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Take a Napa & Go to Napa.

PEN&INK. You know, writing is always in the back of my mind. Updating. How could it not be? I’ve been doing it seventeen years. Most of my life. I like to write to explain things. I like to write to understand things. I like to write to have a chronicle of life. “What did I do in 2004? What did I feel? What did I learn?” and I can pull up a digital index of everything. Things I’ve forgotten. Things I maybe wanted to forget, and had… but my digital brain doesn’t forget.

So I am updating when I can, when I want to. So many good things are happening all at once; or maybe my outlook has changed on how I approach everything that happens. I think it’s the latter. I guess most people can recreate the years with a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed. That’s fine, but very limited… you physically can’t type more than 140 characters at a time on Twitter: fragmented thoughts. And who has ultimate control over a Facebook or Twitter? I am proud to own my writings in my own online space and archives.

Pfft, let’s be real. Haven’t updated lately because of Witcher 3 & a replay of Dragon Age: Inquisition. It happens.


Geralt, you magnificent bastard.

MSCP & SANFRAN. Get this: I’m six months into my Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology. When did that happen? I also went to San Francisco last month to attend the Couples Conference, a professional conference for those practicing counseling or psychology. It was also a thinly-veiled excuse to get over to the West Coast and tour Napa Valley. Which we did. Highlights of the trip include a really lovely wine-tasting and tour at ZD Wines, and lunch at Auberge du Soleil. We stayed at the historic Ledson Hotel while in Napa, right in the heart of downtown Sonoma. We spent a few days in San Francisco while I attended the conference, and also hoofed it around the city. FitBit says 20,000+ steps and 90+ floors climbed & I believe it. Good thing I wore a fancy jacket to dinner at Gary Danko so you couldn’t see my armpit sweat stains after a 45-minute hike.

The counseling conference was pretty stellar. Many different workshops and speakers were offered… and because it was San Francisco, it ranged from “Crystals & Auras” to actual Neuroscience. Most of the attendees were older and looked like this. That’s from Meet the Fockers for the uninitiated. They were even selling those kinds of clothes there. I thought I was smart and looked smart in my Hillary-esque pant suit, but I kinda stuck out. Anyway, Esther Perel regulated on modern relationships and not expecting your partner to fulfill every role in your life. Preach. Anyway, it was enlightening to see a West Coast Party. Bet the East Coast Party would include information on Freud, prescribing Dyziplen, and how to embrace being miserable. I jest. I think.

When this masters brouhaha is all said and done, I’m probably going to round robin right into the VA or on-base mental health clinics. B-52 Radar Navigator… instant rapport. I know how the military works, I know what it can put families through, and I know how to sift the story from the chaff. I had a hard time relating to the mental health clinic I went to before my first deployment: The clinician looked no older than 24. What did she know about deployments, or what I was experiencing? She went to college, got her masters, and here she is. What experiences has she had? I was so angry and frustrated that she couldn’t possibly understand. Now I know how to help. Frame that Honorable Discharge on the wall and we good.

ROTARY. I’ve joined my local Rotary Club; I think I’m the youngest member. No shame. It’s a small club, rather than the large Shreveport one. I figure I can make more of a difference and develop closer friends in a smaller club for the time I have left here… about two years (until I finish my degree and can leave this area). Anyway, I noticed the web site needs an update (very circa 2002), and there were no social outlets besides a Facebook that isn’t updated regularly. So, naturally, I took over the social media job. I made a Twitter and Instagram, and the Facebook is connected in to receive updates. Take that, Millenials… I do know how to use Twitter! But I still don’t see the point besides news agencies to distribute news fast. Oh well. We are in the game now.

I am still disappointing my piano teacher, but it’s always great fun going to lessons. Still visiting my elderly friends each Saturday, too. I had an idea to maybe do something like “painting with a twist,” but with a patriotic eagle or something. I asked one of the residents if they would enjoy a painting workshop and she said no. Welp, there’s that. Lastly, I baked “Lavender Honey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing” from this hippie dippy book Larry bought. I almost followed the recipe but I got bored and improvised. My birthday is tomorrow and I’m gonna be 31. Eating this cupcake.

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It’s Thursday.

GALA. I am getting pretty pumped for this 1940’s fundraising gala next weekend. It’s all for a good cause to support the local Shreveport Symphony. There’s going to be live entertainment from the ladies of the New Orleans WWII museum and era music. I talked to the event coordinator yesterday and she wants to put together a slideshow tribute to those who have served in the military, and/or their family members. I also sent her some links on YouTube to the fabulous Parov Stelar in case she hadn’t heard of him; the music is great for “retro parties” when you don’t always want all period music. Even as a huge collector of vintage music, I get weary of back to back Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey at “theme parties”. Plus, as I stress to people who ask me about how to obtain that perfect party atmosphere, I share that you and your guests are really only going to hear the bass and beat, and just snippets of the brass or vocals every now and then. So, the Parov Stelar does the trick, for sure.

Larry’s wearing his Air Force blue service dress, and I’m wearing 1940’s styling: dress, shoes, makeup, hair, back-seam stockings. It should be a blast and we get to meet new people who also love & support the arts in our community. I still have to dig out the shoes (I wore ’em for prom! The linked photos are out of the archives to show you. An ancient blog has its perks; any photo you can think of is stored somewhere on my server. Nice.

SKILLS. A big goal of mine since having a little more time on my hands has been to work on my updo game. In the past few months, I’ve taught myself how to French Braid, work with foam hair “rats” to create serious volume, finagle a sock bun, and tweak/clean up styles I’ve previously rocked. I’ve been taking some photos to share; I apologize that the quality isn’t top notch. Anyway, here are my styles: I am pretty proud of my handiwork! Which do you like best?

The new season of House of Cards premiers on Netflix this weekend. We already watch Vikings, so I’m glad that’s back again. Lagertha is my life inspiration.

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Hello (again), world!

I am writing this on a perfect Friday afternoon. 70° and sunny. I have a lot of good things to share with the world.

NEW TITLES. I updated twice last year; that is pathetic. However, with everything going on — you know how it is… the busier you are and the more great things you’re doing, the less you have time or thought to write it all down. Funny how that works. I did change the title of the blog to a “there’s no dress rehearsal” mentality to life. Drafting Present means your only “rough draft” is what we are doing right now, presently. There’s no final, polished result unless you live it that way. So, it changed to Drafting Present from my aviation theme, which I no longer have an active role in…

NEW BEGINNINGS. For big mentions, I have officially changed careers from a B-52H weapons systems officer to a full-time Masters student. As I write this, a B-52 is flying overhead at 1,000 ft over my house. Do I miss it? Nope. It was a good run, folks. I got to travel all over the world, and even land in some awesome places. Most notable were Guam, Alaska, and Las Vegas. If I told you about all the cool places I flew over, well, I’d probably have to kill you. Ha. No, seriously. Ha!

Overall, the military was good to me. I paid off student loans with a great career right out of college, lived in interesting places (San Antonio, TX; North Dakota…), got a husband out of it, earned Veteran’s status, and they pay you to return to school for more education. Speaking of which, I am enrolled in the Masters of Science program at Louisiana State University to gain my certification as a Counselor. I think “Life Coach” or “Life Consultant” would be looking pretty good on a business card once it’s all said and done. I am just a couple weeks into the program and they really like us to “give presentations.” The Air Force helped with that, too. Overall, the military said, “What do you want to do? You can be anything now that you’re done and we will pay for it.” So here I am. Turned in my military ID last week for a “dependent ID”. It’s a transition to deal with no longer having that sweet officer title. Now people assume I have five kids and stay at home eating candy when I am introduced as my husband’s spouse. But one day I will have a P.h.D. and won’t care anymore. Dr. and Major. Feels good.

Next weekend I am heading over to visit Devin in Pensacola, Florida. He teaches brand new Lieutenants how to survive in the aircraft. There were rumblings of a cocktail party at this place: he knows how much I love parties! And, he has a sweet bachelor pad and is just minutes from the beach. And speaking of beach, Larry is heading to Hawaii tomorrow for a business trip. For his birthday. He has all the luck. Didn’t get him a gift. Sorry not sorry.

NEW SKILLS. During my two months of “down time” between separating from the military and beginning school full time, I’ve been working on a few skills. I can bake bread like a professional, and I’m pretty good with beautiful hair creations (up do’s) now, too. I am also taking piano lessons from the best teacher ever! He is helping me with theory. I am still visiting my elderly folks at the rest home on Saturdays. Last week I learned one gentleman was in the Battle of the Bulge. You never know who you are talking to.

I have a feeling these two years will fly by. I hope I can hang on and enjoy the ride, and the impending move that is sure to follow, if not sooner. For now, I’ll drink lots of coffee, sport my white girl yoga pants, and enjoy this opportunity to focus on school. Oh, and the trip to San Francisco/Napa Valley to attend to a Counseling conference. These people have the right idea.

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Hocus Pocus! Abracadbra.

BACK TO BACK. Adventure around every corner. Adventure being a tropical storm swirled towards Guam, so I got to spend a few days in Alaska (again) to escape from its forty knot wind speed clutches. When I first saw the satellite imagery of tropical storm Vongfong, I remarked it was not very well organized and lacked a central eye for the clouds to form around, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. Being from Florida, I am somewhat of a friggin’ expert on storms and hurricanes, since I lived through twenty-three years of them. Anyway, they made us get out and what a letdown that storm was for the island. Let down meaning we get more rolling brownouts from the shitty infrastructure here than any power outages during this “deadly typhoon”. Now, don’t get me wrong, it turned into a super typhoon a few days later as it became much more formed up and gained that central eye. Some pilot who is chronically full of shit (standard) tried to tell me it was super deadly and destructive because it wasn’t compact and its eye was off-center to the north, asymmetric and shit. Yeah, right. So I spent a couple nights in Alaska. Sadly enough, they hardly let us go anywhere out, so the highlight was catching the “good parts” of Magic Mike on TV. So. lame. as is driving to bars forty minutes away in blizzards.

BA BC. This past few weekend I’ve been scuba diving with my new gear. FYI, I purchased an Aqua Lung setup, with the new travel Zuma BC & mikron regulator. It weighs four pounds, so it’s good for packing for trips (and for me & Larry’s upcoming Caribbean cruise). It has integrated weights, and I added ten (although I needed eleven with my rental gear before, which was also heavier). Definitely not enough weight. Luckily, I was only about fifty feet down (bad visibility anyway) before shooting to the surface. The chicks out here only need like, seven pounds. Guess I’m full of hot air, it’s official. Or that thing about being an airhead. One of those. Need 13 lbs. Lucky 13. But the awesome thing is, one dive was an hour long and I still had 1200psi left in my tank. The next was an hour, with 1600psi left. Lastly, a shallow dive (39 feet) left me with 1400psi after 88 minutes. Comatose diver FTW… and snorkeler. You can’t see my lobster-like sunburn in this photo, mostly because I found it after coming home from a couple days in a row of roasting. Skin cancer pain train. Anyway, saw the sea turtle, lion fish, barracuda, star fish, and clown fish in an anemone.

KABOOM. I dropped twenty-seven M117s (750 lbs. bombs) last week, shacking target practice. This Friday is my check ride. My crew is full of very senior people, including my “nav”, who has over nine-thousand hours in the B-52. In case you’re confused, that’s 375 days in a B-52. That’s 54 weeks; over a year. So, he’s pretty good at what he does. Pretty nifty.

“Wednesday, do you think that maybe someday you might want to get married and have kids?”
“No.”
“But what if you met the right man, who worshiped and adored you? Who’d do anything for you? Who’d be your devoted slave? Then what would you do?”
“I’d pity him.”

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Ready, Steady, Go!

GUAM. In a couple weeks (or less, or more… I can’t put exact dates here) I will be flying a B-52H to Andersen AFB, Guam to begin my second deployment, but my third trip to the beautiful Pacific island. It’ll be a couple months longer than the last, but nothing I can’t handle. My crew is pretty solid, and what I’d like to refer to as the “Chill Crew”. We are all laid back and let things roll, like water off a duck’s feathers. I will be working on my Sniper Pod qualification, so I can drop LGBs using the onboard sensor. Unfortunately, we have the house with the most black mold in it. Toxic, poisonous air. No big deal, right? I had to drop $100 on an air purifier last time, so here we go again. I may even get Civil Engineering to come out and do an air quality test. You don’t want to mess around with black mold. I’m more worried about this than any other aspect of my deployment. Not flying fifteen hours literally across the world. Not leaving home for six months. Not having my hair color stylist on the island with me and being at the mercy of non-English speaking stylists. Nope. I’m concerned about my health and the toxic black mold. Last deployment I was sick from it, but my boss said he would not hear any more about it. But I digress.

In addition to flying and learning the Sniper sensor, I am looking forward to zenning out with many SCUBA trips and snorkeling. I have all my own dive gear, and I hope to build my dive log book so I may think about becoming an instructor if Larry gets sent to a seaside locale for our next move. That would be after I separate from the Air Force in a year or so. I really do need an active job, a desk job may pay the bills, but there’s more to life than paying bills. Priorities, right?

GOTG. Earlier in the week, I went with a friend to see “Guardians of the Galaxy”. What a fun film. I really enjoyed it and, as usual, was laughing the loudest and silliest of anyone in the theater. Standard. Although I am not usually a fan of CG animation, I found the effects in the film to be phenomenal. Plus, the acting was legit and the script was fun. Now, when they were talking about orbs and stones, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite sci-fi villain, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg. If I was a dude, I’d cosplay the shit out of that. EVERY CONVENTION.Well, I suppose I could as a lady…

Today I went to lunch with fellow B-52 aviatrix Wrecker, who will also be my roommate for the impending deployment. We hit up Carrabba’s for their most excellent lunch specials (1/2 panini and soup anyone?) upon my frantic pointing and suggestion in the truck. Anyway, some amazing person paid for our lunches, anonymously. This hasn’t happened to me before, and I got all embarrassed. I don’t like people making a fuss over me. But I am so thankful for their kindness and thoughtfulness. So hot right now.

MUSIQUE! MUSIQUE! MUSIQUE!. Whilst I was volunteering at the War Veteran’s Home last weekend, one of the gentlemen said, “It’s kind of a.. let down when you leave each week. It’s kind of sad, you know?” and, taken aback, I asked, “Don’t you have a radio or CDs you like to listen to in the mean time?” His response? “No.” I asked why his son hadn’t brought a radio for him, but he didn’t seem to want to talk much about his son. So this week on Amazon, I bought two $20 CD/FM boomboxes, and I am in the process of making a six to eight CD collection of songs to build him a collection. “Two Boomboxes,” you ask? There is also a gentleman who is getting throat surgery, and loves to sing. So I’m giving him the gift of music, even when he can’t make his own anymore. I’m also including a booklet with the lyrics so he can sing along, as he rehabilitates from surgery. At least this might help them not to forget about me while I am deployed.

DADJOKE. Unleashed a real groaner on the flight the other day…

Pilot: I see a minivan taxiing this way. Wait, what am I saying? A minivan doesn’t taxi.
Me: But does a Cab Taxi? Or does a taxi cab?

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Awards n’ Schlock

MASTERS OF EVERYTHING. So, Larry received his Masters and I requalified in the Beretta M9. There happened to be photos of both events. I look super tough in my flak jacket without plates and super cool Air Force issued flight suit pajamas. Sweaty. Once again, Larry, Harry Potter lookin’ em eff. I think I would die happy today if someone photoshopped a lightsaber instead of a diploma. But a serious, badass intricate one from the Old Republic that you had to risk your life and prove you weren’t crap. Like venturing into hella dangerous hidden crystal caves on Dantooine and fight Kinraths n’ shit and BUILD yourself your OWN lightsaber that responded to your personal traits and skills, not the crappy gold and purple lightsaber someone just machined at some crap Toydarian junkyard and gave to you. But, I digress.

LADIES! I am so pleased to see such a fantastic array of nominees for this year’s Emmy awards. Larry and I have made a real effort to plug back into high-quality television, via DVDs, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. We don’t subscribe to cable, but we use the internet to keep our monthly entertainment overhead low. Plus, signing contracts in the 2010s is so retro. For reference, here are the nominated shows we are up to speed with:

Boardwalk Empire
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
Orange is the New Black
Saturday Night Live

The first nominees are Outstanding Lead Actress in the Drama category — I have been an avid Downton Abbey fan since its inception, and Michelle Dockery is a master in portraying a hard, difficult woman of high breeding, yet you can connect with her soft heart that’s hidden under all the layers of ice. I really can relate, and I appreciate her ability to do so in a believable way. Additionally, Robin Wright as an equally icy Claire in House of Cards is so beautiful and talented (and her wardrobe is to die for)… and it’s so refreshing to see women in their forties and beyond recognized with relevant dramatic roles on television (well, Netflix). Claire and Francis are the ultimate power couple, and I am a fan of a high-speed, functioning, realistic child-free couple. I don’t mean “We can’t have a child”, but child-free by choice. This is so refreshing.

For Outstanding Actress in the Comedy category — I will have to cater to Taylor Schilling’s amazing performance in Orange Is the New Black. The nomination is for a comedy, but the show skates mostly in the drama category. Taylor’s role is certainly more drama than funny lady, evidenced by the first episode of season 2. Let’s hope those deciding the outcome of awards can recognize her talent to dance along the line of drama and comedy, giving her character depth not seen in the other ladies’ performances. One episode you feel so terrible for her character, the next you are screaming at the television for her character’s blatant idiocy. For supporting, I haven’t seen enough of these shows to make a judgment call, but Red is quite a strong force to be reckoned with, and the viewer is left wanting to know all about this mysterious russkie. I also appreciate half the guest actresses nominations are from Orange, and I really, really appreciate Laverne Cox being the first transgender actress nominated. Did you know she has a twin brother who plays her male counterpart, pre-operation role? Holler! And lastly, Natasha Lyonne’s character makes me want to be best friends with her. I love her hair.

For supporting actresses, Downton Abbey has a competition between the Dowager Countess and Anna Bates (two more strong female characters… awesome!). However, my vote goes to Game of Thrones for Cersei Lannister. Her rollercoaster antics and legendary manipulation seem effortless. Additionally, I feel that Game of Thrones also deserves to scoop up the Guest Actress in a Drama with Lady Olenna’s performance definitely winning out over Kate Mara’s very short-lived portrayal of Zoe Barnes in House of Cards (and the fact that I find that character infuriating, disappointing, and ridiculous on the whole).

WHO, WHAT? The strangest thing to me a couple days ago while catching up with my neighbor. She mentioned I was “outdoorsy”. I can honestly say that’s never been used to describe me. At all. But I supposed living here in Louisiana, it could be true. I bought a new beach cruiser bike and ride every day, and walk my dog every day, too. I do every 5K that I can, and for some weird reason, I’m trying to incorporate more fitness into my life. I hate team sports with a passion, but running, cycling, swimming, yoga, are things that suit me. The “leave me alone” workouts.

EYEROLL. When I am searching for recipes online, I cringe whenever I see “kid-approved eats”. Since when do kids get to decide what they eat and don’t eat? There’s no such thing as “kid-approved eats”. Kids need to eat whatever their parents want to eat. You’re five. You don’t do anything for anybody or pay rent or pay for groceries or further current society in any way, shape, or form. STFU and eat.

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Prom & Graduation Take Two.

29. So, I had one of those birthdays last weekend. My friend Amie was in town with her husband from Whiteman Air Force Base. We went to the Margaritaville casino’s seafood and steak place, called “Jimmy’s”. I like it for their scallops, and not just that the decor looks like how my bedroom is set up. Anyway, it was nice to see her and catch up with everyone. She says she is “twenty nine, on my third touch and go”. Clever girl.

MASTADON DEGREE. Today was Larry’s master’s graduation from Norwich University in Vermont. He has spent the last week there, doing a residency course. I was unable to obtain leave but luckily, the graduation was streaming online. Yesterday he was able to see Condoleezza Rice speak. He said she handled the protesters “with class”. I always have to muffle giggles when I attend or watch higher academic graduations. Doctorate garb (excuse me, Doctoral Regalia) is looking like Harry Potter motherfuckers. “Why are you grinning so stupidly?” “Totally Harry Potter. I live for this shit.” Love love love the Italian Renaissance looking berets, too. Hardcore academics.

I will obtain a Doctorate one day just so I can wear the outfit for Halloweens, carrying a wand. Just look at this guy. He just got his diploma from Hogwarts. I feel like when Larry’s not here, I get overwhelmed with stuff to do. He doesn’t do much housework or anything like that, but he keeps me on a schedule of sorts, accountability if you will. Otto has though, ensuring he gets his daily walks.

STELLAR STELAR. A “new” Parov Stelar album is due out in August 19th… I am pretty excited about the track Clap Your Hands. However, I have most of the songs anyway, I wonder why they chose to release it again on one album. Very odd in the age of iTunes and selective song purchasing. Anyway, it’s Electroswing at its finest… & the album is aptly named. Go on now, buy that song. I just got around to listening to Pink Martini’s 2013 release (shame shame on me). Some tracks are fascinating, but I sure took a shining to “Heliotrope Bouquet”, but it’s only a minute long. Damn. It’s another trip around the world with Pink Martini, but it’s no “Hang on Little Tomato.” I want to hear Timothy Nishimoto’s crispy, clear voice singing in Spanish, thanks.

SENIORS PROM. Yesterday I helped out with the local Veteran’s Affairs Retirement Center’s “Senior Prom”. Get it, seniors? I suited up, Betty Draper style and helped out. The airman that was running it said that no one dances, they didn’t last year (because of all the wheel chairs). I took that as a challenge, grabbed another volunteer, and swing danced a little bit. While I was dancing, an older gentleman asked if I wanted to Jitterbug. He stood up on wobbly legs, but was actually a very good dancer once he got going! I was very impressed. After we crowned a prom queen and king, I stuck around to talk with them for a bit, and the queen said she liked jazz music. I brought my piano music with me, and she showed me where the piano was. This place has a really nice Yamaha upright (brand new), and rumored to have a Steinway, too. I played for about an hour and attracted a very exuberant crowd. One lady even asked, “Do you play at Pilgrim Manor?” (the place I volunteer on the weekends). Ha, a groupie! Just kiddin’. I promised to come back Saturday afternoon. & so I will.

“You are a fascinating woman.” I received that very stunning compliment today.

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Dallas Comic Con 2014

DEF-CON. Dallas Comiccon 2014 was a blast! Larry and I stayed at our usual stomping grounds, the historic Hotel Adolphus in downtown Dallas Leeloo Multipass. Oddly enough, this particular hotel was also on the recommended list for Con attendees put out by the event organizers. So, upon arrival, valet took our awesome PT cruiser ride, and I got a high-five for carrying Tauriel’s bow up the stairs in the lobby. Plenty of other neckbeards and geeks, one senior-aged one in an honest-to-goodness three wolf moon-like shirt.

When we arrived in Dallas on Friday, only a 2.5 hour drive from home, Larry and I had dinner at a French restaurant in the hotel. The decor had gilded accents and amazing murals painted on the ceiling. It was certainly an experience!

The con itself was crowded, with a lot of cosplayers. This one in particular lacked two categories of the usual fare, though, which I found to be quite surprising. I know Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are slated for release eventually, but it’s been years since a new film came out; this explains the obvious lack of interesting Star Wars cosplayers, although I did find a pretty sweet Darth Revan (my favorite Star Wars character, ever). There was a Jedi here or there, but nothing of note. And the other ComicCon staple is Lord of the Rings. Hello, there were no Frodos, Bilbos, Legolas’, or Galadriels. This is odd because of the new Hobbit films out, literally, right now. Usually, convention-goers have their eye on the latest characters in films… Not sure what happened this time. Maybe I’ve been out of it too long since going to cons (I’ve been to two already this year after a six-year hiatus).

This was Larry’s second convention; we attended the Dallas Sci-Fi Expo in March, his first experience with this sort of thing! This time he put together a costume to wear. He was a Teutonic Knight, super historically accurate with real steel chain mail. Yes, he wore chain mail around all day. It weighs a metric shit ton! Lots of con goers wanted his photo because he looked pretty badass. I debuted my Tauriel costume, from the second Hobbit film. What an Elven badass. Anyway, on to the photos!



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Florida Party!

SUNSKI. I am outside right now, under a clear sky and scads of sunshine. Although things have been difficult at work; with the dark cloud of two months of temporary duty in Alabama followed by a deployment thereafter, I am trying to take time to relax and work on this here tan. Eight months away from a spouse with base exercises before you leave (further separating your time together) needs doing peaceful things to help you manage it. Did I mention there’s a bustling bird feeder six feet from where I am sitting?

Anyway, as mentioned, I will be heading to my old haunt of Montgomery, Alabama in June and July. I spent June, July, and August there in 2008 to receive my commission in the Air Force. It’s where I had my first experience (albeit contrived) with military life, including meeting Larry. It seems like the worst time of the year to go, weather-wise, & I’ve been chosen to go pay a visit during the hot summer months twice. However, a silver lining is on the horizon, as Devin is also assigned to attend this class for these two months, so I will have my best friend in tow, whom I haven’t seen since November of last year. Following my two months of 5k’s, 10k’s, and constant working out, I am shipping out to Guam for six months. Luckily, those 5k’s and 10k’s will exorcise the flab (see that pun there?) and be awesome for beach times overseas. Too bad Larry won’t be around to appreciate it. Lame.

90 LUFTBALLONS. Last weekend was my Granny’s ninetieth birthday celebration. Nonagenarian. She’s embarking on the wonderful journey of her tenth decade. Tenth, people. She is still as sharp as ever, completing the newspaper crossword each day, in pen. She can do the Cryptoquip (which I’ve never been able to do, which is ironic, given my career field). She works out regularly and attends the Lutheran church on Sundays. So the key to a long life is family and a healthful mind, body, and spirit. And paella. Let’s not forget that.

For her party, we surprised her with an eighteen-passenger limo bus. We were unable to secure a classy limousine because it was prom weekend (of course), but this party bus had a TV, bumping stereo system, leather seats, party lights, and built-in bar and ice chest. We all BYOB’d and set off to dine at the world-class rated “Christini’s” Italian restaurant in Orlando. I made an awesome playlist for the bus, including electroswing remixes of Louis Armstrong, Lawrence Welk, and of course, more Xavier Cugat than you can shake a maraca at. The restaurant was amazon, and we were all seated at a long table, tended to by a half-dozen extremely handsome Italian waiters. The accordion player came around, and I requested all of my Gramma’s favorite songs, including “The Anniversary Waltz”, “The Third Man Theme”, and “La Dolce Vita” (which stumped the player like it did last year. Fellini, people. Fellini… only the most memorable movie to date about Rome besides “Roman Holiday”). It was amazing to see all of my family together, including all my aunts and uncles. What was not amazing was arriving at the hotel in Daytona Beach at 1130pm, then checking out at 4am to catch a plane home to Louisiana.

While I was visiting beautiful Cocoa Beach, Florida, I stayed with my Aunt Vonni and Uncle Steve. She has a beautiful resort-style swimming pool and lounge area; somehow coffee by the pool in your ‘jams each morning brings a special sort of zen to your life. She is extremely zen, and we have that in common. My family can be hectic, so it’s nice to have someone “get it” & help you unwind on your vacation. That’s what Florida’s all about. Relaxation and the beach. And Rum Runner’s at Coconuts Bar on the Beach. Can’t forget that, too. I really love the Florida lifestyle and wish I could move back to the beach, or a houseboat on the water. Because I have the military to thank for helping me move out of Florida to begin my life, I have enough personal success to move back of my own decision. My cousin Marjorie, whose husband left her one day out of the blue with no warning months ago, is looking to sell her house in Tallahassee and move to Tampa. I would give anything to be stationed at McDill Air Force Base — to be one hour from Orlando and two from Cocoa Beach! Just gotta convince Larry…

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Las Vegas or Bust!

VEGAS. Because a person in our squadron got sick, I was given two days notice I’d be attending a war exercise in Las Vegas. Because I don’t want to get my ass kicked by Public Affairs, here is what Red Flag is, from their press release:

“Red Flag-Nellis is conducted on the Nevada Test and Training Range and involves U.S. and allied forces from all brances of service. Each Red Flag exercise normally involves a variety of interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance aircraft. Within a typical 12-month period, more than 1,200 aircraft fly 20,000 plus sorties while training more than 26,750 personnel. Since combat is no place to train aircrews, Red Flag provides a peacetime “battlefield” within which our combat air forces can train. Inside this battlefield, aircrews train to fight together, survive together and win together.  Red Flag-Nellis is held four times annually.”

We were there with many different countries this time, including Denmark, Belgium, Germany, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

A little background about Saudi Arabia: “Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian. ‘Women in Saudi must obtain permission from a male guardian to perform ‘certain surgeries’ and to ‘leave the university campus during study hours.'”[source] You should have seen the shade the Saudi Arabian Air Force was throwing my way when they saw me driving around in our awesome gilded (okay, beige-ish gold colored) government-issued mini-van (which I dubbed “Goldmine”). Or the constipated looks I received when I was doing something as dubious and insolent as walking around the base. Or attending briefings. If Saudi women aren’t allowed to drive cars, does that mean they can’t fly bombers, too (if they had them, of course)? I wonder if their minds get changed just a little bit, like a seed of doubt is planted, when they see how competent, badass, and capable our female aviators are? Like maybe the cake is a lie?

So, yeah, I went to Las Vegas for two weeks. This was my third participation in a Red Flag exercise, more than anyone else in my squadron. Overall, I found the exercise to be run less efficiently than Red Flag Alaska. Perhaps it’s the leadership, maybe not. I did get some time off to explore Vegas, and I encouraged everyone to step outside their comfort zone and do fun things they usually wouldn’t do; do something other than drink. I did see the Cirque du Soleil show “Zarkana”, which was pretty amazing. When two handsome acrobats were flying over the audience, a guy friend next to me said “Man, wish I could do that.” I simply replied, “Me too.” Heh. Wrecker, a fellow female Radar Navigator, was a pal to go shopping and see the sights with me. We even visited two (!) Bettie Page clothing stores while we were there, and bought fancy cocktail dresses to attend the Zarkana show in style. We even got a fantastic seat at the Hyde Bar at the Bellagio, right in front of the windows overlooking the fountains. I even got a very handsome ensemble from Agent Provocateur for a souvenir, since there was a store there at Caesar’s Palace.

Today, Larry and I are going to see Bossier Parish Community College’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, everyone’s favorite musical. Besides The Sound of Music, of course.