#BlogElul 15: Learn

#BlogElul 2013Say what you will (and I have, in no uncertain terms) about the hassle of frequent military moves, they do serve to keep our minds in learning mode. Our PCS from Virginia to Florida earlier this year has provided us with ample opportunity to flex our mental muscles and make new connections in our networks of neurons. We are constantly rewiring our brains to deal with our changing situation.

We started learning new things long before we packed up and left the Old Dominion, such as how to prepare a house for rental. We learned about property managers and painting and plaster repair. We learned about refinancing and paperwork and how to make zillions of trips to the hardware store to take care of zillions of little things.

When we arrived in Pensacola, we learned how to search for a rental house, which we had never done before; the process differs from finding an apartment, moving into base housing, or buying a home. We started learning the local roadmap, all the ways and back ways and shortcuts and times to avoid certain routes. We scoped out the commissary and civilian grocery stores and the local restaurant scene, which seems to have changed for the better in the seven years since my husband’s SNA days. We learned about parks and trails and beaches, places to go and be outside in our new state.

Blackwater River

We can’t wait to learn how to go tubing down the meandering, sandy-bottomed Blackwater River.

We learned about frogs and toads and anoles. We got ourselves a guidebook so we could begin to put names to unfamiliar birdsong and feather patterns in our own backyard. We learned about gigantic mosquitos.

T-6A Texan II

A T-6A Texan II, the kind of airplane my husband flies here in Florida. U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Doty (RELEASED)

My husband jumped headfirst into learning the new airplane he was to fly for this set of orders. He learned T-6A systems and checklists and emergency procedures. He made flashcards for everything, and I learned about the Texan II as I quizzed him and helped him run practice checklists in “chair-flying” study sessions.

Our new synagogue proved full of things to learn. We learned new names and faces. We learned our new rabbi’s style of leading services, and we learned new melodies for familiar prayers. We started learning our congregation’s history, its feel, its tone — its ruach, if you will. We relearned, for the first time since college Hillel and Jewish Midshipmen Club, how sweet it is to spend time with other Jews close to our own age.

We learn every day, but I know the pace of day-to-day knowledge acquisition will continue to slow as we get more and more comfortable at this duty station. In a little more than two and a half years, though, we expect that impending-move jolt to kick our brains back into their thirstiest state. We’ll learn all over again.


#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

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