05. December 2013 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 22: My last trip to Nebraska…for now. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
The Historic Fort Crook Suites are on "General's Row" on Offutt AFB.

The Historic Fort Crook Suites are on “General’s Row” on Offutt AFB.

Just before Thanksgiving I took one last trip to Offutt AFB in Nebraska. This time I was signing out of my unit at STRATCOM. The folks in my office took me out for a nice lunch at Sinful Burger, and I even caught one last Omaha-Offutt AMS chapter meeting to see some of my friends from my time with that group in 2008-2010.

I had been traveling to Nebraska 5-6 times per year in 2011, 2012, and 2013 for my reserve work. Dave had received orders from Nebraska to Florida a mere 6 months after I had been hired locally.

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26. September 2013 · Comments Off on A New Job! In the Local Area!!! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
I learned this in middle school.

I learned this in middle school. Didn’t you?

About two years ago I had written this soul-baring post about going back to school for a secondary math/science teacher certification. I’ve done no such thing. But last week I was hired to become a math instructor!

I had been in communication with the US Air Force Academy math department since about January. I took a plunge and “auditioned” for an IMA position (individual reserve augmentee, the type of position I currently have in Nebraska). I was given a Calculus 1 lesson to prepare and present to a panel of faculty members who pretended to be cadets of assorted skills. I had the underprepared cadet…and the over-prepared cadet who kept jumping ahead.

After the audition lesson, I was tickled to learn that day that I was hired!

Like my other reserve positions, this one is also part time. Unlike my other reserve positions, here I’m expected to pool together my duty days into one clump: summer session. I will be expected to teach either Calculus 1, Calculus 2, or basic statistics.

I’m thrilled to once again be working in the local area. That hasn’t happened since 2009. While the STRATCOM gig was fun and all, the travel resulted in 10-12 additional days away from my family, not to mention the added expense for airfare, lodging, gas, and rental cars.

I have one more trip to Nebraska to sign out of my old unit in mid-October, then I get to figure out taking my next physical fitness test here, at 7200 feet!!!

This week I’ll be getting back to writing about some of our adventures: the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, and my 40th birthday weekend!

09. September 2013 · Comments Off on Where Have You Been, Major Mom? · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
The endless fields of wild sunflowers helped keep me company on my drive to Nebraska in August.

The endless fields of wild sunflowers helped keep me company on my drive to Nebraska in August. The profuse rains in eastern CO this summer have really made the area bloom. As you can see, otherwise I have nothing to look at.

Yep, we’ve been busy! For most of the month of August, I’ve been playing hostess to a litany of contractors as we are aggressively trying to complete our basement. At the end of the month I went to Nebraska for 1 1/2 weeks of work. While I was there I completed (and passed!) one of my numerous Air War College essay tests.

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07. June 2013 · Comments Off on The Dallas Airport USO · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,
It's tradition.

It’s tradition.

Whenever I fly to Nebraska for my Air Force Reserve duties**, I tend to rotate among the three airlines that fly between my local airports here and Omaha: Delta, American and United.

**Once we get to Colorado, flying to my Air Force duties will no longer be my only option. I’m very excited about this.

On my last trip to Nebraska in late April, I flew American Airlines and had a three-hour layover in Dallas-Fort Worth. As it turned out, my connecting gate was across the hall from the airport’s USO.

Typically, my layovers are VERY tight…less than an hour. Also, in an airport as big as DFW, to be so close to the USO was pure luck.

For those unfamiliar, USO lounges are set up in many airports mainly for the servicemembers on official travel. However, family members and retirees are free to use the facilities. In Dallas, the USO lounge would put many airlines’ VIP lounges to shame! A computer lab, kids’ play area, snack bar (you’re allowed up to three snacks/beverages free of charge), and a HUGE theater area with comfy seating.

I had been to this particular USO before, but since my last visit (2009, I believe), it had nearly doubled in size.

This time around, I met a family who was awaiting their connecting flight after having flown 10 hours from Germany. The kids were so tired, they were just plain silly! I also met several uniformed soldiers coming home from Afghanistan for their two-week R&R trip. I also met a very young female Air Force officer assigned to Holloman AFB, NM, I asked how she liked it and I’d never seen someone so happy to be in New Mexico. Good for her 🙂

There’s a luggage area that’s conveniently covered with carpeting. Why? So you can attach your velcro patches to the walls. I had no unit patches (my uniform doesn’t use velcro patches), but I had my name tape on my backpack…which is what I left behind.

The cubbies on the left easily accommodated the carry on bags we all had.

The cubbies on the left easily accommodated the carry on bags we all had.

08. January 2013 · Comments Off on Because I Can! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
No, I don't mind chewing my orange juice one bit!

No, I don’t mind chewing my orange juice one bit!

Of course I miss my family when I do my reserve duty, and I have to deal with flying in the month of January, but there are a few perks to being on my own for a week.

Such as getting to buy and drink “HIGH PULP” orange juice!

And working through a box of Raisin Nut Bran cereal for breakfast every day I’m here.

I eat sushi for dinner without commentary from the peanut galley.

I can stay up as late as I like to read my book…when I’m not studying for my first Air War College exam, I’m working on World War Z by Tom Brooks right now. Yes, a zombie book, but there’s another layer to it that makes it a very worthwhile read: do YOU have the skills to survive for a generation or longer without electricity, fuel for your vehicles, or the Internet?

For the first few days I truly enjoy the quiet when I’m off duty. I don’t talk much, I get to surf the web without feeling guilty, the TV is on the channel I want. But after about 4 days of this, I do begin to get lonely. I begin to surf online albums of the boys’ baby pictures and pictures of Dave and me enjoying life.

Of course, I’ll take this over a long deployment…and kudos to those who are separated for much, much longer than this.

18. October 2012 · Comments Off on Preparing for a Two Week Tour… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

Photo of Moody AFB Commissary’s single long line. This week’s commissary trip brought back memories of our “big shopping” trips we would take to Langley AFB’s commissary as a kid. Photo: Air Force News.

You might or might not remember my post from when we first moved to Florida in 2010. When we have to move from one military assignment to another, we often will relinquish some of our pantry goods and cleaning wares.  Such as vinegar, soy sauce, household cleaners, Lysol sprays, and any perishables in the fridge and freezer. Friends are usually happy to take that stuff off our hands. We’ve come to expect that type of trading around when living in a military community.

This weekend we’re going camping. Right after the camping trip, I’m hopping on a flight back to Nebraska for my two-week Air Force Reserve tour. Why do I do this to myself?  I don’t know…

I try to help Dave plan meals before I leave on these trips, and in this case, I offered to stock up on as much food as I could for the kids’ quick-and-easy favorites: tacos, spaghetti, pizza (with a Boboli crust), turkey burgers, etc. On Tuesday I went to the NAS Pensacola commissary to stock up on groceries for this weekend’s camping, plus I attempted to buy 2 weeks of groceries for my boys while I’m gone.  I had another appointment in Pensacola this week, which is why I didn’t go to Hurlburt’s commissary this time.

I usually go grocery shopping weekly. I have a pretty good rudimentary meal planning system down pat and no one here starves. One shopping cart typically fits the bill, and everything fits in my pantry and fridge when I get it home. I don’t have a large pantry, nor do I have substantial freezer space. So once a week works well.

My boys eat a lot more than they used to. This started over the summer…we always had one son eating a ton with a growth spurt, and the other one playing picky eater. They now both eat…eat…eat…eat…

Two+ weeks worth of lunch stuff, dinner ideas, cereal, bread, eggs, milk, orange juice and meats added up in a hurry. I don’t think I’ve ever had to pay more than $300 for a batch of groceries other than that first time grocery shopping at a new location. For the first time on Tuesday, I did.

It brought back memories of the “big shopping” trips my parents would take approximately once a month when I was growing up. When we were living in Norfolk, our whole family would load into the car and drive to the commissary at Langley AFB and I have memories of using two shopping carts while my parents would stock up on meats, frozen foods and pantry goods for the month. I have memories of the LONG lines* if we were shopping on the Saturday after a military payday…the single line would extend back through the frozen food aisles to the dairy…and maybe even to the meat area at the back of the store if everyone was taking their post-payday, pre-holiday shopping trip.

*A little military lifestyle lesson here: Unlike most grocery stores, checkout areas at military commissaries will establish a SINGLE line, and whoever is at the head of the line will take the next available open register. Bigger commissaries have these funny machines — centrally located near the head of the queue — that announce “Next, Please” with the register number lit up. This blog post explains the single line, as well as many other nuances of the military commissary. Most civilians will see such queueing techniques mainly on Black Friday at stores like Old Navy and Best Buy (although Best Buy does it all the time now, if memory serves).

The monthly shopping thing? It’s a sensible way to shop if you plan properly. Which I don’t. My family simply can’t plan that well…

It’s also a sensible way to shop if you have the space to keep all that stuff. Which I also don’t. This house is spacious enough for us, but not in pantry space.

This turned into a problem when I got home on Tuesday. I didn’t have space for everything…my fridges and freezers (I have two refrigerator/freezers, one in the kitchen and one out in the garage) are packed full, and so is the pantry. I ended up having to pre-load the bags with the camping non-perishables to free up space.

To conclude, the big shopping trips don’t seem as convenient in our current state of storage. Perhaps one day we’ll have a bigger pantry, bigger fridge or a deep freezer with which we can long-term store more goods. But not in this house.

I tend to do this a lot.  Just sneak a few pictures of something intriguing while in a store…it’s fun to slowly wander around without the pressure of the kids, or appointments or meetings that seem to dominate my life when I’m at home.  I have plenty of those here, but I also have a relaxing time when I’m off shift.

I was at the BX (Base Exchange) today browsing for a thank you card for someone. I walked past an aisle of hard liquor and the bottom row caught my attention.  Bottom shelf, they call it, right?

Who else had no problem drinking the “cheap stuff” when in college? I’m a bit more discriminating now, but considering how little I drink now, I have no problem making more discriminating “investments” in our alcohol.

It all looks so…standardized!

But wait!  There’s more!

Need some bourbon, scotch or Canadian whiskey?

Can’t beat those prices!!!  Can’t beat some of the reviews of these products either.  Oh, and check out this one, which is from the VodkaBuzz website, home of some very discriminating vodka purveyors.

Anyway, there’s more to the story.  I picked up a bottle of the Canadian whiskey to get an idea of who was bottling this liquor…all the same bottles with similar-looking labels.  I found a reference to Atlantic Wind and Spirits out of Baltimore, MD.  But some Google sleuthing reveals that they’re little more than a distributor.

Someone is distilling, fermenting, etc. this stuff — who?

More Google sleuthing revealed the Sazerac Company.  Yes, like the Sazerac mixed drink. They seem to outsource distilling of their premium spirits to other companies, but then it gets distributed under numerous other names.  And if this recent peanut butter recall is any indication, you can imagine where else you’re seeing the same “Miltary Special” spirits.  Look what I found out:

This same company that makes the Military Special vodka also makes CVS and Albertson’s…and “Skol”, a brand I remember from my college days..similarly, the Military Special American blended whiskey is the same as CVS’s.

You can read more about their brands here (click “Our Brands” at the top).

And the kicker? Check out these inset pictures on the Canadian whiskey and rum bottles.  I mean, how stereotypical can you possibly get???

I have no words for this…

Or this…


16. September 2012 · Comments Off on Lieutenant Colonel Mom…. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Perhaps you’re a little confused here? These are Civil War-era Union Army Lieutenant Colonel shoulder marks. They might provide some insight to why those “oak leaves” we wear now are called that, even though I’ve never seen an oak tree with leaves shaped like the modern-day rank.

So I wrote a post 363 days ago about how I had received a notification for promotion about 390 days ago.  In that post I also promised not to change the name of my blog…

But who’s counting the days now?

On September 1st the promotion went into effect.

While for those on active duty it’s usually a very elegant affair complete with a re-affirmation of the original commissioning oath of office, a fun “pinning on” with the family and catered meals (in fact, I had the privilege of attending a very nice promotion ceremony for a colleague who became a Colonel on September 1st), for us reservists it’s more quiet. I will be flying to Nebraska later this week to perform some duty days and will be in my new digs.  Well, the same old digs with new oak leaves sewn on.

I don’t feel any different, and the job I’m doing isn’t going to change as a result.  The AF Reserves are special that way…

I am WAY behind on posts in general, I plan to write about Dragon*Con and Jacob’s birthday this week.  Thanks for your patience!

16. May 2012 · Comments Off on Seen at the Offutt Field House · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

The Offutt Field House.  It was my second home when we were living in Omaha.  It seemed to be a shorter drive from our house in Nebraska to the Offutt Field House than our current drive from our house to the neighborhood community center’s gym.

The Field House is one of the largest gyms in the Air Force.  It is a converted aircraft hangar and even with everything in the fitness center, there are still large parts of the same building dedicated to other missions.  The Field House has several basketball and volleyball courts, three tennis courts, a 0.4 mile running track, a soccer pitch, indoor golf driving range training cages, several cardio training areas, several weight training areas (both free weights and machines) and even a kid-friendly area where parents can do both cardio and weight training on the perimeter of a full-sized playground structure.

I was half-marathon training on my last visit to Nebraska in January so I was running outside, and I wasn’t in Nebraska on my previous Air Force Reserve stint.  So I hadn’t set foot in the Field House since last September.

There were some pretty significant changes after not having visited for 7 months.

There are Fathead wall decals throughout the facility now.  I hope those were donated to the Field House and not purchased with government funds.

This huge Crossfit gym appeared. While I didn't capture it in the picture, there were over a dozen people doing Crossfit workouts while I was running laps around them on the track. http://totactfit.com/

This area used to be a kid-friendly cardio area with basketball hoops available for kids. It's now the Offutt Combatives Club training area. There is also space for MMA training. Boy, times have changed. I'm awaiting the return of a square boxing ring.

Finally, I thought I'd show off some of the Fatheads that were gracing the blank walls around the track. This is Troy Palomalu (from his USC days). To the right of him is Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers. There was also a huge Nebraska Stadium Fathead.

Many of you know that I have my pet peeve about rental cars. When I reserve a particular size of car, I would really like that size. I’ve been renting vehicles most of the times I travel to Omaha for my AF Reserve duty, and rarely do I receive what I’ve reserved.

Call me cheap, but when I don’t expect to do any more than shuttle myself to/from my job every day, I don’t need more than the smallest, most fuel efficient car available. Some of you may remember my adventure with the Ford Mustang that I rented in late February 2011.

This time around, I was pleasantly surprised when the car rental dealer attendant told me that they had a “subcompact car” waiting for me. That was what I had requested.

A Toyota Yaris. It starts at $14K new. Probably among the least expensive cars on the market.  And that’s what you get. It’s a very very simple, low powered, basic car. Hooray for 30+ mpg and hooray for it being nice and nimble in the tight Offutt AFB parking lots near the building where I work.

But as you can see from the picture above, I couldn’t even fit my single wheeled duffel bag in the back. I wasn’t expecting that. BOO! I was able to toss the bag into the back seat, and I guess I should be thankful that there even was a backseat. It could have been a Smartcar, right?

This car has mostly manual controls (except the power windows and automatic transmission), a very basic stereo (with an MP3 jack, at least), and the dashboard information — such as the speedometer, odometer and engine lights — was in the middle of the car…instead of right behind my steering wheel on the driver’s side. Why is it like that? I’m not sure at all.

From what I read, the 2012 Yaris doesn’t have that centralized dashboard anymore. Phew!

With a 106hp engine, you can imagine the cars trailing behind me when I am trying to climb a hill, say, near I-680 and Dodge St. in Omaha, where you’re climbing up into the elevated express lanes.

Here’s a better view of the car.

It maneuvers quite well. But not very powerful, which is evident on hills.