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.

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

Soule Family Update 9 November 2010