Soule Family Christmas Letter 2015

It has been a busy year for us. The pace of life-changing events has not slowed since our retirement from Navy active duty in 2011. Between between caring for Ralph’s parents, significant life milestones, moving two households to Albuquerque, trips, and volunteer massage therapy, it has been a busy year. We elected to put our Christmas letter on our website because we are just too busy to send Christmas cards.
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Soule Family Christmas Letter 2012

It's been a rapidly changing past two years for us, and we regret the lack of opportunities to connect with our friends as much as we would have liked last year.  Major events for us were Beau graduating from High School in June, and Ralph retiring from his 29-year career in the Navy in November.
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Soule family update 11 November

Pam is over halfway through her radiation therapy and continues to do well. She has less than two weeks to go, ending on 21 November. She has now entered the “boost” phase where the radiation dose is significantly increased in just the area of the tumor. I officially retired 1 November and Pamela arranged a very nice celebration with close friends to commemorate the occasion. My job search is over and I have chosen a position with a company seeking to sell ship repair and modernization (remodeling) program management and software tools to the Navy. Beau’s latest routine is complaining to anyone who will listen about being forcibly taken to Europe by his tyrannical parents. If you are pressed for time, you don't have to read any further.
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Soule family Update 13 October

Pam is doing well. She started her radiation therapy 5 October. My job search continues well and I keep getting calls and emails from people that want to feed me lunch and offer me jobs. I will probably decide in the next few days. Beau is surviving the ordeal of being cut off from his friends, regular access to the internet, and the games on his computer, but he is not happy about it. If you are pressed for time, you don't have to read any further.
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Retirement and Plans

My retirement ceremony was 1000 on 12 August. RDML Tom Moore, a shipmate from Enterprise RCOH, was my guest speaker and did a great job of "roasting" me (mostly with the storied I gave him). I had a great time and really appreciated all the people that were able to attend. I received many nice emails from people that were not able attend. I put the text of my remarks onto my iPad and used it as I actually delivered it. I was not really trying to be a high tech show off, it just seemed easier to do that than to print the speech. The ceremony went by so fast that it was hard to enjoy it, but most big events in your life are like that (high school and college graduation, wedding, vacations to Ireland, births of children, their graduation, etc.).

I have posted my remarks here. I inserted pictures for the slides I intended to show during the speech to illustrate some of my points. I have posted RDML Moore's remarks here. I placed the pictures here. I did not post the schedule of events (called a 5060 in Navy parlance)  on this web site, but I can provide a copy to anyone that wants it. I created a blog post here that provides my lessons learned on ceremony planning and the retirement process.

I am in job search mode. This is a little different than what our plan had been (we were going to take an extended vacation to Europe) because Pamela's condition requires her to go through the surgery and radiation treatment until the middle of November. We still have to move out of our house because new renters want to move in the first full week of September. Our stuff will be packed 30, 31 Aug and picked up for what the government calls Non-Temporary Storage 1 September. We have a short term housing arrangement, staying at the house of some friends who spend their summers out of town, until Pam starts radiation therapy. When she is doing her daily trips to the radiation source, she wants to be located closer to the treatment center than our friends' house is so we will have to come up with a new plan (perhaps a hotel with weekly rates). Since we are going to be staying in this area longer than I thought, I might try to get some part time work. At this point, I have no firm offers so I am listening to anyone that wants to talk to me about jobs. 

Longer term, I will probably be seeking work in the Washington, DC area. I have applied for an Ed.D. program (Human Organizatonal Learning, HOL) with the George Washington University in executive education delivery format (one Saturday a month starting next May) so I would want to be located a short drive or one stop flight from Dulles, near where the classes will be taught (Ashburn Virginia Science and Technology campus). I have a three-hour interview next month where I get to ask current students questions about the program, I lead a group discussion about an issue related to HOL, a 30 minute individual interview and a 30 minute writing sample (I guess the GRE was not enough).

Post-Retirement Trip on Hold

We are putting our Eurail trip on hold. Pamela was diagnosed 5 August with breast cancer, stage "0" (non-invasive), Ductal (as opposed to Ductile) Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) in one of her breasts. For those not familiar with the term, this means the cancer is at a very early stage, is confined to a local area so only minor surgery is required, and probably will not require chemotherapy. DCIS is considered fully curable. 

Pam will be assigned a medical "Project Team," with the Surgical Oncologist being the rough equivalent of the Project Superintendent. She has a Nurse Practitioner as her Project Engineering and Planning Manager (the Chief Appointment Scheduler works for her and set up all the tests today leading up to the surgery), and the Radiation Oncologist might be considered the Chief Test Engineer.  I have not found an equivalent for the Naval Reactors Representative, but the NAVSEA rep is me.

The standard treatment regimen is day surgery ("lumpectomy," in and out the same day), thirty day recovery, followed by thirty-forty days of radiation. We hope to have the surgery this month so that the radiation is complete 1 November, the day of my actual retirement. Depending on how Pam feels, we might do some limited travel after that. Our near term focus is not on travel but on her treatment plan, of course. God was certainly looking out for her to find out so soon before it has had time to progress at a time when I can devote myself fully to supporting her. I will provide periodic updates as we get more tests done and meets with specialists.

Ralph and Pamela Plans Post-Retirement (subject to revision)

I retire in August (the 12th at 1000 at Vista Point, at the Norfolk Naval Station. I can provide invitations to those interested in attending if you did not receive an email notification from me already. Post-Navy, I am seeking a senior Engineering position in either the commercial power generation industry or at NAVSEA supporting carriers, but I am looking at other possibilities as well. I have applied to the George Washington University Human Organizational Learning program to work toward an EdD at their Ashburn VA campus, one weekend a month for about 3-4 years.

I have some good job leads and am working applications now for 2 jobs with the government. I am not sure when they would start, my preference is Jan 2012. Our stuff gets moved into long-term storage in Aug. We depart shortly after, depending on free military flights, on a Eurail trip of Europe with our son Beau (6-8 weeks, 6 countries, Spain, France, England, Germany, Denmark, Norway). Pam plans on attending a massage conference in Portland 17-22 Oct after we return. 

I have to come back to formally retire 1 Nov in person. From 1 Nov - 31 Dec, we may visit friends and relatives in the west. We would also like to try to take another military flight to Hawaii and Australia before 1 Jan. This is "off season" for military flights, but a good time to go to Oz since it will be summer there. 

After 1 Jan, if I get one of the jobs mentioned above, we will need a place to stay in the DC area while looking for a place to rent (hotel is fine). If those jobs vaporize, I am not sure what my job hunting base will be. 

If required to start working by 1 Oct, then we will shorten our Eurail trip and come back earlier. Pam and I are actively planning our Eurail trip and I will post more details as we do. Our current plan is to visit Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Caen, Normandy/Bayeux, London, Bath, Cardiff/South Wales, Hamburg, Strasburg, Oslo, Andalsnes, Dombas, Trondheim, and 
Ramstein/Kaiserslautern/Ramstein Village, depending on how much time we have and how much time it takes to travel between cities. We will need a five country pass (Spain, France, England, Germany, Denmark, and Norway, yes, that is six). 

Soule Family New Year Update 2011

I have posted pictures at this link.

Yes, we moved again. Even though my assignment after Supervisor of Shipbuilding is in the area, the owners of the house that we were renting wanted to return so we had to find another place to live, much to Pam’s dismay. The normal tools (newspaper, craigslist, realtor) were not very helpful, so Pam and our son Beau found a very nice house 4.8 miles down the road by wandering around local neighborhoods (fortunately, none of the homeowners in Neighborhood Watch called the police about suspicious cars stalking the neighborhoods).  The new house is only a little smaller than the last one so most of our “stuff” fit.  After three weeks of shuttling stuff back and forth in our van, “big furniture move day” was 4 December. The move was a poignant reminder of just how stressful moving all your “stuff” can be, even if it is only five miles down the road (we wanted to keep our son in the same school). Since we are going to be moving again next fall (see below), it was a good opportunity to throw/give stuff away in advance and put things in boxes that we don’t intend to unpack. According to Pam, the next obvious step might be throwing/giving it away, but I am not ready to go there yet. I made some progress by using Craigslist to give away a few things.

Christmas just blew by us this year (not the first time, alas) so we have converted what we planned to be our Merry Christmas letter into a New Year’s letter. The other challenge, since my wife and I jointly composed this letter, is struggling over who adds/deletes what to each version. That has probably added several days to the composition period as well. 

The recent 14-inch blizzard in the Hampton Roads area was a big headache (but still a little fun since it does not happen very often). Since we don’t usually get much of the cold, white stuff, it snarled traffic, overwhelmed what few plows exist, and stranded people with death wishes that just had to be out driving around the day after Christmas. Other than that, it has been a typically busy year for our family.

We went back to one of our favorite destinations, Ireland, last June (our third trip-the last time we visited was 1992). The trip has left us with many fond memories of moments of laughter, great hospitality, and sheer terror squeezing past huge trucks on narrow country roads and turns lined with piles of side mirrors. See details below.

We plan to return to Ireland this coming spring (late April, early May). While Dublin is nice, we want to explore more of our favorite part of the country: Connemara (northwest coast) and Achille Island. Pam wants to go hiking and camping, but we might settle for a bed a breakfast outside of major cities. 

I bought a MacBook Air in December and stopped using my Windows desktop. Now both Pamela and I have gone completely Mac. I got a MacBook Air for my dad last year. Yes, I am often in the Apple Reality Distortion Field and the hardware is a little pricier than Windows compatible machines, but the only thing you should really care about with computer hardware or any other appliance is how well it helps you do the things you want to do. A nice summary of this line of thinking can be found on the 1 November edition of one of my favorite podcasts, the Get It Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More.

We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with my brother Hugh and his family and tens of thousands of people who might be our closest friends, if we knew who they were. Beau went with us this time but did not join us for the 0330 wake up the morning after we arrived (departure delay caused us to miss our connection in Las Vegas so we did not get to bed until 0030). Not unexpected for your average teenager. He was able to make good use of his time after waking playing video games. Seeing the balloons inflate and take off is magical! The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is one of the only spectacles of its kind that allows spectators to crowd around the balloons as they are being inflated. We saw a “morning mass ascension,” but missed out on the Balloon Glow because the winds were too high the night we came.

I will probably retire next fall with the date of a retirement ceremony to be determined. I have really enjoyed this twenty-eight plus years (twenty-nine by the time I retire) on active duty. I am interested in pursuing post-graduate education (probably an Ed.D., which could take three to four years) as a part-time student in Human and Organizational Learning at George Washington University ( The curriculum focuses on the “human side of business,” something that I think is neglected in many organizations. Pursuing the Ed.D. will require a move to northern Virginia because it is only offered there. The course of study will likely be helpful in pursuing my next goal of becoming some form of executive coach. I really like spending time counseling and mentoring junior officers and enjoys it just as much as the other work I do. While I will miss many things about the Navy, I am looking forward to trying something new and Pam is being a real sport about exploring post-career options with me as long as they include a path toward eventual relocation to the west coast or states that border CA/OR/WA (she is from Sacramento, CA). We attended an Open House for GWU on a chilly, windy evening in December that helped answer a lot of our questions I had about the program.

The day after the change of command, I reported to my next (current) command, COMNAVAIRLANT, as the Ship Materiel Officer (N43). I am very familiar with the job because I served in the equivalent position on the west coast, 2006 - 2007, before my  Supervisor of Shipbuilding assignment. This one year that included three trips to Japan!  I will certainly get to travel more (this may not be a good thing) than in my last job (I am already going to Seattle and Bahrain in January).

I played on an adult over 40 soccer team in the spring that won the league championship (the second time this has happened since I started playing in 1998). The final was played at the Virginia Beach Soccer Complex in mid-90 degree temperatures last August (so much for “spring” soccer). This fall, the league formed an over 50s division (this is the ‘Geezer” Division). There were only four teams and after a painful experiment of playing over 40s teams (the word “annihilation” comes to mind), the league settled on the Over 50‘s teams playing each other multiple times. My team managed to win the first ever over 50s championship, but doing so was more a factor of endurance than pure skill since the other team in the final only had nine players. Just like the last few games of the spring season were played in extreme (90F+) temperatures, the last few games of the fall season were chilly affairs (below mid-30s). Pam claims that she is too smart to watch games in either really hot or cold weather. It does not help stoke her enthusiasm when I have to leave the house at 0600 Sunday morning for 0800 games.

Pam remains at home and available for Beau. This is much less necessary this year than in years past as he is in a school that is a really good fit for him. Pam is still unpacking boxes from the move and occasionally yelling, “Where are my shoes?” I get all the blame/credit for the things we cannot find (normal). Getting back to massage therapy is still Pam’s plan.  Seeing more moves ahead (one next fall and one three to four years after), she’s waiting for me to pick one darn place to live so she’ll know which state massage therapist licensing exam she has to pass. In the meantime, when she finds the time, she is studying to nationally recertify. She is looking forward to being settled post-Navy. 

Pam’s good friend Janay (another friend from high school) came to visit her in the spring. They had a very nice time and wish to make seeing each other a yearly ritual.

Beau is a senior in high school this year. He’s at an alternative high school where he is thriving. He’s made many friends and is enjoying his year. We are working with him to explore options for next year. 

Our oldest son, Bryan, graduated from the University of North Florida in 2009 and is living and working in Jacksonville, Florida (yes, it did get down to 22 degrees in Jacksonville this past week). 

I was going to put contact information (email addresses, street address, etc.) on this post, but then I realized that will open us up to billions of Viagra spam emails (“it would be bad”). If you need that information, just send me an email via this site and I will provide it. The code version of our email addresses is: my first.last@lastfamily.or, pam's is pamlast@(the rest is the same as mine). Our new Google Voice phone is (236) 206 - 1982.

Soule Family Update 9 November 2010

The change of command ceremony for Supship Newport News 9 November at Fort Monroe was even more fun than I thought it would be. I have been to many so I knew basically what to expect in terms of process/ceremony. I will share some pictures when I get them all in (perhaps I will go through what my family took tonight, but the CVN 71 team sent two photographers and and two video cameras rolling, gad, you have to love our CVNs). The best part about it all was getting to see old friends again, like: Leo Owens, Mark Hugel, Jeff Brooks, RDML Tom Moore, RDML Jim Murdoch (current USFFC N43 since the EDs don't have that billet for now, ugh), Chuck Bush, Chuck Horrell (drove from Louisville, KY, good grief, but I am sure he did it for Kevin Terry and not me), Capt Mark Whitney, Capt Bill Gallinis (SUPSHIP Gulf Coast), shipmates from CVN 69 and a classmate from USNA (82). It was like a getting to see people you have not seen in years without there having to be at a funeral. Wow, what a lot of fun. Anyone who wants to read my remarks, which were a lot of fun to write and speak (okay, I know that sounds twisted, but I am a bit of an exhibitionist), can find them here.

The run up to the change of command was not quite a blur, but it was close. It is amazing how fast 3 years in command can go. I personally wrote performance evaluatioins (what the Navy calls “FITREPs”) for all five CDRs, 11 reserve officers that support the command under the new AC/RC integration construct, and my own (that makes 17). I wrote them all myself because I believe making an officer write his/her own FITREP is a poor leadership statement. There is no nice way to say that. Last week, I ran my last Physical Readiness Test (PRT) at the command. I felt good while doing the tests (1.5 mile run, timed sit ups and push ups, 2 minutes each), but I think the distance is getting longer each year because I used to run a lot farther in 12:20 than 1.5 miles. I stayed at work until 1700 the night before the change of command to complete the rating official assessment of the Deputy Supervisor (fortunately the meetings that went from 1300-1615 with flag officers and Newport News senior leaders did not require a lot of my participation [why would they since the change of command was the next day?] so I worked on the assessment during the meetings). The morning of the change of command, I got up early to practice and make final revisions to my remarks (not a good practice even though it worked out well in the end, I should have done this a week earlier) and watch the PSNS video about fall protection equipment (“safety harnesses”) to write some notes for the person who checks such equipment out to the command to make clear my expectations of how he should evaluate the level of knowledge of the employee about to use the equipment. Sure, this latter tasks was a CRAZY thing to be doing on my last morning in command, but I made a commitment to get this done and by golly I did.

I reported to COMNAVAIRLANT (CNAL) at the Naval Station the following day bright and early (l live in Yorktown so the commute will be challenging, but manageable). I did not want to take any leave because a) I am a workaholic (there is a lot of stuff to do for the Carrier Team One aircraft carrier overhaul improvement meeting the following week), b) I like what I do for a living, c) I need to get in the "seat" while the turnover knowledge from ten days ago is still relevant, d) CNAL staff will take some time off for Thanksgiving (got to love those staffs) and Christmas anyway, and e) I am conserving leave to take my wife to Ireland next Apr (just the two of us).

We have to move out of the house where we are living no later than Jan (might be Dec). The owners of the house we are renting are moving back to the area. Moving is not my favorite thing to do, but this is the first time in 29 years we have had to move more than once at a duty station.

My next job is the Ship Materiel Officer at CNAL. I think I can do some good work there and it will be my second time at the command. The first was 98-99. I am essentially switching jobs with the officer who is relieving me.

Pam and I recently flew to Houston for three days for a working session at APQC (see, an organization that helps companies with best practices and knowledge sharing. It was not exactly work related so I took leave. I have worked with them for several years in conjunction with carrier maintenance so this looked like an opportunity to do something different and will probably help with networking and employment post-Navy. It is never too early to start thinking about that.

In early October, Beau, Pam, my dad, and I flew to Albuquerque (my brother Hugh lives there) for the Balloon Fiesta. We arrived quite late Wed evening (getting to bed by midnight) and then got up at 0400 the next day to catch the shuttle to the "mass ascension" (lots of balloons taking off at once). I am glad we did it, but it was also good to go back to my brother's house by 1000 to nap. The nap was almost as good as the balloon fiesta.  The state question really is "red or green" because they ask you every time you order Mexican food.  Friday, we stood in a very long line to take a tram to the top of the Sandia mountains (Sandia is the Mexican word for "watermelon," the color of the mountains most sunsets). The last full day, Saturday, we hung about mostly and I went to two really well done haunted houses with my niece and her husband.

Our son Bryan is still in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from the University of North Florida last year, and our younger son Beau is 17 and a senior in high school. Beau goes to an alternative high school that has accommodations for his Asperger's (the biggest one is that the teachers don't panic easily). He's a bright kid and will do just fine because he is far more functional than most of the other young people there. Just getting him through school has been a challenge, though.

Pam is not working, but is planning to get back into the massage therapy business in some capacity so she is studying to take her certification exams next year.





Merry Christmas from Ralph, Pam, and Beau Soule

Here’s our year at a glance (there is a link to pictures): Beau turned 16 in February. Ralph and Pam are very proud of Bryan for graduating and of Beau for working so hard in high school. Trips and special events: Pam’s friend Janay came to visit from Nevada. We connected with Pam’s brother Rich. We took a vacation to Cato, NY to visit friends Sherryl and Jon, stopping to tour the Gettysburg battlefield on the way. Ralph and his brothers helped his parents, Joan and Lyle, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Pam's mother Betty passed away; she is greatly missed, but Pam and her sisters are even closer now. Ralph and his team delivered two aircraft carriers with Newport News, CVNs 77 and 70. He still plays soccer on Sundays. All our love to you and wishes for a great holiday and a wonderful new year!
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