Wednesday, June 30, 2010

we got the blues.

Naval Air Station Pensacola, aka where R works, is home to more than just baby pilots. It's also home to the Blue Angels. Not a bad coincidence if you're like some people in my marriage and you get goosebumps when you hear the sound of those jets. Well, when we used to live in Milwaukee, we would have to settle with only being able to see the Blues once a year, (or...once in a Blue moon! I'll be here all week, folks!). But not any more. During the spring and summer, the Blues do two practice shows a week at the Museum of Naval Aviation on base. We've gone to a couple and this last time we made sure to bring the camera.
This time was really cool because R and I were standing next to a retired pilot who works as a museum guide. As we're watching the jets, we noticed that he had his walkie talkie set to the same frequency as the Blue's radio. So, he handed his walkie talkie to R and let him listen in on the lead pilot giving commands in air and the solo pilots talking back and forth. It was definitely a cool new perspective that we'd never enjoyed before.
To me, the coolest part of the show is the end, when the pilots land. As they make their way down the tarmac, volunteers hand out flags to all the kids and the kids bring the Blues home in style. It's so great to hear the kids turn and yell back to their parents, "Dad! He waved at me!!"
I told R I'd be sure to tell him what all the cute kids say when he's the one waving from the cockpit.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Now that we live in LA (Lower Alabama) we are experiencing, first hand, the American South. Just because our address has the word Florida in it, one’s mind conjures images of the trendy South Beach of Miami or the delightful Mickey Mouse as our neighbor in Orlando. Oh no, the region we live in on the panhandle is nicknamed “Floribama”. There’s even a little saying that explains the paradox of culture in Florida; “The North is the South and the South is the North.” Don’t get me wrong, we are learning to love our new home, it’s just that we weren’t expecting the culture shock. So, for your reading enjoyment, we’ve compiled a little list to help you get to know our neck of the woods a little better. We’ll call it “Floribama: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

The Good

The roads. We’ve noticed that the interstates are very smooth and streets around town are in very good condition too. It’s not because they have been recently paved, but rather because of the weather. Turns out streets really tend to do their job when they aren’t being demolished by constant freezing, salt, and plows. Huh…

The food. There’s a reason Paula Deen is so happy, y’all! Southerners know what’s up when it come to their food. They take it seriously. Barbeque, sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, and cheesy grits are some of our faves. And along the Gulf, they take their seafood just as seriously. Shrimp any way you like it, fresh whitefish, oysters and clams, and that’s not even including our fortunate proximity to New Orleans and delicious Creole dishes. Fear not, we haven’t forgotten the food we were raised on; we have beer brats for dinner more times than we’d like to admit, but I challenge you to find a knockout seafood gumbo in the frozen tundra.

The Bad

The lingo. Now this isn’t entirely fair or very nice of us, but the things we catch these “Suthunuh’s” sayings are strange enough to make the list. For example, you get a buggy at the grocery store instead of a cart. You pick up your booze from a package store. Or have you heard about the oil spill in the Guf? What about your plans for the 4th of JOU-lah? Now, we’re not fixin’ to offend anybody, it’s just that all these little colloquialisms are the constant reminders that we are far from home. [Note: It has not escaped our attention that if a Southerner was relocated to Ma-waukee, they’d find a couple two tree things that we say to chuckle at as well, ya know?]

The music. Want to jam out to some Jay-Z? Looking to get the Led out? Craving a little Coldplay? Too bad. It’s all country all the time around here, folks. That’s right, flag wavin’, whiskey drinkin’, boot-scootin’ country. Well, that’s not entirely true. When you tire of twang, there’s more than a few gospel stations to keep you singing for miles and miles. Yee-haw.

The weather. Don’t pretend like you didn’t know it was coming. If we haven’t made it abundantly clear in earlier posts, the Floribama weather is by far the culture shock we were expecting the least. For those concerned, our air conditioning and our fridge are choosing to cooperate once again and I am currently wearing a sweatshirt as I write this, so I will try to be a little more…diplomatic…about how I explain the wonderful weather. In Pensacola, when it’s sunny, it’s like the deserts of Abu Dhabi with no shade. When it’s raining, it’s like a 15 minute monsoon, and then it’s done. There’s no grey area in Pensacola’s weather. It goes big or it goes home. Also, do you know that tomorrow night the humidity is supposed to be 86%? You can drink the air here! When I was little, my least favorite of the Three Domes in Milwaukee was the tropical dome; it was sticky and felt like someone was breathing on you and there were too many weird bug noises. Well, thanks to the Navy, we live in the tropical dome. We have our AC set to 78 right now. 78 degrees is not supposed to feel cool and inviting, people! Oh and tell a local you think it’s hot and they get this sort of devil look in their eye and laugh this slow, creepy laugh and they all respond the exact same way, “Just you wait ‘til August…”

The Ugly

The oil. Funny to think we still lived in Indiana when the explosion happened. And now that we see and hear our new hometown all over the national news, it’s kind of surreal. And that’s what’s so terrible about it. It’s sad to say, but if the oil spill happened in Alaska or a different country, we would see it on the news and probably say, “Oh that’s terrible,” and move on. But this event is right in our backyard and it hits home. As much as we joke about the little oddities that make Pensacola the place it is, we are no strangers to regional pride. These people are proud to live on the Gulf Coast. It’s a unique place with lots of charm and a distinct way of life and it’s really disheartening to watch that way of life slip away. The oil makes the top of the list in ugly.

Hope this paints a little picture of our fabulous Southern life. ‘Til next time, y’all.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

it's about time...

Finally, after waiting nearly 2 months in Florida, 4 months in Indiana, and 16 years since I first had the dream to fly for the military, I am starting Naval Flight School this Monday, June 28. This is the first portion of flight school, called Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. As the name says, API is the classroom portion where the basics are taught, before you get in the plane. Here is a general list of what is taught in this classroom portion of school:

-Aircraft Systems and Engines
-Aviation Weather
-Air Navigation
-Flight Rules and Regulations

Beyond those topics, we will learn land and water survival, with lots of swimming and other physiology elements such as altitude chamber and something affectionately called the "spin-and-puke."

The curse out of the blessing of starting now is the high attrition the Navy is going through right now. The Navy is over-manned as a whole, and this includes students going through flight school. This means the standards to pass are extremely high right now; I must attain near-perfect test grades to continue in my career. So as I go forward into these 6 weeks of "drinking from a fire hose," trying to assimilate large amounts of knowledge, please wish me luck and be thinking of me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the south will rise again.

In an effort to write about our adventures, I suppose the time eventually comes when, amongst all the happy news and fun trips, the tides turn and we must share our bad luck as well. Friends and family, a sad thing has happened...

Our air conditioning is broken.

But that's not it. It gets worse.

First the air conditioning stopped working. "Turn on a fan!" I can hear our Northern loved ones saying. Well, all of our fans are on and all of our windows are open (something I was hoping never to do in my time down here.) and it is hot. Sticky, stagnant, humid, eat-two-popsicles-for-dinner-because-you-will-sweat-right-through-your-shirt-if-you-turn-that-stove-on hot. Right now, as I write this next to my open window, God help me, the weather is as follows: A hazy 93, but it feels like 103. The humidity is 68%. The temperature in our house? 90 degrees. I'm sweating just sitting typing. Now, it may seem that I am overreacting just a bit. You haven't heard the best of it. It wouldn't be enough for the air conditioner to go out...

The fridge is broken.

That's right, the only other thing providing any cold air in this house has decided to take a break. It's still providing some cool air, but consequently, meat and dairy require more than the measly 60 degrees she's putting out. And the ice maker is completely broken. So, goodbye iced sweet tea, one of my last refuges.

I am not blind. I recognize this for what it is. We're being punished. Southern Mother Nature, Northern Mother Nature's fatter, sweatier, louder sister is punishing us. We have not fully embraced the South and we are being shown what happens to Southern Mother Nature's house guests when they are rude. We chuckled at their accents, rolled our eyes at their pickled pigs feet, and refused to appreciate their Apocalyptic hot weather. And now we must pay.

Well, I have a message for Southern Mother Nature. Where we come from, it snows in April. While you Southerners are forgetting how to drive in the rain, we are digging our cars our of 5 foot snow drifts. Cancel school for weather? HA! Florida, I've stood at a bus stop in pouring sleet and a wind chill of -20. You've never even seen your thermostat dip below 30. It's gonna take a lot more than a broken air conditioner and a bum fridge to stop these Yankees!

Just please don't turn off the cold water?

Monday, June 21, 2010

to mississippi...and beyond!

We had a wonderful and relaxing weekend. We drove to Mississippi and enjoyed some time with Brad and Valerie and our favorite nephew, Noah. The weekends highlights included an event thrown by Brad's SWCC Boat Team. [For those of you who don't know, I found a concise definition of what SWCC is, courtesy of the Navy website: Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) operate and maintain the inventory of state-of-the-art, high-performance boats used to support SEALs and special operations missions. Individually, SEALs and SWCC go through separate, but similar, specialized training programs that emphasize special operations in the maritime environment. SWCC are trained extensively in craft and weapons tactics, techniques and procedures. ] Basically, and according to Noah, Brad is a G.I. Joe. With that said, his Boat Team threw a Family Day event that we got to go to. We got the chance to suck the heads off some crawfish (we didn't), enter a raffle to win a two night stay in one of the fancy resorts in Biloxi (we didn't), and even jump in the moon bounce with all the kids if we wanted (we didn't...). The day wasn't a bust though. The coolest thing was definitely getting to take a ride on the river in one of the fast boats. Very cool! Nothing cools you off like flying down the river at 40 knots, holding on tight to the boat (or your uncle) while it's making tight turns.

It was so cool I was tempted to talk to a Navy recruiter right then and there! (I didn't.)

I also got to take Noah to his swim lesson and watch him jump off the diving board, dive for toys, and earn his swim class diploma. Alas, when you're 4 1/2, the excitement of swim class only lasts so long...

Finally, got to see Toy Story 3 with Buzz Lightyear himself! Fantastic movie. Buzz even went out to dinner with us after the movie, charming everyone at the restaurant with a rousing "To infinity...and beyond!"

I'd say the weekend was a success.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

showers and fishing and grilling, oh my!

Friends and family, we have not forgotten about you! It has been awhile since our last post. Here's what we've been up to.

I was in Milwaukee for my best friend Erin's bridal shower and bachelorette festivities.

It was a wonderful and busy four days filled with visiting with friends, catching up with family, and of course snuggling with my parent's two Boston Terriers, Cookie and Lola. But many of you will be disappointed to find out my trip was so busy that I was unable to make it to Alterra. I'm shaking my head just thinking about it...

Upon my return to sunny, (and by sunny, I mean as hot as the Devil's oven) Florida, R and I have been keeping very busy, (and by busy, I mean pretty relaxed) with such activities as...

Going to the beach. [Note: This picture was from last Wednesday. No oil then. It's beginning to make it's way to the beach however as reports come in about tar balls washing up.]

Grilling out. This is R's first beer can chicken with a yummy herb rub. So tasty.

And because it wouldn't be summer without it, fishing. R found a little spot in the bay and we enjoyed a quiet evening of fishing, photography, and me trying to lure the little crabs out of their hiding places in the rocks.

As for this week, it's back to business. For me, the job search is in high gear. It hasn't been easy, but I hope that happy update will come very soon! However, R is getting word of more and more people classing up, which means starting flight school could be very near on the horizon, much sooner than we'd thought. Also, he's getting the opportunity to go see President Obama speak on base today about the oil spill. (If you're watching on TV, look for R. He'll be the one in uniform!)

So this week, maybe less fishing, and more participating in the real world...