The worst movie ever is the best inspiration

freeze frame image from Grey Gardens

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Today I was forced to sit through the worst movie I have ever seen. It was a documentary called Grey Gardens. For those who haven’t heard of it, the film won some notoriety back in the ’70s, there was even an HBO special with some A-list actors recreating it in recent years. But for all of the hype about this movie, I wouldn’t force my worst enemy to sit through it.

Here is my take on why we are still talking about the film forty years later: the two stars of the movie happen to be Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin. That’s it. It’s a painfully long, dreadfully annoying account of two self-absorbed women driving each other crazy. Each is obsessed enough with her own story to barely pay attention to what the other is saying. They talk over each other, one sentence barely connecting to the next the entire movie. These two women live in a dilapidated mansion in the Hamptons on family money with a litter of cats complaining about their hard lives like a couple of spoiled, delusional brats. It would be the equivalent of two filmmakers locating the narcissistic, drunken idiot of your family and following them around with a camera for a few months and the cinematic community praising it because this idiot had famous relatives.

Hang on though, I do have a point. Whenever I am forced into a nasty situation, I try to find a lesson in it and suffering through this film gave me one. In the film the daughter goes on endlessly about how she had never done anything with her life. She never worked. She never married. She barely lived anywhere outside of the Hamptons. It was such a terrible life to be born into a wealthy family and spend all of her days sunbathing at the beach. She dreamed of having a life on the stage as a dancer and a singer but never did anything about it. She was a victim that blamed everyone else for why her life had gone the way it had gone. All day everyday they sat around the house and mourned the lives that were no more (for the mother) or never were (for the daughter). They didn’t even go to the store, their groceries were delivered! Who does that?! Who sits around all day whining about how life has not gone their way when they have unlimited resources to change it?

Then it hit me.

These unfortunate (and perhaps really stupid) women were caught on camera doing what we all do. We all have excuses that don’t make much sense for why we don’t do the things we want to do and if we can find someone else to blame, we will. For ten years I’ve been saying I’m moving out of Texas. And for ten years I have found some stupid excuse to have to stay. Put me in front of a camera today and I will go on all day like the Grey Garden’s battleaxes about how much I hate the heat, and the religious rhetoric that says women have a “place” to stay in, and the abundance of idiots with large firearms. If anything, this movie – again, a terrible movie that I absolutely don’t recommend – taught me I don’t want to end up like these women – specifically the daughter. I don’t want to arrive in my middle-age feeling like I had not lived, full of people to blame for my lack of action.

Lately I’ve been looking around this house that my partner and I have spent the better part of four years renovating. We are on the home stretch. It is finally the house we thought we’d spend the next thirty years in. Everything is finally being finished and just the way we want it. It almost became my new excuse to stay. But then I envisioned myself the star of my own Grey Gardens right here in this house. I don’t want to be talking about a house when I could be talking about an adventure. Now whenever I start to feel nostalgic for the lives we have built here in Texas, I remind myself of that terrible movie Grey Gardens and remember that to stay is to become like those women. To make excuses out of fear and place blame on others for our own inaction is only human. But it is foolish, and should no more be a part of our lives than this movie.

Heeding to cautionary tales

Well folks, I did something bold today. I fired my CFI and quit the airplane club.

Now when I say “fired” and “quit” it actually means I crafted two very poetic and polite emails to express my gratitude and gently explain my position to the club manager and my CFI. The hard truth of it is I’m back to the beginning, needing a plane for training and a program for ground school.

For a while now I have felt frustrated and uninformed. Every time I asked a question I got very vague answers. When I asked for a checklist, or suggested list of readings I was given an “all in good time” response. When I tried to show my CFI a curriculum I wanted to work from, he ignored it.

The airplane club turned out to be a bust too. The schedule filled up fast and new members were joining the club every week. I could get a plane just before sunrise for 30 minutes, or after 5pm. Sometimes. The planes were ill-maintained metal death tubes. When people spoke to the club owner about fuel leaks and planes not starting after refueling he dismissed it as nothing. Every pre-flight there was another laundry list of items that “really weren’t safe, but we’ll let it ride.” Then came the kicker: the Cessna I was training on left the fleet suddenly one day. Just like that [insert snap here]! I had it reserved through spring break and out of the blue an email came from the club owner that the Cessna was leaving the fleet two weeks early and all future reservations for it would be cancelled. I was left with a much larger Piper Pathfinder 235. After jumping through about a dozen hoops I was cleared to fly it. It didn’t help that it was $20 more an hour to rent, it cost $30 more than the Cessna did to fill up, and my CFI showed up an hour late for our lesson that day. When we went up the lesson was more basic than a discovery flight. “Turn left” “good” “turn right” “good” The end. My CFI said he wanted to give me a chance to get used to a much larger plane before we did new stuff.

I left the airport that day almost in tears. I had worked so hard and studied as best I could to be forced into a more expensive plane I honestly had no business flying to learn absolutely nothing new. I was going backwards, and it was costing me more.

Then I got some sound advice from a number of brilliant 99s. One of them told me how she did what I am doing (studying independently and hiring an independent CFI at a local airport). She had been through three CFIs, had bought a plane, finished her training and still didn’t feel ready to take her check-ride. “I’m just not sure I learned the things I should have” she told me. Another 99 told me her story. She was at a 141 school and had a lousy flight instructor, but didn’t know it until he went on vacation and she had another CFI sub in for him. She asked me what I had learned so far and all I could list was “I turn left and right…my CFI showed me one stall…He walks me through landings and takeoffs…sometimes I do the takeoffs, but I’m really not sure if I’m doing it right…I know some of the instruments.” That’s it. I didn’t realize it, but after more than 5 logged hours, that’s pretty pathetic. Especially considering some people who really put their minds to it solo after 7 hours. Then I was given advice about all of the things I could do on the ground to prep for my time in the air. I felt so gullible. I had been asking about this stuff and never really gotten an answer and moved on blindly into the next lesson time and time again.

You don’t know what you’re doing wrong if no one has ever told you how to do it right. All I knew to do was read everything I could get my hands on and keep going up with my instructor. After all, that’s what he told me to do. I’m glad I expanded my horizons to get access to the advice of other pilots on what their journey was like and how I can avoid the pitfalls they fell into. I don’t want to end up like the one that preceded my path, owns her own airplane, and still doesn’t feel ready for her check ride. I also don’t want to stay with an instructor that has no structure or timetable for my training and can’t give a clear answer to any of my questions.
I deserve better. The money I have worked very hard for and sacrificed to save deserves better. The time I am spending away from my family needs to be worth more than another lesson of “turn right…good…now turn left.” So today I did something bold. I quit what I was doing because it wasn’t working and I am starting again.Starting tomorrow morning I am researching 141 programs (and applying for scholarships because dear lord they’re expensive).

Future pilot out. [microphone drops]

Sweet Potato Salad


for salad:
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 cup cooked grain (brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, etc)
2 to 3 handfuls spinach
for dressing:
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, minced


Cook grain of choice (rice, quinoa, barley, etc.)
While grains are cooking, cut sweet potato and in to 1/4” cubes.
Toss with 1 tablespoons olive oil, onion, and smoked paprika.
Cook in skillet at medium to medium-high heat until tender.
Whisk together lime juice, honey, cilantro and olive oil.
Toss grains with desired amount of spinach and dressing.
Top with cooked sweet potatoes.

Makes 2 servings

Total carbs per serving: 53g

The last Spring Break in the House of Hell…hallelujah!

For the past seven and a half years, my partner and I have worked in higher ed. Not knowing what our jobs will be once we move to Oregon, we mark this coming week as our last official Spring Break. Our last opportunity to have a week off of work at the onset of spring.

It also marks the last time we will have a considerable amount of time off with weather nice enough to open our windows to finish painting the bathrooms and kitchen, and replace carpets, and finish putting up the gutters and a million other projects before we put the house on the market.

Perhaps I should back up a little. Four years and one week ago we bought our first house. We didn’t know it was falling apart and we were naive kids that got sucked into “what a great deal it was for the location.” Don’t get me wrong, the location is great – I’m a bicycle ride from work and it’s in a cul-de-sac that backs up to an old golf course. However, since we moved in, literally everything in the house has broken, frozen over, flooded, burned or burst.

We were newlyweds that had paid out of pocket for our wedding and honeymoon when we moved in so we were really short on cash and couldn’t bring in contractors every time something went on the fritz. The first week the deadbolt lock corroded and we had to break into our house. Our first month living there we went two weeks without running water with a flooded sunken living room. Our first summer (a heat record for the state) the AC broke.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t you kids have a home warranty?”

We did. We called them. A lot.

We went two weeks without running water because the home warranty company kept sending complete idiots to our house that didn’t actually fix a thing but kept returning day after day. We finally called our own plumber and it was fixed within the hour. We went three days in 108 F heat without AC because of our warranty company and the unqualified technicians they kept sending. Again, once we called our own contractor, it was fixed within the hour. By the third month we lived there, we had learned the home warranty was a worthless piece of paper and if we wanted anything repaired we were on our own.

I bet next you might ask “why would you buy a house without getting it inspected?”

We didn’t. We actually had two separate inspectors tell us the house was in great shape.

Steadily for the past four years, bit by bit, night by night, weekend by weekend, vacation by vacation, blood, sweat, tears, wine, rum and muscle cramps we have practically rebuilt our house from the ground up. In addition to just getting things to operate like they should, we have made a number of improvements. Perhaps our greatest claim to fame is a completely remodeled master bathroom that would put the bathrooms in Better Homes and Gardens to shame.

So, this spring break, for the very last time, we will give up what could have been a week in the Caribbean for a week of painting, and faucet changing, and cabinet refinishing, and toilet sealing, and tearing out twenty-five-year-old carpet and all of the finishing touches a house like ours needs to be “market ready” so it can sell for the same price as the three bed, two bath down the street whose owners have not made a single improvement to since 1981.

I leave my first experience of home ownership with the knowledge of how to build a house but no desire to ever live in one again. After this spring break, hopefully, it will finally be ready to sell and become someone else’s problem. God help them if they ask for a single concession.

The club trainer

A few weeks ago I joined an airplane club so I would have a plane for training. What I did not know until after I had joined and was allowed in the club hangar for the first time was that their trainer Cessna was…well…terrifying.

The club has two planes: a Cessna 172B for training and short ventures, and another one…I don’t know much about that one. It is bigger and shinier. I think it’s a Piper ____ and as I understand it, I may look at it, and maybe someday if my training goes well they’ll let me crawl inside it but for now, no touchsies.

Now about the one I can touch, let me paint you a picture: The Cessna 172B was made in the early 1960s. I’m not sure the apholstery has been changed on this model. Ever. Did you catch that? The sweat from the men that flew this thing when JFK was president is probably still on that seat cushion somewhere. On the outside the paint is chipped all over and rivets are missing. It has to be parked on a large, shallow tray because it ceaselessly leaks a steady trickle of dark brown oil. The hangar floor betrays two blue circles under each wing from where the fuel occasionally leaks. The windshield is covered in bugs, some of which were extinct a decade ago. Each tire is just a little flat. Sticking out sorely is the shiny powerplant at the front. The prop was recently replaced when someone ran it into something while taxiing. It is 200 hours past the due date from its LMOH.

My first time to rent it, it was still out with the person who checked it out before me. This was a comfort because it was proof that it could fly. When it came taxiing up to my instructor and I as we waited at the hangar, all of its age and ill repair showed in the bright sunlight. The moment it was parked an oil puddle began to develop beneath it.

When the pilot and student before us jumped out, my CFI asked, “How does she handle?” The other instructor replied, “Someone should put her out of her misery.”

We did the pre-flight with a margin of “good enough” and “that’ll hold” for most of the items on our checklist. I stopped at one point and explained I did not wish to widow my partner and was willing to park it in the hangar and leave if it truly wasn’t safe to fly. My instructor made a joke and told me to hop in. So, grabbing all of the courage I could muster, we hopped in and spent the next few minutes banging the doors repeatedly into the fuselage, a little harder each time, until they finally clicked shut. There were no shoulder harnasses. Of course not!

Reports of how flying is one of the safest modes of transportation and that “I  have confidence…” song from The Sound of Music took turns in my  head as we taxiied out to the runway and did the run-up. I heard the Ride of the Valkyries as we lifted off. Frightening situations always trigger theme music to start playing in my head. I just hope I don’t break into a chorus of “Come Josephine, in my flying machine” on my check-ride.

From a student’s perspective, the plane flew as well as any other I’ve flown (my grand total is up to 4 different planes). It taxiied like all of the other planes. It dripped oil on me when I grounded it at the fuel station, but others have done that too.

Still, I’ve never so desperately wanted to give a plane a makeover, stroke it gently, and let it know someone loves it. How could anyone let such an amazing piece of machinery fall to this deplorable state?!

Here’s the answer. The owner of the aircraft lives in another state and is looking to have it back by the end of the month to sell it and be rid of it. The club, knowing we only have this plane a few more weeks, is letting a lot of stuff go because there’s no point in putting a lot of money into a craft that is leaving in a few weeks. As long as it is fine to fly, who cares if it leaks a little oil? I looked into the maintenance records of the plane with the club and they have made some repairs to some important items, the most recent of which was the stall warning that at one point wasn’t working some six months ago.

A new training plane joins the club at the end of the month as this one exits. It is slightly more expensive to rent, but hopefully it will be less terrifying to fly.

A Follow Up: Company X Part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a place I applied for a job called Company X. I knew I wasn’t excited to work there, but I had no idea how unenthusiastic I was until recently.

First I completely missed the first phone interview. [shrug] Then I rescheduled the second interview. A few hours before I was slated to show up it started snowing. (Texans drive like idiots in snow. I wasn’t ready to risk my life for this company.). When I did finally make it in, I managed to show up late. Not dramatically late, but after the appointed time.

A quick note about me: I’m NEVER late. If we were scheduled to meet for lunch at noon and I showed up at 12:02, I would be running, out of breath, and have a valid excuse for what held me up. I also NEVER miss scheduled appointments, forget to make phone calls, or cancel plans with less than 8 hours notice. But I did all of those things and somehow these people still want to interview me. Either I’m amazing, they’re desperate, or the people in my profession suck at punctuality.

So, with no nerves at all, I sat down for the second interview and skills assessment last weekend.

Seeing the building not under construction as it had been before really made a difference. This time there were marble floors, classical elevator music, people in suits, and large picture windows with panoramic views. I guess the windows had been blocked last time by construction tarps.

I still saw the same gray cubicles as before, but this time people were floating between them and carrying on conversations.

I was taken into a room with a giant window overlooking the city and asked to sign a confidentiality agreement about the screening process that would happen next.

The people were friendly and laid back. They were having a “craft day”…whatever that means. I did my darndest, but I actually left feeling like I might want to work there.

What?! Oh no, the process has begun! The laser beam has come for me!

The screening was a “let’s put you in the shoes of one of our employees and see how you fare” experience. It was completely new to me, and I hate to admit it, but it was kindof fun. Fun?! What am I saying!? Crap.

I’m told it will be four to six weeks before I hear anything. I would normally be anxious about it, but my ability to care if I got this job or not just started a few days ago.

Fingers crossed! No, uncrossed. No, crossed. No…wait…ya, ok, crossed.

Ramblings of insecurity

Learning to fly is unlike anything I’ve learned before. For starters, there are no simple answers. Even the most basic questions elicit an outpouring of different answers.

Example: Where does one complete ground school?

Answers: Sporty’s, Embry-Riddle, King, the local community college, ASA pilot training manual, AOPA courses, the FAA website, an aviation ground school, an accelerated weekend course, a four year aviation program, a fast-track aviation program. And each comes with a conflicting opinion about if it will really prepare you with the knowledge you will need to know. Good luck!

Even filling out the simplest paperwork is confusing. I just figured out this week that my student pilot license number and medical certificate number is the same (I think). And don’t get me started on the training videos that throw arbitrary variables at you for velocity and lift, solve the equation in one breath and declare “see, it’s easy!” I’ll be the judge of that, training video. Maybe if they had some apples and took some of them away…now that I could endorse as easy math.

To further complicate things, I can’t seem to do anything right. My first time to shut a hangar door, I did it with such enthusiasm I bumped it off of its track prompting a “friendly reminder, be gentle with the hangar doors” email to the entire flying club and a sea of rumors about “that girl that joined the club.” My first time to fill out a log book turned into a scribbled and arrowed map to Calcutta. [Note to self: log books are to be filled out in pencil.]

When I’m in the air I’m being told things like “now when you’re about a half mile out…” How am I to know at what point I’m a half mile out? Or 500 feet out? Or 1,000 feet away from the airport after takeoff? Or 10 miles out from the airport I can’t even spot yet? Pilots know these things. I’m just not sure how it is they know them yet. When I ask they say “it’ll come to you.”

Why am I the only girl in my airplane club? Where is the “it’s called Algebra II because it doesn’t make sense until the second time around” crowd that doesn’t find the lift equation intuitive? Why does the Sporty’s Pilot Shop magazine have airplane themed wallets, cocktail shakers and highball glasses for men and only a couple of skanky you’ll-never-hide-your-bra-straps-in-this tops for women? The only way I can share I am a female and a pilot is to go braless? I need all the support I can get right now Sporty’s! Why does my husband who has no interest in flying know how to break down an airplane manual effortlessly when I’ve been at it four hours and still don’t know this plane’s Vy or engine type?

Don’t worry folks, I’m not quitting yet. I’m too pissed to quit now.

Perhaps right on time, I acquired a mentor with the Ninety-Nines this week. I will share future ramblings of insecurity with her, but I wanted to offer this up to the many other student pilots out there (especially the ladies) that feel very alone and inadequate in the learning curve to becoming a pilot. Don’t quit yet. I won’t if you won’t.

And the nominees are…

Hi everyone!

I just found out I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award! A what?! Ya, that was my question too. As I can tell, it’s an award for up and coming blogs with fewer than 200 followers. It’s a nomination from bloggers for bloggers that acts something like a chain letter to get more traffic to their sites. Thanks so much to LifeHomeandAway for nominating me! I really enjoy the clever insights I’ve found on that page and I encourage others to check it out for some adventurous wisdom.

As part of the nomination, I am to answer my nominator’s 11 questions, nominate 11 other bloggers out there to give me good company and ask them 11 questions of my creating.

I’m nominating:

That Bites

The Tree Hugging Humanist

My Love of Aviation

2015 – A Year in Photos


Comparative Confidence

CF Kitchen

The Blue Muse

Footloose diary

Fly ‘n Things

Jules told Me

I think 11 questions is a lot, so I’m going to ask it a little differently: If you could sit down with a version of yourself from a decade ago, what would you tell them? (List one, five, eleven, twenty things, I leave the number up to you)

Here were my 11 questions to answer:

What’s your favorite quote?

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” – Shakespeare

What’s your favorite color and why?

I don’t have one, I like them all.

Compose a new quote describing your outlook to life now?

“No matter how complex life looks, it all happens one breath at a time.”

What continent would you pick to be from if you had the option and why?

Europe, I love cultures and languages and history and they have it all!

If you were a politician what would you change in the world?

Politicians running for or currently serving in any elected office are required to perform 80 hours of unpublicized volunteer work at one or more official 501C charitable organizations annually and operate on no more than a $10,000 well-documented campaign budget.

What word best describes you?


Write your last words in one sentence?

Last words? Before I die? How am I to know what those will be?

In one sentence describe the world?

A place where humans have overtaken, dominated and slaughtered the other living things while regarding themsevles as the best, holiest creation.

What is your greatest fear?


What is your favorite memory from childhood?

This one Christmas in Flagstaff, AZ when it snowed. I had never seen snow on Christmas before. It was magical.

What motivates you to get up each day?

I’m a morning person. I love that bright, early sunshine and the feeling that anything is possible with the day ahead.