So I have a TON of belated pre-Tessa posts that I was working on / planning to write about / wanting to share. But a combination of having no internet access from my apartment for most of August, having my mother-in-law visiting for a few weeks, and finally the birth of my precious little princess has kept me from blogging.
So my next few posts over the next few weeks will most likely be “catching up” posts.
When Jonathan and I were making our list of “Cheap and / or Free Things To Do In Pensacola”, the Naval Aviation Museum was at the top of the list. Located inside the Naval Air Station where Jonathan is attending A School, the large museum is one of the world’s premiere air and space museums and offers free admission and free tours daily.
When my mother-in-law flew in from Washington State a few weeks before Tessa was born, we all made our first visit to the museum. And omgee, this place is frikkin’ HUGE. There is absolutely no way you could do this museum in just one day. I get all OCD about reading every plaque, and watching every interactive video and taking every tour when I go to museums… and it’s just not possible with this place.
There are more than 150 aircraft both inside and outside the museum. These include record-setting aircraft like the NC-4 flying boat, the first plane to fly across the Atlantic, as well as combat veterans, including the SBD Dauntless that flew at the Battle of Midway, two Vietnam MiG-killers, an A-7 Corsair II that logged missions over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and the last F-14 Tomcat to fly a combat mission.
In addition to the aircraft, there are also more than 4,000 uniforms, flight gear, weaponry, medals and decorations at the Naval Aviation Museum. The museum is also home to the famous Navy Blue Angels.
Our first visit to the museum I was still on partial bed rest and Tessa was still a wiggle in my belly. Jonathan and my MIL both teamed up on me and made me rent a wheelchair for our visit. Since I didn’t FEEL like I needed to be off my feet, I felt like one of those obese ladies that take the motorized carts at Walmart. Ya know, the ones who don’t have a physical ailment – they just don’t feel like walking when they are perfectly capable of doing so? Yeah. That was me at the Naval Aviation Museum. Only I wasn’t super happy about it and I showered / wearing a bra.
Oh! But I did get to try astronaut ice cream! I had never had it before and it was on my bucket list. I don’t know why I waited so shamefully long to try this stuff. It was great! So, one more “To Do” checked off that list.. next up: Pet a penguin. (Don’t be jelly of my bucket list.)
On our second visit to the museum, Tessa was just four days old. It was her very first museum visit! Jonathan’s dad had flown in from Washington State to join us and we wanted to show the museum off. That, and I was really stir crazy and desperate to get out of the house! We visited portions of the museum that we hadn’t seen before, and we took a trolley tour that took us to the back of the museum to view extra large aircraft.
On both visits, Jonathan rode on a flight simulator with his mom and then his dad. It looks amazingly fun, and I was unable to partake in it both visits – first because I was preggers, and the second time because I was still wincing to walk post-delivery. But I will get to ride it SOON! I won’t be leaving Pensacola without having ridden that darn thing.
Oh! Oh! Oh! Here are some really freaking adorable shots from out two trips… the top photos are the visit with my mother-in-law Connie Jo when I was still pregnant, and the bottom photos are from the visit with my father-in-law Bob when Tessa was four days old! (I hate that I look pregnant in both shots, haha.)
Anyhoo, we’re planning on returning to the museum to show my dad when he flies in from California to visit next week. That was the ONE THING he really wanted to do when he was here helping us move in last month. And I’m sure we’ll make more visits in the future so I can sate my OCD educational nerdy side with some leisurely plaque reading and video watching. I’ll be Navy savvy before you know it, matey! <—-(Sailors say matey, right???)
“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” – M.C. Escher
Where to start with August?! Well, I haven’t had internet access at the apartment since moving to Pensacola, Florida, and I’m here at the local Starbucks once again leeching internet and trying not to feel guilty for buying yet another mocha. So! My month! I’ll start by filling in where my last blog post left off.
I am still pregnant. I have not had baby Tessa yet, despite the many close calls and declarations of induction at the hospital. Basically, my amniotic fluid was dangerously low and my placenta wasn’t showing a good exchange of nutrients to Tessa. So they wanted to induce. They hospitalized me and started me on steroids and everything. Then my fluids went up and they decided to wait on the induction. Worst lol/jk of my life. After psyching myself up for imminent pain and baby?! Ahhhhh!
Anyhoo, they released me from the hospital and put me on bed rest. Which I only partially adhered to. I mostly spent the next day rushing around doing all the things I thought I hadn’t had time to do. At my last check up (on Friday), my fluid had dipped back down, but overall Tessa’s levels looked good. They offered once again to schedule an induction and I declined. Then they released me on partial bed rest, with another two appointments scheduled right after Labor Day weekend to keep an eye on her fluid and that pesky placenta. They also prescribed me medicine to speed up Tessa’s lung and liver development in case of induction. Because the second my fluid dips down again she’s coming out. So, fun times!
In the meantime my mother-in-law Connie Jo is here from Washington State to help me around the house. She’s been walking the dog, doing my housework, and basically making sure I stay off my feet and drink lots of water and take my medicine. Connie and Jonathan are even making me take wheelchairs when I insist we go out and sightsee Pensacola and go grocery shopping. Ugh! I’ve never felt so gimpy in my life!
So that’s where I am NOW. This month has been the most action packed, change-filled month of the year, by far!
Here’s a fast recap of this month: My husband graduated from Navy Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. Then he was sent to Pensacola, Florida for A School. Then I packed up our tiny apartment in Hanford, California and hopped in the car with my dad and my cats and my dog and drove the 2500mile cross country road trip to settle down here in Florida. Then it’s been a flurry of moving in, sightseeing, figuring out the area, plugging into the community and getting ready for Tessa’s imminent arrival. It’s been crazy, to say the very least.
While the hospital excursion was frightening, it’s been an amazing month! So much has happened so fast! I’m so thrilled to be near my husband again. I can’t wait for us to be a family of three, living under one roof! God really has been so good to us. We have been showered with blessings and I am amazed at where life has taken us. The Navy certainly didn’t lie when they said a career in the armed forces would be an adventure!
I can say with confidence that all of my fears and concerns and worries of the past few months have melted away. I’m just taking things one day at a time, waiting for our precious daughter to join us here on the outside world, and waiting to see where God takes us next!
So. I am still stuck in the hospital. I was told that I would be induced TONIGHT and would be having Tessa TOMORROW. But then they keep changing their minds based on the bazillion and one tests they keep insisting they run. One moment it’s a huge emergency – No water! No food! No going home to check on your cats! Continuous fetal monitoring! You may be induced any moment now!!!- and the next its completely chill. Here, have some food. You don’t need to be on the monitors now. You most likely won’t be induced, but you can’t go home either. We’ll let you know. When will we let you know? We don’t know. Just wait.
The last I heard I won’t be induced because Tessa’s amniotic fluid just stabilized due to my bed rest. So they may just be sending me home any moment now, with bed rest orders and frequent check ups. Who knows? I certainly don’t. It’s nerve wracking, beyond upsetting, and driving me absolutely batty. And in the meantime, I’m stuck in this tiny dimly lit room with my laptop, playing on Facebook and blogging.
So for a distraction I figure, why not catch up on my first week living in Pensacola?
So! Last weekend I told Jonathan that I just couldn’t do stairs anymore. The relaxin in my hips, getting my lady parts all ready to squeeze a watermelon sized infant out, was making going up and down my apartment steps hell. Every step feels like my tail bone wants to fly out and my hips want to pop off, like some comical mechanical toy springing gears everywhere.
So when Jonathan and I had our “date day” this past weekend, what did I want to do? Climb the 177 nearly vertical spiral steps up the historic Pensacola Lighthouse – the fourth tallest lighthouse in the nation. Because I’m brilliant like that.
The lighthouse was built in 1859 and is one of the oldest still working lighthouses in the nation. It is one of the many fascinating historic spots located inside NAS Pensacola. The top of the tower offers stunning views of Pensacola Pass (where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico), the three forts, the Pensacola skyline and the historic Navy Yard… or so I’m told. It was pouring rain when we arrived and our view consisted of squinting through the fogged panes being pelted with rain.
When we arrived, the gals at the museum urged us to “hurry up” because they close the lighthouse when there is lightening present. Apparently the lighthouse has been struck by lightning multiple times in the past, most notably when it was zapped in 1874, and then struck again on the exact same day the following year. Anyhoo, the rain was really coming down, and lightning didn’t seem unlikely, so we paid our entrance fee, and I rushed us to the foot of the stairs. The first thing we were greeted with is a sign urging pregnant women to back the eff off. I took a picture, thumbed my nose at the sign, and plodded on ahead while my husband tried to gently tell me how dumb I was being.
It wasn’t until about a quarter of the way up that I realized that climbing this tower may not have been the smartest plan. My hips and legs were KILLING ME. Tessa was riding up high under my ribcage, so I couldn’t get enough air. And to make matters worse, we see a bright flash of lightning right out the first window. Jonathan insisted we just come back on another day. But me, being, well, me – I took this all as a challenge and decided we HAD TO reach the top of the stairs before staff came and dragged us down.
So, at 8 months pregnant, I raced up the stairs with my husband, practically crawling along the railing, with lightning flashing out the windows every step of the way… and we made it to the top, me breathless and shaking. The second we reached the top step we were met by a gentleman who greeted us with, “Great job! Now go back down. We’re closing the lighthouse up.” So we had roughly 60 seconds of staring around the top, and viewing the huge lights, before making our descent back to ground level.
Despite feeling nauseous, weak and breathless from the excursion, and having our victory climb cut short, it was quite the adventure! It’s definitely a story to tell Tessa one of these days, haha.
So! Here are some fascinating facts regarding the lighthouse, mostly stolen off of pamphlets and internet searches, haha!:
Soon after the United States took control of Florida from Spain in 1821, the federal government recognized the importance of Pensacola’s harbor and moved to establish both a naval yard and lighthouse there. On March 3, 1823, Congress authorized $6,000 for the Pensacola Lighthouse. On March 24, 1824, Winslow Lewis, responding to an advertisement in the Boston Patriot, offered to build the lighthouse and dwelling.
A nice little podunky light tower was built with the funds, but by 1850, regular complaints were starting to be voiced regarding the lighthouse. The trees around the house got in the way of signals. The light was too dim and ships were like, “WTF?” So on and so forth. So by 1852, the newly established Lighthouse Board recommended that a “first-class seacoast light” with a height no less than 150 feet be built at Pensacola. Congress allocated $25,000 for the lighthouse in 1854, and an additional $30,000 in 1856.
A site was selected one-half mile west of the original lighthouse, and work on the tower (the one we climbed!) was supervised by John Newton of the Army Corps of Engineers. Construction was completed in 1858, and the lamp in the tower’s first-order Fresnel lens was first lit on New Year’s Day, 1859 by Keeper Palmes. The tower, which has a basal diameter of thirty feet and gradually tapers to fifteen feet, stands 160-feet-tall. The bottom third of the tower remained white to stand out against the trees, but the top portion was painted black to stand out against a possibly cloud-filled sky.
Now here’s where the lighthouse history gets really interesting! On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the United States. Union forces abandoned Fort Barrancas in favor of Fort Pickens, located on the western end of Santa Rosa Island, allowing the lighthouse to fall into the hands of Confederates, who eventually discontinued the light and removed the lens. The opposing forces warily watched one another across the bay for months.
Then on November 22, 1861, a two-day artillery battle erupted. The “Lighthouse Batteries” were frequent targets for the guns of Fort Pickens, and roughly half a dozen rounds struck the tower. Confederates evacuated the area on May 9, 1862, and the lighthouse fell under Union control. None of the rounds penetrated the outer wall of the lighthouse, and the tower was found to be in good condition. A fourth-order lens was placed in the lantern room, and the tower was lit again on December 20, 1862.
During the twenty-three years following the relighting of the tower after the war, eleven individuals served as head keepers. Nine of them had to be removed for reasons ranging from intoxication to dereliction of duty. Finally, in 1886 the appointment of George T. Clifford ended the string of short-timers. Clifford served thirty-one years, until his retirement in 1917.
Pensacola Light Station was switched to electricity in the late 1930s, and in 1939 the tower was transferred to the Coast Guard. The station remained manned until automation in 1965. With the dwelling unused and the tower posing possible risk to jets using the airfield completed nearby, plans to demolish the station were discussed. These plans added fuel to a growing preservation movement in Pensacola, and in 1971, Gulf Islands National Seashore was established to help preserve Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, and Pensacola Lighthouse.
Oh yeah, and the place is supposed to be haunted. I guess it’s been featured on all kinds of TV Ghost Hunter type shows? I don’t particularly care for all that drivel. But you can YouTube search the lighthouse and find hundreds of paranoid ghost hunters with “video proof” of the frequent hauntings there, if you care to check it out.
But anyway, this was actually my first excursion up a lighthouse! Jonathan’s too. We’d never been in one before. And while we didn’t have time to leisurely stroll the spiraled ascent, chasing the lightning storm and all, it was a blast! It’ll definitely be a fun story to share with Tessa one of these days…
Before Jonathan joined the Navy, he was working at Securitas in Tulare, California as a security guard at a dairy processing factory. He worked 12 hour shifts almost every Sunday, which meant no church for us as a couple. It has literally been YEARS since we’ve sat down to a church sermon that wasn’t just the two of us in our living room listening in on a podcast online or watching a DVD Bible study.
So one of the first things we wanted to do once I arrived here in Pensacola was to find a good non-denominational Christian church to attend.
So I mentioned in a previous blog post that when we were in crazy moving in week, we bought a ton of furniture off of Craigslist. When I was telling the couple we bought our dining room table and chairs from how good God has been to us in this whole moving process, they invited us to their church on Pensacola Beach. Like, literally. ON the beach. Not near it, or by it. But gathering on an open deck patio under a restaurant and spilling out onto the sparkling white sands. (The pure white tropical sands of Pensacola Beach are known as “singing sand”. Because the sands contain silica, are at a certain humidity, and because they are exactly 0.1 and 0.5 mm in diameter, they emit a squeaking, whistling musical note when stepped on. The more you know!)
Anyhoo, we told our new friends that we’d keep their church in mind, and that we’d be in touch. Then, later that same week,Jonathan got involved in a Bible study group on the Navy base. While at the study group he asked his new friends where they recommend as a home church. They invited him to a “church that meets on Pensacola Beach… like, on the beach.”
So guess where we went for church on Sunday?
While we’ve only been to one service, I can say that Central Waterside Church in Pensacola is something else. Everyone is friendly and inviting. There was a sprawling table with danishes and muffins and free coffee. We arrived late, and hadn’t brought any chairs for the sand, but Martha and David, our Craigslist friends, had saved seats for us.
I found myself sitting under the awning among driftwood and palms, feeling the warm, salty ocean breeze in my face and gently lifting my hair, holding hands with my handsome husband, hearing God’s word over the sound of beach gulls and ocean waves and childrens laughter on the beach as my daughter wiggled around in my belly and I found myself thinking – how did I get here?! Everything has been happening so fast. Too fast.
But there is no denying – I am blessed. God has certainly been so good to me and my family. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in the future.
Jonathan met up with his Navy friends and helped them tear down the stage after the service, and I walked along the pier and visited with some of the women, asking questions about how the church gets involved in the community and getting familiar with the dynamics of their fellowship. We’re going to keep checking this church out in the following weeks before making any kind of commitment, but I have an inkling that we’ve found our new home church.
So far, easing into “home” has been astoundingly easy. I am beginning to see why so many look wistfully back at their A School days here in Pensacola and wish they’d been stationed here. I’m going to treasure our time here, and I can’t wait to see where God takes us next!
When my dad and I concluded our 2500 mile road trip from California to Florida, we pulled into the Pensacola Naval Air Station base with about 30 minutes to spare before liberty call, when Jonathan would be freed up to leave the base and go sign the lease on our new home. While waiting for Jonathan, my dad and I decided to stop at one of the many tourist spots within Pensacola NAS – and yes, there are many tourist spots at this base. It’s insane. It feels more like a vacation resort than a military complex. But I digress.
About a half mile into the base, I noticed what looked like ancient ruins half buried in the landscape off to our right. We pulled over to find the Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas, an historical American landmark protected by the National Park Service.
The Redoubt was built between 1845 and 1870 as part of a defensive network along with Fort Pickens, Fort McRee and Fort Barrancas to protect the entrance to the harbor in Pensacola where the Navy Yard was situated. To put this into proper perspective, when ground was broken on this bad boy James Polk was the president (16 years before Abraham Lincoln was elected President). Florida had just become the 27th state in the United States of America. And Edgar Allen Poe’s “Raven” was first published. So, yeah. Kind of a long time ago.
The design of the Advanced Redoubt – an enclosed fortress protecting a strategic point – exhibits the idea of defense in depth. As an attack began to beat back the defenders, the attacking soldiers would meet new obstacles to further advance. The goal of the Redoubt was to make an assault as costly as possible to exhaust the attacking troops before they could gain access to the Fort and the Navy Yard beyond.
As an attacker, you would be exposed to cannon and musket fire from the main wall (the scarp) as well as musket fire from the top of the outer wall (the counterscarp). Defending soldiers are protected, while attackers are exposed.
At the moat are windows that serve as embrasures for cannon called flank howitzers. Canister, cannon-sized buckshot, would be fired down the ditch at attackers. The vertical windows in the walls, called loopholes, are where infantry could fire muskets while being completely protected by the walls. Anyone caught in the moat would be caught in a deadly crossfire of musketry while facing a hail of canister from the howitzers.
If the enemy ever did manage to reach the back of the fort (the gorge), additional musket fire would come from galleries atop the demibastion on either side. Due to it’s strategic defences, the Fort could literally only be taken by siege.
The only action the Advanced Redoubt ever encountered was on October 8, 1863, when Confederate Brigadier General Clanton led an attack against Fort Barrancas, which was defended by the U.S. Colored Troops of the 14th Regiment Corps d’Afrique and the 7th Vermont Infantry. After a brisk skirmish the estimated 200 Confederates retired into the woods. The next day the Confederates returned and engaged the pickets with musketry at Advanced Redoubt. The federals blazed back with small arms and a few howitzer rounds. The Confederates retreated again with no casualties reported on either side.
The Advanced Redoubt was built at the end of an era, incorporating the lessons of many centuries of engineering. For over 500 years, cannon had hurled round iron balls to batter down walls. Cannon ended the age of castles, and had let to the designs found in seacoast forts like Pickens, Barrancas and this Redoubt. Among the most advanced buildings of their day, these structures were built to last for centuries.
But rapid changes in technology rendered the Redoubt obsolete before it was even finished in 1870. By the end of the American Civil War in 1865, rifled cannon and ironclad warships had made this fort, and all others like it, archaic. Nevertheless, the fort was completed because engineers had not yet solved the problems presented by the new weapons.
The Advanced Redoubt is a study in changes. It was begun with slave labor, but was finished by free men. In an age of brick and stone, its walls were built using cement. It was designed for the ages, but was outdated before the last brick was set. And to this day it is nestled amongst the weeds and sand of a Naval Station that continues to forge the newest technologies to potential threats against our nation.
So! This was my first sightseeing excursion at my new home! I hope you enjoyed. I’ll be sure to post more adventures as they come! ^_^
From the moment we crossed the border and drove into the Sunshine State, the sky continued to darken with rolling grey clouds and kept pelting us with random intermittent showers ranging from misty sprinkles to full on flash flood torrents. Which just filled up my rain-loving happy, but made moving furniture out of a trailer and up a flight of stairs kind of precarious. I did my part by getting in the way of the boys, blocking the stairwell while snapping pictures and going on about how nice the rain was as they got soaked.
Our new apartment is gorgeous, with an open floor plan, vaulted ceilings, gas fireplace and enclosed balcony / porch. We love it, the cats love it, and it is slowly starting to feel like home. Oh, and have I mentioned how FREAKING AWESOME it is to have my husband back and by my side again?!
We spent the majority of the weekend driving all around the gulf area picking up cheap furniture off of Craigslist to furnish the apartment – and we were extremely blessed in our Craigslist finds. We ended up getting: A matching leather sofa, love seat and recliner, a matching solid wood coffee table and two end tables, a Kirby vacuum cleaner with all the attachments and extra bags, a bedside table, a table lamp, and a glass top bamboo dining table with four chairs for $250! Jonathan’s friend Mason from Division 938 in boot camp spent the weekend with us, helping load and unload the trailer and get our boxes of belongings unpacked and scattered around the place. (As of right now the apartment still looks like a moving van exploded all over the place, but it’s slowly coming along..)
Before dropping my dad off at the airport, we decided to scout out some local waterfront dining spots and settled on trying Nick’s Boathouse in Pensacola. The food was great, the prices were decent and the view was phenomenal, with beach access right off the outdoor dining porch. And the best part? It’s only 10 minutes from our apartment. Between the rain, the tropical humidity, and the gorgeous views, I could really get to liking this place. Once we get our place fully put together, and internet access in the apartment (still seeking internet shelter at the local Starbucks..) I think we’ll have it made. Well, then there’s that whole “having a baby” thing to look forward to. When it rains, it pours, doesn’t it? 😉