2014 in a Dozen Photos: January-April

Now that we’re a week into 2015, I feel a belated urge to offer up a neatly-wrapped version of my 2014 — you know, the kind of bloggish year-in-review that those writers on top of their game presented in the dwindling days of December. If you’re looking for evidence of grand, probing contemplation of the past year and its moments of deep significance, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed in my quick-and-dirty version of a year-end wrap-up.

I have selected one photo from each month of 2014 for a collection of twelve vignettes. These dozen snapshots will not present anything resembling a comprehensive look back, not least because there were a number of months in which lots of things were going on and I [arbitrarily decided that I] may only choose one picture. These pictures aren’t necessarily the most important or best artistically or any other superlative from each month. Still, each jumped out at me for some reason, so we’ll go with that and try to keep the analysis to a minimum.

January

January 2014: Pensacola Blizzard

This dusting of snow completely shut down our area for three full days.

The first month of 2014 brought something rarely seen in the steamy, Southern city of Pensacola, Florida: frozen precipitation. Although we grew up rolling our eyes at the way the DC area flails when it snows, even that looks like steely-eyed competence when compared to the Florida panhandle response. Of course, snow happens so rarely here that one can hardly blame the locality for investing in hurricane prep rather than plows, salt, and gravel. It was fun having my husband home for three unanticipated “snow days” from this single dusting, and we indulged in wax log fires and obsessive jigsaw puzzling.

February

February 2014: Peacock up a tree

A denizen of the Gulf Breeze Zoo surveys his domain from above.

Any semblance of a Floridian winter evaporated quickly, so we were soon enjoying “spring” with outdoor activities and strolls through the Gulf Breeze Zoo. I had no idea that peacocks were even capable of getting up into trees; I’d always thought of them as ground-dwelling birds, akin to fancy chickens.

March

March 2014: Chag Purim Sameach!

Chemistry geek alert: “Queen Ester,” at your service. (Not pictured: the whiskey flask in my back pocket.)

March brought the Jewish month of Adar II, which brings Purim! Purim is one of the most fun, carnivalesque holidays on our calendar, and its celebration involves reading the Book of Esther, dressing in costume, and imbibing spirits. I let my geek flag fly with a punny “Queen Ester” costume: each molecule on my shirt is a different ester, which are often responsible for a particular fragrance.

April

April 2014: Backyard Blue Angels Practice

We have an excellent view of the Blue Angels’ twice-a-week practices from our backyard.

In order to minimize my husband’s commute to the flight line, we chose to live very close to NAS Pensacola. One of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how one is disposed toward the “sound of freedom”) is that we essentially get a free air show from the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron twice a week throughout much of year. I like the Blue Angels, despite the fact that working around their practices is a pain for my husband and his fellow instructor pilots on base. It gives me a warm fuzzy that Pensacola natives, by and large, take a great deal of pride in “their Blues” even if they have no official military affiliation.

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CAPtivated

When I went to my first Civil Air Patrol meeting last August, I didn’t know what to expect.  Having read a few forum threads in which people outlined their encounters with some cringeworthy toolishness from members of the organization, I feared that I would find a passel of wannabes more excited about dressing up in an Air Force-style uniform and marching around collecting salutes and bling than in contributing something to the community.  The stories were out there, and I don’t doubt that the unprofessional/disrespectful/downright WTF?-inspiring moments described happened.  I just had no idea whether they were the exception — as I sincerely hoped — rather than the rule when it came to the United States Air Force Auxiliary.

I needn’t have worried.  My fears were put to rest immediately upon meeting the squadron commander and a few other key members.  They exuded professionalism, good humor, enthusiasm, and a distinct absence of any uniform bling-hound tendencies.  I was, therefore, not at all surprised to learn that most of them were retired Navy, with Naval Aviators and NFOs strongly represented.  No wonder I felt so instantly at home!  I wound up turning in my membership paperwork shortly thereafter, and I’ve been volunteering ever since.

I qualified as a CAP right-seater in June 2009.

I qualified as a CAP right-seater in June 2009.

Of CAP’s three congressionally mandated missions of Cadet Programs, Aerospace Education, and Emergency Services, my primary interest lies with ES.  CAP is responsible for about 90% of all inland search and rescue in the United States; if you are in an airplane that goes down, nine times out of ten, CAP volunteers will be the folks looking for the wreckage.  I started on the path to train as aircrew for search and rescue missions, finally earning my Mission Observer (aircraft right-seater who assists the pilot with the GPS, radios, direction finding equipment, and anything else that will allow the pilot to focus on flying the plane safely while the rest of the aircrew focuses on the mission at hand) wings at the beginning of this month.

While I was having a grand old time training in ES specialties and flying with former Tomcat backseaters and learning all about the sweet Garmin G1000 in the Cessna 182, my husband was enduring a massive slowdown in his Navy flying.  Ridiculously enough, I was actually getting more flight hours with CAP than my winged Naval Aviator husband was getting with the Navy.  After deciding that the squadron was populated by some pretty cool folks and hearing how much fun I was having with a group of dedicated volunteers, the wheels started to turn in my husband’s poor flight-hour-deprived brain.  He turned in his own membership packet and jumped right into knocking out his on ES quals.

…which brings me to my present situation, which is that I am sitting at home waiting for my husband to return from his first Mission Observer training flight.  He’ll ultimately pursue his Mission Pilot qual, but he needs to pick up some 172 time before he starts that process in earnest.  I look forward to when he gets qualified in the left seat, when together we’ll make up the better part of a mission aircrew.  I think we’ll coordinate well in the cockpit.  For now, though, I’m trying to suppress a twinge of jealousy that he’s flying and I’m not; I’m trying to remind myself of all the other times our positions were reversed, but it ain’t easy.

Primary

In honor of my husband actually being scheduled to fly today for the first time in millennia*, here is a video of fresh-faced young SNAs flying the aircraft he flew three years ago.

Makes the mighty T-34 look pretty cool, huh?  Of course, all my flight experience to date is in wee Cessnas, so take the fact that I would jump at the chance for a T-34 ride with a grain of salt.


* Slight exaggeration. Slight.