Sunday, July 24, 2011

Retirement Ceremony for an old Shipmate

My Navy trails get colder and colder, but they are not frozen, yet. It is going on four years since I retired from the Navy and most of the people I knew well have also retired and made the transition to civilian life. There are still a few of my shipmates out there serving, but that list just got shorter. My friend and shipmate, Lieutenant Commander Roy Kiddy, USN, had his retirement ceremony on Friday, 22 July, 2011, and I had the pleasure to be a part of it.

From July 24, 2011

I served with Roy from 1999-2001 aboard the USS JOHN C STENNIS (CVN 74), a NIMITZ class nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The ship was then homeported in San Diego. Roy and I served in the Engineering Department and we made a deployment to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf together. We experienced a lot during that cruise and we remained in touch after I left the ship. About two months ago, Roy's wife Mary sent out a "Save the Date" e-mail telling us that Roy was going to have a retirement ceremony on 22 July. Deirdre and I checked our calendars and we definitely saved the date. A few weeks after Mary's e-mail. Roy called me and asked if I would be the guest speaker at his retirement ceremony. I immediately accepted his request. Deirdre also planned on bringing her cameras and "glass" for the event and serve as the photographer. All of the images in this post are courtesy of Deirdre and her amazing photographic abilities.

There are few ceremonies in the Navy that invoke as much pride, and sometimes tears as a retirement ceremony. In order to be eligible to retire from the Navy (or any of the U.S. Armed Services), you have to serve at least 20 years. You have to dedicate your life to the Nation, frequently putting the needs of your service and the country ahead of your needs. For twenty seven years, Roy did just that. To be asked to speak at the ceremony ending his career was a responsibility I did not take lightly. I spent a few weeks mulling over what I would say and in the end, my speech was a little more than 4 minutes long. The people gathered for the ceremony were there to say goodbye to Roy, not to listen to me.

Roy's last duty station was on the staff of Commander, Naval Air Forces, Atlantic Fleet (AIRLANT), where he was the Quality Assurance Officer for the Nuclear Propulsion department. All of the Navy's aircraft (CVNs) are powered by nuclear reactors, and Roy's job was to help each of the CVNs maintain their readiness for underway operations. AIRLANT is located in Norfolk, VA, so Deirdre and I booked our tickets to fly there on Thursday, 21 July.

Our flights to Norfolk were uneventful, but as luck would have it, Roy picked the hottest weekend of the year for his retirement ceremony. When we arrived in Norfolk on Thursday afternoon, the temps were in the low 90s with a heat index of 100F. On Friday, the air temperature was 101-102F and the heat index was 109-115F. Needless to say, it was a bit stuffy in Norfolk!

Roy's ceremony was held at the Norfolk Rook at the Sewell's Point Golf Club (it is a Navy owned course a few miles from Naval Station Norfolk). Thankfully, the Norfolk Room was air conditioned. Roy's friends and family gathered for the ceremony, which began promptly at 1300 (1PM for you civilians out there).

The ceremony went off without a hitch, and Roy was able to see the impact he made on the lives and careers of the Sailors he served with during his twenty seven years of dedicated military service. It was an fitting tribute to recognize all that Roy did for the Navy and the Nation.

Here is a photo of me, Roy and a close friend of the family who delivered the Invocation and the Benediction during the ceremony:

Here is an image of Roy, his wife Mary and his mother Marilyn:

Here is an image of Roy, Marilyn, and his brothers Duane (who was a Navy Chief Petty Officer) and Randy (who is currently on active duty as a Sergeant in the Army):

This image of Mary and Roy sort of sums up the weekend:

It was truly an honor and a privilege to be a part of Roy's retirement ceremony. Fair winds and following seas, shipmate!

Following the ceremony, Deirdre and made a quick stop at the Norfolk Navy Exchange to buy some sunglasses and a few other items. I had not set foot aboard a Naval Station in almost two years. It was nice to put on a uniform again and feel like I was a part of the Navy again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An amazing Saturday...

Well, the weekend is winding down here in Au Sable Township. It is a quiet Sunday morning here just East of the Equator and I am happy to report that yesterday, Saturday, July 16th, was one of the better days here at our cottage. The weather forecasts for Grand Rapids were that it would be hot and humid all weekend, and I was bracing for similar weather on the east side of the state. That was simply not the case on Saturday. It was warm without a hint of humidity.

I arrived at our cottage on Friday night ~6:30PM. The drive here was uneventful and the traffic was moving along at a brisk pace. Deirdre and I settled in for a quiet and restful night, with a simple meal of steaks grilled on our trusty Weber. Friday night was relaxing and peaceful, and I was hoping that Saturday would be the same. I was not disappointed.

Samson woke us up a little before six and the burning sphere of hydrogen known as the Sun had risen and was spilling warm yellow shards of light into our cottage. Our plan was to once again throw some steaks on the grill, and Deirdre found this recipe for us to try for dinner. I ran into town to pick up a few things we needed for dinner, but I was back at the cottage, ready to face the rest of the day by 10:30AM.

After lunch, we headed to the beach. For the next 5 1/2 hours we read magazines, played with Samson, went swimming (Lake Huron felt almost as warm as bathwater) and generally did as little as possible. There was a gentle onshore breeze from the south, which kept the mosquitoes away. It was magnificent. Here are a few images from our time at the beach:

Deirdre and Samson under the umbrella.

My new Crocs.

My view of the beach on Saturday.

A very tired dog.

Me and Samson enjoying the waves and the view.

From Jul 16, 2011
What really struck me was how blue the sky looked, and how the colors of the umbrella seemed to match the sky.

The day went on and around 5:30PM we decided to head back to the cottage to clean up and get ready for dinner. Our meal was splendid and after it started to get dark, we started a fire in our fire ring and proceeded to burn some old furniture that had out lived its use to us. I am happy to report that this small dresser did burn remarkably well.

This final image of Samson sort of sums it all up. It was a very relaxing weekend, just East of the Equator.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Last night flying Solo...

Well, I had a wonderful week at our cottage, just East of the Equator last week. However, I do not have the same amount of vacation time that Deirdre has. The General has graciously given me 10 days of vacation until I hit 5 years of service, so I have to use my vacation time very wisely.

Thus, I left the cottage last Sunday and went back to work on Monday. It was a little quiet around the house. From Sunday until Wednesday, I never even turned on the TV. I worked late each day to try to get ahead of things at work so I can sneak out early on Friday. So, I was flying solo this week. I was sort of unsupervised, but since I needed to be at work each day, there was only so much trouble I could get into alone.

I did learn, however, that when I am alone and accidentally drop a peanut or two on the floor and say, "Crumbs" Samson the Dog does not come running to collect the peanuts. I look forward to seeing Deirdre and Samson tomorrow and being able to say "Crumbs!" again when something edible falls onto the floor.

Thanks for the photo, Deirdre. :-)

Saturday, July 9, 2011



–noun, plural -ses [-seez] Show IPA.
Biology . a profound change in form from one stage tothe next in the life history of an organism, as from thecaterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adultbutterfly. Compare complete metamorphosis.
a complete change of form, structure, or substance, astransformation by magic or witchcraft.
any complete change in appearance, character,circumstances, etc.

Well, it has been an interesting week at our cottage. Deirdre, Samson and I rolled in hot to Oscoda (technically, Au Sable Township) last Saturday and we were blessed to have fantastic weather each and every day since. We have spent many hours lounging at the beach, interspersed with a few brief shopping trips and a couple of visits to the VFW Post 3735 in Oscoda. What is not to like of dollar drafts of Killian's Red in a frost mug at our private club?

Our aptly named cottage, East of the Equator, has been undergoing a metamorphosis since we purchased it last year. This cottage, which had never been sold or on the market since the original family member built it, needed a lot of work. Most of the windows were original issue, as the wind seemed to blow right through the place. One of the original doors to the cottage had long ago been nailed shut and aluminum siding placed across it. In the Spring of 2010, we replaced most of the windows, tore out the old nailed shut door and installed a sliding glass door for access to the small patio facing Lake Huron. We also replaced all the flooring with tile or carpeting. We were making this place our own.

Then there was the kitchen. Like the windows, it was original issue. The cabinets were small, the sink was shallow and the place just did not work for us. Here is what the original kitchen looked like before we bought the cottage:

It had a very rustic look and it was not too functional. The window over the sink was almost impossible to open, and it also had some of the ugliest window treatments imaginable. After the capital expenditure budget for 2010 was allocated and used, we decided to upgrade the kitchen in 2011. Our builder, Rick, helped us pick out cabinets, a countertop and hardware, and on the Saturday before Easter we made our first payment towards the kitchen. Rick placed the order with a local supplier and he was confident that the cabinets and countertop would arrive in a few weeks. He was so confident that he ripped out the old cabinets before the new ones were in hand. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, wrong it did go! The cabinets were not properly ordered, and when the order was placed, one of the six cabinets ordered did not arrive with the other five, so the work was delayed once again. Undaunted, Rick installed a temporary sink for us to use while we waited for the complete order to arrive. Here is an image of our temporary (some called it Redneck) kitchen sink:

Fast forward to the end of June and all of the cabinets are installed, as well as a shiny new GE dishwasher. Now, the only work remaining was the backsplash. We picked out the tile and the grout and yesterday Scott came by with his assistant Chris and he spent the day installing the backsplash. Here are a few images of his work:

Here is the backsplash of the corner of the kitchen:

Similar perspective later in the day:

Here is the almost finished look:

Scott and Chris completed their work around 4:30PM, so all that needs to be done now is for the grout to be laid. Normally, Scott would have been at our cottage on Saturday (today) to complete the job. However, he has a fishing trip planned and he asked if it would be OK if he could come on Sunday morning to complete the work. We completely understand Scott's needs for some R&R, so we will look for him ~0930 on Sunday morning to grout the tile. That's how we roll here in Oscoda!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

At the beach...

Things are settling in nicely here just East of the Equator. Deirdre and Samson and I are having a very relaxing and restful time in our little slice of heaven (to see images from Deirdre, click here). The weather the past few days has been nothing short of magnificent. The days have been warm and sunny, with a gentle breeze from the east or the north (this keeps the biting black flies away) and the nights have been cool. I want to share a few images from this place that we love so much. First, here is a view of the beach from the back door of our cottage:

Here is a view to the north:

This is the view from my beach chair (you can see the tip of one of my Crocs in this image):

And what is a day at the beach without Samson? He is so tired after a few days at the beach that he can barely keep his eyes open:

In a few short days I will need to head back to reality and work. Until then, look for me on the beach.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

As we celebrate the 235th birthday of the United States, let us not forget that our closest ally across the years has been Great Britain. Sure, we have had our differences, like the War of 1812, but a truer friend and ally this nation does not know.

Happy birthday, America!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Lazy July Day

It has been a magnificent day here, just East of the Equator. The sun has been shining since 0552 and the temperature has been a very comfortable 75F most of the day. What is a day at the beach without sharing a few images?

Here is the view to the north of our beach:

Here is a view to the south:

Here is the view of our cottage from where we were sitting on the beach:

And here is an image of me on the beach:

And what day at the beach would be complete without a couple images of Samson. Here, he is retrieving a toy called "Chuckit."

Here is he saying goodbye to my friend Steve who paddled in for a visit and an adult beverage:

Here, I was able to capture a halo around the sun:

Yes, life is good here Just East of the Equator.