Saturday, August 22, 2009

July 7

As most of you guys know, David made the decision to drop from SEAL training a few months ago. It was such a hard and scary decision for us- especially since we knew that if we left BUD/s, we had no idea where we might go next. Finally- three months later- we have our answer!

About two weeks ago, David received his orders (the official Navy paperwork telling us where and when we'll go next) on a Thursday telling us that we needed to report to Monterey, Ca (almost 8 hours north!) in four days. So David drove a UHaul towing his jeep and I drove my car with the dog up to Monterey, and after living in a Motel 6 for a few days, we finally found a place to live- a great little cottage in the historic Pacific Grove neighborhood between Monterey and Pebble Beach. We have a downtown area with farmer markets on Mondays and we've already learned that everyone knows everyone here. The houses are from the early 1900s and are mostly small cottages and Victorians, and the ocean is about a mile from our house with a rocky shore full of seaweed, seagulls and surfers. As you can guess, we love it already!

David will be going to the Defense Language Institute (called DLI) that is actually on an Army base here in Monterey, where he will be learning a language full-time for about a year. We're not sure yet which language it will be, but we are expecting it to be Arabic or Farsi, and the rumor is that Middle Eastern linguists are stationed in Augusta, Ga after DLI. (Wouldn't that be interesting?)

I've been lucky enough to score some photography work here and there to keep me busy, and I'm excited to announce a revamped website and blog ( I'd love to book weddings or portrait shoots in Atlanta in either early November or on a weekend near Thanksgiving (dates when I will already be home) - let me know if you have any leads :) I would love to keep Achor & Eden going in Georgia, especially since it's possible we may be stationed there soon.

Thanks to all of you guys for your amazing support. I'm attaching some photos of our new house and new neighborhood - we'd love to have you out to visit anytime!

March 22

Wow, so much happens in just one week (and who knows where we will be next week!) Here are some highlights (I use that word loosely...)

-David's class got in trouble last week for something silly and basically lost their weekend. He had to work most of Saturday and Sunday, and then he had to "stand watch" (aka stand in the cold outside the barracks) from 2am-6am on Monday morning! He was exhausted and was so thankful to have this weekend to wind down.

-We went to a cookout with some new friends last Saturday and met some great guys who are currently SEALs. They gave David lots of encouragement, and it was so nice to interact with SEALs who aren't his instructors :) We also got lunch with our friends Liz and Pete (Pete is a SEAL), and they had lots of great advice too. They basically affirmed the fact that BUD/S in miserable and that you'll want to quit daily, but that it's worth it.

-We finally got his permanent orders, and our furniture is set to be delivered to us in the next two weeks! I can't tell you how ready I am for this... we've been living with just our craigslist mattress and the few things we could fit in our car for long enough! While it's been a good lesson that we can survive without "stuff", I am so ready for a washer/dryer, a place to sit and eat other than our mattress, and more than the ten shirts I've been wearing for six weeks! (I've been to the laundry mat, don't worry...)

-This week was full of tests for David- his four mile beach run, his two mile ocean swim, the obstacle course, knot tying, drown proofing... He's done really well and is glad to have these over with!

-The US Olympic swim team was on the base on Wednesday... even Michael Phelps! They were there to "try out" BUD/S training. They were getting surf tortured and trying surf passage, and they all watched as David's class did the four mile run. That's when it really hit me that David's doing something pretty hard. If a guy on a Wheaties box with millions of dollars in athletic sponsorship dollars will watch him train and try it for a day, you know it's pretty infamous.

-And the big news... David graduated from INDOC on Friday and will start First Phase of BUD/S on Monday. Day one of First Phase is infamously the hardest day of training- they will "get beat" physically and a large number will quit Monday alone. David's class has already dropped from 220 at the start of INDOC to somewhere around 150, and this number will significantly lower after Monday. We also found out that Hell Week will start on Easter Sunday- more details to come about that soon!

As usual in our lives, everything is happening at once- in one month, we will have our furniture, I will have finished The NotWedding, and David hopefully will have finished Hell Week (the hardest week of training). We've had our ups and downs, but we are amazed by and are thankful for all we are learning. Pray for safety and motivation for David (and for some speedy moving trucks for me!)

March 12

Just wanted to send you guys a quick update...

I picked David and his buddy Pearson up from work yesterday and they wet on and on about how crazy yesterday was! They said it was by far their hardest day yet- so hard that 10 guys DORed (and a lot of them were "high profile" guys- petty officers who were studs physically and mentally and leaders in the class). They said that they were wet and cold all day long- they had a 2 mile bay swim in the 40-something degree morning weather and then immediately got out, dressed in dry clothes and... had to get wet (instructors are cruel!) They then went straight into a PT session. After lunch, they headed to the pool for what was basically supervised drowning! They all had to fill their masks with water and then do exercises in the pool like flutter kicks with your hands on your head. They also had to tread water (still with masks full of water so you couldn't see) and pass weights to one another. They said it was exhausting and definitely kind of freaky to be in that position. This is when so many of the guys dropped- they couldn't get over the fear of drowning.

I think it shocked David to see so many guys quit, but he said that DORing hasn't really crossed his mind as an option yet. He says it's just like any job- Even at Booster when he didn't want to be there some days, he had to stay and get the job done. He also said that one of the guys in his class who was in BUD/S a few years back said that yesterday was as hard as any first phase day, so I think it's encouraging to David to know that first phase is going to be hard, but it won't be anything he can't handle.

So, I tell you all this because I know you'd think it's interesting, and also of course because I'd love for you to pray for him! He's doing great physically, but he still has a cough (all the guys do...), and I know he's just tired (his body just convulses when he falls asleep as his muscles relax- it's bizarre!) He also has been encouraged recently by Bill and Stephen to focus on his spiritual reason for being in BUD/S, which as Bill puts it is "not just a mission, but The Great Commission". Pray for him to focus on encouraging and speaking truth to his men, and pray also that he finds someone who can pour into him.

In other fun news, Samson is flying out to us today... and David has no idea :) I'm going to pick Samson up from the airport this afternoon and then surprise David with his after work! Can't wait...

March 10

We've been in California two weeks now, and I'm amazed by how quickly we're settling in. We rented a great house last week that has everything we had wanted (minus the furniture, which won't be here for another few weeks... we're sleeping/eating/watching TV on a mattress on the floor until it arrives...). 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a great backyard for Samson... It's a mile to the beach, 10 minutes to David's base, 20 minutes to downtown San Diego, and a bike ride to Mexico.

Everyone keeps asking me to post photos, but I can't bring myself to post photos until we have furniture. "Just show us the outside then!" everyone says. But seriously, I can't show you the outside without backing it up with photos of the inside or else you'd think we live in the g-h-e-t-t-o. Houses here are just like that- terribly ugly but somehow charming as the flaking stucco and 1970s RV-esque design are overpowered by palm trees and blue skies.

We've been making friends thanks to a great church we found (Kaleo Church) and my one friend Allison from UGA who has been phenomenal about helping me network. We've hung out with David's buddies a lot, but we're impatiently waiting on some friends like we have back home (don't think we'll ever find friends like that!!) But I am going to a Bible study with some Navy wives to do some more friend shopping tonight, so wish me luck...

So now what you really want to hear about: David's training. He's in his second week of Indoc (basically the intro class), and he's starting to get to the good stuff. Last week he had a mile swim in the bay (in wetsuits since it's so cold!), an intro to the obstacle course (where he passed all obstacles- only half the guys can say that!), and a five mile beach run in boots and camis (where the instructors made them get in the water mid-run just to make it even more miserable... imagine running in wet boots!) They also had their first experience with "surf torture"- laying in the breaks of the cold ocean with arms linked to the other men, waves crashing in your face. This week he has more swims and beach runs, and they will be introduced to the infamous surf passage, which involves taking small inflatable boats into the ocean to work on teamwork. Rumor is that BUD/S (the reeeal training) starts in two weeks. Guys are already dropping daily, and a handful of David's friends have been "rolled" (pushed back to another class) as they wait to have eye surgery.

Here's our cool story for the week: We woke up last Sunday a little discouraged and overwhelmed. We prayed for God to keep giving us signs that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing and that we're not doing it for any wrong reasons. Later that morning, we met a guy who just made it to the SEAL teams- an officer with a personality a lot like David's, who was really open to talking about his experience. After a good conversation, we went to take my friend Allison to a house down the road, but remembered that our backseat was full of suitcases... so I drove Allison home while David waited in the parking lot. The same SEAL he had just spoken to walked up to him and said, "I feel like I need to tell you something else..." (At this point, David was thinking it'd be some lame Navy rule like: "Don't tell anyone we talked"...) Instead, he said, "I have a lot of respect for anyone who joins in a time of war. And I need to tell you that the SEALs need good men." So we took that to be our sign that we at least need to keep moving forward, confident that God has a bigger purpose in what in the world we're doing out here...

So we ask that you pray for a few things for us: good friends, safety as David trains, and continued reassurance that we're in the right place.

And then we also ask that you book some plane tickets and come stay with us (Air Tran is running some great specials right now!!) :) I just spent days painting the guest room for you!

February 26

I must admit… I think I am actually going to enjoy commuting here. Our drive from Imperial Beach (where we will be living) to The Naval Amphibious Base is about 12 minutes up the Silver Strand Highway- a road planked by green plants and families biking with their kids, with the bay on the East side and the Pacific Ocean to the West. It’s a bit more scenic than 285.

Now granted I’ll be making this commute every morning at 4am… until we buy David a car. But waking up to drive him should keep us on the same schedule (going to bed at 8 each night and up by 4), and it will keep me on a closer schedule to my Atlantan home-base (we’re three hours behind you guys!)

I made the drive again today as I went to look at more houses, and I had an overwhelming sense of peace and excitement (yes, those two can happen together). It was 75 and sunny and I was driving next to the ocean with my windows down, thinking that it really wouldn’t be so bad to call this place home.

There is an overwhelming sense of patriotism here, and I am so proud of my husband for serving the way he is. There is also an overwhelming sense of …doom, I think… as we see guys in the BUD/S program now, waddling across the road (running almost 10 miles each day leads to waddling if you’re wondering) just to get their lunch. We saw the remnants of BUD/S class 275 (David is 276) waddle across the road yesterday in their brown shirts, meaning that they are graduates of Hell Week. And we look at them and think: Who of David’s friends and classmates will be there in two months, with brown shirts and camo fatigues and the numbers “276” stenciled to their big green helmets?

David had his first day at the BUD/S compound today- just checking in and processing (of course he’s been there over 12 hours, but that’s just government efficiency for you). His room has an ocean view and is literally beachfront, and he shares it with three other guys. We think he’ll be able to stay with me some during the week and definitely on weekends, but we’re not getting our hopes up. Our focus is on his training now, and we are just thankful to be in the same state!

We found a charming house that we are hoping to move into early next week- it has three bedrooms and a huge backyard for Samson. I affectionately call it “the double wide”, but David says we can’t move in if I keep calling it that. So now it’s “the house on Emory Street”. It’s about a mile to the beach, and you can see Mexico from the roof.

It is even stranger than I imagined being so far away from home, but we are both excited and thankful to be here. Despite the quizzical looks we keep getting when I order sweet tea at dinner, say “yall” in conversation or explain that our dog is a “coon hound”, I think we’ll fit in just fine.

We’ve already found some amazing spots to take our visitors (like the incredible Asian bistro we discovered last night or the runway on base where jets fly in and out), so start planning that vacation to sunny California!

6 Months Later...

...and everything has changed! Wow, we never thought we would be where we are now, but we have definitely enjoyed (and learned lots) from this ride.

When we left Chicago in February to head west for BUD/s, we had to keep any info about it off a blog and in private emails instead. Now that we are no longer in the program, I wanted to upload my old email updates here as a way to keep everything chronicled. This has definitely been quite the journey, and I have loved looking back at these posts and emails to see what all we have learned.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


“The American Dream is made up of many elements, not the least of which is wanderlust. Our country was founded and populated by generations of people searching for new experiences and filled with curiosity about what could be seen on the other side of the mountain.” -Melissa Chewning

My mom wrote this in an album dedicated to my dad after they drove from Stone Mountain, Georgia to the West coast in 1985. I made this trip with them (my mom was a few months pregnant with me), and I am amazed that I will be making a similar trip in just a few days- this time as an adult with my own husband, and this time with no intention of turning around when we hit the Pacific.

It is a surreal and incomprehensible idea, leaving your home. I’ve been away from my husband for five months now, with most everything that I own either in storage or being lived in by strangers. This makes my upcoming trip to rejoin my other half seem more like a homecoming than a move away. But I still can’t get my head around leaving my friends and family and the city that I’ve known since birth.

David and I have always struggled with The American Dream- what it is, why we fight for it, why we want out once we get there. I will say that my mom nailed it with the “wanderlust” idea; I think The American Dream ends when you achieve it. When you can dream and hope and plan… that is The American Dream. That’s what is amazing about America- that you can dream.

I am surrounded by a group of friends and family here that do nothing but encourage me to dream. And as we move three time zones west, we know that nothing will change about these relationships but the circumstances. These are relationships are rooted in something stronger than the Navy and larger than 2000 miles. They are rooted in Christ.

So I will leave the South tomorrow to see what’s on the other side of the mountain. And while we are excited to fight for a country that fosters dreaming and while we are enthralled with the wonder of this adventure, we rest in the comfort of knowing that no mountain can separate us from what we have here at home.