On December 31, 2019, Curtis and I watched the last sunset of the year on Haleakala. Making it through 2019 felt like a huge accomplishment. We had survived our last full year attached to an active duty submarine, and would be moving away in just a few months. 2020 was the year we had been anticipating for so long, and it was finally here!
On January 1, 2020, we woke up before dawn inside our tiny tent. We drove down Haleakala and over to West Maui where we had planned some hikes for the day. After summiting Waihe’e Ridge, it began to rain lightly, causing the clay earth to become slick. “Don’t fall and twist your ankle, wouldn’t want to start the year on the wrong foot!” I joked.
Looking back at our first memories from this year is so weird. It feels like a whole different world — did we actually just hop on a crowded flight without thinking about germs or testing or wearing masks?! What was it like to gather with lots of people without worry, or to make plans confidently without considering the state of the world?
And so, at the end of the most unprecedented year (Curtis says I’m required to use that word 9 times in this post), I can’t stop thinking about how much changed. Our lives look completely different than 12 months ago, not only because of the pandemic, but also our cross country move and Curtis’ new job. Despite the year being completely unprecedented, I can’t ignore the fact that God’s protection has been over us this year, and He planned each step that got us to where we are now.
January started with our last island hop to Maui and Lanai (though we of course didn’t know it was our last at the time). We enjoyed returning to Haleakala, exploring West Maui, and hiking from sea to summit on Lanai. We returned home to Oahu and back to our routines. Curtis’ submarine was in port for the entire month, so we were able to work on house renovations, go hiking, and hang out around our hometown of Kailua.
At the end of the month, Curtis submitted his ‘wish list’ for shore tour jobs. This was, of course, before the world changed, so our top ten jobs were in Washington state, Spain, the UK, Italy, Japan, and Australia. The idea of having no idea of even which continent we’d be living in by the end of the year was thrilling to us. We were just so excited to leave this chapter in our lives behind. We were also pretty confident that because we had been given a bad deal 3 years ago, that the Navy would give us one of our top picks this time around. But since we still had to rank the 80 other jobs on the list by preference, we listed a few Midwest locations, with Omaha, Nebraska as our 11th choice.
Places Visited in 2020
Curtis left for his first ride of the year at the beginning of February. At that time, we joked that February would be the longest month of the year for us, since we’d be separated for most of the month and waiting to hear about where we’d be moving. Obviously I preferred to have Curtis home all the time, but by this point I was comfortable with being home alone. I created my own routines with plenty of things to look forward to, and filled my schedule the best I could. I tried to see this month apart as the last month I could simply enjoy island life, assuming that the next time Curtis would be gone we would have orders and I’d have plenty of moving prep to do.
Curtis returned home three weeks later, and was home for two weeks. We hoped to receive our orders during that time, but that didn’t happen. News of COVID-19 was becoming more common. I followed the news each day, growing concerned about how this could affect our move. Curtis told me over and over to stop worrying about it, everything would be fine. Then he left again at the beginning of March. Two days after he left, we were officially in a pandemic and the military issued a travel ban, which included PCS moves.
Pictures from Quarantine, Spring 2020
Even before the pandemic, I’ve used the words “isolating” and “restricting” when referring to living on Oahu. Being all alone on the island when stay-at-home orders were issued made it even more so. Hawaii’s rules were on the stricter side, to the point where I couldn’t even walk to the park down the street for over a month. However, I really don’t have room to complain. Though we were apart, Curtis and I both stayed healthy, and neither of our jobs were affected.
The highlight of the month was the morning I got the email with Curtis’ verbal orders — we were given our 11th choice of Omaha, Nebraska, and would be living close to ‘home’ for the first time in seven years! Before the pandemic we may not have received the news so well, but given the current circumstances this seemed like the best possible outcome. The best part of all this was calling my family and telling them the good news. We had no idea when this move would actually happen, but we had a new job and a new location to look forward to…sometime in the near future.
Curtis returned home once again at the beginning of April, surfacing to a whole new world. By this time I was used to the new guidelines and social distancing, but since Curtis still had to go to work every day along with everyone else on the sub, we now had to think about potentially being exposed. It was a weird couple of weeks filled with sanitizing and mask-making and trying to find ways to stay productive at home. All this was short-lived though as the sub’s plans changed and they ended up leaving mid-April for an undetermined amount of time.
Places Visited in 2020, Part 2
The ride ended up being 33 days long — the longest we were apart for the entirety of Curtis’ time stationed on the sub. Again, I can’t complain about that, knowing that things easily could’ve been much worse. My park opened up at the end of April, and that made things exponentially better for me. The park was never too busy to begin with, so it was the perfect spot for Charlotte and I to get our ‘outdoors time’ in a safe way.
At the end of May, Curtis finally returned home and his official orders finally arrived. Suddenly, everything we had been anticipating for so long was all happening at once: we scheduled a move, contacted a realtor, reserved a rental home on the island, started looking at homes in Nebraska, packed and took apart furniture, movers came and took everything away, we moved into a rental, finished our house renovations, and put our house on the market all in the month of June. Curtis also went on his last ever ride on his submarine, and we started visiting our favorite places for the last time.
Except we still didn’t know for sure when we’d be moving, since the military travel ban was still in affect and we had to wait for beaureacratic paperwork to be processed. This made us feel like we were living in limbo for most of July, each day wondering if our travel waiver would come through, wondering if we’d be off the island by this time next week? Thankfully things were starting to reopen on the island, so we were able to hike, go to the beach, and enjoy our last days of island living.
The waiver eventually came through, and one (very busy) week later we were boarding a plane to the mainland. The only tears shed were when saying goodbye to our house…and maybe a few out of frustration, but we’ll leave that part out. Let’s just say that once we were all back on the mainland together, so much stress just melted off our shoulders and for the first time in a long time, we felt free!
We spent a week driving from the West coast to Nebraska, staying as socially isolated as possible. We camped in remote places and hiked the paths less traveled. While on the road, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Once we arrived in Nebraska, we began our two week ‘quarantine‘ before Curtis could show up at his new job. During this time, we were able to finalize our next home, buy a new car, and start finding our way around our new hometown — by that I mean our new parks and trails!
One week after our arrival, 2020 struck again with the unprecedented. Our hometown in Iowa was hit by a derecho — an inland hurricane with 140+ mph winds. My parents lost about 30 mature trees on their property, but they and their house were miraculously spared. Suddenly the desire to help my family was much greater than the concern of COVID, so we spent the last few days of ‘quarantine’ chopping up trees and dragging big branches to the roadside. We were already excited about our move back to the Midwest, but this week really showed us that this was exactly where God wanted us to be.
We returned to Omaha and moved into our new apartment in mid-August. Curtis started his new job, which is mostly remote for now, and also started a Masters Program at Penn State University in Systems Engineering. I know this may sound like a lot, but honestly I probably have more work than he does most days! Normal weekdays now look like us working in the mornings, taking Charlotte for walks at nearby parks and lakes in the afternoon, and making every meal together.
The real reason you’re here: Charlotte Collage 2020
Settling into our new home has been so easy, and we’re loving all the time we have to spend together now. We took a couple weekend trips camping in Nebraska and South Dakota, and went on plenty of day trips around Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa consisting of old hobbies like hiking and county counting, and including some new interests such as seeing county courthouses. In case you’ve been following our courthouse pursuit and are curious, we’ve managed to see 64 courthouses since we started keeping track in July.
Another big highlight for the year has been being able to spend holidays with family again. I know this hasn’t been the case for everyone this year, but because we’ve been quarantined together for the better part of 2 months now, we felt safe spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. It had been 6 years since we’d been able to come home for Christmas and we were more than happy to break that pattern.
Now here we are — at the end of 2020, and despite it being so unprecedented, we still managed to do the biggest things we set out to do: we moved away from Hawaii and said goodbye to the active duty submarine life! While we’ll always be thankful for the lessons we learned during that time, and for the adventures we had on the islands, there isn’t a single moment this fall where we’ve wanted to go back. Not even when it snowed in October. We are very happy here, we’re making the most of every day together, and we’re setting lots of goals for the two years that we know we’ll be in the Midwest. Over the next couple years we’ll figure out what comes next, but for now we’re just enjoying this season — we worked hard and waited a long time for it!
Our county map for the year, made with mob-rule.com
Happy New Year friends, I hope you’re all healthy and able to see some good in the craziness of 2020, and that maybe 2021 can be a little more precedented. 🙂
Previous Year in Review Posts: