On August 8, 2012, my husband Lt. Nick Miller finally returned home from a six month deployment. I was so excited to see him...and almost more excited that I could finally show him the project I've been working on since the day he left.

So without further ado, here is my top secret deployment project which I have titled,
The Adventures of Flat Nick.
Special thanks to all my friends and family who put up with the very weird looks from strangers as they helped me complete this project- and also kept it a secret. Couldn't have done it without you and my good friend, wine.
 
 
Happy One Year Anniversary, Hawaii! I moved to Hawaii with Nick on February 4, 2010. Which means next week I will have now lived in Hawaii for a whole year.
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First license in a new state! Woot!
So crazy to think about. Not that the time during deployment flew by at all, but definitely the time since Nick has been home has.

The only time I have left Hawaii since moving here has been for a few days to go to California for training for work. I haven't been back to Maryland and have not seen my family and friends for one whole year now.
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My going away outing with my good friends before the big move.
That must be the reason I have been thinking about them all and missing them so much. I did get to see my sister and niece back in July when they came to visit me, which was amazing. And I have gotten to Skype with my parents, my sister, my niece, and even my grandma over the holidays.

But my heart is aching for my friends back home. Don't get me wrong, I have friends here. But they're not the kind yet that I feel comfortable calling up after a rough day to talk to. Nick is here for that...some of the time. And none of the girls I hang out with live anywhere nearby me. With the island’s traffic, that is a big deal. A girl needs her best friends.
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To my two best friends back home, Erin and Rachel. I miss you two SO much.

Erin has been my best friend and partner in crime and sarcasm since junior year of college when I went from commuting to class to moving onto campus and got "stuck" rooming with her. It was a randomized assignment and the first thing I see when I walk into the dorm room is a huge poster of David Duchovny from X-Files and a little David Duchovny action figure perched tauntingly by her computer.
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Me and Erin...So young here!
Erin and I hit it off right away, much to her surprise (and a little bit of mine!). She told me story after story of her nightmarish roommates, ones that stalked her, ones that walked in on her without asking, and ones that would just stare at her like they wanted to kill her. Erin and I had the same major, were the same age, and were in very similar dating situations at the time. While I had never seen X-Files before (although Erin got me to watch a few episodes while living with her and they weren’t bad, I must say), we did stay up WAY too late when we had early classes and tell scary stories until we fell asleep.
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Erin and I continued to room together until graduation. Afterwards we had our own stuff going on and didn’t see each other much. A few months after graduation we got together for a reunion and decided to go do karaoke at a little bar nearby our college where a friend of mine (Rob!) was DJing. And then we went faithfully every week for 5 months straight.
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Still my favorite picture of all time. Oh my Lord.
Erin has and always will be my best friend. I regret that we don’t talk much. She is a busy girl with a full-time job with a hefty commute, a fiancé, and a punk band called Dead End Lane in which she is the amazingly talented lead singer. The time diff doesn’t help either. But despite not getting to talk much I know that if I need her she is always there and vice versa.
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Rachel!
I also found Rachel, my other best friend, in a very serendipitous type way. I used to date her brother! While the relationship with her brother clearly did not work out, I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel who is like a kindred soul to me. We got along SO well that her brother started getting jealous of our talking the whole time we were all out! Not too long after meeting Rachel, she invited me to move into her spare bedroom at her place.
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Such an awesome friend.
Rachel was such an awesome roommate too! We watched the same shows, worked nearby, loved a lot of the same things. It was only a little awkward having pictures of her brother hanging around everywhere…but this is also the same brother that led me to find my husband so it looks like two AWESOME things came out of that!
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ignore the brunette behind the curtain.
I guess Nick has to come out as the winner of being my favorite roommate ever. I mean, we do have a blast together. But….my two favorite girl roommates and best friends will always be Erin and Rachel.
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There are no two friends like these two. :)
So this blog is dedicated to Erin and Rachel. Of course I miss everyone else back home SO much, my mom and my sister especially.
I also really miss my other close friends: Rob, John, EP, James, Cory, Beki, Bernadette, and all my other friends I didn't name on here….you all are the best. I miss you guys a ton. Karaoke again soon please? Guys?
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Miss you guys a ton. Sing 'Fatbottom Girls' for me please?
Side Note: I know Erin wouldn’t want you to believe she is still obsessed with David Duchovny. I mean I wouldn’t want to embarrass her. It’s not like I would ever do something crazy like put up a poster of her with a really bad picture in the elevator of our dormitory or anything like that. So for the record, despite owning a cast of David Duchovny’s head, Erin really isn’t obsessed with X-Files anymore. For the record. ;)
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Ahhh, October. Thoughts of burnished leaves, fuzzy sweaters, thunderstorms, snuggly boots, and candy corn pop into your brain.

Well, pretty much the only one that applies to Hawaii is the candy corn. Oh, well.

Time is drifting along on the island. It seems a little wistful to think that a whole summer went by without Nick, but so is military life. At least it was well spent.
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These ladies have been deployment lifesavers.
Besides, the deployment clock is visibly ticking down. Now that I'm so much closer to his coming home than his NOT coming home, it makes everything more fun. All the preparation going into our first Homecoming- what a blast!

I have my outfit all planned out down to the tiniest of details. I can't wait to put up pictures afterwards! I still have some things I need to purchase for it but I've got plenty of time. I just like to be on top of it all.

I also started thinking about a Welcome Home banner. We don't live on base- we bought our house here in Hawaii and have a very strict community as far as hanging things outside (I heard a house nearby got written up for having an American flag outside- just insane). I feel like Welcome Home banners are maybe something that people on base do more.

But Eff it. I'm doing it my own way. And by my way, I really mean my way. I'll elaborate more on that later.

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Meet the newest love of my life!
I also have some other BIG news (in a very tiny package). Nick and I had been talking for a while about getting another puppy. I LOVE my dog and want her to have someone to play with and to keep her company. Also, we adopted Maggie when she was about 6 or 7 months old so we missed out on the very young puppy stages. Which was probably good for a first dog, but it’s still an experience I’d like to go through.
 
We originally were going to get one next year, but with the way the schedule is working out we realized it would be better to get one now than to wait. And I lucked out- the opportunity arose and….we’re getting a beagle puppy (or "beaglet" as one of my good friends calls them)!

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Couldn't resist. Bought.
I can’t wait. She’s a few weeks old now and will be ready to go home soon. I met her today and she is a rambunctious little bugger but just adorable and a total cuddlebug.

I’ve already found the cutest things for her. I’m convinced she needs to have a collar covered in cupcakes and or sprinkles. 

I was thinking a dainty name would be cute. I was also thinking of some Hawaiian names since we’d be getting her here.

I’m brainstorming names now. Since she is a purebred beagle and very lady-like looking,  some names I have come up with so far (some from the help of friends) are:

  • Charlotte
  • Lilikoi (a Hawaiian fruit- actually the filling in our wedding cake- “Lily” for short)
  • Cupcake
  • Mimosa
  • Champagne
  • Coco or Koko
  • Kokomo
  • Kona or Kono
  • Hoku (“Star” in Hawaiian)
  • Lucy
  • Lunakai ("Across the Ocean" in Hawaiian)
  • Lola
  • Grace/Gracie
  • Sophie
  • Miley
  • Bisou
  • Calypso (sea nymph who keeps Odysseus on her island in Homer’s The Odyssey- made me think of being so far out here in Hawaii)
  • Daisy
  • Paisley
  • Olive
  • Bellini (notice a pattern?)
  • Picnic
  • Audrey
  • MaiTai

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Trouble should maybe be her middle name.
If anyone can think of a great name for this sweet girl, leave me a comment! I’d love more ideas! I did come up with a great one while sitting on the beach yesterday brainstorming and listening to Bob Marley. I thought to myself, “Oh! 'Marley'! That would be such a cute name for a dog! Ohhhh…..Bummer.” Too bad someone beat me to it. Hmph.

Seriously. Ideas, people.
 
 
When I was a little girl, like most girls my age, I was a teeny bit obsessed with The Little Mermaid. And pretty much anything else mermaid oriented. Even though I never dressed up for Halloween when I was little, I remember my mom made me a mermaid tail out of turquoise muslin material. Only I guess I was growing quickly or she miscalculated and my feet ended up sticking out by about 6 inches out the bottom. But that was okay.

I had the soundtrack to The Little Mermaid on cassette tape and would play the tape in our basement for hours on end while I sang and danced to every song…even that weird “Fathoms Below” song the sailors sang at the beginning.
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What little girl wouldn't want to be a mermaid?.
I think every girl in some way can relate to mermaids. They’re beautiful and mysterious. And especially with The Little Mermaid- she felt out of place and longed to be part of something bigger. I think that’s a feeling we can understand.

As I grew up I continued to love mermaids. I once photoshopped a picture of myself as a mermaid (picture left). I geeked out when I got to visit Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida when I was 5 years old, and then again in my twenties. I still wonder what it would be like to breathe underwater (top 5 coolest superpowers ever, am I right?) and swim with fish and dolphins like they were friends. To be fair to my husband, the house isn’t decorated with mermaids, but I’ve thought about buying things once or twice with mermaids on them. Especially now that I’m married to a sailor. How fated is that?

When I moved to Hawaii, I had the great pleasure of realizing one of my childhood fantasies: to meet a real live mermaid.

My friend Kariel (yes, that’s Ariel with a K- it’s really her name!) is a mermaid. She lives by the water and she has her very own beautiful tail. I couldn’t stop asking questions when I saw her tail airing out to dry one day on her lanai overlooking the water. I have been a little bit fascinated ever since.

I got the chance to sit down with Kariel and ask her some questions. The five year old me was squealing inside the whole time!

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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
When did you first come up with the idea to create a tail and become a mermaid?
I decided to make a tail about 2 years ago when I moved.  Hawaii is the perfect place to swim with a tail. I had always wanted a mermaid tail since I was about 4, I watched The Little Mermaid in the theater as a girl. I’ve been pretty much obsessed since then. Then I saw Splash! That was a great movie too.
I remember when computers were just getting popular and I would look online, trying to find who made that tail (from Splash) and how to get one. It was around $5,000 as I remember. Which seemed like millions in the 80’s. But that’s the moment I knew it was possible to make a tail that could swim in the water.

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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
What do you think the lure is behind little girls loving mermaids?
It’s just so magical, like Unicorns and the Pegasus, having the ability to have a super human quality. Its human nature to imagine the possibility of being more than we are. The ocean is just a completely different world. When I was younger I had to grow up fast and it was the idea of  a new world or life that spoke to me.
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Kurt Chambers
Tell me about the tail.
When I first started looking up how to have one, I knew I could buy one online but I wasn’t ready to spend my savings to buy one, especially while I lived in a cold area. 
So when I got to Hawaii I started thinking about it and thought, Well, I’m creative. I could just make one and it would be less expensive, more special and I definitely would appreciate it more. Well, it wasn’t exactly less expensive. And it didn’t take two days to make like I thought. But it was worth it!
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
So how long did it take you to make the tail?
About 400 hours over about a 5 month period. I sewed it and handpainted all the scales and detail on the tail. I’m working on a pink and gold tail now that’s almost finished too. I started that about 2 months ago. By the time I am finished,  that one will probably have about 200 hours into it.
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
Where do you hope to go with all of this?
I’d love to travel with it and do shows. I would also really like to create my mermaid-inspired bikini line and for that to be successful. It would kind of be like allowing every girl to be a mermaid at heart. I’ve also written a children’s book. I’d like for most of the proceeds from the children’s book to go toward cancer research. In the end my final goal is to do something gigantic for mankind. Something that makes a great impact! I believe that is my purpose, so I'm using every talent I have, to start!
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 Tell me about the children’s book.
I illustrated it with pastel colored pencils. It’s about mermaids, and it’s a self esteem book for kids. I actually got to test it in a classroom setting and they really grasped the moral of the story, which just made me so happy. They really understood what self esteem was and how they can affect someone else’s self esteem.
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
What made you want to write the children’s book?
My grandma was dying of  Leiomyosarcoma cancer (that cancer isn't even in my new computer's dictionary!), and I was in the waiting room and I always drew these pictures. I thought, you know, instead of just drawing random pictures, why not just create something? I needed something to show for it. I wanted to put everything together and really make something, a book. Some way to help. I felt kind of helpless throughout her experience. I wish I could have done something big to make a difference while she was still alive, to make things easier on her. I promised myself I would do it, finish, sell it and donate the proceeds to finding help and knowledge.
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
What would you tell little girls that want to grow up to become mermaids themselves?
I would tell them to go for it. Lots of kids email me from my website and from my Youtube channel, and they’ll say, I wish I could do it but my parents or somebody will laugh at me. It just goes back to self esteem- if you have a dream, I say go for it. Even my husband laughed at me for years. But then I had this idea and actually went through and created it. And he is really impressed now. So many people laughed about it and thought I was silly for spending all this time making this tail, but now that it’s finished people are amazed.
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
You must be a really great swimmer- have you had any scary moments swimming as a mermaid?
Whenever I go under water for pictures I don’t wear a mask. It’s always a little bit scary because I can’t really see. You don’t really know what’s out there. This one time I swam with another mermaid friend so both of us were blind swimming out there and we just saw this big grey thing go by. We were like, “Did you see that? Did you see that? Was it a shark?!” We never found out. That was a bit scary. Yes I am a good swimmer now, before I was only capable of doggy paddling believe it or not. but when you have a dream you must go for it and I wanted to be a mermaid!
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
You’ve swam with turtles, stingrays, and even dolphins so far.  What else do you still want to swim with?
I still really want to swim with dolphins some more. I’d love to get closer to them! I believe I have a friend- it's a Spotted Eagle Ray. He came and found me multiple occasions and we have swam side by side. That is the neatest experience I have had yet. I can't wait to go to that spot again and see if he joins me.  I think the sea creatures are curious about me.  Some fish even follow me and I swear I get looks as if they are saying, "Who are you?"
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Alicia Franco
What’s coming next for you?
There are big things are happening soon. I’m really excited! The swimsuit line is coming together. And so much more! Either way, you’ll see me swimming around.
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Kurt Chambers
Kariel is currently living her dreams as a mermaid in Hawaii. She models with her tail under and above water for print ads and film. She performs in underwater shows in aquariums and lagoons. She also makes promotional and philanthropic appearances. 
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Mermaid Kariel: Photo Courtesy Kurt Chambers
Kariel is working to market and sell her children’s book with which a majority of proceeds will go toward funding research to cure cancer in memory of her grandmother. She is currently creating and developing a mermaid-inspired swimsuit line.

You can keep up to date on all of Kariel's mermaid happenings by “Liking” her on Facebook and following her on Twitter. You can also visit her website at www.MermaidKariel.com.

My little girl self is still squealing. :)
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