Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


In the Beginning


Yup...just what the Internet needs...another blog.  Well, even if the Internet doesn't need it, She Who Must Be Obeyed says that I need it.  And you KNOW that you need it. 

So, for those of you coming into this cold and totally unprepared for the experience, a little background.

Child of a modern(divorced and remarried, maybe even divorced again) middle-class family.  I can claim nothing even approaching abuse anywhere in my childhood.  My parents both loved me, and my step-parents were attentive and affectionate where appropriate.  Fairly normal upbringing in the suburbs, living in a variety of houses and apartments. My father was in The Navy, and so we did a fair amount of moving in my younger years(a few years in Massachusetts,  4 in Texas where my dad was a recruiter, then 4 more in Rhode Island)before settling down in the Pacific Northwest for my formative years(age 10 on). 

Early on in my high-school years, it became readily apparent that I was not college bound. Not that I wasn't smart enough...I did fairly well on the SAT and ACT's, and always scored well above grade level on the standardized tests(hence my hearty approval of standardized testing as a way of measuring progress).  My two problems were motivation and money.  Lack of motivation to get homework done or fill out financial aid paperwork which lead to a lack of money for paying for school.  Plus, to be perfectly honest, I had never seen myself going to college, other than on an ROCT scholarship to be an officer...and since Motivation Problem Number One prevented me from getting an ROCT scholarship, my decision was easy.  Join the Navy!

So, I ran off and joined the Navy to See The World.

Like Hell.

I did join the Navy, with full blessing from my parents, and spent the next two years a prisoner of the Navy's Nuclear Power Program.  There, I found the motivation I had been lacking in High School(since now the alternative usually involved Captains Mast and both short and long term financial pain).  It wasn't all that bad, being motivated.  I'm not going to say I breezed through the Nuclear Pipeline...I did have to study, but not as hard or as long as some folks.  Then, I learned a lesson...be careful what you ask for.

I had asked to be assigned to a fast-attack submarine in Groton, Ct, specifically, the Seawolf, the newest fastest, quitest submarine in the world.  Lo and behold, because one of the junior guys on the boat had a late diagnosed case of asthma, there was an opening, and I was assigned to PCU Seawolf.  PCU equal Pre-Commisioning Unit...meaning I was assigned as a crew member during the final stages of the building process, before it was even officially a submarine of the US Navy.

It was interesting, the process of watching a submarine get built and commisioned...and tested, and tested, and tested, and then break something, and then tested somemore. 

I spent 5.5 years on the boat, during which time I saw the exciting ports of Annapolis, Maryland, Kings Bay, Georgia, and then Fort Lauterdale and Port Canavarel, Florida.   Exotic locations indeed(although, being a sailor I gave it my best effort to find the most exotic locations in each port, and often succeeded, especially if measured by the number of exotic dancers seen). 

As a sailor, I was not always perfect, and I occasionally experienced lack of motivation problems again, but I did do a pretty good job, and eventually proved my trustworthness and overall competence to the point where as a 2nd Class, I was able to qualify Engineering Watch Supervisor and Engineering Duty Petty Officer, which put me in some very senior positions for a junior person.  Prior to leaving the boat(more due to length of emersion than any true special abilities on my part) my opinion was often asked for, and sometimes even listened to.  This was nice.  And it lead to another major lesson in my life.

If you can't dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with bull-shit.  You see...I was a good nuclear operator.  I was smart and generally all around competent...but one of the things I learned was importance of Key Words and Tricky Phrases.  Having the ability to come across as knowing more than you really know was very useful...the trick was in ending a conversation before your lack of depth of knowledge became apparent. 

This is getting long...but bear with me, if you care..

Anyway...left the boat, got orders to Bangor, Washington, to be and RCT(Radiological Controls Technician), at the Subbase there.  No longer an operator, it was my job to essentially watch people doing the maintenance work on the reactor plants and ensure they followed the rules for safe maintence, from a radiological standpoint.  Stand there and watch people.  And occasionally do some surveys. 

I got out of The Navy just short of the 9-year point.  Why, if I was such a smart, competent sailor earlier in my career? 

I was(am) fat.  In high school, for a few weeks in my senior year, I wrestled in the 168 pound weight class.  I was pretty fit...for that few weeks...I then put weight back on after wrestling and had to lose weight to get accepted into the Navy.  Actually put on weight at boot camp, but lost many waist inches again.  Put those inches back on after boot camp, and had a constant strugle maintaining myself in standards for the rest of my naval career.

So, I got tired of being defined by it in the Navy...Very competent, good performer and trainer...but look at that gut was how my evals usually read...and so rather than do the healthy thing and lose weight, I ran away.  Puget Sound Naval Shipyard didn't care how much I weighed!  And so, I got out of the navy and went to work for them, doing the same thing in the same location, just in jeans instead of uniform.  And I got to grow a goatee. 

Weight wasn't the only reason...another big one was my wife.  She Who Must Be Obeyed(SWMBO).  Met her a few months before leaving Connecticut, and in one of the most crazy things in my life, asked her to marry me and move across country with me after only dating for like 3 months.  So far, it seems like a good decision.  Anyway, when I got out of the Navy, the thought of leaving my wife and amazing daughter behind for months at a time did have some impact on the decision.

Fast forward another couple of years now.  Through my general competence(and the fact that people senior to me don't always want to be in charge) I find myself a supervisor at PSNS.  Now I watch the people that Watch the People do the work.  From a stability and financial standpoint, there is nothing to complain about in my job...no where in my back-story do you see anything about a degree...I don't have one...but, I make more money than I ever would have thought possible, do to the wonders of Over Time.

My first year out of the Navy, I worked 1100 hours of OT.  The next year, 1000 hours.  If you do the math, that is 3 years worth of work in 2 years on the calender.  Over time, as my salary has gone up, the amount of hours of OT has drifted down, to around 700 or so a year.  That is still a lot of OT...a lot of time not spent with the family.  But, that is what it takes to maintain the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.  And I mean we...I do not blame any of those hours on my wife...I like to spend money much more than she does...if she goes crazy, it is at goodwill....when I go crazy, it is at Sportsman's Warehouse looking at guns. 

Which brings me to the crossroads.  I have recently accepted a job offer to go perform essentially the same job I do now, for a company working the cleanup out at the Hanford Site, near the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington.  The salary is even more than what I make now, and more importantly, the OT is less.  Rough calculations show me I should be able to bring home the same money annually, with less time needing to be spent at work.  Like...450-500 hours less to Maintain the Lifestyle to Which I Have Become Accustomed.  Add in that they work a compressed schedule 5/4 9's, giving you every other Friday off...and that should mean a lot more time for my family...and me. 

And that really I think is the point of starting this blog.  To document this new adventure...the safe, conservative thing to do would be stay at PSNS...it is a nice Federal Job, and as close to a sure thing as there is anymore in the world.  Hanford is a contractor position...long term contract, but going over there as a supervisor exposes me to more risk.  More risk, but more reward in the form of family time, and other adventure.  I'm hoping that in addition to giving me a place to rant about everything that is wrong in the world, it will also give me a chance to document my triumphs...and look back and remind myself why I left the Ship Yard. 

The first major challenge to overcome is the thing that worried me the most in agreeing to move...selling my house.  Given the current state of the economy, I am terrified about getting my run-down house in selling shape...and the time I have used to type this, I could have gotten half the kitchen painted...so, this should be first post should be enough to keep anyone crazy enough to stick around occupied for now. 

What's past is here already, and what's future will be shorter(I PROMISE).

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