Transitioning to life in Mississippi

After our DITY move from Virginia to Florida, I told myself I would never move ourselves again.  I have heard horror stories about packers but after our experience with the DITY move, I was willing to take my chances.  We scheduled our packers to come on a Wednesday with the truck scheduled to load on Thursday.  We spent the week before getting organized and packing our cars with everything we needed, as well as everything we couldn't bare the thought of losing (photo albums, computers, jewelry, etc).  The biggest thing I learned from our last move was to back a "New House Box" with a shower curtain, box cutter, toilet paper, and all those other little things that you forget that you simply cannot live without until your stuff arrives!
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Our packers came on Wednesday and honestly, we were really lucky.  They took all day but we ended up with only one broken item and nothing at all "missing".  I have to be honest here and admit that I completely forgot to take a small baggie with $200 emergency cash out of my nightstand and I found it wrapped in paper, safe and sound, when we unpacked in Meridian.  Believe me, I know I am an idiot and I know I got EXTREMELY lucky!  The movers packed the truck on Thursday and again, I have no complaints.  I try to make friends with the movers and think it makes things better for everyone involved!
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We drove up to Meridian on Friday and moved into our new house.  Our stuff was arrived on Monday so we only had to spend three nights on the air mattress.  Even still, I was very excited to sleep in my own bed on Monday.  I was even more excited for our internet to finally get hooked up on Wednesday ;)
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After Rob found out he got jets, we drove up to Meridian to go house hunting.  Meridian isn't known for being the nicest or safest town so after looking a little, we made the decision to live in base housing.  BEST DECISION EVER!  I honestly am SO thankful we chose to live on base.  The town is small and there isn't much to do, but already it seems like such a tight knit community on base.  We went to a block party the first night we were in town.  This week I went to a cooking class at the community center, Wine Wednesday at a neighbors house, Bunco at another neighbors house, and worked out twice with a friend up the street.  Our neighbors across the street brought us dinner the night our movers were here and another neighbor down the road had us over for dinner the next night.  It is everything that I hoped for when I found out we were living on base and even more!  I truly feel so lucky and it has made our transition to Meridian (and the lack of Target!)  much sweeter.  We have only been here for a week but I think we are going to be just fine :)

Flight School 101 from a Spouse's Perspective

When we moved to Pensacola for Rob to start flight school, I had no idea what to expect.  I was thrilled to live at the beach but didn't know how long we would be here or what Rob's schedule would look like.  We moved to Pensacola in June and I did not take a teaching job because I "did not know if I would be here long enough to finish out the school year".  Which is true, I had no way of knowing that we would be in Pensacola for as long as we were.  Hindsight is 20:20!  If you have been wondering what the last year looked like while Rob was in flight school, here is a recap!
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Initially, we had almost three full months of paid vacation.  Rob checked into his unit but everything was backed up so other than the occasional funeral duty and check in with his unit, most of his time was free.  I look back on this time so fondly!  We lived less than a mile from the beach and spent all of our time together relaxing on the beach, checking out new restaurants, and exploring our new home.  It was perfect and exactly the together time we needed after TBS.  We were able to travel to two weddings and both of our families came to visit.  Anytime we felt antsy to get started, we reminded ourselves how blessed we were to have this time together.  Deployments are inevitable in this lifestyle so we tried to take advantage of every minute of this downtime!
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In August, Rob started IFS, Initial Flight Screening at Jack Edwards Airport in Alabama.  This school is about a month long and held off base at an airport close to your house.  We lived in Perdido Key at the time which is why the closest airport ended up being right over the state line in Alabama!  It is pretty much the military paying a civilian school to teach you to get your private pilot's license to make sure you can handle the basics before they actually pay real money to train you to be a military pilot.  Rob flew in a Cessna and studied or flew everyday.  It was the first time he had ever flown a plane so it was super exciting for him and nice for me because his schedule was still not too intense!  IFS ends with a solo flight and the cutting of his shirt tails, which I was able to go watch.  It was definitely exciting!
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Soon after finishing IFS, Rob started API, Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, at NAS Pensacola.  This school is six weeks long with four weeks in the classroom and two weeks of survival and swim training.  The classroom portion is intense.  Rob would go to class in the morning, come home in the afternoon, and then study until he went to bed.  It was a lot of information and a lot of work.  API was the most intense portion in my opinion of all of flight school so far.  I have never seen Rob study as much as he did during API!  Even though he was studying every waking minute, he was still home and able to eat dinner with me and sleep at home every night.  We were still able to go to the beach on the weekends and live a "normal" life.  TBS makes you grateful for things like this!   At the end of API, the students earn the right to wear their flight suits.  They get to wear their flight suits for the first time on "Flight Suit Friday" and then have a giant party at the Officers Club on base to celebrate.  It was such a fun night and another special tradition in the aviation community.
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Rob finished API right before the holidays and had a bit of a wait time before starting Primary.  Rob was assigned to complete Primary at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, FL.  (Primary is held at Whiting Field or in Corpus Christi, TX)  Whiting Field was about an hour and a half drive from our place in Perdido Key.  There was no way this was feasible for Rob, especially for 5am briefs, so we made the move.  Most people move to Milton but we wanted to stay closer to downtown, the beach, and civilization so we decided to move to the North side of Pensacola.  The downside of the situation is Rob did not rate a PCS since Whiting and NAS Pensacola are located too close together, so the move expenses were out of our pockets.  Even though it was a bit of a hassle, living in Peridido Key for the first six months was totally worth it and we both agreed that we would make the same housing decision again!
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Rob classed up in Primary at the end of January was part of the VT-3 Red Knights.  He started out with ground school, knight school (classroom/studying portions), and lots of waiting around.  He flew in the simulator and did the practice simulator at home a lot before flying his first real flight in March.  It seemed like Primary would last forever!  Some weeks he would get scheduled almost every day and some weeks he wouldn't go in to work at all.  The schedule was posted around 5:30 every night for the next day so we quickly learned to live by that schedule.  It was hard to plan anything in advance but we still were able to spend a lot of time together and take a few spontaneous getaways (within 300 miles of course!)  The schedule was really unpredictable and things were always changing due to weather/maintenance/etc.  Once I let go of the expectation to plan anything based around Rob's schedule, the schedule just became a normal part of life!
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Once Rob flew his first solo flight in June, it seemed like things really started picking up.  The first phase of Primary (Contacts) took longer to complete than the whole rest of the syllabus.  VT-3 took the planes and the students to Michigan for two weeks and this knocked out a ton of flights for Rob.  He came home almost completely finished with Primary.  Selections are scheduled for Thursdays and the students have to be finished with all events by Tuesday in order to select that week.  Rob selected at the end of August and had a little over two weeks before he had to report to Meridian for intermediate/advanced jet training.  Supposedly intermediate and advanced should take around a year so I guess I will have to save that recap for Flight School 2.0 next year once he finishes!

Weird Pensacola

While there are many things about Pensacola that we loved and will miss, there are also a couple of....strange things that make you wonder what the heck is going on!

The Gold House on Scenic
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I am all about gold but this house on Scenic Highway takes it to a whole new level.  What is this place?!?!  I need to know more.  And I wanted to be invited over for a dinner party!!!

UFO House
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The UFO shaped house on Pensacola Beach.  Notice the creepy alien in the window!

Street Preachers
Image and video hosting by TinyPicStreet preachers can be found on almost every corner, especially on the weekends and holidays.  They are constantly chanting their religious phrases, pumping their signs in the air, and passing out pamphlets.  At first glance, they look like they are some cult religion but when you listen to what they are saying they seem to be sharing a Christian message.  Not quite sure the deal with all that.  The craziest part is over 30 of them marched in the Christmas parade downtown, signs and all!!

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Pensacola has some of the craziest billboards I have ever seen.  Everything from "big girls need love too" referring to large breed friendly apartment complexes to "skip the bread tonight" health campaigns.  Of course the lovely one above really tops them all though.

The "Floating" Man
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This one really seals the deal on bizarre. I first heard about the floating man after the bad flooding in Pensacola. This video was everywhere and I was talking about it with my students when we came back to school.  They told me that the guy riding the giant bicycle also "floats" near a billboard by the mall.  I had NO idea what they were talking about and forgot about the whole thing... UNTIL we were picking up my car from a repair shop on a random road we don't go down often.  I was looking out of the window and something caught my eye in the side mirror and I just started screaming. I saw the guy floating over the main road and it scared me to death!! I made Rob turn around and drive past again and again!  Supposedly, he is out there floating all the time.  Even though I know he is not really floating and that there is a chair or something, the whole thing still seems pretty dangerous!

Pensacola people, what other bizarre things am I forgetting?!

An Everything Guide to Pensacola

I made the decision a long time ago that I would love wherever we were stationed however Pensacola made this very easy.  We truly loved the last year that we spent in Pensacola and feel so lucky to have called this place home.  We really tried to make the most of our time here and I know we will always look back on Pensacola with fond memories.  In case you find yourself lucky enough to call this place home (even just for a week on vacation!), here are some of our favorite places and things!
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Pensacola is full of awesome, local restaurants.  We always struggled to decide between sticking with our favorites or trying out a new place on our list!  The classics are classic for a reason (if you have visitors in town you HAVE TO take them to McGuire's) but there are also lots of fabulous smaller places as well.
Pot Roast and Pinot
The Fish House
Bodacious Brew
Bagel Heads

Casual Date Night
The Gulf
The Magnolia
The Yard
Al Fresco (the food trucks)
Dairy Queen on Scenic Highway (for the view!)

Fancy Date Night
Pot Roast and Pinot

Ozone Pizza (Monday nights are half price)
Sky's Pizza (Big slice delivery)
Lillian's (In Perdido Key but worth the drive)

The Tin Cow
Blue Dot Burger

Cactus Flower Cafe
Tijuana Flats (Taco Tuesday)
Taco stand behind the gas station

The Fish House (Wednesday is "Ladies Night" and everything, even their fancy mojitos, is $2)
World of Beer
Seville Quarter Piano Bar
The Bridge Bar

City Grocery
Norma's (located inside of Duh!)
Wild Roots

Nancy's Haute Affairs
Joe Patti's

Pensacola Staples
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There is so much to do in Pensacola, in addition to soaking up sun on the beach.  Between festivals and parades, sporting events and social events, there is something scheduled almost every single weekend.  There are also tons of free events to take advantage of!  Most events are either downtown on Palafox Street or at Pensacola Beach.
Parades Downtown: Christmas, Mardi Gras, Fiesta
Festivals Seafood Festival, Crawfish Festival, Martini Festival, Gulf Coast Arts Festival, Taste of Pensacola
Gallery Night (once a month)
Blue Wahoos Games (baseball)
Ice Flyer Games (hockey)
McGuire's St. Patrick's Day Run (do not miss this)
Flora-Bama Mullet Toss (or this!)
Blue Angels Air Show
Tubing on the Blackwater River
Bands on the Beach (Tuesday nights at Pensacola Beach)
Tour Ft. Pickens
Go Paddleboarding (cheapest on base!)
Wine Tasting at Seville Quarter (Free on Fridays 5-7)
Palafox Farmers Market (Saturday mornings)
Run Club (Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6)
Sunset Beach Yoga (Sunday nights on Pensacola Beach)
Alligator Alley
Drive In Movies (Once a month in the summer)

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In addition to finding things to do in Pensacola, I loved exploring the places nearby.  Getting out of town for a quick weekend trip was the perfect way to squeeze in some quality time without Rob having to take leave. (Plus who am I kidding?! Leave during flight school is practically impossible!)  We definitely found some charming new spots that quickly became our favorite getaways. 
New Orleans, LA (3 hour drive)
Seaside, FL/30A (2 hour drive)
Biloxi, MS (3 hour drive)
Fairhope, AL (1.5 hour drive)

Gas Station Tacos

Finally after a week of using every ounce of data on my phone, we have internet again!  The unpacking part of moving is not fun but I swear the lack of internet is what really makes it unbearable!  But all is well in the Reddy household now that AT&T finally made their way out and hooked up our wifi ;) We are starting to get settled here in Meridian, but I have a couple more things to say about Pensacola! (Go figure!)
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On our last day in Pensacola, after the truck was packed and the movers were gone, I wanted to cross a couple last minute things off of our Pensacola bucket list.  The first was grabbing drinks at The Bridge Bar.  I heard this place was a bit of a dive but had the best view of the sunset.  We made plans to meet a couple of friends to grab drinks and check out the sunset before saying goodbye.  By chance, I read in the local paper that the first meeting of the "Sun-setters Club" would be meeting at The Bridge Bar that night.  They have drink specials, host a contest for best sunset picture (giftcard and published in the newspaper) and give tips for taking the best sunset pics. This is right up my alley, and I can't believe it is starting up right as we are leaving!
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When we got to The Bridge Bar, I was pleasantly surprised.  The inside of the bar is cozy but the outside has a huge double leveled deck, right on the water.  The place is gorgeous, the drinks are cheap, and we are totally kicking ourselves for not going sooner!  Oh, and of course the sunset totally lived up! 
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The final item we crossed off the list is a bit of a bizarre one.  On Davis Hwy, there are two gas stations right before you get on the highway.  One is a nice BP and the other is a sketchy looking Shell.  I only get gas at the BP but we always talk about this weird little taco stand in the back of the sketchy Shell.  It's so bizarre but we would joke about trying it every time we passed.  A couple weeks ago, I was talking about Mexican food with my friend Bromli and she said not only had her husband tried the sketchy taco stand but he loved it!  After we heard that, we knew we had to try it.  
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We were filling up our cars with gas and decided to just pop over and try one taco each before going to The Bridge Bar.  While they don't speak great english, the owners are SO incredibly friendly and kind.  OMG!  These were the most delicious and authentic mexican street tacos!  I have to be honest and admit that after The Bridge Bar, we went back and got more tacos, pineapple agua frescas, and horchatas.  Another great find on our last day and another must try!
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Pensacola is full of hidden gems (like this and this and this) and I am going to miss them like crazy! 

Final Weekend

It's hard to believe that this weekend is our last official weekend in Pensacola.  Meridian, MS is only 3.5 hours away so I'm sure we will be back but this was our last real weekend living here.  I don't think it has quite set in yet! Guess I better wrap my head around it soon since our packers will be here Wednesday bright and early!
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We woke up early on Saturday morning to watch the Junior League girls compete in the Dragon Boat Races.  While they might have lost to 10 year old boy scouts, I was impressed by the effort!!! ;)  Afterwards, we had to do our Saturday morning routine one last time.  As usual, we had coffee and scrambles at Bodacious Brew and then walked around the farmers market.  A couple weeks ago I special ordered a bracelet from one of the vendors and picked it up on Saturday.  I'm totally in love.  The thin copper bracelet is hand stamped with the coordinates of Palafox Street! I love jewelry with a story and can't wait to add this to my daily bracelet stack.
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After the market, we headed to the store to pick up some baby goodies.  My friend Bromli just adopted a sweet baby girl on Thursday so of course spoiling them was a necessity!  We headed over to their house and spent some time loving on the precious three day old!  She is just perfect and so lucky to have such wonderful parents.  We came home, grilled some burgers, and settled in for big Virginia Tech/Ohio State game.  Needless to say, I was thrilled with the outcome and bouncing off the walls with adrenaline all night! Go Hokies!!
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Rob and I went to Pot Roast and Pinot for brunch on Sunday.  In the beginning of our PR&P tradition, we always had the same waiter, Keith, and loved him.  The last several times though we have had a different waiter.  I was so excited when we were seated in Keith's section, and felt a little better about it being our last Sunday.  (Although I will admit I did cry in the car after we left)  The food was fabulous as always and it felt a little like our first "goodbye"!
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I am looking forward to seeing what traditions we create in Meridian but I am sure going to miss our Pensacola weekend morning routines!

Labor Day Weekend in Charleston

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Is it acceptable to do a weekend recap on a Friday?!  We spent our extended Labor Day weekend in the Holy City and spent the majority of our time eating our way through the town.  Rob's parents are relocating to Charleston for the next couple months (maybe permanently!) and are currently renting out a beach house in Isle of Palms.  Always up for a getaway, we crossed our fingers that we could squeeze in a trip.  Erin was already planning to go for Labor Day so we were thrilled when the timing between moves worked out perfectly for us to join.
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We flew into Charleston on Friday and settled in.  We walked around downtown and had dinner at Low Country Bistro.   Saturday was spent soaking in every minute of the return of college football.  We had a little tailgate complete with Cane's and watched the UVA game (for everyone else) then Hokies play (for me!).  I am so excited football is back and was pumped to see a VT win!  We had drinks at Bay Street Biergarten to catch the end of the Clemson-Georgia game.  We just couldn't get enough football!
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Sunday, we relaxed at the beach all day and grabbed a late lunch at Poe's Tavern in Sullivan's Island.  Although there was quite a wait, the Black Cat burger (topped with chili and pimento cheese) made it worth every second of the wait!  Everyday we tried to squeeze in a PiYo workout to even out the amount of cheese grits consumed.  It was fun getting everyone involved in our workout routine!
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We had brunch at Poogan's Porch on Monday which lived up to its rave reviews.  The fried pimento cheese was unbelievably delicious!  Afterwards, we took a harbor cruise to see Ft. Sumter, USS Yorktown, the gorgeous mansions in the battery, and a ton of dolphins.  It was a great balance of fun and information for me.  (I am not a huge history buff and have a short attention span when it comes to museums)  Afterwards, we drove around looking at houses and then grabbed margaritas and tacos at Taco Mamacitas.
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Brunch on Tuesday was probably my favorite meal of the entire trip: a Big Nasty/Charleston Nasty from Hominy Grill.  Oh my gosh that sausage gravy was to die for!  For any Bravo fans, Whitney from Southern Charm was eating in Hominy Grill at the same time.  Of course, we had to snap a sneaky (err...creepy) picture!
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We had a great trip and I'm glad we were able to spend time with them before our move.

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