are usually the kind that I keep.

For a long time the phrase "friends I can count on, I can count on one hand" really rang true to me. It has always been difficult for me to get to know people, especially when I know I'll be leaving sooner than later. I am proud to say though that now I need two hands to count the friends I can count on.

It's amazing the things that you miss when you leave friends behind. I miss my old life in Alameda, knowing that I could walk down the hall to talk to Katelyn at 2 a.m. if I needed to, or call Meg if I was lonely. I miss watching Joey and Parker (Steph's and Meg's little boys) grow up. I miss knowing that any trip to the movie theater with Katelyn and Meg involved either a trip to BevMo or Fuddruckers. I miss going to Weight Watcher's with Steph (it is so much easier to do something like that with a buddy). I miss just watching movies on the couch in our sweats.

But, it is an honor to know that I am the one that they call when they need someone to talk to, no matter what time of night it is. I am proud to say that I would get on a plane and fly anywhere for any of my close girlfriends, not caring what the cost is, just knowing that they needed me. Maybe even more importantly, it's a comfort knowing that they would do the same thing for me.

When Kim lost one of her students in a tragic accident (she's a high school teacher), I talked with her for hours about it...and it was what she needed. She always tries to make sure that I'm okay wherever it is that I am. She is the only friend from high school that I've really kept in touch with, and I can't imagine life without her.

When Meg went through a hard time recently, she always knew that no matter what time it was I would always pick up the phone and let her talk. Sometimes that is the most important thing that you need, is just to talk.

Katelyn and I went through our own personal hells together, both leaving the Coast Guard under similar circumstances, trying to find new jobs, and trying to forge new identities. It was brutal, and there were times that we didn't always like each other...but the important part is that we knew we could count on each other when the chips were down. Katelyn became a sister to me, and I miss her terribly now that I can't just walk down the hall when I need a hug.

It's amazing how things change as time goes on. Meg is moving to Connecticut. Steph is moving to Ohio. Katelyn is staying in Cali. Tiffany wants to go travel Europe in a catamaran. Lord only knows where Trish is headed to next. One thing remains the same though - we may be scattered all over the country, but there are ties that bind, and those ties remain strong.

Ladies, thank you for being my family during the last nine years. I couldn't have made it without you.(Tiff, Katelyn, Meg, and I on our last Girls Night Out at the Cheesecake Factory in San Fran)

Jun 17, 2007

Another Day on Patrol....

Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear, But the Presence of Faith.

Coming from a girl who decided to forego Church this morning in favor of sleep after working a 26 hour shift, maybe discussions of faith aren't my best bet tonight....but here goes...

For a month, every time I walked to the Post Office here in Folly Beach, I passed a sign that had the title quote of this entry on it. Every time I saw it I thought, gee, that is really a great quote. When I walked by today on my way to get the mail, I saw that the quote had been changed ( it now says "Some things are worth getting up early for"), and I felt a small twinge of sadness.

The night before I started my new job, my nephew Dylan called me, telling me "not to be shy, but be brave Auntie Em." He told me not to be frightened, but be nice to everybody and make friends. Pretty sage advice from a three year old, huh? It was just what I needed though...Dylan gave me courage to step out into the real world again the next day.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but presence of faith.

When I read those words, I think about myself. I wonder, am I courageous? I've done things that others would say are courageous...joining the Coast Guard, going to sea and saving lives, entering a profession that is completely male dominated. But really, has that taken courage or have I just been lucky?

Of course the first thing that I think of when my train of thought derails on this tangent is my faith in God. Although it isn't something that I discuss often, my faith in the Lord above is profound. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and we meet everyone in our lives for a reason. We just have to trust in God to help, save, and protect us.

The next thing I think of is my faith in Ben and our relationship. When Ben asked me last year to move to South Carolina to be with him, I said yes without a single moment of hesitation. In truth, I barely knew him. Although we had been dating for several months at that point, it had been mostly long distance and would remain that way (in some ways, it still IS that way, especially now when he is at sea). Also, it went against some of the beliefs that I truly held dear. However, in my heart I had faith that it was the right decision. With that, I put my faith in the relationship that Ben and I had already built, and continue to build even now, and never looked back.

I also think of the faith I have in my own abilities. I have never believed anyone when they have told me that I can't do something. That just does not register in my mind as being possible. In fact, being told that I can't do something only makes me want to do it more. I really and truly believe that if I put my mind to a task at hand, I will be able to accomplish it. That doesn't mean that it would not be hard and SEEM impossible at times, but I have faith that if I want to do something bad enough, I can. So far, I haven't betrayed that trust in myself.

The hardest thing for me to get my arms around is my faith in the good that I feel MUST exist in everyone. No one can be truly evil can they? I like to think not anyway. I still believe in the Golden Rule, and like to think that others do too. If I treat others kindly, I have faith they will treat me with kindness in return. Unfortunately, at times people prove my faith in them wrong. However, the number of good people I know in life heavily outweighs the bad.

When I look at the things I've put my faith in, sometimes the sheer magnitude of trust that I've had in these different forces stupefies me. For me, the term "blind faith" is an extremely accurate description of the trust I place not only in myself, but also in the people and the world around me. While it allows me to be hurt more often then I would like when trust is misplaced, I really would not change that for the world. I have to believe in the good things in life...after all, where would we be without them?

So, with all of this being said, I would like to propose a couple of questions. Is courage the presence of faith, or the presence of trust? Is there a difference between the two?

Jun 13, 2007

The Big 2-7

So, originally I didn't plan on posting about Ben's birthday. As I said in last night's post, I would wait until I was completely out of things to talk about. I'm sure tonight I could have found something else to blog about. It was my day off today, and I enjoyed it to the very fullest.

Something was nagging on my mind though.

In the last email that I received from Ben, he wrote the following about why he dislikes birthdays:

"You wonder if we don't have better things to do then celebrate someone getting older...How about why we go to such lengths to celebrate someone getting older...I mean where did that start. Congratulations..you are closer to death then you were before."

Kind of a pessimistic view if you ask me, and a way I had never thought of birthdays before. I've sat and thought about Ben's view of birthdays for more than a day, trying to reconcile it with my view.

The kicker of it is though, I can't.

The way I see it, a birthday celebration isn't just for YOU when you've had a birthday. Of course you get gifts, and people sing you Happy Birthday. More often than not, there are cake and ice cream involved. You really haven't done anything more than exist for this celebration to happen though. I could do nothing but sit on the couch for the next ten years, and every March 20, my birthday will be celebrated. You see, rather than celebrating the fact that you've taken up space for one more year, your birthday is a celebration of the wonder that you bring into the lives of the people you touch.

Contrary to Ben's belief, I believe that your birthday is an extraordinary thing. You have existed on this earth for exactly one year more, continuing to be a miracle to your parents, family, and friends. You have made them laugh, you have made them cry, and certainly you have made them just shake their heads in bewilderment. Your birthday is a celebration of the milestones that you have accomplished in this last year, whether or not you see them as important or not. The fact that you were there to accomplish them is the important thing. Your birthday is a celebration of the light that you bring into other people's lives, just by existing.

Your birthday is also a celebration of the things that are to come. Every year that you celebrate, you are reaching another milestone. From this point, the possibilities are endless. There is so much that can happen in a year. In Ben's case, this time next year he may be in command of his own ship. We could be living someplace TOTALLY different than Folly Beach. He may be looking at attending grad school. The possibilities are endless. There is no limit to what can happen in the next year.

Now tell me, isn't that something to celebrate?

Happy Birthday my love.

Jun 12, 2007

And I Didn't Even Have to Click My Heels.

A funny thing happened this evening when I was taking the dog for a walk down to the beach. I realized that I am happy. I feel like I belong. I'm home.

Now, I'm sure most of you are sitting there, reading your computer screens and saying "huh? has she lost her mind?" Let me explain, and bear with me. I promise there is a point to this.

At seven o'clock this evening, I sat in my desk chair wondering what in the world I was going to blog about. The weather? Nah...the fact that it's hotter than blazes during the South Carolina summer (and it's only June) wouldn't come to a surprise to anyone. Food? Definitely not...who really cares about my new found love of Charleston She-Crab Soup? Ben's Birthday? It has possibilities, but he didn't seem as excited about his 27th birthday as I was...maybe I'll have a discussion on why we celebrate birthdays on another day, when I'm REALLY hurting for material.

And so, still with no topic of discussion, and dusk approaching, I decided that walking the dog down to the beach so that he could play in the water was the thing to do. As Coda and I crossed the causeway and headed into Folly Beach proper, I realized that I felt no stress whatsoever. Anyone who knows me knows that NEVER happens. I'm ALWAYS stressed out over SOMETHING. I looked to my left where there were kids using nets to catch crabs out of the Folly River, and then I looked to my right where the man taking his boat out of the water at the public ramp actually stopped what he was doing, just to smile and wave. Beyond him the sun was setting, all pink and fiery red behind the sailboats that tie up at Mariner's Cay. All was right with the world.

Coda and I continued on our way down the main drag. As I tell Ben almost every time we walk into Folly, it seemed like Kenny Chesney's song "I Go Back" should be playing in the background...and this time, it WAS! The singer at Woody's Pizza (who makes a great White Pizza by the way...but we're not talking about food tonight) was actually halfway decent. Coda and I stopped to listen and sing along for a few minutes, and then continued on our way. As always, Coda tried to go into the bathing suit store on the way down the beach (no, my dog is NOT gay) to go see the nice lady that owns it (and always has a treat for him when he walks by). We were on a mission though...to get to the beach before all of the light faded away.

As we got down to Snapper Jack's, Coda started getting really excited. As we got closer to the Holiday Inn parking log, he started turning himself inside out. You see, the ocean is just beyond the Holiday Inn. Upon moving to the East Coast where the water is warm and the waves aren't gigantic, Coda has discovered that he loves to play in the ocean. It's even better when I remember to bring a ball with us. Any day that Coda gets to go down to the water is a good day in his book.

As Coda ran and wagged his tail, and acted like the dog he loves to be, I got to thinking about the people that I've met here. Matt, Sharon, and John took care of me the night that Tropical Storm Barry rolled through, handing me a beer and inviting me to my first "Hurricane Party" of the season (and of my life). The guys at work all smile, wave, and ask if I'm getting along okay. At first I was a little suspicious of their kindness...but then I realized that is just the way that they are. They really want to see me do well. I thought of Lonnie (complete with the biker tattoos, shaved bald head, and goatee) puffing up proudly to inform me that he thinks of himself as a father-figure, making sure I'm safe while I'm working down on the docks (his little girl is 27 too). Shaune, Scottie, Terry, Larry, Jill, Diane, Karen...the list goes on. These people have all accepted me. Even more, they have embraced me and made me part of "the crew." For the first time in my life, I even have a real nickname that people call me (I'm known as Cricket at work).

After running on the beach, chasing the waves, barking at the water, flirting with the ladies (Coda, not me), and doing all of those things Coda loves to do, he decided that it was time to go home. And so, we made our trek back up the road to home, past the Wine Bar, and the Sand Dollar, through the crowds outside the Taco Boy. Coda was gentle and friendly, and the highlight of a little girl in a stroller's day when she reached out to pat him and he stopped for her. We stopped to listen to the singer at Woody's again for a few minutes, and then took our time walking back over the causeway.

Halfway back across the causeway, I stopped for a minute, turned around, and looked back on this little beach town that I've come to call home. Until I moved here in April, I had no idea what the term "Low Country" referred to, or that when someone says "Bless your heart" it isn't a good thing. This time last year, Ben and I rolled into town for the first time, and I thought that it was the beginning of the end. No way could we make it work from 3,000 miles away with two patrol schedules competing against each other at times. There is no way that I could have fathomed that it was the beginning of something bigger than I could have ever imagined. During my last visit out here in January, before I moved here to be with Ben, I remarked to him as we drove home from the airport that even then in felt like I was coming home. Ben and I like it so much here that we've even talked about the possibility of buying a house here and coming back to stay when he's done in the Coast Guard.

And I wouldn't complain...after all, I would be coming home.

Jun 11, 2007

What exactly is it that you DO here...

So lately, I feel like I'm living in the movie "Office Space," complete with the saga of finding and hoarding the only working stapler on the terminal. Every time I talk to someone, whether it is on the terminal or off, the question inevitably is asked, "what exactly is it that you DO?" It's like "the Bob's" are following me around (and if you've never seen "Office Space," you will have no idea what I am talking about). Some days I'm working "on the deck," standing in as a longshoreman, making sure boxes go in their assigned spaces. Other days I'll be standing out on the dock, observing the man that's working "in the lead," ensuring that the boxes are going on the ship in the correct order. I do these things to prepare me for the job I've been hired to do, and give me some experience out on the docks.

I was hired on as a Vessel Superintendent for Ceres Terminals. They are a holding of NYK Lines out of Japan. When a container ship is scheduled to call at our terminals, it is my job to go in and do what is called a "pre-stow." When I pre-stow a ship, the first thing that I look at are the cargo manifests of what is going to be discharged from the vessel. Anything that is hazardous or refrigerated has to be segregated from the rest of the cargo. Usually I "send these boxes to chassis." What that means is that these containers are discharged onto a chassis that can leave from the yard, as is. The rest of the containers are "sent to ground," which means that they are sent to a field of stacks, usually four boxes tall and about five boxes wide. The discharge of cargo from the ship is actually an easy thing to plan for.

After discharging a ship on the computer, that is when things get interesting. We serve several different shipping lines. When cargo is going to be exported from our terminal, each of these lines will send us a manifest telling us what containers will be going to which port, whether they are hazardous materials (and if so, what kind of material is contained inside), or if they are refrigerated. Once all of these manifests are collected, we run a "load list" from the computer program that we use (that has already been imported to our system from our headquarters in New Jersey from what is called a BAPLIE file), and compare the manifests to this list. This is called "bumping the load." If containers don't match the number on the list, or the bills of lading are incorrect, we either correct the numbers or "roll the load" to the next ship that will be taking that route. Sometimes we have to do this when an entire shipment of containers hasn't arrived, or there are discrepancies that can't be fixed in one day.

Once the list has been "bumped," we are ready to stow the containers on board. Planners for the ships will send us a stowage plan, indicating where they would like cargoes to be placed. Hazardous material boxes are placed specifically in places to keep them separated. "Reefer boxes," or boxes that are refrigerated, are stowed in places that have plugs to run the compressors that are attached. The rest of the containers are "block stowed," typically by port and by container type. It is my job to ensure that the correct containers stowed in the correct place. When doing this, I need to worry about the weight of the containers, their heights, and their construction. Not all containers are the same size. Heavy containers must be stowed as low as possible (preferably in the hold). Structures call "flatracks" (flatbeds that have walls on each end, but not on the sides or top to allow for awkwardly shaped cargo) must be stowed in places that are appropriate for whatever cargo is being transported. On top of these things, I also have to consider where the containers are coming from within the container yard when stowing a ship. If I mess that up, it will make for a very long night as the longshoremen work to find the containers and dig them out of the stacks (this can add hours of frustration when finally working the ship if I don't plan well).

When the ship has been completely pre-stowed, I then wait for it to come to the dock. A copy of the pre-stow plan is brought up to the Cheif Mate of the ship so that he can review it, and make any necessary changes to the plan.

The process of pre-stowing a ship in itself can take upwards of six hours (sometimes even more if there are problems with the stow plan that has been sent). But wait, there's more. When a Vessel Superintendent has done the pre-stow of the ship, it is expected that they will also "work" the ship, managing the yard crews and longshoremen that will be discharging and loading the cargo. That can take anywhere from 5 to 15 hours.

During the time that a ship is working, the Superintendent will often talk to the Chief Mate several times about what cargo is going where. They are in charge of the safety of the operation, ensuring that all of the proper paperwork is filled out, preparing and submitting accident and damage reports, and just generally supervising operations. It can be very tiring, and makes for some very long nights (and days). Most ships that I've worked have docked in the evenings, making for an all night evolution. It is not unheard of for me to work a 20 hour shift.

Now for the answers to the questions that are often asked after I give my explanation of my work.

Do I enjoy it? For the most part, yes. Definitely for the first 12 hours of a shift

Is it hard work? Some days, it is extremely hard work.

Will I make a career of it? I really don't know...stay tuned.

Jun 10, 2007

Back by Popular Demand

Hi...it's me again. Remember me? The one who started this blog...yeah, sorry I've been so remiss for almost a month now.

These last few weeks have been pretty busy. There's been a dog shaving (yeah, talk to Ben about THAT one):A photoshoot:A dependent's cruise on DALLAS:Ben getting underway to go to sea, a crazy work schedule, and a Tropical Storm Barry... these are really poor excuses though, I know. The main reason that I haven't been writing is because I haven't felt up to it. Remember about three months back, I wrote about how I have a hard time blogging when things aren't going my way? How I don't like to write about the bad things because I didn't want to seem like I was complaining? There have been a lot of adjustments in the last month that make it very hard for me to come out of my shell.

I will make a better effort at posting...

May 18, 2007

Why NASCAR is still the greatest...

I know this post is a little late, but a little late is better than never isn't it? Ben and I went up to Darlington International Raceway last weekend to see the Dodge Avenger 500. Although it was rained out Saturday night, they still ran in on Sunday. What a great time! We had tickets two rows off the raceway (yes, that means we had rubber in our beer), right at the Start/Finish line. As we were sitting there Saturday night, wearing our $5 trash bag ponchos, I couldn't help but think about how cool NASCAR fans really are. In most sports, even the THOUGHT of a rain delay would cause many fans to run for the dry warmth of home. Not us though. We sat in the rain (literally sat in the rain) for about an hour before the lightning started striking around us, driving us under the bleachers. It was there that Ben and I stood with about 5,000 other people waiting for them to call the race.Ben and I drove 60 miles back to Columbia just to find a room to stay in for the night. For the record, that was the scariest Ramada I have ever seen (and Ben wonders why I am a hotel snob...). Sunday morning dawned bright, beautiful, and warm...in Columbia anyway. As we got closer to Darlington, the clouds got darker, and it looked like it was threatening to rain again.

However, luck was on our side, and the race was run promptly at one o'clock. Of course, driver introductions were beforehand. Ben and I were less than 75 feet from the stage, and we got to see everything. what a great experience! Never in my life did I even imagine that I would be that close to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.The race itself was fantastic. Lots of competition, and several lead changes, combined with very few wrecks. There were several caution flags for debris on the track, but they only served to make the race more competitive I think.

Dale Jr. didn't win unfortunately, but he did make the Top 10. Jeff Gordon won (again). With that, Ben and I headed back out to the parking lot, and then back home...until next year...or this autumn...we'll see :).

May 4, 2007

When is too much of a Good thing bad?

When I left the Coast Guard, I knew that I needed some time off too spin down. I was a nervous wreck, completely stressed out, and about THISCLOSE to losing it at times. I needed a change of scenery - STAT (I've always wanted to use that word in a real sentence...). However, the idea of taking time off just to take time off was a bit daunting to me. To me it seemed like a colossal WASTE of time. It was also a bit scary. After all, what if I started to LIKE all of this time off?

Unfortunately, I never really relaxed during that time off. There were so many things that needed attention, between moving, paperwork that needed to be finished, fixing my car, and a myriad of other little things that popped up along the way. I got to a point that I couldn't stand being at home alone anymore.

So, I got a job, as was part of the plan that Ben and I had (although he told me to take off as much time as I needed). A job that shows a lot of promise. One that when I get to work in the morning, I'm excited about what it is I will be doing that day. I am so busy learning and working that I even lose track of time.

Why is it that before I get there, and at night before I go to sleep, I want to cry then? Why does the thought of working a long shift make me want to curl up in my covers and never get out of bed again? Why do I actually START to cry when Ben is leaving the house in the morning, and he doesn't quite know what to do with the sobbing mess sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor?

These questions, and more, I am still trying to answer. You see, I got this great job. It is exactly what I was looking for - something where I can work outside, have responsibility for a job that has tangible and visible results (i.e., can the ship get underway on time, did all of the containers make it onboard), and dress casually everyday (I do believe I will be issued coveralls here before long).

Something just doesn't seem to fit. I don't quite know what it is though. Maybe it is just because I haven't quite learned the ropes yet, and that it is something 180 degrees from anything that I've ever done. I have to worry about time equalling money now, as well as the consequences of getting fired if I screw up. They CAN just fire me on the spot now...and conversely, I can just quit.

Being part of the real world is scary. Part of me really wants my old life back.

Apr 28, 2007

Postcards From the Edge Aren't Always Pretty

Earlier this week, as I was talking to my friend Eric, he jokingly commented about how I never mention my "really cool friend Eric" on my blog. I promptly apologized for being so remiss, and that I'd talk about him sooner than later.

Sorry Eric, today is not your day.

This morning's post is a somber one, one that I've been trying to get my arms around writing for a day now. I finally caught up with my friend Kimberly on Saturday evening. Of all of the people that I went to high school with, Kim is the only one that I really still talk to on a regular basis (i.e. more than just Christmas and Thanksgiving). I was a little irked at Kim earlier this week. I had been IMing her routinely, trying to talk to her about how great things are here, between my new job and all of the life changes that I've been through. Little did I know that Kim was stuck in a personal hell.

Kim has always been one of those people who gives unselfishly of herself, and always has. She's the kind of person who, even though she might not know how to make something better, will do everything she can think of to try. She's smart, funny, caring, and dependable. It is a combination of these traits that make teaching a great profession for her.

After graduation Kim went to college to become a history teacher, and upon receiving her Masters and Teaching Certificate, returned to Leicester High School to take a position. Kim took the place of Mr. Chase, an old favorite at LHS and teaches, among other things, a Civics class that I can remember slogging my way through beside her as Seniors. Every time I talk to Kim, her voice lights up when she talks about her job, and especially her students.

Kim lost one of those students this week in a horrible car crash.

Everyone has been so caught up in the Virginia Tech shootings (as they probably should be), that things like this slip under the radar. An article about this accident was actually posted on cnn.com, a site that I read daily...and I missed it. When I asked my mom about it, she told me she had forgotten about it.

A car full of teenagers, two from Leicester, three from surrounding towns crashed last weekend on River Street in Leicester. Four of those teenagers were killed, one still remains in a coma. One of the deceased was a student in Kim's class. A sibling of the other teenager from Leicester killed is also in one of Kim's classes. All four that were killed were wearing their seat belts. Drugs and alcohol were not factors. The teenagers had gone out to dinner, and were racing home to try to beat curfew. When I talked to Kim, the teen that was in a coma still didn't know her friends were dead.

If only they had slowed down. I've driven the road where they were killed, most times at a rate of speed way beyond safe, usually with a car full of friends, often including Kim, trying to get everyone home for curfew.

Kim is one of those teachers that looks at her students as HER kids. She often refers to them in that manner, saying "you wouldn't believe what my kids did this week." Usually she goes into bragging about their intelligence and drive. She has hope for the future, and wants to pass it on. This accident, and the loss of one of her "kids" has hurt her badly. Yet, she is once again a pillar of strength, standing tall for those who need her, who feel like they've been left behind.

I can only hope that I have the strength that Kim has when faced with something like this.

Please, if you have a moment, say a prayer for Nathan (the boy who was killed), his friends, his mother, and his family - and include Kim too.

Apr 26, 2007

Workin' 9-5, what a way to make a living...

Or maybe it's 8-4, or I'm not really sure WHAT time I need to show up at work...

But, the important thing is:


Yes people, I've rejoined the ranks of the employed, having accepted a position as a Vessel Supervisor with one of the major shipping lines here that uses Charleston as one of their cargo ports. So I'm sure you're asking (and even if you aren't, I'm going to tell you anyway), what exactly does a Vessel Supervisor do?

One of the coolest things about this job? I get to wear jeans to work. Granted, I have to wear steel-toed boots and a hardhat too, and possibly coveralls (if I have to go onboard the ships and talk to the chief mate about stowage and stuff), but I DON'T have to wear a skirt and heels...and I'm extremely excited about that.

I'm going to be "that guy (person?)" in charge of loading containers onto those behemoth container ships that you see transiting in and out of port. I'll have 40-60 workers operating two or three of those giant cranes you see in container ports working for me at a time. I have to make sure that the containers headed for Shanghai in two months don't get stacked on top of the ones that are destined for Tampa in two days, and that the heavy stuff gets loaded on the bottom, and the containers for different ports get separated, and...well you get the idea. I'm kind of like an industrial size supermarket grocery bagger, making sure the canned goods don't squish the eggs and bread.

But yes, I have a job, and I start Tuesday.

Thank God, because I'm getting about as stir crazy as it gets. Even the dog doesn't want to be around me. I caught myself TALKING to the dog yesterday (not that I expected an answer or anything, but just the sheer action of doing it kind of freaked me out) like he was comprehending what I was saying.

So, just four more days of golfing, working on my tan, and relaxing...and I am going to make the best of it, starting now. Too bad it's cloudy outside...

Apr 19, 2007

And I'm spent...

I keep telling Ben that next week I'm going to take some time to just relax. I have come to the conclusion however, that my saying that is something akin to the "Free Beer Tomorrow" signs that hang in the windows of the bars down on Folly Beach. It just seems like it's never going to happen. It seems like there's just always something else that HAS to be done.

This last week has been exceptionally busy.

First off, Ben and I went out and bought a couch. Not just ANY couch, but a leather couch. It was necessary, and a decision that had been made long before I changed any addresses. He hated my wonderful, lovely, comfortable green couch (something about it being too short to actually lay down on, and too fluffy). I couldn't stand his awful, scratchy, ugly, and a little TOO broken in couch (that he bought used anyway). So...we compromised. I sold Katelyn my couch, and we gave Ben's couch to the Salvation Army...as well as his armchair (that matched the couch), his old TV, his kitchen table (that I'm not quite convinced has EVER been assembled), and a couple of other small Ikea chairs he had.

On Friday, the movers came and unleashed the torrent of my stuff on this apartment. I never realized I STILL had so much stuff (even after giving away most of it!). As they brought things up the three flights to our apartment, I worked like the Tasmanian Devil to get them out of the boxes so that I wouldn't be left with a mountain of cardboard and a lot of empty promises that they would come back and get it (I'm not dumb...I've been through this three times now). It was nice to see my things again...my kitchen table, my desk, my computer. However, it would also have been nice to see my headboard (which is rumored to exist now somewhere in Ohio).

So four days of busting my butt to unpack and find a new home for everything (including most of Ben's stuff that was already here), and two job interviews later (which I will post about when I have a job lined up...which will probably be VERY soon), I present our home:Welcome to our kitchen. You would never know it, but there are enough coffee mugs to serve a battalion, two sets of silverware, two sets of pots and pans, and enough kitchen gadgets to make Rachel Ray jealous hidden in here. Not to mention a washer and dryer in the pantry (which isn't visible in this picture...it's a tiny cubby hole next to the refrigerator) and enough food to feed a small army (provided that they like chicken...we went a little crazy at Costco).Our dining area/living room is a little cramped to say the least. But, it is clean and cozy. As you can see, I didn't get rid of ALL of Ben's stuff. We still have his end tables flanking the couch (for now...we both want to get rid of those), and his TV and TV stand (yet another piece of furniture we ALSO want to replace sooner than later). I did however add my kitchen table, LA-Z-Boy (which Ben originally protested, but has now decided that he really likes it), and bookshelf.
It's a really good thing that the Master Bedroom in this apartment is large. It's also a really good thing that I got rid of a LOT of stuff and only had my dresser and some other small furniture to move in there. All of our stuff fits, even if it doesn't match (but that's really not all that important anyway). The closet isn't even that full...
And then there's the master bath, complete with a "Finding Nemo"-ish shower curtain (which, for the record, I did not buy).
My office is the only part of the apartment that is still a mess. I'm still trying to figure out some of the paperwork I have in here, and find homes for some of the leftover stuff. but I got our "we love us" walls hung (you know, the ones we all have with diplomas, plaques, and awards), the bed made, and most importantly the computer up and running.

And so, that is what I've been doing (mostly) for the last four or five days (like I said, there was some job interviewing thrown in there, as well as some getting my car fixed). Hopefully this afternoon I'll get some good news, and then I can move on to the important stuff...relaxing.

Oh yeah, by the way, check out this view from my living room. I keep telling my mom about it. Isn't it pretty?

Apr 12, 2007

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes...

Day four of waking up in a new apartment that is all mine (well, partially mine) in a new place.

Not that these circumstances are any different from the changes that I seem to make every two years anyway (when I was rotating to a new duty station on time), but this time it is infinitely different.

Of course, the first and most important difference - Ben is here. That means watching Braves games in the evenings, someone to go grocery shopping with, and knowing that under no circumstances will there ever be any seafood in my refrigerator. One thing that has remained constant though, he freaks out every morning when the alarm clock goes off (almost as badly as I do) so whether I want to wake up at 0530, I do.

Important difference number two - the people here. I can't get over how nice the people in Folly Beach and the Charleston area have been. Between our landlord, who has got to be one of the most laid back people in the universe, and the strangers I just meet on the street that say hello whether they need to or not, it is a total culture shock from living in California.

Important difference number three - the pace of life. It is slow. People don't rush anywhere...and it is a wonderful thing. There is no need to hurry, there is no stress of someone riding on your bumper just because they can. People just back off, wait their turn, and are courteous - provided that you do the same.

I really do think I'm going to like it here. I'm starting to unwind from the time that I spent in the Coast Guard. Even I can tell I'm becoming a totally different person; one who is more patient, nicer, and just happier overall. I can't tell you how excited I am about that.

Apr 11, 2007

Under the Weather (Part Two of the Adventure)

So, yeah. It's truly amazing what a little stomach virus can do...like lay you out on the couch for two days. I guess it really is true that Ben and I will start to share everything...including stomach bugs.

Sorry for the bit of "too much information"...back to our story already in progress.

Ben and I spent Thursday night at his parents' house in Canton, Illinois. Every time I go back there, I like it even more. It's a great little town where I just feel comfortable. It may also have something to do with the fact that I really like his parents and his family. Coda got to meet Azera (Ben's parents' dog), and did well relatively speaking. Azera is a puppy (just barely a year old), and Coda's getting to the point of being geriatric. Coda was able to keep up with Azera for a while, but starting getting stiff and sore eventually. I think he really enjoyed the interaction with another dog though.

While in Canton, we went out to dinner with Ben's parents, his sister Amy, brother-in-law Josh, and niece Emma. What a great time. I have no idea what the name of the restaurant was that we went to, but what I do know is that I had some of the best pizza I've had in a long time there...and I don't even LIKE pizza as a rule (although that rule keeps getting broken as I've known Ben longer). After that we went for ice cream, and then the Barnes and Noble. That place is dangerous for Ben and I. both of us would spend our life savings in there if you let us.

Overall, we had a great time in Canton. It is a very comfortable place to go. When I'm there, it's like it should be. I feel like I'm with family.From Canton, we headed home. Charleston was only sixteen hours away from Canton, and we had thrown the idea of driving all night to get there. However, that was something that we gave up pretty quickly. After a much needed stop in a small Ohio town, Ben and I had a great (and extremely necessary) new addition to the passenger seat - a massage pad. Both of us were having a hard time getting comfortable because our backs were sore. Alas, we soldiered on, and made it to Kentucky before running into a snowstorm.

About 150 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee Ben and I stopped for dinner at Denny's (our first mistake) because the snow was so thick I was having trouble driving (and I was hungry anyway). So, we went in, sat down for a while, and waited for the snow to lighten up. When we got back in the car, and Ben cranked the engine, the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. Always a good time.

Rather than handle the situation in the traditional Emily fashion (freak out and find a mechanic RIGHT NOW because God only knows what's going to happen if we don't), we handled it in the Ben fashion (wait until we get to Charleston or there is something definitely wrong with the car). Ben drove on...until the next part of the snowstorm hit. By then we were in Lake City, Tennessee, and even HE couldn't see the road in front of us and was fed up. We pulled off the highway and took one of the last rooms at one of the hardest to find Super 8 motels I have ever had the luck to find, and decided to wait out the storm until morning.

When we got up, it was clear as a bell out...and colder than anything I had experienced in a long time. Even the dog didn't want to go outside. But, we soldiered on, and headed south. For 500 miles, I don't think a word was spoken (at least, nothing that required more than two syllables and grunt in response).

At approximately 3:30 pm (1530 for you military types), we arrived at our home - and promptly went inside to take a long, much deserved nap and to watch the Braves game.

It is so good to be home.

Apr 8, 2007

...and we're back (Part One of the Adventure)

Ummm...Hi. It's been a while, hasn't it. Yeah, we're in South Carolina now. So much for me "posting my way across the country," huh? Finding Wi-Fi was a challenge. Getting Ben's computer to boot up and connect, an even BIGGER challenge. So, adding that frustration on top of the frustration of driving for about 600 miles a day, uphill, both ways, through the snow (no, really, I'm not kidding about that) just wasn't happening.

On Sunday, after church Ben and I left Alameda. I went to church and said goodbye in my own way – by crying through communion. Then I went home (where Ben had packed the car for me while I was at church), stood in what used to be my kitchen with Katelyn, and cried some more. Needless to say, I had mascara all over my face by the time I left (but I didn’t figure that out until I got to the Carl’s Jr just north of Bakersfield and took off my sunglasses). Our original plan was to take the Pacific Coast Highway down to Ben’s Uncle Dick’s house. However, by the time we got on the road, I knew I just wanted to get there as soon as possible, so it was I-5 south yet again. Getting down to Long Beach was actually much less painful than I thought it was going to be. The hotel that Ben booked was very nice, and Coda was very comfortable there (as were we). Ben’s Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy were a lot of fun. I really enjoyed eating dinner with them. The more members of his family I meet, the more I like them. Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy took us out to the Yucatan Grill, which was quite conveniently right across the street from our hotel. Two orders of guacamole, two enchiladas, and a pitcher of margaritas later, we went out to their house so that they could give me the tour. What a beautiful home. Dick and Judy live in a quaint little gated community right on the ocean. After the tour of their home, we went and walked along the beach for a little while.

From Uncle Dick's house, we set out on Monday to our proposed stop of Flagstaff, Arizona so that we could visit the Grand Canyon the next day. Our trip brought us through Phoenix so that we could visit Ben's sister Lara. She works in the Arizona Cardinals’ front office. When we got there Lara showed us around the University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Arizona Cardinals play. We got to see the different seating areas, the press box, the audio/video room (where the game tapes and all of the broadcasts are produced), the locker room area, the field, and the area where the field moves to when it is rolled into the building. It was so neat to get to walk out the tunnel that the players walk out of when they take the field. Lara really gave us an extensive tour, and then let us shop at the team store using her discount. Thanks Lara!

Of course, I managed to forget the camera in the car. That's okay though...I will definitely remember it when I go back for a football game later this year :).

After our tour of the stadium, Lara referred us to a lawn where we could let Coda out to run for a few minutes. Ten minutes of ball playing in the Phoenix heat later, Coda was showing us the way back to the car. From Phoenix, we headed north to Flagstaff to go visit my friend Sarah. Sarah was my roommate at the Coast Guard Academy for a year before she left. On our last trip through, Ben and I stopped there for lunch. This time we had dinner with Sarah at the Olive Garden, and headed on our way to Williams, Arizona. Williams is where one of the main roads to the Grand Canyon crosses the 40. It saved us about half an hour of driving the next day.

A really interesting part about Willams is that it is on the old Route 66. Of course, driving the Interstate 40 across the United States, we encountered a lot of things commemorating the old route, seeing as it parallels the 40. On Tuesday morning, Ben and I got up early and went to breakfast at the old diner across the street. What a neat place! It was decorated in 50's memorabilia, and the waitresses were all older ladies. Doris (our waitress) was so nice I swear I thought she was going to hug me as we left.The Grand Canyon was something that I never really appreciated, having only read about it and seen pictures. I always just thought of it as a giant hole in the ground. To actually see it though is positively amazing. As my friend Andy put it, you can be 100 feet away from a 5000 foot drop, and never know it. Then you come through the woods, and there one of the most beautiful sights you could ever want to see is spread out before you. To appreciate the canyon, you really do have to see it.From Arizona, things got a little boring. There are only so many miles of desert that you can look at. Even Coda got tired of looking out the window. We stayed in Tucumcari, New Mexico that night. Tucumcari is one of those towns that you see posted on highway signs, and expect to see at least a lume on the horizon at night when you look at it on the map. Nope. None of these things. I don't know where they could have possibly hid the town, but the only thing we found was a string of hotels...and a post office.Driving through Texas and Oklahoma after a night on a really uncomfortable mattress is something that I can imagine the sixth circle of Hell may be like. Ben and I left Tucumcari by about 0730 on Wednesday. We were both ready to just get going. While Ben napped that morning in the passenger seat, I drove into the sunrise. Apparently, I drove a little too fast into the sunrise, because before long I had the opportunity to speak with one of Texas's finest. Yeah, I was speeding...but the guy that passed me as a hit the brakes to fall in behind the cruiser was DEFINITELY going faster than me. Fortunately though, I was let off with a warning.

That night we stayed in St. Louis. We didn't go into the city at all (after all, we were both exhausted), but we did add that to the list of places that Ben wants me to see. Maybe we'll have to fly into St. Louis and catch a baseball game at Busch Stadium on the way to visit his parents next time (because I can guarantee you that we won't be driving).

After crossing the Mississippi River, we knew we were in the home stretch. Only three more days left, and a stop at Ben's parents' house that night...thank goodness...that I will talk about tomorrow...

Mar 30, 2007

The Curtain Falls

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in the "Secret Squirrel Room," waiting for my information from my computer to burn onto a CD. Three years of work, and it will be reduced to a compact disk. I have already changed my voicemail greeting, indicating that I no longer work for District Eleven. My "Out of Office Assistant" is already on, alerting people that I am no longer receiving email at this address.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a sense of dread, mixed with a sense of excitement. Today was my last day as an active duty Coast Guard officer. I start what is called "terminal leave" tomorrow. That sounds rather foreboding doesn't it?

For exactly one third of my life, I have identified myself as a member of the United States Coast Guard. Nine Years. I don't care how old you are, that is a long time. Now, I am moving on. Granted, I am being offered a Reserve Commission, which I will take. I may actually be called back to Active Duty under Title Ten. But, I may also do the whole "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" thing for a while too. I don't know. I have a second interview set up two weeks from yesterday with a company that is very excited about the prospect of hiring me. Yesterday I heard from another company who is also very interested in me.

Things really seem to be falling into place. Why then do I feel so lost?

I will miss the familiarity of Alameda, and the routine of putting on a uniform every day. I will miss my friends and the camaraderie that I have with people here - even the people I don't get along with. We are all part of the same Coast Guard family after all aren't we?

But now, it is time for me to see the rest of what is out there. Look out world, here I come (but I can't help but look back over my shoulder at what I am leaving behind...)

Mar 28, 2007

Still waiting

Well, everything is all boxed up, and I'm waiting for the movers...again. I have never had it take two days for movers to pack my things. Ironically, this time I have much less stuff than I have ever moved with before. Katelyn is keeping a couple pieces of my furniture, and a LOT of my clothes and knickknacks have gone to Goodwill or were sold. The moving inventory that I have of boxes is a page shorter than the one I had moving here from Hawaii, and they packed me out in less than four hours.

So yeah, I don't understand why it is taking two days. Either way though, I don't care as long as it all gets on a truck and to South Carolina, preferably right around the time that I do.

Mar 27, 2007

It's that time of the year again...

The day the movers will be here to pack up my things for the journey to South Carolina has finally arrived. I'm waiting for them to knock on the door and send Coda into a frenzy. Right now he is so discombobulated that I don't think he knows what end is up. Tomorrow they will actually load everything on the truck. I can't believe it. I'm actually moving to South Carolina!

Last night, as I was separating all of my stuff from Katelyn's, washing all of my linens, and packing my bags that are going to travel across the country in the trunk of my car, I came to an interesting realization. When I drive out of California this weekend (OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT IS THIS WEEKEND) I will be moving for the seventh time in five years. I feel like quite the nomad. You would think though that it would get easier the more I do it. Unfortunately, I don't think moving is something that will ever get easier for me.

You see, I'm kind of like a plant. I put down roots when I am left in one place for too long. When I left Massachusetts for California the first time, it was like someone ripped my heart out. As long as I live, I will remember the sight of my parent's house disappearing in my rear view mirror, and look on my dad's face when he realized that it was time for me to go. Heartbreaking doesn't even begin describe it.

When I left California for Hawaii, it was sad because I didn't want to leave Josh and Cassandra. However, I knew I had to go. It was time for me to move on, even though it had only been six months.

Hawaii was the first place I really put down roots outside of Massachusetts. I had my first address (that I paid the rent for) that I lived at for more than a year, as well as a circle of friends that I was very close to. I was in a job that I enjoyed, and I could not imagine living my life any other way. When I moved out of my apartment on Kulewa Loop, I cried for days. Although, as I think about it, I really DON'T miss the cockroaches.

During this stint in California, I have had three addresses. I lived in the "ghetto apartment" on Crolls Garden Court, the cute duplex on Central Ave, and my current home on Barbers Point Road. The first apartment was scary...no doubt about it. That's the first and LAST time I rent an apartment through classifieds. The Central Ave apartment was nice, quaint and homey...but expensive.

My house here on Barber's Point Road is my favorite place that I have lived so far. Moving in with Katelyn out here was one of the best decisions I think I have ever made. The rent was cheap, and the company was good. Granted, we had our squabbles, but for the most part, it was fun.

I think the big difference with this home versus the other two I have lived in during this stint in California is that it actually FEELS like a home. From the first night I moved in, I have felt like I am coming "home," not just back to the place that I'm paying somebody to let me live in. It's warm, inviting, and friendly. I know this sounds cheesy, but I'm a big believer that homes have a spirit to them. Some places feel cold when you walk it, no matter what the heat is turned up to. Some places set you on edge, no matter how comfortable the furniture and interior design may be. Some places have no feeling at all, and it's confusing. From the first time Katelyn and I walked into this house when we were looking for apartments, it has felt warm and comfortable. I will miss my home very much.

All of this being said, I can't wait to walk through to door in Folly Beach, and have that sense of relief that comes when you know you are not a guest some place. Instead, you belong there. Not that I have ever felt like a guest in Ben's apartment, or that I didn't belong, but I've always known that it was temporary and I would have to go back to California in a week or so. The next time I put my key in the door though, I will be home.

And I cannot wait.

Mar 24, 2007

Roughing it

Last night Katelyn, her boyfriend Jimmy, and I went camping up in Bodega Bay. On one of my trips to the Coast with Andy I found this great campground right on the beach in the Doran Beach State Park. They don't take reservations though so it's first come, first served. When I called they had one site left, but wouldn't hold it. So, yesterday after training (which thankfully let me out VERY early), Jimmy and I beat feat up to the Coast, and Katelyn followed as soon as she left work.

It was definitely worth it. The view from our campsite was positively wonderful. We were just off the break wall into Bodega Bay.
So, we got there, set up camp, and proceeded relax. It was great.
We built a fire and roasted Polish Sausages, drank some wine, and remembered what stars look like without light pollution to ruin it.Even the dog got into it, and enjoyed himself. He was the only one who was brave enough to go into the water. We opted to go camping to commemorate my last weekend in California, rather than throw a party like we originally planned. This was definitely a much better option, and infinitely less stressful.

It was just what I needed.