As I look back over the events of 2019, the word that comes to mind is Overcome. I see the trials that came in the form of being apart, and I think about how Curtis advanced in his career during that time and how I held down the fort at home and filled each day alone. I remember how we felt at the beginning of the year, looking ahead at yet another year isolated on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific, and I reflect on how we have learned to be content with simple every day routines and not feeling pressured to have a grand adventure every week. And most of all, I see all the ways that we’ve grown closer together, and how we are in a much better place mentally than we were last year.
The year began with the last few months of shipyard, meaning the last few months where it was guaranteed that Curtis would be on island. We started out the year in the way we’ve always operated: working hard throughout the week so that we could enjoy exciting weekend adventures together. We hiked, visited museums and botanical gardens, learned to snorkel and swam to small islands off the coast of Windward Oahu. We hosted friends and Curtis’ family in March and had the joy of experiencing the island through the eyes of people who had never seen it before.
As the year progressed, we had less time together, and all of a sudden going out and filling every day we had together with a new adventure became less of a priority. We spent more time at home, or close to home. Most of the hikes that we did were repeats, and we spent far more time walking the nearby trail, into town, or to the closest beach. In that regard, this year doesn’t seem as exciting as years past, but we’re content with the routines we’ve created. Hopefully our next duty station will bring us to a new and exciting place that will inspire us to get out and explore more, but for now we’ve enjoyed a time of rest and simply enjoying quieter weekends together.
This spring, Curtis’ boat finally left the shipyard and we have officially experienced a real taste of active duty Navy life. It was about time, 6 years after signing his contract and a year and a half into being stationed here! While shipyard had the benefit of knowing that he would always be here on island, it was an incredibly stressful time for Curtis and it was hard for me to see him struggle every day. I dreaded the day that they would leave for the first time for months, but when it finally happened in April, I felt nothing but pride for him and how hard he’s worked. Since then, we’ve gotten to celebrate several other milestones in his career: earning his Submarine Warfare pin, being qualified engineer, and promoting to Lieutenant.
A highlight for me this spring was having a friend move to the island, just 5 minutes away from our home. I had met her a few times before when she came to visit her ‘friend’ who was also on Curtis’ boat, and when they became ‘official’ she made the big move. It was wonderful to have someone to both commiserate with as well as enjoy island life with, to be able to just text and then meet up 5 minutes later. Besides that, I also enjoyed spending time with the other wives/significant others from the boat. I’ve continued to work on NeverThirsty.org, and it’s been a joy to see the work pay off with this being the best year yet in the site’s traffic. Other hobbies this year have included finishing a major scrapbooking/photo book project, walking/jogging at least 5 miles every day, and playing PokemonGo. I’ve decided to own up to that last item because it really has been a blessing of sorts, as it not only motivates me to go out and walk, but I’ve also met and played with a lot of people locally. I prayed at the beginning of this year that God would bring people into my life so I wouldn’t be lonely while Curtis was gone, and He certainly provided in these ways I wasn’t expecting.
The lowest moment for me this year was the day I got the phone call that, just weeks after leaving the shipyard, the boat had a ‘change of plans’ and was going to be gone for an ‘undetermined amount of time.’ Navy life is unpredictable, and while I knew this was always a possibility, it came at a time when I least expected it. I remember Skyping my family in tears, having to break the news that we weren’t going to be able to go home when we had originally planned. But those days and weeks eventually passed, and by the end of May the boat returned and we had almost the entire summer together.
Curtis spent the summer studying for his PNEO exam, and together we spent the summer processing over 200 mangoes off of our tree. Our second biggest success in gardening here is our Okinawa sweet potato patch — to the point where it’s kind of out of control and we’ve basically introduced an invasive species to our back yard. At least they taste good! We also hosted my brother for a few days and swam with sea turtles for the first time. Charlotte turned 5 years old on July 14, and our marriage turned 6 on July 27.
After spending over the first half of the year at home — and spending almost 2 entire years in the state of Hawaii — we finally made a big trip back to the Mainland. We started the trip in Washington DC where Curtis passed his interview and qualified engineer. We then spent the next week and a half road tripping to see our families, exploring, hiking to some state high points, and eating all the fast food we’ve been missing for the past 2 years.
Less than 48 hours after returning home, Curtis left on what would be his longest ride of the year, exactly 50 days spent out at sea. The next 2 months that followed could have been long and lonely ones for me, but they instead ended up being the best months of the year. My sister Sarah flew out a week later and stayed with me for just over a month. Ever since getting married and moving away from home, I’ve always imagined what it’d be like to host a sibling for a longer period of time, and this was exactly the kind of bonding experience I had been craving. It was so fun to reconnect and live the island life together.
Not only did I have Sarah helping me pass the time at home, but I also was able to visit Curtis at his first two ‘port calls,’ first in Ketchikan, Alaska and later in San Diego, California. I had dreamed of visiting Alaska for years, but never would have imagined that my first visit would be only 3 days from start to finish. It was so worth it though! The entire trip was definitely a highlight of the year and we know it won’t be our only trip there! We also loved being able to catch up with friends from Arizona, hike in the desert, and eat In-N-Out while in California.
Once all my traveling was done for the year and I said goodbye to Sarah, the world seemed to become a dark and lonely place and I struggled to find motivation throughout the day. But not long after, I received word that Curtis would be home early, and we were able to spend the rest of October together. We easily fell back into our routine of walking together on a nearby walking trail or into town in the evenings and going to the beach or easy hikes on the weekends. We celebrated my 27th birthday and our 75th wedding monthiversary by getting tattoos — which we don’t regret yet two months later!
Curtis left at the beginning of November for what would be his last ride of the year, and the longest time we’ve been apart since 2015. It was only about three and a half weeks long — several weeks shorter than his ride earlier that fall — but felt so much longer. But once it was over, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving together and have had a much lighter schedule and more time together since. We’ve enjoyed the cooler weather and are starting our first big home remodel project. If you’re hoping to buy the cutest little Hawaiian cottage close to world-renowned beaches and with stunning mountain views out your very own windows in 2020, you’re in luck — I know of one that may be available! Stay tuned. 😉
Looking back over 2019, I see a common theme here: most of the things that happened are somehow connected to the Navy. At first, it annoys me how much it can take over our lives. Every little thing seems like an obstacle that we need to overcome. But when I really think about it, I realize all the benefits, life lessons, and ways we’ve grown closer through it. Every day apart makes us miss each other more and causes us to make the most of the time we have together. This year, the Navy gave us three opportunities to take ‘half-priced trips’ together, whether that be them paying for Curtis to fly to and from the mainland for his DC interview or allowing me to go meet him in exciting locations. We may complain about living in Hawaii, but once this is all said and done, we’ll one day look back on these three years and remember the time we really experienced life on a beautiful island. Curtis’ job may give him a lot of stress, but over time he’s gotten to do more that he enjoys, and he really does enjoy the engineering aspects, and this experience will no doubt benefit him in the future. And at the end of the day, when we’re frustrated with whatever situation we’re in, we can always just blame all our problems on the Navy and work harder to find peace and joy together.
That’s the attitude we’re entering 2020 with: While this life has given us many challenges, we can overcome them together and know there is a positive side to all things, and know that God is using it all for good, for His glory. As we look ahead to the next year, we have no idea where we’ll be and what Curtis will be doing at this time next year. But being back in that mindset is so exciting to me, and I can’t wait to see what happens!
Last but not least, here’s our county map for the year, created with mob-rule.com. It’s extra colorful thanks to traveling separately and landing in different airports across the country. For a bigger image of the map, click here.
Happy New Year, friends! May God bless you all richly in 2020.